The Princess Leia-Sally Ride Rivalry and Other Surprises in Return of the Jedi
A completely uninformative look back at the third Star Wars film
The third movie in the original Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi wrapped up the storylines that began in Star Wars: A New Hope and continued through Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
Although movie fans are quite familiar with the Star Wars saga, there are still many untold “Did You Know?” stories of Jedi that are now finally coming to light.
So, let’s take a second look at one of the biggest blockbuster films of 1983.
The scrolling type at the very beginning of the movie originally was “Hey, it’s me, George Lucas. Thanks a super ton for coming to my movie. The show’s starting now so it’d be a great time to grab your seat. Hope you like it.” Later it became the familiar, plot-driven narrative of “Luke Skywalker has returned to his home planet of Tatooine…”
It took awhile for the actor Mark Hamill to get on board because he really wanted to play the role of Han Solo, not Luke Skywalker. Richard Marquand, the movie’s director, had to tell him he’s already played Luke in the first two Star Wars movies and it would totally confuse people if he was now Han Solo.
A casting agent found Jabba The Hutt at a Cleveland Browns tailgate and thought he’d be perfect for the role.
There’s a scene midway through the movie where the Millennium Falcon is flying through the galaxy. If you pause it at a certain point, you’ll see the space shuttle Challenger in the far distance. Sally Ride is hanging out the driver’s side window holding up a sign that says “Hey, Princess Leia! You’re not the only chick in space! I’m here, too! Sally Ride!” It was a pretty big sign so it’s anyone’s guess as to how the editor might’ve missed it.
Lucas surprised critics when he told Variety, “I’m just hoping the Jedi opening beats Porky’s II at the box office.”
The Ewoks were found at the West Los Angeles Animal Shelter a few months before shooting was to begin. They were just days away from being euthanized.
Billy Dee Williams, the actor who portrayed Lando Calrissian, insisted on developing an unscripted catchphrase during his scenes. After each line, he’d look directly at camera and say “So tell ’em Billy Dee sent ya!” None of these takes made the final cut.
Instead of using John Williams as the composer, Lucas lobbied hard for the Culture Club’s Kissing To Be Clever album to be played on repeat over the entirety of the movie. Cooler heads eventually prevailed and they brought back Williams, one of the greatest composers to have ever walked this Earth.
When Luke removed Darth Vader’s mask to reveal the human face of his father, Anakin, it took a near-record 74 takes because both actors laughed so hard. In fact, Mark Hamill needed to change his costume twice because he peed himself a little from all the mirth.
To get the shape of the Death Star II just right, Marquand had sports legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving come to the set and balance a deflated basketball on his finger.
In the years following the Jedi shoot, George Lucas was often seen poolside at the Las Vegas Tropicana wearing only Princess Leia’s famous slave bikini.
During Yoda’s death scene, David Prowse, the actor who played Darth Vader, sobbed so uncontrollably over by the craft service table that he farted. As Harrison Ford said, “And it was ripe”.
1980s heartthrob John Cusak played the role of the Emperor. To get his skin to wrinkle and sag, they simply withheld his daily face moisturizer for three weeks prior to shooting.
Anthony Daniels, the actor who played C-3PO, was known to be quite the practical joker on the set. Case in point: he used a blow torch to light Chewbacca on fire at three separate times when actor Peter Mayhew was still in costume. Hijinks like these left the cast and crew in stitches.
After receiving great feedback from his “I know” ad lib line in The Empire Strikes Back, Harrison Ford continued to say “I know” for every Han Solo line in Jedi. It was super confusing.
The entire movie was shot in less than two days.
In Jedi, we discover that Luke and Leia are twin siblings. At one point, Lucas and Marquand considered making the two characters conjoined twins, attached to each other at the pelvis. They decided against it. 20 years later, Stuck On You, a comedy starring Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear used this technique and won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Lucas, sitting poolside at the Tropicana in 2003, could only shake his head, adjust his slave bikini, and mutter, “We should’ve conjoined ‘em”.