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Here’s the Real Behind-The-Scenes Story of the ‘Empire Strikes Back’ Twist Everyone’s Been Talking About

Empire Strikes Back

Ahh, The Empire Strikes Back. The last truly great Star Wars movie, has become quite the topic of interest on social media in the wake of its 40th anniversary a few days ago. It’s partially because since it was released there have been nine more Star Wars movies and none of the, even came close, but it’s also because it ends with that classic plot twist that blew the minds of everyone watching it for the first time.

Ian Goodwillie at CBR wrote an opinion piece that the “original” twist in Empire was better, that twist being that it was Obi-Wan who killed Luke’s father, not Darth Vader and Obi-Wan told him in the first film, and goes to explain how he sees that twist playing out in Return of the Jedi.

That’s great and all, but it was never actually part of the plan. George Lucas had always intended for Darth Vader to reveal he was Luke’s father, and he told Mark Hamill before the scene was filmed so he could react properly to it. No one else in the cast or crew knew about it, however, not even David Prowse, the suit actor for Darth Vader.

Hamill confirmed all of this again when a fan mused she would have loved to see the crew’s reaction to the twist when it was filmed.

It’s also worth mentioning that while Lucas will claim this twist was “always” the plan, it clearly wasn’t something he ever had in mind when writing the original Star Wars. Lucas had wanted to cast chanbara cinema legend Toshiro Mifune as Darth Vader and only planned to keep him in the black suit, originally a space suit, for the first scene aboard the Tantive IV. Obi-Wan also refers to him as “Darth” like it’s his first name because it was going to be his first name at the time. Lucas only had the idea to make Vader and Luke related while writing Empire, and similarly wouldn’t have had quite so many scenes of Luke and Leia kissing if he had intended them to be siblings before he started working on Jedi.

But maybe the best story about this twist came from James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, who was one of about five people who knew the truth before the film was released. If you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory, even if you don’t admit it in public (but come on, the show is basically fine, it’s not meant to be Shakespeare), you probably remember Jones telling Sheldon he thought Vader was lying to Luke. That’s actually true, and Jones has been telling the same story in interviews for years.

All this talk about Empire Strikes Back makes me want to watch the movie again, even though Lucas and then Disney have systemically drained all desire I have to see a new Star Wars movie ever again from my body. But the original trilogy is still the original trilogy, and if you’re not trilling it at least once every three years, the dark side wins.

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