Movies & TV

George Lucas Changed the Ending of The Empire Strikes Back

The original ending was reshot at the last minute.
IMAGE Disney

Back when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was building up to its 2016 release, word got around that the film was in trouble—and it needed reshoots. Nowadays, some fans interpret the need for reshoots as a death sentence for the film, and promptly freak out, as they did with Rogue One. (Which ended up being one of the most praised Star Wars entries of the 2010s, by the way.)

Turns out things weren’t always like that. Apparently, back in the day, it was perfectly acceptable to tweak a film when it was already in theaters—which, according to a new post from the official Star Wars website, is exactly what George Lucas pulled with The Empire Strikes Back. Apparently, after Lucas watched Episode V when it made its initial run in theaters, he realized the end of the film didn’t quite make sense:

Not long after Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back made its initial premiere in theaters on May 21, 1980, Industrial Light & Magic’s (ILM) general manager Tom Smith received a phone call from George Lucas. e later remembered to former Lucasfilm executive editor J.W. Rinzler (author of The Making of The Empire Strikes Back) that Lucas had said, ‘I don’t wanna tell you this. We need some more shots for Empire.’ Smith could hardly believe his ears. It must’ve been a joke; the film was already in theaters! “No, no, no,’ Lucas clarified, ‘it’s not in all the theaters.’

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Apparently, the conclusion of the film—where Luke, Leia, Lando, Chewy, R2-D2, and C-3PO sail happily away into the galaxy—was a little confusing. If you’ll remember, the camera pans between the heroes, who are flying in different spaceships. But the initial cut of The Empire Strikes Back didn’t make that totally clear:

Where were Luke and Leia in relation to Chewie and Lando? Were the heroes on the same spaceship or two different ones? If the latter, where was the Millennium Falcon in relation to the rebel medical frigate? In the rush of completing the film, the potential hazard had been overlooked, but Lucas was never one to miss an opportunity for improvement. There was a generous three-week window before Empire’s wider 35mm format release on June 18, just enough time to create three new shots.

The rest is history: Lucas worked with his team to film those new shots, which ended up being exterior looks at the Millennium Falcon and the medical frigate Luke, Leia, and the droids holed up on. TBD on whether or not Star Wars lets us know what happened when Lucas watched Episode I in theaters for the first time.


This story originally appeared on Esquire.comMinor edits have been made by the editors.

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