Mark Hamill settles long-running ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ debate
The ending of The Empire Strikes Back is the most poignant of the whole franchise. In contrast to the triumphant medal ceremony of A New Hope, George Lucas ends the film with sadness and an uncertain future. As Luke, Leia, C-3P0, and R2-D2 bleakly stare out into space John William’s score slowly rises before cutting to the credits. This all comes after Han’s been frozen in carbonite, Luke has lost his hand, and just learned that his real father is Darth Vader.
But there’s always been debate about how late this iconic scene came together, with rumors abounding that the medical bay scene was added after the test audiences didn’t respond well to the original ending. Now Mark Hamill has cleared things up in his response to a fan question on Twitter by sharing that the scene was indeed added later as everyone was worried about the film’s “downbeat ending.”
While many people thought that the ending was reshot, it was simply expanded with a brand new scene.
But the changes didn’t end there and further alterations to the ending took even after the initial theatrical release.
The Empire Strikes Back was first released as a 70mm feature on May 21, 1980, with it heading to wide release on June 18. After watching the 70mm version, Lucas realized that it was unclear which ships each character was on. In a very rapid three-week turnaround, Lucas, ILM cameraman Ken Ralston, and future Captain America director Joe Johnston planned three VFX shots, built new models, and modified dialogue.
The new shots were successfully added to the film at the last minute, with Lucas wryly asking ILM:
“Wait a minute. If you guys did this so fast, why did it take so long to do all the other ones?”
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is available to stream on Disney Plus.