The Great Movie Re-Watch
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Billy Dee Williams
After the Rebels are brutally overpowered by the Empire on the ice planet Hoth, Luke Skywalker begins Jedi training with Yoda, while his friends are pursued by Darth Vader and a bounty hunter named Boba Fett all over the galaxy.
There is nothing new I can say about Star Wars. Everything that can be said has been said over and over. I have multiple making of books to prove it. At this point, each of the first six Star Wars movies should have the most extensive Wikipedia entries out there.
During this re-watch, I flipped through my copy of The Making of Empires Strikes Back the Definitive Story by J. W. Rinzler. It’s a massive book with tons of information. For example, did you know that Leigh Brackett wrote the first draft of the movie? She was the first woman to be shortlisted for a Hugo award. She was called the queen of Space Opera. So it makes sense that Lucas would hire her to work on the script. Unfortunately, after submitting the first draft, she was admitted into the hospital and shortly died from cancer. Unlike Lucas’ wife’s involvement in A New Hope, I’d heard of Brackett before, but she was always mentioned with derision. Yeah, sure, she wrote the first draft, but Lucas hated it and rewrote everything.
Since I’d just written my A New Hope blog post, my mind was on the women behind the scenes, so I decided to flip through the making of book and see what they had to say about Brackett. Thankfully, there’s an index, and I ended up finding seven mentions of her. It was quick enough to read them, and I was immediately disappointed. It says that she had a long meeting with Lucas and there was mentioned a 51-page typed transcript of their initial plot conversation, but that only Lucas’ side was recorded. Next, there was a quoted conversation from Kasdan that talked about how Brackett had missed what it was to be George in her draft. The book says that her draft was faithful to everything Lucas and she had talked about. However, the dialogue and action weren’t right.
That’s fair. It was the first draft, and Lucas is notorious for being shit at direction. He tells you vaguely what he wants, expects you to do your thing, then he tells you what he liked. Except that Brackett never got to that point because she was hospitalized. That’s when Lucas jumped in to write it. Even though he hates writing scripts, he seems to complain about that a lot, actually. Yet, he’d done that for every movie up till that point.
The last mention of Brackett is Lucas saying that she should be given credit for writing the story.
“I didn’t like the first script, but I gave Leigh credit because I liked her a lot,” Lucas says. “She was sick at the time she wrote it and she really tried her best.”
It’s fascinating how much I can enjoy something that someone has created, yet know that if I were ever to meet the creator, I would absolutely hate them.