Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back's Ending Was Tweaked While It Was In Theaters
George Lucas insisted on some last-minute additions to the final scene in the Star Wars classic.
Like all the original Star Wars trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back was digitally altered by George Lucas in the 1990s for its Special Edition rerelease. However, it seems that the film was also changed much earlier than that--a few days after it hit theaters in fact.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Empire's release, StarWars.com is presenting a series of interviews and behind-the-scenes articles about this classic movie. One of the fascinating reveals is that Lucas decided the film needed some extra footage after it had already premiered on May 21, 1980.
Lucas's concern was the final scene, in which Lando and Chewie head off in the Millennium Falcon to search for Han, while Luke, Leia, and the droids watch from a medical frigate. It seems that George decided it wasn't clear where all the characters were in the scene, and that some new shots were needed to establish its geography.
Industrial Light & Magic general manager Tom Smith was the man who received the call from Lucas. Smith states that Lucas told him, "I don't wanna tell you this. We need some more shots for Empire." Even though Smith argued that the movie was finished and already in theaters, he was told: "No, no, no. It's not in all the theaters."
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Although Empire was currently showing in 70mm in about 100 theaters, it was yet to be released widely across the US. So in the three weeks before that happened, a small VFX team was reassembled to create the necessary shots. There were three new additions, all exterior shots to clarify which ships the different characters were in.
The first was a wide view of the Rebel fleet, showing that the Falcon was docked to the medical frigate. The second was a shot of the Falcon, which was inserted before we see Lando and Chewie in the cockpit. And the third was a more complex shot which moved from the Falcon to the large window of the frigate, before we cut to the medical bay, where Luke and Leia are. You can see the storyboards for the new shots here, and go watch the final version of the scene.
In related news, yet more names have been added to the cast of The Mandalorian Season 2. Deadwood star Timothy Olyphant will appear in the next season of the live-action Star Wars show, which premieres on Disney+ in October. For more, check out GameSpot's guide to everything we know about every upcoming Star Wars movie and series.