The eagerly anticipated follow-up to A New Hope, 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back is arguably the most widely loved instalment in the Star Wars series. It introduces us to Yoda, Boba Fett and Lando Calrissian, thrills us with epic battle scenes on Hoth, and gives us the most shocking paternal revelation in movie history!
Here are 11 little-known facts about the film…
1) The lightsaber retrieval scenes were filmed in reverse
Remember that scene where Luke uses the force to make the lightsaber leap into his hand? Well, it wasn’t quite so magical behind the scenes! They actually filmed Mark Hamill tossing the lightsaber away, and then reversed the footage.
2) Luke lost in the blizzard was filmed from a warm hotel lobby
Much of Hoth was filmed in Finse in Norway. A big snow storm came one day. Instead of delaying filming, the director decided it would be a great opportunity to capture Luke Skywalker lost in the blizzard after escaping from the wampa. So, whilst the crew all filmed from the warmth of the hotel they were staying at, director Irvin Kershner send Mark Hamill out into the icy storm.
3) Miss Piggy cheered up Hamill whilst filming
Mark Hamill banged his head on the roof of Yoda’s hut over a dozen times. When the young actor was struggling with the dagobah scenes, Frank Oz (the master puppeteer behind Yoda, who also provided the voice of the wise old Jedi master) would bring out Miss Piggy to make Hamill laugh.
4) Lucas was fined $250,000 for moving the credits
The writers guild and directors guild were enraged that Lucas moved his credits to the end of the movie, so that he could keep the iconic scrolling introduction at the start of the film. They had kicked up a similar fuss with A New Hope, but had eventually let that one slide, thinking it would be a flop. They weren’t going to let it go with The Empire Strikes Back, though, and Lucas ended up paying $250,000 in fines.
5) Han was frozen in carbonite because of Harrison Ford’s commitment issues
The carbonite scene was born out of necessity. Whilst Fisher and Hamill had signed up to make a trilogy of Star Wars films, Ford hadn’t. He wasn’t certain he wanted to appear in a third installment, and even asked Lucas to kill off Han Solo. To keep the option of Ford’s return open, Lucas wrote in the scene where he’s frozen in carbonite.
6) Lucas funded The Empire Strikes Back himself
George Lucas took a huge gamble with Empire Strikes Back. Because he didn’t want a studio to have a share in any creative rights of Star Wars, he made the decision to fund the whole movie out of his own pocket, and with a bank loan – it came to around $18 million in total. Needless to say, the gamble paid off, and he’d made his investment back within a few weeks of the film opening.
7) A shoe made it into the asteroid field scene
It’s a thrilling scene when the Falcon dashes into the asteroid field, and Han has to duck and dive between huge pieces of debris. But what you may not have known is that there was an item of footwear hidden among that debris. The rumour is that it was such a long hard scene for the special effects team to get right that one of them through their shoe across the room, and it ended up making it into the final cut of the asteroid scene.
8) Sir Alec Guinness made millions of dollars for 4.5 hours’ work
Sir Alec Guinness had just undergone an eye surgery prior to filming, and so it was unsure whether or not he would appear in the film as scripted. Fortunately, we did get to see the Jedi Master return for one scene as a force ghost. Although he was on set for under 5 hours, he received a percentage of the film’s gross, which came to millions of dollars.
9) The voice actor behind Boba Fett received no credit or royalties
Boba Fett only appeared in the movie for 6 minutes, but instantly became a fan favourite. Although it was Jeremy Bulloch inside the armour, TV actor Jason Wingreen voiced Boba Fett. The actor was uncredited for the voice part, however, and claims he received no royalties when his voice was used in toy lines.
10) Hamill was bitten by a snake on Degobah
When Luke is in a hurry to leave Degobah, he pulls a snake from his ship. During one take, the snake bit Hamill, despite the fact that the director had assured him it was harmless.
11) Harrison Ford arrived to work in style during a blizzard
Whilst filming one of the Hoth scenes in Norway, a heavy blizzard struck. Harrison Ford usually travelled to the filming location by train each morning, but the trainlines were closed due to the storm. So, Ford was transported there by snow plow!
There you have it – 11 little known facts about The Empire Strikes back!
The Empire Strikes Back trailer
Our favourite Empire Strikes Back quotes
What if he doesn’t survive? He’s worth a lot to me.Boba Fett
Try not. Do or not not. There is no try.Yoda
I’d just as soon kiss a Wookiee!Princess Leia
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