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Return of the Jedi gets a bad rap, mostly because of those pesky Ewoks. But let’s not dismiss the film altogether, which had a compelling and heartfelt third act and a great opening sequence with Jabba the Hutt. Here are 17 things you need to know about this third and final entry into the original trilogy…
1. Carrie Fisher complained about her costumes in the previous two movies. She said they were so long, you could not tell “she was a woman”. Those complaints led to the skimpy outfit she wore as Jabba’s prisoner. The costume became something of a running joke among the crew because the metal framework that held the top together meant that the costume didn’t move well with her. Since Fisher didn’t like the industry standard solution of using double-sided tape, it became necessary before each take to have a wardrobe person check to ensure that her breasts were still snug inside the costume.
2. Jabba’s sail barge was filmed in Yuma, Arizona. The film crew had problems avoiding the 35,000 dune buggy enthusiasts in the area. To preserve secrecy, the producers claimed to be making a horror film called “Blue Harvest” with the tagline “Horror beyond imagination”, and even had caps and t-shirts made up for the crew. A chain-link fence and a 24-hour security service could not prevent die-hard fans from entering the set and sneaking some photographs.
3. David Lynch was originally offered the chance to direct this episode of the series. He turned it down because he believed it was “Lucas’ thing.” He went on to direct the disastrous epic Dune instead.
4. Director David Cronenberg was also asked to direct the film, but declined.
5. According to a magazine interview with Irvin Kershner in May 2004, Kershner states that Richard Marquand didn’t direct all of the film, it was Kershner’s assistant director and George Lucas who took over after the actors didn’t respond very well to Richard Marquand. The relationship between Marquand and Lucas was said to be bad.
6. The Endor shots were filmed near Crescent City, California. Forest work was especially hard on the Ewok actors. Production Assistant Ian Bryce arrived on the set one day to find a note from the Ewok actors saying that they had all had enough and they were on their way to the airport. Bryce tried to drive to the airport but got a flat tire not far from the set. He found another car and was about to leave when the Ewoks’ bus pulled up, and all the Ewok actors got off wearing “Revenge of the Ewok” t-shirts.
7. In the Battle of Endor, many of the “ships” and other objects far in the background are actually things like chewed-up gum. The crew knew there was so much action going on that people would not notice things like this use to fill up the picture in the background.
8. The point-of-view shots for the speeder bike sequence were achieved by having a camera operator walk through the forest at normal speed with a camera filming at one frame per second. When the footage was played back at twenty-four frames per second, it gave the appearance of flying through the forest at high speeds.
9. In the movie, when Han and Leia are trapped by two troopers as they attempt to get access through to the shield generator, Han confesses his love for Leia by saying “I Love You” to which Leia responds with “I know.”
10. Following the success of Boba Fett (appearing in comics and being a popular supporting character), George Lucas admitted that he had no idea that the character had become so popular. He mentioned that if he had known, he would have given the bounty hunter a more memorable death scene. Lucas even considered adding a shot of Boba Fett escaping the Sarlacc for the 2004 DVD release. Ultimately, he decided against it as he did not want viewers to be detracted from the intended storyline.
11. The emperor’s name, Palpatine, was originally supposed to be Palantine, a reference to the politician in Taxi Driver. It was changed to avoid legal troubles.
12. Portions of the partially completed Death Star model resemble the San Francisco skyline.
13. The Millennium Falcons used for this movie were either models or matte paintings. The full-sized mockup used for the other films was only used for the deleted sandstorm scenes and therefore doesn’t make an appearance in this movie.
14. The Ewok language was based on Tibetan.
15. The film grossed more than $250 million from a $32 million budget in 1983, and then another $40 million in its 1997 re-release.
16. When Vader saves Skywalker by killing Palpatine, he fulfills the Jedi prophecy. He destroys the embodiment of the Dark Side and returns to the light. In doing so, he brings balance to the Force, just as the prophecy predicted.