Today I Learned: The Original Ending Of Star Wars Would Have Blown Up The Franchise

They had a bad feeling about that.

Being a Star Wars fan requires occasional recalibration, whether that’s accepting the often terrible material of the Expanded Universe novels and comics and games, or accepting the sudden elimination of all of the previous Expanded Universe novels and comics and games, or the prequels, or the Last Jedi, or whatever thing from the larger saga doesn’t quite fit with your own personal conception of the franchise.

Exhibit A.

But there’s one thing which everyone agrees on, and that is that the first film – the one now referred to as A New Hope, then referred to as Star Wars – was perfect.

And so it’s a bit a surprise to discover that the original ending to said film was… well, kind of lousy.

You heard me.

The stories of how most of the actors that worked on Star Wars thought it was a load of arse are legion, and it’s not just because they couldn’t sense how the larger narrative worked with all the groundbreaking visuals, the stirring John Williams score and/or Ben Burrt extraordinary sound design.

It’s because the script was genuinely a load of arse. For example: the ending.

In the original screenplay the attack on the Death Star has a couple of big differences to what you see on screen including Luke taking TWO SHOTS at the trench run to blow up the Death Star. Suddenly the pod race sequence from The Phantom Menace seems like a masterpiece in narrative economy.

Another lap? Oh, great.

But here’s the biggest difference: in the original script, the one which was filmed, the Death Star wasn’t coming to blow up the Rebels. At all.

And you might recall that was a fairly important bit of the film.

That whole thing about the Death Star entering into orbit around the planet and moving into position to blow up the moon with the rebels on it? That was entirely created in the edit with some post-production graphics and overdubbed dialogue.

Like this.

Watch the sequence again: at no point does anyone on screen talk about how the Death Star is coming into range. It’s all in overdub or in a long shot where you can’t quite see lips move.

The genius who put this in? Marcia Lucas, George’s then-wife and film editor.

She accurately noticed that there was zero tension with the rebels zooming off to fight a thing that wasn’t actually a threat, and that this also seemed a bit like bombing a bunch of people for no especially good reason.

And thrilling action!

So she got George to do some new dialogue to drop in, some nice graphics about Death Stars coming into range, and suddenly: we’ve got a race against time on our hands!

No wonder the editors got the only Oscar for Star Wars. Without them – and especially Marcia – things might have gone very differently, and now we wouldn’t have angry fanboys whining about how Rey is a Mary Sue. And who’d want to live in that timeline?

Star Wars Is Very Different And Much Funnier When You Hear Darth Vader's Real Accent

"I find your lack of regional British accent disturbing."

Star Wars could have been – and very nearly was – incredibly silly.

The original cut was such a disaster that George Lucas’ pal Francis Ford Coppola allegedly offered to pay Lucas to abandon it, and all the actors thought they were in the midst of an absolute turkey.

Actual on-set dialogue.

In retrospect, there were a few things which saved it. One was the special effects. Another was the incredible job the editors did in salvaging it, especially Lucas’s ex-wife Marcia (and she’s the hero of the short but amazing YouTube documentary How Star Wars Was Saved In The Edit).

And the third was a handful of performances by classically trained actors that gave the film some much-needed gravitas: Alex Guinness as Ben Kenobi, Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin), and the initially uncredited James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader.

That last one was incredibly important because the voice of the man in the suit – British actor David Prowse – didn’t… um, have quite the same effect.

Um… yeah.

Prowse looked pretty menacing – he was a champion bodybuilder and stood just shy of two metres tall even before the Vader boots – but his gentle Bristol burr doesn’t exactly strike fear into the heart. Especially when yelled through a plastic helmet.

He has long contended that he thought he was doing the voice of Vader until the very last minute and was most displeased with the decision to dub him. But when you compare the two…

Yeah, it wasn’t the wrong decision.

Whatever Happened To The 1980s Movie Tie In Single And Why Isn't Marvel Owning The Charts These Days?

It's like no-one's prepared to take a highway to the danger zone anymore.

Back in the 80s and 90s the release of a hit movie was almost always accompanied by a hit single from the soundtrack.

Sure, pop music was always tied to popular cinema, ever since 1955’s Blackboard Jungle gave teens their first opportunity to rock around whatever clocks were to hand, but the eighties were when it really came together.

I mean, what a playlist it makes: ‘Ghostbusters’. ‘The Heat Is On’. ‘Take My Breath Away’. ‘Footloose’. ‘Flashdance… What A Feeling’. ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’. ‘Danger Zone’. ‘(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life’. ‘Fame’. ‘Eye Of The Tiger’. Goddamn, it’s nothing but gloriously awful bangers.

And that’s before you even take into account the Bond themes that were also smash hits: A-Ha’s ‘The Living Daylights’, Sheena Easton’s ‘For Your Eyes Only’, and Duran Duran’s loads-better-than-the-film ‘A View To A Kill’.

And a lot of huge 90s hits came from the movies too. Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ was the tie in from The Bodyguard in 1992, and Coolio’s ‘Gangster’s Paradise’ blew up via Dangerous Minds – and that’s before we get to 1998 and ‘My Heart Will Go On’.

This version’s better.

So: what the hell happened? Because that just doesn’t happen nearly as often now. For one thing, every single Marvel film should have been accompanied by a global smash hit single.

And it’s not because of genre: Batman Returns gave Siouxsie & the Banshees the closest thing they ever got to a hit with ‘Face To Face’, and then Batman Forever managed it in 1994 with Seal’s ‘Kiss From A Rose’.

My theory? It’s all Will Smith’s fault.

In 1999 he released ‘Wild Wild West’, the wicky wicky tie in single to the Smith-starring flop of the same name which is notable for being absolutely hated at the time and for in not even developing a significant revisionary cult following since.

That song, which was a hit, I believe severed the previous solid thread connecting hit films and hit singles, and neither industry truly recovered.

Sure, there were a few after that – the all-star Lady Marmalade in 2001 from Moulin Rouge and Pharrell managed it with ‘Happy’ from Despicable Me 2 in 2014, but that just illustrated how unusual it had become. Even the Bond singles stopped being surefire smashes.

And while Smith might have snatched a hit out of a film he starred in, LL Cool J’s ‘Deepest Bluest (My Hat Is Like A Shark’s Fin)’ didn’t quite capture the zeitgeist, even though Deep Blue Sea didn’t flop nearly as badly.

So here’s our throw down for Phase 4, Marvel: start forcing out tie-in singles, ideally with the name of the film in the title.

I for one look forward to ‘Black Widow (Assassin of Murder)’ and ‘Magical Cheekbones (Love Theme From Dr Strange 2)’ topping the global charts.

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