This is an article from issue 31 of Starlog Magazine, on newsstands in February of 1980. I found the text of the article here, and decided to help preserve this bit of ephemera by re-posting it.
Pay attention, kids. This is how it used to work before the Internet.
Some of the new things we hear about the new Star Wars picture, The Empire Strikes Back, are verifiably accurate. The original actors are back in their original roles (most of them, anyways) and there are some new inhabitants of that galaxy far far away that we will meet when the movie premieres, barring disaster, on May 17, 1980, in London, and May 18 in the U.S. and Canada. John Williams is writing a new music score, and the new head of special effects is Brian Johnson – who worked on Alien and Space: 1999. Originator George Lucas is executive producer this time; Gary Kurtz is again producer, and Irvin Kershner, a newcomer to the Star Wars empire, is the director.
Once a questioner gets past such dry production details, however, and into more exciting matters, he or she receives only wry silent smiles from the knowledgeable few in the Lucasfilm office. Cite “freedom of the press” and the smiles turn to gleeful laughter. Nobody’s talking! But Hollywood – home of the gossip column – is not known for its ability to keep secrets. Rumors are flying; the air in Los Angeles is positively smoggy with them.
Herewith set down, for your edification and confusion, are the rampant and not-so-rampant, consistent and inconsistent rumors about the content and characters of The Empire Strikes Back. (We presented this compilation to an official in the Lucasfilm office. He read it. His assessment and comments conclude this article.)
Take Obi-Wan-Kenobi, for instance. Did he die or merely vanish in Star Wars? A good many people claim to be sure that Alec Guinness will appear in Empire as Obi Wan; they say, variously, that:
Only his disembodied voice will be there.
He will appear in flashbacks.
He appears as an ephemeral shape that one can faintly see through.
He dies yet again and reappears in an even more transparent form.
So many people believe it that it may well be true that the hinted-at romantic triangle of Luke, Leia, and Han becomes a serious issue in The Empire Strikes Back, and that it is settled once and for all: They say that:
Leia chooses Han Solo.
Leia chooses Luke Skywalker.
Leia runs off with Chewbacca. (At least the Lucasfilm office had the kindness to flatly refute this possibility.)
The most disquieting rumor (which was reported in People Magazine) is that Han Solo is killed in action – leaving the field clear for Luke. But then, we’ve also heard that Mark Hamill doesn’t want to be in Star Wars 3 and so Luke gets killed; or that both Luke and Han die and the saga continues with either the Princess or one of the new characters in the lead.
The Millennium Falcon was constructed full-size for Empire; it weighs 40 tons, stands 16 feet high and with its mandible stretches to 80 feet in length. Rumor has it that the gigantic ship lifts off under its own power! (Outer space shots will still use miniatures of the ships.)
CHEWIE TAKEN PRISONER!
It seems that there are more rumors involving Han Solo than any of the other characters. Someone who claims to have read the “final synopsis” of the script reports this: While on the ice planet, Hoth, our intrepid Rebels are attacked by the Stormtroopers. Although the Rebels defeat the troopers, the representatives of the Empire knock Chewie unconscious and take him away as their prisoner. Although Leia insists that Chewie’s rescue must wait, that other Rebel business must take precedence over an attempt, Han defies the orders and takes off in the Falcon to rescue his friend and co-pilot. Someone else who claims to have read the same “final synopsis” says no, that it is Han Solo who is taken prisoner, not Chewbacca!
And wouldn’t this be interesting… Near the climax, Han Solo crosses light sabers with Darth Vader. Although Han doesn’t really know how to use the weapon, he’s doing fairly well when suddenly the light beams are “fused” together and Han’s and Vader’s “life forces” are intermingled. Luke has a chance to come to the rescue – but if he kills Vader, might not he kill his friend too?
One of the new characters in Empire is, reportedly, a rogue named Lando Calrissian. It is said, in various circles, that he is a good guy, and that he is a bad guy. One intriguing rumor has it that Calrissian is an old friend of Han Solo and in fact is the man who sold Han the Millennium Falcon. Even if that’s true, it’s as likely that he’s a villain as a hero, considering the ethical fences Han has been known to straddle.
Another of the new characters has the evil-smelling name of Boba Fett. They say he’ll rival Darth Vader for sheer terrorism. Apparently, he’s a remnant of the old Imperial Shocktroopers – who once made the Stormtroopers look like school-crossing guards. Then others say: No, he was never a Shocktrooper; he has merely adopted their uniform as a symbol of his nefarious purpose. (You may actually have seen Boba Fett before; he appeared with Darth Vader in the Star Wars Holiday Special on CBS TV last November.) Boba Fett wears Wookiee scalps on his shoulder! (Or, alternatively, dangling from his belt.) The most interesting speculation about Boba Fett is that he’s a bounty hunter who will work for whichever side pays him the most, and he plays both sides when he can get away with it. Here’s a rumor within a rumor: Boba Fett will be played by one actor, and his voice will be overdubbed by another – and even those in the Lucasfilm office do not know who will be dubbing the voice! That’s the method used with Darth Vader, of course: His body was played by David Prowse and his voice by James Earl Jones.
Which brings to mind another rumor – that David Prowse will not be playing Vader in the new movie (Once again, Lucasfilm broke silence to specifically deny this; Prowse is playing Vader.)
Word has gotten around that the Emperor will make an appearance in The Empire Strikes Back. Equally persistent are the rumors that he will be played by Orson Welles… and by Christopher Lee. One of the special-effects people told us he knew for sure that neither the Emperor nor Ben Kenobi would be in the picture – but those fellows at the effects plant are cagey and are no more to be trusted on such matters than anyone else.
WILL THE REAL DARTH…
Occasionally one hears a little discontent over the ending of Star Wars; some feel that it would have been more satisfying if we had seen a direct confrontation between Luke and the man who killed his father – Darth Vader. Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking in operation, but it is strongly believed that Empire concludes with a fierce light saber duel between Luke and Vader. And more than once we’ve heard that it turns out that Vader is really Luke’s father! Of course, we’ve also heard, from reliable sources, that Ben Kenobi is really Luke’s father, and, from still other sources that Ben killed Luke’s father.
It has also been reported that in Empire we learn considerably more about most of the continuing characters – including why Darth Vader wears that mask. We have also heard that in one scene we see Vader without the mask! Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 have larger roles in Empire than they had in Star Wars, it is said. Admittedly, this next story doesn’t sound too likely, but according to one report: Luke and C-3PO are captured by a horrendous alien (stop-motion animated, the story goes) who dumps them into a tank-like prison filled with a breathable liquid. The only way the alien can be killed (shades of Dracula) is to drive a metal stake through its heart. The only metal around, unfortunately, is C-3PO; and Luke melts the droid down to fabricate the weapon.
Apparently it is true that stop-motion animation will be used much more extensively in Empire than it was in Star Wars – where it was used for the holographic creatures in the chess-like “let the Wookiee win” game. Phil Tippett and Jon Berg are reportedly the animators in charge.
Finally, here is a grab-bag of miscellaneous rumors – some absurd, some logical, none confirmed or denied:
The Millennium Falcon falls into a black hole – with Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, and Darth Vader aboard – and travels through time.
On a jungle planet, where Luke and Han are seeking allies against the Empire, the two enlist a race of winged aliens called the Quarrels.
There are creatures called the Quarrels, but they are dolphin-like aquatic mammals.
The Rebels visit three different planets in Empire, and there are different races of intelligent creatures on each one.
The Rebels visit three different planets, but none have indigenous sentient life.
Princess Leia is captured by Stormtroopers and delivered to Darth Vader who, by use of the force, seduces her into betraying Han.
The special effects team at Industrial Light and Magic, near San Francisco, have been working on an experimental process that uses holography and makes it possible for an image of the Millennium Falcon to fly off the screen and up the projection beam.
In their travels, Luke, Leia, and Han encounter a female villain, a sort of “Queen of Outer Space” (who will not be played by Zsa Zsa Gabor.)
Relating vaguely to that black hole rumor, it is said that Han Solo and Chewie land on a desert planet where they meet time travelers from Earth’s 13th century who are trying to fight Stormtroopers off with catapults and crossbows.
Through the use of the force, Luke persuades Darth Vader of the error of his ways and convinces him to enlist with the Rebels against the Empire.
It’s a good six months before The Empire Strikes Back reaches the movie theatres of the world; and it’s safe to assume that the preceding batch of rumors is only the beginning. Star Wars captured the imaginations of millions, instantly, as no film in history has been able to do; and it seems almost unfair that so many of us have had to wait so long to be once again immersed – or hurled into – that romantic and exciting world. We can’t just twiddle our mental thumbs, and speculation and rumor-mongering seem better than nothing.
THE “EMPIRE” RESPONDS
We asked Craig Miller, a member of the publicity department at Lucasfilm, Ltd., to look over the above, and to let us know how we did as researchers. Well, Craig, what’s our score? – Ed.
Well, David, that’s as interesting a bit of rumor mongering as I’ve seen in quite some time. Seriously, though, you’ve done pretty well – better than I had hoped you could do. Of course, a fair percentage of the rumors you list are inaccurate, but there are four or five that are accurate. Which ones they are will have to be left as an exercise for your readers – at least until the 21st of May, 1980. While you came across a few rumors I hadn’t heard before (a Queen of Outer Space?!?), there were a few your researchers missed.
How about: Luke convinces Han to accept the teachings of the Jedi, initiates him into the ways of the Force and from that point on they learn and grow together.
Or: The Millennium Falcon passes through a time warp, and Luke, Han, and Chewbacca end up fighting in the Clone Wars, side by side with Luke’s father and Obi Wan Kenobi.
One fan magazine reported that the Empire had invented a spy satellite that they use to seek out Rebel bases, while another reported that the Rebellion was using them to eavesdrop on Imperial communications.
One columnist for a Hollywood trade paper reported that Mick Jagger would be doing the score for The Empire Strikes Back, while another announced that Steven Spielberg would be directing the third film in the Star Wars saga.
I think my current favorite concerns Princess Leia’s father. Of royal heritage, he is the nephew of the Emperor, and, rather than leading the Rebellion, he is actually a double agent. Forewarned of the Death Star’s attack on Alderaan, he escaped and now sits in the Emperor’s court, advising him.
Of course, as with your set of rumors, I can’t tell you which of these are accurate. I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait. But don’t worry, it’ll be worth the wait. Craig Miller, Lucasfilm, Ltd.