Star Wars is crammed full of memorable lines, from classics like “May the Force be with you” right down to “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.” Harrison Ford’s Han Solo gets many of these killer lines, but one of his best comes just before he’s about to be frozen in carbonite at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. Princess Leia finally confesses her feelings to him, saying “I love you!” Han Solo then looks her square in the eye and says “I know.”
It’s a killer response, with Ford’s charismatic delivery making what could be a callous comment extremely touching. There’ve been many stories on how this line came to be over the years, but Empire recently ran a feature on the 40th anniversary of the movie that clarifies exactly what happened on set.
We already knew that Solo’s response in George Lucas’ script was a straightforward “I love you, too.” But now we know that director Irwin Kershner considered that “too sappy” for a roguish character like Han. With the scripted line in the can, Kershner did a large number of takes with Ford improvising lines. But after multiple tries, they were getting nowhere (and it was now lunchtime). Ford then announced, “let’s do it one more time and that’s it,” and went on to deliver the response that made it into the movie.
Apparently Lucas was “horrified” when he saw this take, arguing that Han Solo would never respond like that. But when the scene was shown to a test audience, they absolutely loved it, so he was convinced to keep the line.
And that’s how movie magic is made. The rest of the article contains some other neat insights into the shoot of The Empire Strikes Back as well, which sounds like a much more fraught affair than Star Wars was just a few years prior.