You can type this s*** George, but you sure as hell can’t say it,“ said the great Harrison Ford, arguing correctly that the genius of the Star Wars saga was not necessarily baked into the script.
These are the eight unplanned moments of spontaneity and sheer dumb luck that led to the Star Wars franchise being the intergalactic phenomenon it is today.
"I love you!” “… I know.”
It’s one of the most iconic lines in the entire history of Star Wars but it didn’t appear half as badass on the printed page. Han and Leia’s stoic exchange seconds before he’s frozen in carbonite went down in history, but the line as written simply called for Carrie Fisher to say “I love you. I couldn’t tell you before, but it’s true.” Harrison Ford’s response was supposed to be: “Just remember that, ‘cause I’ll be back.”
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The Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner claims he and the cast discussed a replacement for the stock line on set but that the final line was “entirely Ford’s”. Bonus happy accident: Solo was only frozen in carbonite at the end of Empire because the filmmakers didn’t know if Harrison Ford wanted to play the role again, but Han’s frosty fate ended up contributing to cinema’s most perfect downer ending.
A Stormtrooper bonks his head
Never let it be said that George Lucas doesn’t have a sense of humour. Admittedly, the scene where an Imperial Stormtrooper - partially blinded by his helmet - bashes his head on the top of a blast door slipped through the net first time round and made it into A New Hope. The blooper entered into legend shortly afterwards, so when Lucas hit the edit suite for the 1997 Special Editions, fans were surprised that not only did he leave the shot in, he added a comedy sound effect. In fact, there’s even an homage in Attack Of The Clones: watch as Jango boards his ship after the Obi-Wan fight and you’ll see him bash his bonce.
Mark Hamill’s scar
Now we’re not exactly claiming that the car crash that permanently scarred Mark Hamill’s upper lip was anything like a “happy accident”, but the injury did help to create the impression that Luke Skywalker was maturing into a man from Empire Strikes Back onwards and possibly inspire the brilliant Wampa attack scene at the start of the film. Carrie Fisher said that the sequence, which saw Luke mauled by an evil snow beast, was tweaked after the crash. “It was a really bad accident.” she said on the DVD commentary.
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“Miraculously his teeth didn’t shatter. But his nose did… So they adjusted the film with this snow monster to right away in the movie scratch his face to account for his looks being different.” George Lucas is a bit cagey on the issue, but whatever the truth about that scene, Hamill’s grizzled new look emphasised Luke’s shift from fresh-faced farm boy in A New Hope to hardened resistance fighter in Empire.
The Star Wars prequels are not noted for their quiet, dialogue moments, but the scene in Revenge Of The Sith when Senator Palpatine seduces Anakin to the dark side in front of a weird squid ballet is an exception.
Ian McDiarmid, who played Palpatine, told Yahoo the bizarre reason why his voice sounds so sinister in the scene. “It was shot at the end of a very long day [and] I’d also got most of the studio dust in my throat because they’d been driving four wind machines at me. So I could hardly speak. It was a Friday afternoon and the AD’s birthday… not the most auspicious circumstances to do the biggest dialogue scene in the series. But George said: ‘let’s do it anyway’. I said ‘you must be joking I can hardly speak’ but he said ‘no, your voice sounds great, it sounds half-way between Palpatine and the Sith’. When I see that scene it does seem like a voice in transition. I’d lost my voice by Saturday.”
The usually unflappable space rogue Han Solo is very slightly flapped during A New Hope when he panics under pressure from a Stormtrooper radio request, having just blown away the sentry. “Everything’s perfectly all right now, we’re fine… we’re all fine here… now… thank you,” stumbles Solo, perhaps overestimating the manners of your average Stormtrooper. But it’s the killer payoff that was the happy accident: the flustered punchline “How are you?” was entirely improvised by Ford in the moment and it makes the scene.
The design of Millennium Falcon was inspired by a hamburger
We shudder to think: if George Lucas was into health food, the fastest ship in the galaxy might have ended up looking like a salmon skin roll. Thankfully, Big George liked a burger joint, and it was during one lunchtime during pre-production on the movie that inspiration struck. He’d had to throw out the original designs for the Millennium Falcon due to similarities with spacecraft in Space 1999, and legend has it that as George’s hamburger was set down in front of him, he took a bite and noted the pleasing shape it formed, (the olive on the side would become the ship’s cockpit). That burger eventually became capable of performing the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. It could so easily have been taco-shaped.
No one man could play Darth Vader
It was never the plan to have one man be the body of Darth Vader and another the voice, but we’re sure happy it worked out that way. Dave Prowse had the physicality of Vader but not the fight skills or the voice – he was dubbed 'Darth Farmer’ due to his West Country accent. James Earl Jones was drafted in to provide Vader’s booming voice but lacked the stature to play Vader in person, while weapons trainer Bob Anderson stood in for the lightsaber fight scenes but had no acting experience.
Between the three of them, however, they made Darth the single baddest mothervader in the galaxy, and the end result was seamless – even when Sebastian Shaw was subbed on late in the game in Return Of The Jedi.
The casting of Harrison Ford, self-taught carpenter
Did anything relating to Harrison Ford follow the script? Ford’s involvement in the biggest franchise ever really only came about because of the actor’s self-taught carpentry skills. Though it’s true that Ford was hired to play the small role of Bob Falfa in George Lucas’s American Graffiti in 1973, it was only really when Francis Ford Coppola hired him as a handyman to expand his office – rewarding him with two film roles – that Harrison had a 'career’ to consider.
Impressed by his work in The Conversation and Apocalypse Now, Lucas re-hired Ford to read lines to other actors auditioning to play Han Solo for Star Wars, but Harrison did such a great job bringing Solo to life that he ended up getting the gig himself, against all the odds.