Did George Lucas Want to Destroy All Copies of the Star Wars Holiday Special?

TV URBAN LEGEND: George Lucas once said, “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.”

The Star Wars Holiday Special is one of the most bizarre pieces of pop culture ever. A year after Star Wars debuted and was a huge success, they decided to do a TV special while waiting for the sequel to come out in 1980.

All of the major cast members showed up, from Mark Hamill to Harrison Ford to Carrie Fisher…

Of course, so did Bea Arthur…

The idea was that it was a variety special based on the basic concept of Han Solo and Chewbacca traveling to Chewy’s home world, Kashyyyk, to celebrate Life Day (essentially the Wookiee equivalent of Christmas).

The special is also known for having a cartoon in it that officially introduced Boba Fett before he showed up in the next film in the series.

Anyhow, the special was not warmly received and George Lucas clearly made a point to keep the show hidden. It made only a single official airing on broadcast television, but it aired in a number of other countries unofficially and those copies are the ones that places like YouTube air.

So Lucas did not like the special.

However, his dislike for it has created a bit of a legend.

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Did Harrison Ford Improvise His Famous “I Know” Line From Empire Strikes Back?

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Harrison Ford’s famous “I know” line in “Empire Strikes Back” was improvised.

When it comes time to actually translate movie screenplays into finished films, there are always going to be situations where things change base on circumstances. Sometimes problems that are beyond anyone’s control. There’s a famous scene in the screenplay for “Fast Times in Ridgement High” where two characters listen to a song from Led Zeppelin’s fourth album. Well, what do you do when Led Zeppelin won’t let you use any songs from their fourth album? These sorts of issues came up frequently in the filming of the first few “Star Wars” films, as George Lucas and company would often find themselves debating between multiple options with where to go with the screenplay. Kill off Obi-Wan Kenobi or let him live? Have Han shoot Greedo first or have Greedo take the first shot?

A similar debate came up during the filming of “Empire Strikes Back” in the scene where Han Solo and Leia say heartfelt goodbyes to each other before Han is encased in Carbonite. Leia professes her love and Han, in response, tells her, “I know.”

It’s a great line, and legend has it that Han’s portrayer, Harrison Ford, improvised the line on the spot and the film’s director, Irving Kershner, kept it in the film.

It’s a very popular legend. But is it true?
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What Surprising Film Got the Original Star Wars Into More Theaters Than Expected at First?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Fox made any theater that wanted to show the film The Other Side of Midnight agree to also show Star Wars.

As we have noted a few times over the years, like when George Lucas hired Alan Dean Foster to write a cheap sequel to Star Wars or when Lucas talked about how he was fine with killing Darth Vader because he didn’t think he was all that great of a character, in the time between the completion of the original Star Wars film and the release of the movie, there really was no way to know that the movie would be one of the most successful films of all-time.

The closer the film came to actually being released, it was more and more apparent that the film WOULD be successful, although no one knew just HOW popular it would become. However, that was long after they had to make their initial sales of the film to the theaters of the United States. When they did the initial sales of the movie, Fox did not know if they had a hit or not, so they actually made an unusual deal where they paired Star Wars with another film, a very different type of film called The Other Side of Midnight.
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Did George Lucas Initially Plan on Killing Darth Vader off in the First Star Wars Sequel?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: George Lucas initially planned on killing Darth Vader off in the first sequel to Star Wars.

A while back, I talked about how in 1976 George Lucas had Alan Dean Foster write a screenplay for possible sequel to the first Star Wars film. This was when Lucas wasn’t sure what kind of box office numbers the film would do. There was a chance that the film could bomb, but there was also a chance that the film might do just “okay” business. Good enough to merit a sequel, but not good enough to merit a big budget sequel. So Foster worked out a screenplay for a low-budget sequel to the film. Obviously, the film became a big hit, so Foster’s screenplay was not necessary, and it instead became his Star Wars novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.

One of the fascinating things that we’ve seen come up in a number of Star Wars legends over the years (like whether Darth Vader was always going to be Luke’s father or whether Luke and Leia were always going to be siblings) is that George Lucas was a lot looser with the Star Wars canon at the time. That was quite logical, of course, as he did not yet know that he had created a blockbuster film franchise. He just knew that he had made a film that he was hoping would be a hit but was fully prepared for it to not be a hit (he had even made a bet with Steven Spielberg that the film would not be as successful as Spielberg’s next film!). One of the great pieces of historical Star Wars information are the story conferences that Lucas, Foster and Lucasfilm Vice President Charles Lippincott had back in 1976. The great Star Wars historian J W Rinzler transcribed the conference and they revealed a great many things – including Lucas’ desire to move on from Darth Vader as soon as he could!

Read on to see what Lucas’ problem was with Vader and why he wanted to kill him off!
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Did George Lucas Add a Scene to Empire Strikes Back to Address Mark Hamill’s Facial Injuries?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: George Lucas added a scene to Empire Strikes Back to address Mark Hamill’s facial injuries.

In the past, we’ve discussed the legend of whether the wampa attack in Empire Strikes Back was written into the script specifically to address the facial injuries that Mark Hamill had suffered in a car accident a couple of years earlier.

You can check that legend out for the details of the story, but the simplest answer is that no, there was going to be a wampa attack either way. However, a couple of fans wrote in saying that while that was true, they believed that Lucas had tried to address Hamill’s facial injuries in the film, it was just in a different scene. It appears as though that is correct, and amazingly enough, in the same additional scene, Lucas also further explored the Luke/Leia relationship that we had also discussed in a past legend, namely whether Luke and Leia were intended to be brothers and sisters at the time of Empire Strikes Back.

Read on to see how filmed (but then deleted) scenes addressed both of these notable issues from Star Wars history…
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Was Splinter of the Mind’s Eye Originally Written as a Cheap Film Sequel to Star Wars?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Star Wars: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was originally written as a film sequel to Star Wars.

One of the things that has been made clear in past legends about the early days of Star Wars (like whether Darth Vader was always supposed to be Luke’s father or whether Luke and Leia were always supposed to be siblings) is that George Lucas was often playing things by ear at the start of his epic film franchise. This makes sense, of course, as there was no way for Lucas to know that his first Star Wars film would become such a sensation, so how could he spend much time planning for future films when he wasn’t even positive that he would get a second film, let alone a franchise of films and related tie-in materials?

This uncertainty led to the intriguing origin of the first full length novel based on the world of Star Wars, Alan Dean Foster’s acclaimed Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.

While the book is famous for being the first notable expansion of the Star Wars universe, it was also, remarkably enough, originally written as the basis for a possible sequel to the original Star Wars!
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Did the Original Lead Actresses of Carrie and Star Wars Swap Roles Over a Nudity Clause?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: George Lucas and Brian De Palma swapped lead actresses for Carrie and Star Wars.

The original Star Wars has had one of the most legendary casting processes in film history. In a past Movie Legend, we talked about how Harrison Ford was cast as Han Solo despite not actually being technically up for the role. However, perhaps even more interesting is how the overall casting process was managed. You see, before George Lucas and Steven Spielberg became movie superstars, the duo were part of a small close-knit group of young directors that included John Milius, Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma (plus Francis Ford Coppola to a certain extent). They helped one another with each other’s films, even betting with each other on how well their respective films would do (always in a “your film is going to do better than my film” way – the most famous example is Spielberg ending up with a cut of Star Wars based on a bet he and Lucas made). That sense of cooperation led to a fascinating joint casting call for Lucas’ Star Wars and De Palma’s Carrie, where the outgoing De Palma ran the actual casting call and then they would pick from the actors together.

This has led to the famous, much-repeated story that

originally Sissy Spacek was cast as Princess Leia in Star Wars and Carrie Fisher in the film Carrie. however, Fisher was not willing to do nude scenes and Spacek had no problem with this, so the two switched parts.

Is that true?
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Was Greedo Originally Supposed to Shoot at Han Solo First?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Greedo was originally intended to shoot at Han Solo first in Star Wars.

Very often, when it comes to the myths and rumors that make up the basis for legends about Star Wars, the legends originate in the same place – the desire to believe that George Lucas had everything planned out from the beginning, a myth that Lucas himself has helped to perpetuate over the years. This leads to legends like “Anakin Skywalker was always going to be Darth Vader”, “the original Star Wars was always meant to be the fourth film in a series of films” and “Luke and Leia were always meant to be siblings.” It is also at play in the great “Han shot first” debate, a debate that made the news late last year when George Lucas made his argument for why it makes sense for him that Han Solo did not shoot first.

The debate, of course, centers around a scene early in the first Star Wars film where Han Solo is accosted by a bounty hunter named Greedo. Greedo holds Solo at gun point and the two sit down together. They talk about the bounty that is on Solo’s head from Jabba the Hutt and Han explains that he can get Jabba the money he owes him. Greedo, being surprisingly greedy, asks for the money for himself. Han tells him he doesn’t have it yet. Greedo then expresses his interest in killing Han. Han, who has secretly readied his own gun under the table, blasts Greedo and kills him.

It is a famous scene and much beloved among Star Wars fans since it breaks from convention – it establishes Han as a bit of a rogue. This makes his becoming a hero of the rebellion all the more sweeter later in the film. Lucas recently argued that it did not make sense for Han to shoot first:

Han Solo was going to marry Leia, and you look back and say, ‘Should he be a cold-blooded killer?’ Because I was thinking mythologically — should he be a cowboy, should he be John Wayne? And I said, ‘Yeah, he should be John Wayne.’ And when you’re John Wayne, you don’t shoot people [first] — you let them have the first shot. It’s a mythological reality that we hope our society pays attention to.

In the 1997 “Special Edition” of Star Wars, Lucas edited the scene so that Greedo fires at Han first and then Han shoots him. In a 2004 edition of the film (the version that is currently available for download online), they fire at the same time.

Lucas, however, has argued that the special edition was his original intent, stating in 2002:

The controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo, in Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t. It had been done in all close-ups and it was confusing about who did what to whom. I put a little wider shot in there that made it clear that Greedo is the one who shot first, but everyone wanted to think that Han shot first, because they wanted to think that he actually just gunned him down.

Reader Joshua W. thought that I had addressed this legend before, but I have not, but, well, here it is now, Joshua! Did Han originally shoot first or what?
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Were Luke and Leia Meant to be Siblings When They Kissed in Empire Strikes Back?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Princess Leia was not intended to be Luke’s sister until Return of the Jedi.

A while back, I did a piece on Comics Should Be Good about the moments during the Star Wars comics where Luke and Leia kiss, moments that look kind of odd in hindsight when we discover in Return of the Jedi that Luke and Leia are twins. However, there are some similar points in the Star Wars films that are a bit awkward along those same lines, primarily the kiss that Leia plants on Luke in Empire Strikes Back which is, well, far too much of a kiss for either Luke and Leia to feel good about upon thinking back on it.

This, though, leads to the question that has been on many Star Wars fans minds ever since – did George Lucas intend for Luke and Leia to be siblings during The Empire Strikes Back?
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Why Were There No Spaceballs Action Figures?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Spaceballs had a deal that involved them agreeing to do very limited licensing tie-ins with their film.

One of the most famous scenes in Mel Brooks’ Star Wars parody, Spaceballs…

was the scene where Brooks (as the Yoda parody “Yogurt”) mocks the proliferation of Star Wars merchandising by telling the other characters in the film that the real money is in merchandising!

Amazingly enough, the film Spaceballs actually did not have any notable tie-in merchandising of its own.

Why was this?
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