TimeLine : The Making of The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars: 1944-1974 . 1975 . 1976 . 1977
The Empire Strikes Back: 1978 . 1979 . 1980
Return of the Jedi: 1981 . 1982 . 1983

    January 1978

  • A rigged lottery awards Princess Grace of Monaco the very first production set of Star Wars action figures.

  • Joe Johnston finishes sketches of AT-AT walkers.

    January 20, 1978

  • Time Magazine describes Star Wars as the highest grossing picture in US history, noting that the film has already brought in $195 Million dollars. The magazine states that it may very well break European records as well.

    February 20, 1978

  • C-3PO appears on the cover of Time Magazine as part of an illustration for their story on "The Computer Society."

    January 23, 1978 - January 27, 1978

  • Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan and director Steven Spielberg begin holding meetings to develop the story of Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • A treatment of Raiders of the Lost Ark is prepared at this time.

    February 23, 1978

  • Leigh Brackett completes the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back. The idea of Luke Skywalker having a twin sister first appears in these early drafts, although it was not necessarily Princess Leia at this time. The topic of Luke's father was also a bit unsettled. In this first draft, Luke's father appears to Luke as a force ghost alongside Ben Kenobi. "The Critter," known for a time as "Buffy," is eventually given the name of "Minch Yoda." The character of Lando is introduced as Lando Kadar.
    Lawrence Kasdan: "I only skimmed it [Leigh Brackett's first draft]. It was sort of old fashioned and didn't relate to Star Wars. The characters all had the right names, but her story's spirit was different. ...I'm sure that had Leigh lived, she could have made the changes that George wanted in an excellent way." (Source: Starlog Magazine, October, 1981)

    February - March 1978

  • Joe Johnston completes sketches of Boba Fett - at the time, known as a supertrooper Stormtrooper, dressed all in white.

    March 6, 1978

  • Time Magazine reports that Lucas has plans to make ten more Star Wars films after the first sequel. The 12th film is expected to be finished in 2001. (Source: "George Lucas' Galactic Empire," Time, March 6, 1978)

    Mid March 1978

  • Lucas was apparently disappointed with Brackett's first draft of the next film. Lucas attempts to call Brackett to discuss changes with her, but she is in the hospital battling cancer.

    March 23, 1978

  • Leigh Brackett, only weeks after finishing her draft of The Empire Strikes Back, dies from cancer. Lucas decides to take on the task of rewriting the draft himself.

    March 1978

  • Splinter of the Mind's Eye is released in novel form. The story had originally been conceived before the release of Star Wars when Lucas felt he needed a story that could be filmed on a very low budget if the original film turned out to be a flop.

    March 26, 1978

  • The Lucas's vacation in Mexico with friends. George spends his time in the hotel room rewriting the new film.

    Late March 1978

  • It is believed that it is around this time that the first thoughts of Darth Vader being Luke Skywalker's father began to creep into the story.

    April 3, 1978

  • Star Wars is nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Alec Guinness, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score, and Best Film Editing.

    April 4 & 5, 1978

  • Ralph McQuarrie completes a number of sketches of the Imperial Probe Droid.

    April 1978

  • George Lucas completes a second draft of The Empire Strikes Back, now subtitled "Episode II." In this second draft, Lucas first introduces the idea that Darth Vader is Luke's father. With the re-introduction of "Father Skywalker," and Ben Kenobi both appearing to Luke as force ghosts, it became apparent that these characters were redundant - Kenobi had originally been created as a replacement to Luke's father in the story, and in this new script, Yoda had been created to replace the now deceased Ben Kenobi. Once Lucas realized this problem, he was able to remove "Father Skywalker" completely and turn him into Darth Vader.

    This remained a secret - even to most of the crew and actors, throughout most of the production of the film. The famous "I am your father" was not written in the production scripts. David Prowse filmed the scene by telling Luke that Obi-Wan killed his father. Director Irvin Kershner and Mark hamill were the only people on set during shooting that knew the actual dialogue of the scene. James Earl Jones was also let in on the secret as he had to record Vader's dialogue.
    George Lucas: " The issue of Luke's father I kept pretty quiet for a long, long time. I didn't tell anyone. Not even Kersh. I just couldn't risk it getting out."

    This draft included the first mention of Boba Fett and the other bounty hunters that would be pursuing Han Solo.

  • Star Wars had grossed $215 million in the United States.

    Late April 1978

  • George Lucas completes two more drafts of The Empire Strikes Back. It was at this time that the story took a darker tone and ended with Han Solo imprisoned in carbonite. By this time, "Episode II" was changed to "Episode V."

  • Lawrence Kasdan, fresh from writing Raiders of the Lost Ark is hired to write new drafts for The Empire Strikes Back, with help from director Irvin Kershner.

    April 28, 1978

  • Star Wars wins six of its ten Academy Award Nominations. Awards won by the picture include Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, Best Original Score, Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction/Set Decoration and Best Film Editing.

    May 31, 1978

  • An early treatment of the Star Wars Holiday Special is written.

    June 1978

  • Joe Johnston creates additional sketches of Boba Fett.

    June 8, 1978

  • Deals are in place for the three main actors - Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, to return in the Star Wars sequel.

    June 12 - 15, 1978

  • Ralph McQuarrie finishes a painting of "Cloud Cars over Cloud City with flying Beasties. The painting is exactly what the title implies.

    June 15, 1978

  • Contracts are signed for the three main actors - Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, to return in the Star Wars sequel. While Ford only agreed to one more film at this time, Hamill and Fisher signed up for three more films.

    June 28, 1978

  • A 20 minute test film of Boba Fett is shown to George Lucas. At this time, Fett was to be a supertrooper Stormtrooper, with his armor painted entirely in white.

    July 12, 1978

  • Ralph McQuarrie finishes a painting of "Falcon into Crater."

    July 13, 1978

  • Ralph McQuarrie finishes a painting of a large rebel Ion Cannon firing into space on the planet of Hoth.

    July 15-17, 1978

  • Ralph McQuarrie finishes a concept painting of the exterior of Yoda's house (who was, at the time, still known as "Minch Yoda.")

    July 18-20, 1978

  • Ralph McQuarrie finishes a concept painting of Darth Vader on the Star Destroyer Bridge.

    July 20, 1978

  • Ralph McQuarrie finishes a concept painting of "X-wing in Bog."

    July 20 & 21, 1978

  • Ralph McQuarrie finishes the concept painting for the Giant Space Slug.

    July 21, 1978

  • Star Wars is re-released to 1700 movie theaters. The release would eventually expand to 2000 theaters before the run would end.

    July 24 & 25, 1978

  • Ralph McQuarrie finishes the concept art for "Dusk Battle on Cloud City." The paitning featured a scene of a blaster fight on a docking bay of Cloud City.

    July 26 & 27, 1978

  • Ralph McQuarrie finishes the concept art for "Rebel Big Gun, Control Booth." The painting features a group of rebels inside a control booth for the giant Ion Cannon.

    July 31, 1978

  • Ralph McQuarrie finishes the concept art for "Dawn Greeting." The painting features Lando greeting the rest of the heroes on a docking bay of Cloud City.

    Late 1978

  • In an in-store appearance in Berkeley, California, Darth Vader actor David Prowse inadvertently guesses the ending of the Star Wars sequel, before it is written. Prowse, apparently just speculating about what he would like to see in the coming sequels, suggested that it would be fun if Luke and Darth Vader have an extended light saber duel in which Luke would learn that Vader is in fact his father. These possibly plot twists were reported in the Berkeley Examiner newspaper.
    While it was impossible for Prowse to have known the ending of the second film before it was even written, he has been sometimes unfairly criticized for leaking plot points to the media. In fact, Prowse was not made aware of this particular plot twist even while filming the scene in question.
    David Prowse: "I had no dialogue referring to Luke's father. I have never seen a script for the Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi. Everything was kept a secret because they were afraid things would leak. I think only George, Gary Kurtz and Mark Hamill knew."

    August 1978

  • Joe Johnston creates a number of sketches further developing Ralph McQuarrie's earlier sketches from April of the Imperial Probe Droid.

    August 3-4, 1978

  • Ralph McQuarrie completes the concept painting "Second View, Imperial Star Destroyer." The painting features two Star Destroyers in front of the blue planet of Hoth.

    August 4, 1978

  • Lucasfilm announces the title of the Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back.

    August 4-11 1978

  • The Hoth Battlefield scenes are revised and storyboarded.

    August 17-19, 1978

  • Ralph McQuarrie finishes the concept painting "Sword Fight, Interior Work Room" featuring the climactic duel between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.

    August 21-22, 1978

  • Ralph McQuarrie finishes the concept painting "Sword Fight on Antenna," another sequence from the climactic duel between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.

    September 13, 1978

  • A fourth draft of the Star Wars Holiday Special is written.

    September 24, 1978

  • Darth Vader and Boba Fett appear in the San Anselmo County Fair Parade. This would be the first public appearance of Boba Fett. In addition to walking in the parade, the two also took time to sign autographs for fans.

    September 25-28, 1978

  • Ralph McQuarrie completes the concept painting for the "East Landing Platform" in Cloud City. It is a scene of the heroes looking down a hallway with a view of Boba Fett's Slave I ship taking off through the window.

    October 24, 1978

  • Lawrence Kasdan finishes what became the shooting script for The Empire Strikes Back.

    October 28, 1978

  • Irvin Kershner arrives in London to oversee the building of sets.

    October 29, 1978

  • Ralph McQuarrie arrives in London to help director Irvin Kershner visualize and storyboard complicated action scenes.

    Late 1978

  • Kenner releases the first set of Star Wars action figures. The figures included Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Ben Kenobi, C-3PO, R2-D2, Darth Vader, Stormtrooper, Sand People (Tusken Raider), Death Star Trooper and the Jawa.

    November 1978

  • George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan, Irvin Kershner and Gary Kurtz meet to discuss the story.

  • Nilo Rodis-Jamero finishes sketches of the AT-AT cockpit interior.

    November 17, 1978

  • The Star Wars Holiday Special airs on CBS television.

    November 18, 1978

  • Carrie Fisher hosts NBC's Saturday Night Live.

    December 5, 1978 - January 1 and 4th, 1979

  • Lawrence Kasdan makes minor revisions to the Fourth Draft.

    December 14, 1978

  • New sketches are made for Boba Fett's ship, Slave I.

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All material used on these pages are used for illustrative purposes only under Fair Useage terms of copyright law.)
Research and written documentary Copyright 1997-2016 Eric Townsend All Rights Reserved. Do not reproduce or publish without permission.

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