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

    February 11, 1979

  • The opening scenes of the Probe Droid are storyboarded.

    February 20, 1979

  • Lawrence Kasdan finishes a fifth draft of The Empire Strikes Back.

    February 29, 1979

  • A press conference is held in Oslo revealing that the next Star Wars film would begin filming on the following Monday.

    March 5, 1979

  • Filming begins on The Empire Strikes Back in Norway at the Hardangerjokulen glacier near the town of Finse. While filming in Norway, the crew faced the worst winter storm in 50 years. Carrie Fisher, despite having no exterior scenes on the Ice Planet of Hoth, voluntarily went on location with the cast and crew. Harrison Ford was scheduled to arrive the following week.

    Due to multiple avalanches and heavy snowfall, the cast and crew often felt isolated from the outside world. Train tunnels were blocked, and trenches created for filming were once again full of snow. Irvin Kershner, determined to stay on schedule, decided to film some scenes out of the back of the hotel. Kirshner also called Ford and requested that he make the trip early so that they could go ahead and start filming some of his scenes. Ford flies to Oslo on the afternoon flight, but was stranded due to more avalanches. Ford caught a train to Geilo, a ski resort 30 miles from Finse, and managed to find a couple of cabs that brought him a little closer to his destination, finally arriving in Ustaoset. Production Manager Bjorn Jacobsen managed to pick Ford up in a snowpow and the two arrived back in Finse by midnight.

    March 11, 1979

  • The first Star Wars comic strip is published in the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

    March 13, 1979

  • Filming moves to more than 60 sets built at Elstree Studios in London. The plot twist of Darth Vader being revealed to be Luke's father remained a secret during filming. The actors and crew were given fake scripts that included the line "Obi-Wan killed your father," in place of the "I am your father" that made the final film. Up until the film's premier, only Lucas, Kershner, Hamill, and James Earl Jones knew the actual dialogue that would be heard by audiences.

    Filming took place next door to filming for Stanley Kubric's The Shining. At one point during production, a fire on stage 3, where The Shining was being filmed, caused considerable damage to the set. Lucasfilm gave up some of its space at the film studio to Kubric so that filming could continue.

    Director Irvin Kershner on directing Empire: "There was really only one disagreement. It was the Carbon Freeze scene when Princess Leia says, 'I love you.' Han Solo's response in the script was, 'I love you, too.' I shot the line and it just didn't seem right for the character of Han Solo. So we worked on the scene on the set. We kept trying different things and couldn't get the right line. We were into the lunch break and I said to Harrison try it again and just do whatever comes to mind. That is when Harrison said the line, 'I know.' After the take, I said to my assistant director, David Tomblin, 'It's a wrap.' David looked at me in disbelief and said something like, 'Hold on, we just went to overtime. You're not happy with that, are you?' And I said, yes, it's the perfect Han Solo remark, and so we went to lunch. George saw the first cut and said, 'Wait a minute, wait a minute. That's not the line in the script.' I said ''I love you, too' was not Han Solo.' Han Solo was a rebel. George felt that the audience would laugh. And I said, that's wonderful, he is probably going to his death for all they know. We sat in the room and he thought about it. He then asked me, 'Did you shoot the line in the script?' I said yes. So we agreed that we would do two preview screenings once the film was cut and set to music with the line in and then with the line out. At the first preview in San Francisco, the house broke up after Han Solo said I know. When the film was over, people came up and said that is the most wonderful line and it worked. So George decided not to have the second screening."

    Summer 1979

  • The Summer issue of Bantha Tracks gives readers a short backstory on the character of Boba Fett.
    "Not much is known about Boba Fett. He wears part of the uniform of the Imperial Shocktroopers, warriors from the olden time. Shocktroopers came from the far side of the galaxy and there arenít many of them left. They were wiped out by the Jedi knights during the Clone Wars."

    May 4, 1979

  • Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is elected in England. The London Evening News runs an ad by Thatcher's political party that reads "May the fourth be with you, Maggie. Congratulations."

    June 1, 1979

  • Production Designer John Barry died unexpectedly from meningitis after collapsing on the set of The Empire Strikes Back.

    June 29, 1979

  • Harrison Ford wraps filming for his scenes on The Empire Strikes Back.

    June 2 & 3, 1979

  • Filming begins on the climactic Vader/Skywalker duel on Cloud City. Vader's role in the duel was performed by expert swordsman Bob Anderson.

    July 4, 1979

  • Cast and crew gathered to watch the Empire Teaser trailer, which was comprised mostly of Ralph McQuarrie's concept paintings and still shots of the cast in costume.

    September 19 - 27, 1979

  • Scenes of the Imperial Fleet assembling is storyboarded, with revisions to be made in the following months.

    October 26 - November 12, 1979

  • The opening efffects shot of the Star Destroyer is storyboarded.

    Late 1979

  • Kenner releases their next set of Star Wars action figures which included Boba Fett, Luke Skywalker X-Wing Pilot, R5-D4, Power Droid, Death Star Droid, Ponda Baba (Walrus Man), Momaw Nadon (Hammerhead), Greedo, and Rachalt Hyst (Snaggletooth). For a brief time, a human-sized Zutton (Blue Snaggletooth) is available in figure sets. The rarity of the figure makes it a collectors item in years to come.

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Research and written documentary Copyright © 1997-2016 Eric Townsend All Rights Reserved. Do not reproduce or publish without permission.

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