Interview: Celebrating 30 Years of 'Return of the Jedi' with a Lucasfilm Insider

Sometimes 1982 seems a long time ago and far, far away, but 30 years later that year’s biggest film seems as young and vibrant as ever. Now author and Lucasfilm insider J.D. Rinzler delivers The Making of Return of the Jedi (debuting today in stores), the latest in his series of lavishly detailed, painstakingly researched journeys inside the creation of George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy.

In over 372 pages of behind-the-scenes miscellanea great and small, Rinzler explores every aspect of Jedi’s journey to screen immortality. He offered us some Ewok-sized tidbits from Episode VI’s sprawling offscreen saga.

On Jedi director Richard Marquand (The Jagged Edge), who died of a heart attack in 1987 and left little by way of interview material behind:

"I was really worried about the fact that I didn't have much on Richard Marquand. Going through one of the boxes in the Skywalker Ranch archive, I found in the side of a box, printed out, a 100-plus page interview with Marquand from early 1982 – there was no record of it: it was literally tucked away. And that was what made the book, because it was a very good interview. Marquand talked about everything as far as getting hired to be on the set to editorial – everything… He was a good director and pulled his weight. He had a difficult job coming on to direct a movie that so many people had very high hopes for."

On the creative back-and-forth between Marquand and Lucas:

"There was a little bit of friction where Marquand might want to shoot with a single camera series of setups, and George wanted to get the coverage that he needed so he could go into the editing room and craft the film the way he saw it. And then you had a lot of people at ILM who were used to working for George – no matter who was directing it, those guys still saw George as the guy. But all in all, it worked out really well. I'm sure there were some ups and downs, but overall it was a very positive experience for him.”

On the unexpected directorial choice who was first offered Jedi:

“David Lynch was first pick, but I think once they met, it was clear that you had two people with very strong visions of how it was going to be. And I think they both realized pretty quickly that it might have been contentious as a working arrangement. But George told me he obviously has tremendous respect and love for David Lynch's work, and vice versa.”

On Lucas’ quiet personal struggles during production:

"In the beginning, he's almost running on empty to begin with having worked since 1973. It was already seven years of fairly nonstop work…On Jedi, he was worried: He had plans to build Skywalker Ranch and to advance cinema, so he always put a lot of pressure on himself. As he got into postproduction, he also became more ambitious: more creatures, more visual effects, more giant sets, so that becomes a challenge. And then, when he got into postproduction he got divorced, and that, of course, had a big impact on him. It was very hard for him to drag himself to work every day.”

On the love-‘em-or-hate-‘em Ewoks:

“George was completing the rough draft, which he'd written in 1974 where you have a nonindustrial group going up against the Empire. And he couldn't use Wookies anymore, and so he basically cut them in half and made Ewoks. So in fact, the saga in some ways is quite consistent with his original rough draft in a very 10,000-feet level.... From working here and speaking with guys at ILM over the years, everybody makes it clear: those who have problems with the Ewoks always had problems with the Ewoks. I didn't want to hide it, so I put it in the book. George read it, and he was fine with it.”

On the importance of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker:

“One of the reasons why the saga is such a success is thanks to his performance. He really believed in his character. He really understood what George was getting at, and he is what, in a sense, sold the world on Yoda and so many different aspects to Star Wars, because he believed in it. And because he did, we all did as well. He was definitely a sci-fi fan, and that's probably one of the reasons why he got so into it. It was a good casting choice.”

On Princess Leia’s iconic gold metal bikini:

“In a way Marquand should get the lion's share credit for that, because it was his idea. I think he saw [Carrie Fisher] in Empire and thought ‘Boy, they're not really showing her figure at all,’ and sort of went the opposite extreme. [The concept artists and costume designers] were inspired by Frank Frazetta art and came up with this amazing slave girl costume, which hit a chord.”

On Harrison Ford’s hope that Han Solo would end the saga in a body bag:

“Ford hoped a Han Solo death scene would add some gravitas but George said ‘No – I'm not killing off your character.’ Harrison knows George, knows his vision, and he was fine. He's just a team player.”

On Boba Fett, the breakout character of Empire, going out like a punk:

“I don't know why he lost interest in Boba Fett. But I think he regretted it afterwards too which is probably why he okayed them bringing him back out of the Sarlacc later.”

On scouring the Lucasfilm archives for every tiny detail in the making of the saga:

“It's really great going through the art archives. That's one of the big perks of doing these books: I get to hold every single Ralph McQuarrie painting in my hand. They're not framed or anything. You just get to pick them up, you get to look at the back of them, see if there's anything written – the same with Joe Johnston's art, Nilo Rodis-Jamero's [designs], all the storyboards, the matte paintings. You can go and look at the models. You can't really pick those up because they're delicate, but you can look all around them. I spent weeks in there, and that's just a very rare privilege.”

Check out a few more images from the new book below:

All images © 2013 Lucasfilm Ltd.






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