In order to avoid sharing creative rights, George Lucas decided to avoid using a major studio to finance this movie. Instead, he bankrolled the $18 million production himself, using a combination of his profits from Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and a bank loan. Although the move was risky, it paid off several times over. Lucas recovered his investment within three months of the movie's release. He then showed gratitude far beyond the Hollywood norm by sharing the profits with his employees (nearly $5 million in bonuses).
Security surrounding this movie was so intense that George Lucas had regular reports about "leaks" from actors and actresses. George Lucas was so determined that the ending be kept secret that he had David Prowse (Darth Vader) say "Obi-wan killed your father", and dubbed it later to be "I am your father". In fact, only five people eventually knew about the ending before the movie's release: George Lucas (came up with the idea in his second draft, after the death of Leigh Brackett), director Irvin Kershner (informed of such during story conferences), screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan (also informed during story and script conferences), Mark Hamill (informed shortly before the shooting of the infamous scene), and James Earl Jones (told during the recording sessions for the final dub, and who believed that Darth Vader was lying).
David Prowse was unaware that Darth Vader was Luke's father until he saw this movie, and was quite upset with George Lucas afterwards, saying his physical acting would have been completely different if he'd known the real line.
When shooting on-location in Finse, Norway, a fierce snowstorm hit the hotel where the cast and crew were staying. This would have normally halted filming, but director Irvin Kershner thought these weather conditions were an excellent opportunity to film the scene where Luke wanders through the snow after escaping the Wampa cave. He did this by sending Mark Hamill outside into the cold, while he and the cameraman stayed and filmed inside the hotel's front hall.
George Lucas was so impressed by Frank Oz's performance as Yoda that he spent thousands of dollars on an advertising campaign to try and get him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Lucas' campaign ultimately failed because it was felt that a puppeteer wasn't an actor. Lucas felt this wasn't fair to Oz, who honestly didn't care.
When Han Solo is about to be frozen, Princess Leia says, "I love you". In the original script, Han Solo was supposed to say "Just remember that, Leia, because I'll be back", but at the time of filming, Harrison Ford wasn't entirely certain he did want to come back for a third movie. There is a recurring legend that his line "I know" was ad-libbed. However, Alan Arnold's book "Once Upon A Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes Back" includes a transcription of the discussion between Ford and director Irvin Kershner in which Ford suggested the line.
During the filming of the Battle of Hoth, the Echo Base troops were actually Norwegian mountain-rescue skiers. In exchange for participation in this movie, Lucasfilm made a donation to the Norwegian Red Cross.
To preserve the dramatic opening of the Star Wars movies, George Lucas insisted on moving all the credits to the end of the movie. However, although the Writers' Guild and Directors' Guild had begrudgingly allowed this on Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) (because that movie wasn't expected to be very successful), they resented the trend being continued on this movie. First they tried to pull this movie from release, but were unsuccessful. They then fined Lucas heavily, and tried to fine Irvin Kershner, but Lucas paid all of the fines himself (nearly $250,000). Lucas then bitterly dropped his membership in the Writers' Guild, Directors' Guild, and the Motion Picture Association of America, a move that has hindered his hiring choices on later movies.
Having Han Solo frozen in carbonite was (at least in part) due to the fact that they were not sure that Harrison Ford would return for a third movie. When Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) was made, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill were signed for a three movie deal, but Harrison Ford refused. Ford even requested George Lucas to kill off Solo, since the character had played his part already, but Lucas refused, saying that he still had a heroic part for Han Solo to play in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983).
Originally in the asteroid scene, one of the asteroids was actually a shoe. The rumor is that George Lucas asked the visual effects people to redo the scene so many times that they got annoyed and one of them threw in his or her shoe. Later remastered versions have corrected this.
In the DVD commentary, Carrie Fisher relates that during some of the London filming, she stayed at a house rented from Eric Idle. Idle and the Pythons were filming Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979) at the time. One evening, Idle had a small party, including Harrison Ford and The Rolling Stones, and served a potent liquor (which the Pythons had been distributing to extras on their movie, to help boost morale) that he referred to as "Tunisian Table Cleaner". They stayed up most of the night drinking and having fun. The first scenes shot the next day were the arrival at Cloud City, which she says helps explain why she and Ford were so happy in those scenes. Idle is said to be pleased that he had a small hand in how the finished movie turned out.
In the original script, when Lando is about to lead Han, Leia, and Chewie into the trap set by Darth Vader, Lando offers his arm to Leia, as a gesture to lead her down the hallway, and she accepts it. Harrison Ford ad-libbed Han coming up behind Leia and offering his arm to her at the same moment, to imply that Han was jealous.
George Lucas decided that a battle on an ice planet was necessary because he felt that it was easy to "cheat" in space, because the background was black and you could hide errors easily. With a white background, the effects crews would have to work much harder, and the effects would be much more impressive.
An oft-quoted myth is that the Wampa attack on Luke was devised to explain the actual scars on Mark Hamill's face, because he had been involved in a car crash and had to have reconstructive surgery. Hamill did indeed survive a serious car crash in January 1977, but did not have any visible scars by the time this movie began filming over two years later.
This movie premiered at a limited number of theaters, and those all in large metropolitan areas, because it was first released only on 70 mm film, for which only the largest and most prosperous movie theaters had projectors. It was many weeks later that the movie was released on standard 35 mm film for other theaters in North America and around the world.
In an interview with Cinescape Magazine, director Irvin Kershner said he had no interest in movies with special effects. However, he was won over by George Lucas, although Kershner was determined to make the movie more about characterizations than hardware. Kershner spent several months working on the script, pushing the writers into humanizing the characters more (something that Lucas has often been criticized for failing to do).
Another of the asteroids is actually a potato. It appears just as the Millennium Falcon first enters the field. Two asteroids travel from the top left to the bottom right corner of the screen. Just after the second asteroid leaves the screen a third one appears in the top left corner. This is the potato.
The entire Millennium Falcon was built life size for the first and only time for this installment (only half of the spacecraft was constructed for Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), and just part of it was used for the deleted sandstorm scene in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)). It measured sixty-five feet (19.8 meters) in diameter and sixteen feet (4.8 meters) in height, with a mandible giving it an overall length of eighty feet (24.3 meters). The Falcon's weight was twenty-three tons (20.8 metric tons).
During principal photography, it remained unclear if Sir Alec Guinness would return as Obi-wan Kenobi, as he had just had an eye operation at the time. He finally did agree and worked just one day on the movie (Wednesday, September 5, 1979). He arrived at 8.30 a.m. and completed his scenes by 1 p.m., for which he was paid a quarter of a percentage point of the movie's gross, which was worth millions of dollars.
Darth Vader's meditation chamber is said to be a hyperbaric chamber which charges the interior air to greater than one atmospheric pressure, thus allowing him to remove his helmet and breathe normally for limited periods of time. This was not as originally presented in the movie, however, which featured an additional breathing mask for Vader in the chamber, which was notoriously shown for only a split second, and never made it into the official continuity.
Mark Hamill's wife gave birth to their first son (Nathan Hamill) early one morning, and Mark went straight from the hospital to shooting. This was the day they filmed the shots of Luke climbing out of his snowspeeder before it is crushed by the Imperial walker, and Hamill broke his thumb during the stunt.
For the 2004 DVD release, the scene with Darth Vader and the Emperor was altered with Ian McDiarmid now playing the Emperor, as he does in the rest of the series (the original version of the scene had the Emperor played by a hooded old woman with superimposed chimpanzee eyes and was voiced by Clive Revill). The dialogue for the new version was expanded and completely re-recorded by Ian McDiarmid and James Earl Jones.
As Yoda and Obi-wan urge Luke to stay on Dagobah to finish his training, Luke pulls a snake from his spaceship. Director Irvin Kershner assured Mark Hamill that the snake was harmless, though it did bite him during one take.
The Dagobah set needed to be elevated to give Frank Oz and three other puppeteers room to control the Yoda puppet from below. For proper interaction, Mark Hamill was given an earpiece so he could hear Oz doing Yoda's voice. On numerous occasions, director Irvin Kershner would give a direction to Yoda by mistake, and Oz would have to remind him to whom to talk.
Han Solo's use of his mount's entrails to keep Luke warm is actually an American Indian trick. According to legend, a hunter named Hugh Glass had killed a bear despite being mauled severely, in the American frontier. He was abandoned by his fellow frontiermen, and had to crawl hundreds of miles to safety. On the way he became trapped by a sudden blizzard. He cut open a horse's stomach and climbed inside and stayed warm and safe until the storm had subsided. This event was dramatized in The Revenant (2015), starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
In Leigh Brackett's original draft of the script, Darth Vader was not Luke's father. The character of Anakin Skywalker actually appeared in this movie as a Force spirit to train Luke. Anakin's characterization was later split into the characters of Yoda, and the Force spirit technique was used to allow Obi-wan Kenobi to appear in the movie.
George Lucas had originally planned to only executively produce and finance the movie, leaving the directorial duties in the hands of Irvin Kershner and day-to-day producing duties to Gary Kurtz. Directing Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) had left Lucas exhausted and sick, and he had intended to take time off to start to focus on the expansion of the Lucasfilm company and spending more time with his then-wife Marcia Lucas, so that they could start a family and finish construction on Skywalker Ranch. However, when production on this movie ran overbudget and behind schedule, Lucas had to step in and take a more hands-on role, going on location to oversee filming and even directing portions of the movie. A disastrous rough cut of the movie proved to be incoherent during screenings, and facing the possibility of financial ruin, Lucas then re-edited the movie himself with even worse results. Extensive re-shoots and further post-production effects work put enormous strain on his health, his marriage, and his relationships with Kershner and Kurtz. Though the movie proved to be an enormous critical and commercial success, Lucas would never work with Kurtz again, and his marriage dissolved a couple of years later.
Irvin Kershner initially turned down the opportunity to direct the movie as he felt that it would be too difficult to top the success of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). He took the job when his agent convinced him that he shouldn't pass on the opportunity to make a sequel to one of the most popular movies in history.
The blizzard in the Hoth scenes is a real blizzard, no effects were used. Harrison Ford could not arrive at the filming location via the regular train route as it was closed due to the bad weather, so he went to the site on a snow plow.
Director Irvin Kershner decided that for this movie, members of the Rebel Alliance would speak with American accents, while the Imperial officers would speak with British accents, to make the story analogous to the American Revolution. However, most of the supporting actors that appeared as Rebel personnel on Hoth were in fact British actors. Consequently, Kershner had to re-dub several of the scenes taking place at the Hoth rebel base with American voices in post-production.
Leigh Brackett's first draft of the screenplay contained the revelation of Luke's sister, her existence disclosed by the ghost of Anakin Skywalker. Referred to as "Nellith Skywalker", Anakin explains that it was he, not Obi-wan, who separated the twins at birth to protect them from Darth Vader, and that Nellith also underwent Jedi training in another part of the galaxy so she could join forces with Luke to defeat the Sith. This concept was dropped in the second draft of the screenplay, along with the appearance of Anakin Skywalker, and replaced with a scene of Obi-wan and Yoda discussing how they must find another Jedi apprentice in anticipation of Luke's failure. This too changed in later drafts, resulting in the more ambiguous scene in the final version where Yoda assures Obi-wan that "there is another".
After an extra fell sick, Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) was called in as a replacement to the Imperial guard who escorts Princess Leia and pulls her into the elevator after she screams "Luke! It's a trap!". He's the same Imperial guard who is captured by Lando Calrissian's men.
The Imperial AT-AT walkers were all animated through traditional stop-motion techniques, except for the scenes where they fall (the walker which is "tripped up" by cables and falls on its head, or the one into which Luke throws a thermal detonator, which falls on its side). These were filmed in real-time on high-speed cameras with precision-timed mini-pyrotechnic charges.
After the various increases in budget, the movie became one of the most expensive of its day and after the bank threatened to pull his loan, George Lucas was forced to approach Twentieth Century Fox. Lucas made a deal with the studio to secure the loan in exchange for paying the studio more money, but without the loss of his sequel and merchandising rights. After this movie's box-office success, unhappiness at the studio over the deal's generosity to Lucas caused studio president Alan Ladd, Jr. to quit. The departure of his longtime ally caused Lucas to take Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) to Paramount Pictures.
One of the bounty hunters Darth Vader hires to find Han Solo is IG-88. He is one of a series of IG-86 Sentinel Droids. Another can be seen in the Cloud City. The shell of this second droid can be seen in the smelting room next to a furnace where C-3PO is found by Chewbacca.
One of the first ideas for Lando Calrissian was to have him as a clone who survived the Clone Wars, who leads legions of clones on a planet on which they settled. Another idea had Lando as the descendant of survivors of the Clone Wars, born into a family who reproduced solely by cloning. Originally, his name was "Lando Kadar".
There seems to be many stories behind Sir Alec Guinness and his role as Obi-wan Kenobi. In George Lucas's original treatment (when it was ALL one story instead of a trilogy), Obi-wan lives throughout the whole story (a fact confirmed by Lucas in the DVD commentary). However, Obi-wan ends up getting killed off in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). There are many stories as to why Lucas changed it. There are some stories that either Guinness demanded that Obi-wan was killed off, so he wouldn't have to appear in any sequels, or Lucas did it on his own much to the bitterness of Guinness. In the Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) DVD Commentary, Lucas says that he felt it was a waste of Guinness' talents to have him stand beside Princess Leia in the control room during the Death Star battle (as it was scripted) and too outlandish to have the elderly Obi-wan join the dogfight. So he killed off Obi-wan in order to spur Luke on to going into Jedi training and defeat the Empire. In any event, when it came time to make this movie, in which Luke begins his training, Lucas drew from the "ugly creature with mystical powers" mythological archetype (as he did when creating Star Wars) and created Yoda as Luke's new Jedi Master. Kenobi still makes appearances in the sequels as a Force spirit.
Boba Fett is never referred to by name in this movie. He is always referred to as "the bounty hunter" by other characters. However, a deleted scene included in the Blu-ray set shows Leia tending to Luke's wounds and says "a bounty hunter named Boba Fett" has taken Han Solo.
The only Star Wars original trilogy movie that does not take place on the desert planet Tatooine (although it is mentioned by name at the end of the movie). Tatooine does appear, however, in Episodes I, II, and III, making it the only planet that appears five times in the entire saga.
When Luke and Han say their goodbyes before the Battle of Hoth, it is the last time Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill are on-screen together until they meet up in Jabba the Hutt's palace in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). There is one scene in Cloud City wherein Hamill shares a scene with a "carbonized" mannequin of Ford.
The AT-ATs were inspired by the walking machines in H.G. Wells's "War of the Worlds" and their appearance was based on gantry cranes, which are used in most shipping ports in the U.S. Walking patterns of elephants were studied to make the movements seem as realistic as possible.
The light-saber fight scenes set in the carbon freezing chamber tend to focus on Luke. This is because during many of the shots, Bob Anderson (Vader's fight double) was not wearing the Darth Vader helmet, as it, ironically, made it difficult for him to breathe.
The only way to get to the set in the midst of a blizzard during filming in Norway was on a snowplow train, which had a giant auger on the front, pushing through the snow to deliver the actors to the set. The weather conditions were so severe that the crew put the camera in the back door of the hotel the cast and crew were staying and shot from out the door, twelve feet from the hotel out in the blizzard.
Boba Fett's action figure was originally to have had a rocket-firing mechanism, but after a child choked to death on a similar toy, the Colonial Viper from Battlestar Galactica (1978), Kenner dropped the mechanism and made the rocket stationary. A trace of the rocket launcher survived to the completed toy, however, as there is a rectangular area on the backpack in which the rocket launcher would have been embedded. The version with the mechanism is now considered the longest-running unobtainable action figure. Contrary to popular belief, it was never sold to the public.
During the same year this movie was released, R2-D2 and C-3PO appeared in two episodes of Sesame Street (1969) in season eleven, as well as in an episode dedicated to Star Wars in The Muppet Show (1976), alongside Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Chewbacca in the latter. This was to celebrate the fact that puppeteer Frank Oz would be starring in the new Star Wars movie.
In the medical bay where Luke is recovering, when he folds his hands behind his head and contorts his mouth after being kissed by Leia, he is imitating Chewbacca on-board the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) after Han Solo warns C-3P0 to let Chewbacca win the game.
Yoda's appearance was originally designed by British make-up artist Stuart Freeborn, who based Yoda's face partly on his own and partly on Albert Einstein's, as his eyes are supposedly inspired by the latter. Yoda was voiced by Frank Oz. In the original Star Wars trilogy, he is realized as a puppet (controlled by Oz).
Jason Wingreen was the uncredited voice of Boba Fett, a fact not confirmed until 2000. Wingreen had originally auditioned to voice Yoda. In a 2010 interview, Wingreen noted his lines were completed in only ten minutes. However, Wingreen complained he never received residuals for the role, even though audio of his voice was used for talking Boba Fett toys and collectibles. As a result, Wingreen noted he had no love for George Lucas.
The scene where Solo was hit by the toolbox, as well as hitting the control panels, was improvised on the set. At first, the crew were afraid of shooting it, but Irvin Kershner finally persuaded them to do so, saying "Come on, that's fun. Let's do it!"
The Yoda puppet was made of a less than optimal material, resulting in it being quite a bit heavier than what Frank Oz was used to from his time on The Muppet Show (1976). The strain put on his arms meant the scenes had to be shot on a quite erratic schedule.
A few months prior to this movie's release, John Williams was named conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. During Williams' first televised performance with the Orchestra on PBS's Evening at Pops (1970), he publicly premiered some of the new scoring pieces he composed for the movie.
The bounty hunter dressed all in white is named "Dengar". His backstory is that he was once a fierce rival of Han Solo's, and was badly beaten by him. He vowed revenge and has been hunting Solo for some time.
The concept design for Cloud City was originally created for Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) (as a floating Imperial prison), but was never used. The design was recycled for use in this movie.
An earlier draft had Luke's reason for not leaving with Lando and Chewie at the end being that his Jedi training was more important. Believing that this would make Luke seem less sympathetic, Irvin Kershner had it changed to where Luke was still recovering from his injuries, and that rescuing Han would be his first priority once he was fully recovered.
When Jeremy Bulloch went in for the role of Boba Fett and donned the costume, he figured that the Wookiee scalp which adorned his shoulder was some sort of hairpiece, and he tried to put it under his helmet.
During his battle with Darth Vader, Luke's hand is severed and he loses his light-saber (once used by Anakin/Darth Vader and given to Luke by Obi-wan). As part of the Expanded Universe, Luke's hand and light-saber were recovered and kept by the Emperor as trophies. Later, the hand was used to create a clone of Luke that also wielded the lost saber. After the clone's death, Luke presented the light-saber to Mara Jade, his future wife.
More scenes of the AT-ST Imperial "chicken walkers" were filmed, but George Lucas decided that the larger AT-ATs were more menacing and impressive. He later realized that the AT-STs would work better in close quarters, which led to using them extensively in the forest battle in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983).
When Luke is confronted by the phantom Darth Vader in the cave, in the original theatrical release, the "fake" Darth Vader has an alternate sound effect of his iconic "breathing" and his lightsaber is colored in a more orange tone and not his traditional red. This was to give the audience a hint that Luke was not fighting the real Darth Vader. However, with the re-release and Special Editions of this movie that have come out since, cave Vader's lightsaber has been given a red color to match the real Vader, though the alternate sound of his breathing has been left unaltered.
Was filmed at the same studios as Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980). Author Stephen King visited the set, and many aspects of this movie affected King's later work. Director Irvin Kershner was nicknamed "Kersh" on the set. King's novel It (1990) features a character named Mrs. Kersh, who sounds like Yoda.
The chasm deep in the heart of Bespin, in which Luke and Vader have their light-saber duel, was created using a matte painting. The same strategy was used in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1997) in the scene where Luke and Leia blast Stormtroopers across an inactive bridge.
Director Harley Cokeliss, who was a friend of Frank Oz, having worked with him on The Muppet Show (1976), visited the set towards the end of filming when the production team were struggling to get everything in the can before they ran over schedule. Cokeliss was hired on the spot as a additional director, and is credited as one of the second unit directors.
In the Hoth command center, Han makes a reference to "That bounty hunter we ran into on Ord Mandell". An audio drama based on this, "Rebel Mission to Ord Mandell" was released in 1983 as a National Public Radio drama, and later on 33 1/3 LP. It featured the voices of many of the original cast.
Contrary to popular opinion, Han's line "I know" was not improvised on the spot. Harrison Ford and director Irvin Kershner had met before filming the scene and decided on the new dialogue. Carrie Fisher was upset that she had not been part of the process, and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan was disappointed that his dialogue had been changed, feeling it had been some of his best writing.
Harrison Ford wanted Han Solo to die at the end of this movie, and he did not want to play the character again. But instead of killing off the character, George Lucas had a different idea and opted for Han to be frozen in carbonite, in case Ford had a change of heart and agreed to return for Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983), the character would be revived.
Darth Vader's costume was more detailed in this movie, including the flashing red lights on his chest box. A new Millennium Falcon (thirty-two inches long) was built for this movie and has two additional landing gear boxes on its underside. As a result, the original Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) model (five feet long) was modified and given the extra landing gear bays and was used for all visual effects scenes of the Millennium Falcon in a landed position.
The scene in the Cloud City apartment where Han Solo enters to tell Princess Leia that the repairs on the Millennium Falcon are almost complete played out differently in the finished movie than it did in the original script. There, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is lounging around in the apartment when Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) enters, having changed from the white combat clothes she wore on Hoth to the brown dress and having her hair done up differently. In surprised reaction to how she's dressed, Solo attempts to flatter her ("You look beautiful. You should wear girls clothes all the time.") and Leia teases him by mentioning Luke; the scene ended with them sharing a kiss. The scene was originally shot this way, but director Irvin Kershner felt it wasn't coming out right, so he re-shot it to appear as it does in the finished film. Excerpts of how the scene was originally filmed can now be seen on the Special Edition DVD.
The book "Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays" reveals that, when the script for this movie was first written, the idea of it being "Episode V" of a nine part serial had not yet been established, and it was at one point called "Episode II".
The Millennium Falcon was constructed in a hangar at Pembroke Docks where great flying boats were made in the 1930s. It was brought to Elstree Studios, London, England in sixteen interlocking sections by a convoy of trucks. After reassembly, the Millennium Falcon was floated into position on the then brand new Star Wars stage by means of compressed air pads similar to those used on hovercraft.
Eight R2-D2s were used in the making of this movie. Kenny Baker used two that were lighter and more comfortable than the ones from Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). Three were dummy versions which could be damaged, and another three were remote controlled.
For the Special Edition, Vader's "Bring my shuttle" line has been replaced with "Alert my Star Destroyer to prepare for my arrival." Sound designer Ben Burtt claimed this is actually a line performed by James Earl Jones that was recorded for use in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), but never used. However, the famous Imperial ships were not called Star Destroyers in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), but "star cruisers"; even the novelization calls them such, so this one line would be an odd bit of discontinuity if Burtt's claims were true.
Harold Weed, an Industrial Light & Magic staffer who assisted in designing the Wampa costume for the Special Edition, was cast as the Wampa for this movie after he was used as the model for the costume. As he is six feet tall, the ice cave set for the re-shoots was built with a height of four and a half to five feet to create the illusion of the Wampa being closer to eight or nine feet in height.
Most of the extras in the snowy battle scenes on the ice planet Hoth were Norwegians. One of the extras, Tom Egeland, became the chief news editor for one of Norway's largest television networks, as well as a critically acclaimed mystery writer. Another, Arve Juritzen, became one of Norway's best known television personalities (hosting Vil du bli millionær? (2000) and Big Brother Norge (2001)).
The only Star Wars movie not to gross $300 million domestically, not adjusting for inflation. When adjusting for inflation, it is actually the second highest grossing Star Wars movie domestically, with an adjusted gross of over $780 million, as of 2014, and is the twelfth highest grossing movie of all time in North America.
Producer Gary Kurtz was initially reluctant for George Lucas to hand over the reins to another director. It was only because Lucas trusted Irvin Kershner, his former teacher at USC, that Kurtz agreed to the move.
When escaping the asteroid field, a TIE fighter strikes an asteroid. As the asteroid travels down and to the right off screen, the pilot can be seen travelling down and to the left doing back flips as he travels off screen.
When Han Solo tricked Darth Vader by landing the Millennium Falcon on his ship, Vader's crewman says they couldn't have used a "cloaking device" since the ship was small. "Cloaking device" was a term invented on Star Trek (1966).
WILHELM SCREAM: Heard twice in this movie. Once during the battle on Hoth as a rebel soldier and his laser gun dish explodes, and right before Han is going to be frozen in the carbonite. As Chewbacca, in a fit of rage, throws a stormtrooper off the ledge (barely audible).
Most of the rebel ground troops in the Hoth battle were Norwegian extras. Because they didn't speak any English, second unit director Peter MacDonald had to "act out" what he wanted them to do, by pointing in the direction of the "enemy" (which wasn't visible during shooting) and demonstrating the recoil motion he wanted for the blaster rifles.
Harrison Ford was not expected to take part in the location filming in Norway, which represented the scenes based on the ice planet of Hoth, so his costume was made for the stage, and consequently not very well insulated. At the last minute, weather conditions were such that the schedule needed to be changed, and it was decided to shoot his scenes in Norway instead.
According to the Dutch director Paul Verhoeven at a Q&A session in Helsinki, Finland during the 2012 Night Visions Film Festival, he was under consideration to direct this movie, based on his work on his movie Soldier of Orange (1977). He was invited for a meeting with the producers and brought with him his newest movie, Spetters (1980), of which he was proud and wanted to screen for the producers. After the screening, he never heard from them again.
Unlike the other two movies of the original trilogy, Darth Vader does not appear until about twenty 20 minutes into this movie. In the other two movies, he first appears in less than five minutes after the start.
Further scenes with the Wampa were shot, and later cut. R2-D2 encountered one within the Rebel base, where it was killed by troopers. Later, the beasts were lured into a prison within the complex. In the completed movie, a medical droid is seen examining the wounds of a tauntaun killed by a Wampa, and Princess Leia mentions the "creatures" while discussing the Imperial probe droid. A scene filmed, but cut, had Han, Leia, and C-3PO running through a corridor. Han went to take a shortcut through a door with a sign on it, but Leia warned him "that's where those creatures are kept." They run off, but not before C-3PO rips off the sign, hoping that the stormtroopers will enter the room. They did. A few seconds of this last scene can be seen in the theatrical trailer on the DVD.
A scene where Darth Vader's shuttle lands in his Star Destroyer's landing bay, after his light-saber fight with Luke, was added to the Special Edition. This was actually an unused scene from Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
Simon Pegg said that he showed this movie to his daughter while she was still three years old. Upon seeing Yoda, she was astonished by his presence and said "Daddy, he's real!" Pegg admitted that he was moved to tears by what he had just witnessed. He later shared this story with his friend J.J. Abrams, who directed Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015). During a meeting with the executives of Lucasfilm and Disney, Abrams told them Pegg's story. This had a great influence on the aesthetic of Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015) and any subsequent Star Wars movie, which would rely more on sets, practical effects, and puppetry, as opposed to the extensive use of CGI in the prequel trilogy. During the production of Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015), when Pegg visited Pinewood Studios, a puppeteer recognized him and said "Hey, you're the guy whose daughter saved Star Wars!"
With the release of the Digital Movie Collection in 2015, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare was removed from this movie and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). The ending of the track "The Rebel Fleet/End Title" from this movie now plays over the Lucasfilm logo. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) retained the fanfare, as Twentieth Century Fox owned distribution rights to the movie at that time. The 2018 buyout of Twentieth Century Fox by the Walt Disney Company means that all Star Wars movies are now owned by Disney, lock, stock, and barrel.
The swamp creature that tries to swallow R2-D2 is never given a name in this movie. It was eventually revealed, however, in the Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1993) video game to be "Hagobad" (appropriately, an anagram of Dagobah, its home planet.)
Producer Gary Kurtz directed the scene in which Luke flees the Wampa ice cave. Kurtz took over John Barry's second unit duties after Barry died suddenly of meningitis in June 1979. Barry's replacement, Harley Cokeliss, was hired soon after.
The armored speeders parked at the rebel base on Hoth were built by Ogle Design Ltd. of Letchworth Heath, near London, England. ODL is known for manufacturing the famous/infamous three-wheeled Reliant sports car.
John Hollis, who plays Lando Calrissian's aide, has a cybernetic device installed in place of his ears. Hollis also played one of Klytus' Observers in Flash Gordon (1980), who this time is fitted with a cybernetic electronic "imager" device in place of his eyes.
The Wampa was based on the cryptozoological phenomena of the "Yeti", or "Abominable Snowman", which lived in the Himalayas. Notes from early concept meeting suggest that the Wampa, like the yeti may have supernatural powers as well. In early story discussions, the Wampa was described as a fish-like beast capable of swimming through the snow on Hoth, and the creatures were intended to be inside of the base where the rebels were hiding, creating chaos when Darth Vader is approaching to begin his attack on the base.
To create the Wampa's roar, sound effects artist Randy Thom recorded the noises made by an elephant in the Oakland Zoo. Sound designer Ben Burtt and the movie sound team then recorded the cries of a sea lion at Marineland of the Pacific Public oceanarium and mixed that on top of the elephant recording to produce the final effect.
Originally, the scene where Han rescues Luke on Hoth was to have been filmed at Elstree Studios, and only Mark Hamill was needed on-location in Norway. But when a blizzard made it impossible to film anywhere but near the hotel, Harrison Ford was summoned to Finse, anyway. Unable to travel by train, he arrived in the engine compartment of a snow clearance vehicle.
This was the first movie in the original trilogy to be released with an episode number, as the previous movie had originally been known simply as "Star Wars" (until it was re-released after this movie in 1981, re-titled "Episode IV: A New Hope").
Original start date of shooting at Elstree Studios was slated to start in March 1979, but was delayed for three months because at that time, set 3 of the studio, which was used for The Shining (1980), was burned down and had to be rebuilt at a higher scale.
Though TIE fighters are featured extensively throughout this movie, there are no on-screen appearances of TIE fighter pilots at all. Even though the figure of a TIE fighter pilot wasn't released until The Empire Strikes Back wave of figures.
The opening Twentieth Century Fox fanfare music was specially re-recorded for the movie by John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra (unlike the first movie, which used the original recorded version from 1954). George Lucas specifically requested the longer version of the fanfare for Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), which Twentieth Century Fox used for its CinemaScope productions during the 1950s, even though it had been replaced by a shorter version by 1977.
It is often believed that the Wampa that attacked Luke when he is riding his Tauntaun is the same Wampa in the ice cave, it is not. The book Inside the worlds of Star Wars trilogy labels the events before and during the Battle of Hoth, and clearly describes a male and female Wampa.
The sequence which Luke Skywalker engages the fake Darth Vader in a light-saber duel in the dark side cave was filmed in slow motion in order to make it dramatic and horrifying, as it shows that Luke learns that he is not far from turning to the dark side.
The TIE Bomber (the small twin-fuselage ships shooting at the large asteroid in which the Millennium Falcon is hiding) is based on the World War II era German Blohm & Voss BV 141 reconnaissance bomber, which also had an asymmetric dual fuselage.
A red stripe appears on the back of both of the AT-AT drivers' helmets near the end of the battle of Hoth, which was not there at the start. The idea here was to indicate that drivers of different AT-AT's had different markings on their helmets. But the way it was edited in the movie, General Veers appears to be in command in both scenes, making it one and the same vehicle.
A 1980 issue of the children's magazine National Geographic World featured an extensive behind the scenes look at the making of this movie, and its special effects. The issue included a popular pull out poster of a still photo image showing the Millennium Falcon being chased down by a Star Destroyer.
(At around twenty minutes) There is a shot in the Hoth base control room in which we hear Han's voice over the radio describing what's left of the probe droid. One of the background sound effects in this shot was taken from the Canadian shortwave time signal station CHU, which can be heard at 3.330 and 7.335 MHz.
"Weird Al" Yankovic's "Yoda", a parody of The Kinks' "Lola", was written after this movie was released, but it wasn't released until his third album, 1985's "Dare to Be Stupid", because of the difficulty of obtaining permission from George Lucas and from Ray Davies, who wrote "Lola".
This movie was released in the U.S. on May 21, 1980. This was in keeping with the original release date (May 25) of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), which was on the Wednesday before the Memorial Day weekend. This movie was re-released on July 31, 1981 following a re-release of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) on April 10, 1981, and again on November 19, 1982 following a re-release of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) on August 13, 1982.
Mark Hamill appeared on the BBC TV show Jim'll Fix It (1975), on which a boy named Daniel visited the set of this movie and met and spent the day with Mark Hamill. Mark Hamill, in character as Luke Skywalker got R2-D2 to set up a picnic for him and Daniel on the Degobah set, and Daniel and Mark (in character) got to know each other, and asked Daniel what his favorite scenes were from Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and Hamill got R2-D2 to show Daniel a clip from this movie, and after having the picnic and talking to each other, R2-D2 showed Daniel the way out of the Degobah set, and in the show, Peter Mayhew appeared in character as Chewbacca and met Daniel, and gave him his Jim'll Fix It badge.
Rogue squadron is the only rebel squadron that does not use a color as its call sign. The reason for this was revealed several decades after the initial release of this movie. The squadron takes its name from the call sign "Rogue One", used by Jyn Erso's team in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016).
The debate on how to say AT-AT (either saying it like the word "at" or saying the letters "a" and "t") was finally settled when spokesmen of George Lucas stated (on Lucas' behalf) it is said like the word "at". Although, many people still say the letters "a" and "t".
This is arguably the only movie of the original trilogy in which Darth Vader serves as the chief antagonist. In Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983), Darth Vader serves as Grand Moff Tarkin's and Emperor Palpatine's henchman, while in this movie he is free to do whatever he wants, including attacking Hoth, capturing the Millennium Falcon, torturing Han Solo, and placing Solo in carbonate.
Mark Hamill showed off his Harrison Ford impersonation with a story from the premiere of this film. They were both watching the film for the first time, when Darth Vader revealed his identity to Luke. Ford leaned over to Hamill and said "Hey, kid, you never fucking told me that."
On the New Zealand CBS/FOX videotape of the Ralph Bakshi movie Wizards (1977), the trailer of this movie preceeded Wizards (1977). In the late 1970s, the movie's original title "Wizards" was changed to avoid confusion with Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and George Lucas had recommended to Ralph Bakshi, the Writer and Director of Wizards (1977) that he use Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker). Mark Hamill auditioned for Weehawk, which the part was given to Richard Romanus, but Bakshi cast Hamill as the voice of Sean.
According to Billy Dee Williams, Lando Calrissian betrayed Han Solo because "He was trying to prevent the demise of Han Solo and his friends, because he had no choice", and that "When you're dealing with Darth Vader and you know Lando did stand up to Darth Vader for about two seconds and realized that it could be a huge mistake. But, he had to devise something, so he had to come up with something in order to try and keep his situation going, which he finally ended up losing as a result anyway."
In the ITV premiere of this movie in the U.K. on Christmas Day 1988, some scenes were cut for time: Luke Skywalker stumbling and collapsing in the snowstorm, following his escape from the Wampa cave. A Rebel commander ordering the shield doors of the Rebel base closed, and R2-D2 estimating Han and Luke's chances of survival. The Imperial fleet approaching Hoth, which instead cuts straight to the scene in which Darth Vader force chokes Admiral Ozzel. Han and Chewbacca's reactions, after Han tells Luke to be careful, just before the Snowspeeder battle and the scene in the cave, which Han Solo tells Princess Leia to not get excited, when experiencing a quake, while in the Millennium Falcon.
Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious only appears for roughly a minute in this movie, making him a cameo appearance. Apart from Star Wars, Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), he played a larger role as the main antagonist in episodes I, II, III, and VI.
When Luke is on Dagobah entering the cave of evil to fight the fake Darth Vader, an alien species, known in the Star Wars universe as a "Sleen", can be seen crawling out of the hole into which Luke crawls, this is in fact just a regular lizard, and the only real life animal to make it into all of the Star Wars movies.
The two other scenes, which are the swamps of Dagobah, and the asteroid's creature (which has the Millennium Falcon), were done on the same soundstage used for the interior backgrounds of the Echo base in Hoth.
Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan was brought in to replace Leigh Brackett after her death. He had already been hired to write Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Lucas offered him this movie before even reading his rough draft of Raiders, having already read his script for Continental Divide (1981), and having worked with him and Steven Spielberg to develop the story of Raiders largely from scratch.
In an interview for Severin Films, veteran horror and B-movie icon Jesús Franco states that one day he met his good friend, make-up artist Stuart Freeborn, and was surprised when Freeborn said "You're not furious with me?" When Franco asked why he should be furious, Freeborn said that the inspiration for Yoda's face and movements was Franco. Franco was not angry at all, thanked him, and said that he liked Yoda very much, and was honored. This interview is included amongst the extras on the 2015 Blu-ray edition of Franco's Vampyros Lesbos (1971).
This is the only episode of the original trilogy where Princess Leia isn't captured by anyone. In Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), she was a prisoner to Darth Vader on the Death Star. In Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983), she was Jabba the Hutt's prisoner on Tatooine.
This movie reverses Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) in order of characters from when they appear, to how they behave. Han Solo arrived early in this movie and Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015) because he arrived late in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). Also, Leia isn't a slave in this movie, but she was in the even numbered ones. Han Solo is captured at the end of this movie, since that's when Leia was rescued in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). Leia calls for help to Obi-wan in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), but Obi-wan tells Luke to see Yoda for help. Yoda is a reverse of Obi-wan since he's also a mentor. Obi-wan is tall, gray-haired, human, and speaks forwards. Yoda is short, furry, green-skinned, and speaks backwards. The final light-saber duel is a stalemate, since it's the middle of the trilogy. The final scene in this movie ends in tragedy, with the characters away from the audience in a spaceship. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) end with the characters facing the audience on a planet in joy.
Hoth's domesticated mounts, the tauntuans, were originally conceived of as lizards, this was redesigned with a final form that more approximated bighorn sheep, and although difficult to discern, they retained some of their snow lizard characteristics.
Leia sensing where Luke is after he is hanging upside down under Cloud City reverses Darth Vader sensing Luke when arriving in his TIE Fighter towards the end of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
The only movie in the original trilogy that does not end with a victory celebration. In Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983), both movies end with Rebels celebrating the destruction of the two Death Stars.
Like the rest of the films in the franchise, The Empire Striks Back has been subject to the phenomenon known as 'fan editing': a process where fans of a certain work will re-imagine the given piece of media through rearranging the film altogether, or simply fixing minor problems in the product. In 2011, the original Star Wars Trilogy was restored to its original theatrical form (in HD) by Czech filmmaker Petr 'Harmy' Harmácek. Similarly, an English filmmaker under the alias of 'Adywan' released an alternative cut of the film in 2017, 'The Empire Strikes Back: Revisited', which served as an 'improvement' over the Special Edition version of the movie.
Han Solo shooting at Darth Vader (a cyborg) with his blaster pistol was a prediction of Harrison Ford (Han Solo) starring in Blade Runner (1982). In the movie, Harrison Ford stars as Rick Deckard, a former "Blade Runner", a cop whose job is hunt down and terminate Replicants (robots).
Luke is first seen at an outdoor location wearing white clothes in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), then leaving a cave and entering daylight wearing grey in this movie, then inside a cave wearing black in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). This creates a beginning, middle, and end structure of the trilogy.
Joe Johnston: The director of movies The Rocketeer (1991), Jurassic Park III (2001), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018) worked on visual and art effects for this movie. He has a cameo as a Rebel in Echo Base before the Rebels evacuate.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The telepathic communication between Luke and Leia at the end (when Luke pleads for his rescue from the Cloud City) is the only hint that Luke and Leia share a special bond, something that is finally revealed in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983).
The light-saber duel with Obi-wan and Darth Vader ends with one death. The light-saber duel with Luke and Darth Vader ends in a stalemate. The final duel with Luke, Darth Vader, and Emperor Palpatine ends in two deaths. This creates a beginning, middle, and end structure of the original trilogy, with each death symbolizing the episode being watched.