This is the definitive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the final film in the original Star Wars trilogy. The author of The Making of Star Wars and The Making of the Empire Strikes Back, J. W. Rinzler uses his unprecedented access to the Lucasfilm Archives and its trove of never-before-published photos, design sketches, paintings, production notes, factoids, anecdotes, and script drafts to take the reader from concept art and creature design to on-set photography and ILM's visual effects work. This third behind-the-scenes adventure is as entertaining and enthralling as his previous two books, and the movie itself.
J. W. Rinzler has authored over 20 books including two New York Times bestsellers and a #1 best-selling graphic novel. With more than 600,000 copies in print, his books have been translated into seven languages.
J. W. Rinzler grew up in Manhattan, New York City, and then in Berkeley, California. He fell in love with old monster films, such as Dracula and Frankenstein, as well as Robin Hood and other adventure movies. He was an avid comic-book and novel reader, an intrepid moviegoer, and had his mind blown by The Beatles, Star Trek, Bruce Lee, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Frank Frazetta, Michelangelo, and Mad Magazine.
Rinzler drew his own comic books (badly), then, in his 20s, moved onto figurative oil painting (okay-ly, but self-taught). He lived in France for almost 10 years, where he began writing. Back in the USA, he worked as executive editor at Lucasfilm for fifteen years, chronicling the work of George Lucas and his genial collaborators in a series of books about Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
During this time, Rinzler also directed and wrote an animated short Riddle of the Black Cat, based on an Edgar Allan Poe story, which was accepted into several festivals, including the Montreal World Film Festival.
His latest book is an epic historical fiction thriller called ALL UP, an epic about the first Space Age, published in July 2020. The sequel will be out in a year or two...
Meanwhile his book on Howard Kazanjian, producer, is due in May 2021; and on Kubrick's The Shining in fall 2021.
Rinzler is married and has two daughters and one grandson. He lives on the northern California coast.
I've been reading this during the in between moments of the day for about two months. Breakfasts after the family left, during lunch, etc. I enjoyed the hell out of the first two books because they pulled open my childhood memories of these movies - all the obsession for the toys, behind the scenes photos, the magic of special effects, etc etc - and gave me a post-mortem on what the true experience of creating such a juggernaut was like. I've enjoyed them because the human element of discovery was very much alive in the story of making Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Lucas's determination and the collective focus of his team were inspiring reads.
And now the bittersweet ending of the making of trilogy is complete. Another good read, but not as charming as the first two, not as exciting. Here the story isn't as immediate because the source material had changed. J.W. Rinzler relied more on contemporary interviews with people recollecting what the experience was like. For the previous books he had taped interviews from the time of the film's production and release. He also relied on the usual mish mosh of production reports, ledgers, and gathered manuscripts from other books and interviews.
The business machine seemed to have overtaken the production at this point. The need to drive revenue to support the filmmaking and the people who worked for Lucasfilm in some fashion colors this book. There is the sense that money weighed so heavily on everything. That Lucas was just plain done with this beast he'd created. The dedication to the material remained as high and as stalwart as ever. The craftsmanship if anything had risen to new heights. But somehow it just doesn't seem to have the same magic as the previous productions. Here, the nature of work became more apparent. I felt like at this point, it had become a job instead of a passion.
I could be wrong. Truth is, the movie feels the same way. The sparkle just isn't there for me. Which is not to say it's a bad movie or a bad book, quite the opposite. I'm just saying the touch of the sublime to the story isn't quite present.
I wouldn't be surprised if I read this again someday. Taken up out of curiosity. A return to early days and dreams. And why not. But for now I'm struck by the sense that another minor chapter in my Star Wars experience is wrapped. As another is about to begin with the release of the Force Awakens soon enough.
Reading this stuff I can't help by think back on what made the experience of these movies so unique, and how it just isn't available to anyone anymore. The waiting. The three year vacuum of new film to watch. The tension of waiting that long for what happens next and how Han Solo would be saved and how Luke would deal with his father. What it all meant while I plowed into adolescence and junior high while listening over and over again to the soundtracks is hard to express. Everything was marketed just as aggressively back then as it is now - there just seems to be more of it now. More of everything: more press, more ads, more tie-ins for selling, more merchandise.
It all feels like the stuff surrounding the story is more important than the story in the long run. The money that can be made. The careers that can be advanced. Which is the way of humans anyway, and has been for as long as man has walked this fast planet. It's nice that we can always come back to the source, though. See the movie. Introduce it to our kids. And in this case my wife. Reboot the stuff that charged my love of storytelling and see how it might spark new ideas these days.
At the end of the book, the legacy of the production is recounted in detail. Where everyone went, the movies they made, how Lucas moved on, and eventually made the prequels. In the end we're all finding work that satisfies us and if we're creatives we focus on the craft of what's made and how we make it as well as we can. It was a nice postscript to the production tale. A sense that like everything else, Star Wars made up a moment in time, in this case a decade for those involved, and the world kept spinning, time marched on, and everyone found their own successes and disasters in the death star's wake.
In case you hadn’t guessed, I’m a big fan not only of the original Star Wars trilogy but also of behind-the-scenes books and so this was an absolute perfect fit for me. The third in Rinzler’s series - but the first I’ve read - this is an exhaustive account of making the third Star Wars film from preparing the script right through to the release. I thought I knew a lot about the production (last year I read Peecher’s “The Making If Return Of The Jedi” and although that is quoted frequently here, this book is markedly more in-depth) but Rinzler reveals several facts here I’m sure are appearing for the first time (I didn’t, for instance, realise Ralph McQuarrie left the film early, burned out from Star Wars and Empire), building the story from contemporary interviews (in 2011 and 2012), vintage ones (from Peecher and various magazines and journals) and also production reports in the Lucasfilm archives.
What I liked most about it is that even though this is clearly sanctioned by Lucasfilm, it is remarkably candid. Interviews are often frank - nobody liked the Ewoks apart from Lucas, Richard Marquand’s filming style annoyed several actors (Carrie Fisher accuses him of treating her badly, whilst fawning after Harrison Ford), the ILM supervisors often clashed heads over equipment and Fisher’s party-girl antics sometimes affected her performance - but all the better for that, as it shows how hard people worked in often trying circumstances.
I particularly found the transcripts of the story conferences fascinating, as Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan (who do most of the talking), Howard Kazanjian (the producer) and Marquand build the script up, piece by piece, often following paths that lead nowhere (an awful lot of design work went into the Imperial stronghold of Had Abaddon until they decided to put the Empreror on the Death Star), putting the story together. There’s talk of death and sacrifice (even before Harrison Ford signed on), as pretty much every aspect of the film was open to discussion.
Moving beyond pre-production, the book charts the progress as sets go up in England (designed by Norman Reynolds), Buttercup Valley in Yuma (the barge sequences - which cost millions and yet appear in the film so briefly that Lucas now regrets not filming it all at Elstree) and Crescent City in Northern California, where the crew got to take over a portion of logging forest. The actors add fresh angles to the story and, again, the frankness of some of them is refreshing, even if some of the behaviour (from the likes of Anthony Daniels and David Prowse) isn’t.
For me, the most interesting part was post-production, as ILM moves into gear and the deadline to release day counts down. Taking on an unprecedented number of effects shots and with a writer/producer who kept adding shots (with Lucas shooting most of the live action inserts himself as Marquand had moved on to his next project), the book captures well the frenzied atmosphere of a crew making ground-breaking discoveries whilst not really having the time to do so (especially since most of the crew were coming off other films, such as E.T., Dragonslayer and Poltergeist). It also does a good job catching everyone’s reaction on Black Friday, as Lucas threw out a load of shots as not being good enough. Ken Ralston (space battles), Dennis Muren (speeder bikes and the rancor) and Richard Edlund (everything else) are quoted extensively and clearly convey the scope of work they were dealing with. Phil Tippett, who designed the creatures with Stuart Freeborn, also lays claim to naming Salacious Crumb when, after a night on the sauce, he apparently said, “Wait a minute guys while I tie my soolacious.”
George Lucas casts a long shadow, involved in the process from the beginning and his comments on hiring Marquand since he didn’t want to do all the work himself quickly come back to haunt him. Although Marquand did direct the film - his wife and son are interviewed - and Lucas clearly had a great deal of respect for him, he had to be on set virtually every day as Marquand wasn’t experienced with special effects. The toll on Lucas’ home-life was devastating, with him hiding his impending divorce from most of his crew (both Lucas and Spielberg were involved in divorce during the pre-production of “Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom” (concurrent to this), with both of them blaming their ruptured personal lives for the darkness of that film). In a nice turn, for a modern book, Marcia Lucas’ role (though slimmed down with this film) is still acknowledged, even if she only makes a couple of appearances.
The final part of the book deals with the release and reception of the film, as it gobbled up box office records and delighted the paying public, whilst drawing mixed notices from the critics. There’s also an epilogue, charting what happened to most of the key players after the film wrapped and Lucasfilm went into a ‘two-year hibernation’ and as Lucas himself is quoted as saying, it’s good to see so many people going off and changing the way films are made and perceived. The ILM and Lucasfilm group from the early 80s, was probably the equivalent of the Corman outfit in the 60s and 70s).
The book is filled with beautifully reproduced photographs - designs, on-set, pretty much every aspect of the production - and Rinzler has done a great job, identifying most of the personnel captured in them.
If you’re a fan of Star Wars and/or Making Of books, then this is a superb read - informative, amusing, frank - and I was sad to finish it. Very highly recommended.
This was a fitting end to a trilogy of extremely well made and informative books. There isn't a lot to say other than this book would fascinate Star Wars fans and also fans of cinema. Don't expect to read it in a weekend though.
Random things I remember that interested me:
It was sad reading about how flippantly the Boba Fett death was decided. This was one of the major mistakes of the third film and it didn't seem like they took it too seriously at the time.
Lucas continued his extreme dislike of Nixon, who was his inspiration for the Emperor.
Maybe the most interesting thing for me as an extreme Star Wars fan who reads all the books and play all the games is that, even at this late stage in the original trilogy, Lucas still had an extremely loose grip on what the Force was. He said that everybody can use the Force. It is like yoga. If you practice, you'll get good at it.
The fat lady in Jabba's palace was described as the daughter of Jabba. Ouch.
Harrison Ford seemed like a diva in this one and would probably be irritating to work with.
Carrie Fisher still sounds like a complete diva and a pain to work with. She complained about not enough lines, so they gave her more. She said they were too feminine. They let her get in on the action scenes, she doesn't like doing action scenes. It sounds like she was kind of a jerk to people and wouldn't sign autographs for fans. There were nice comments about everyone but her. I did laugh at her quote where she called the Sarlacc a sand vagina.
C-3PO had a really bad cold while he filmed the scene where he is telling the Star Wars story to the Ewoks. It will definitely change how I watch that scene knowing that Daniels couldn't wipe his nose so his face was covered with mucus.
The midgets that acted as Ewoks were totally crazy. Apparently they would all have sex with each other and be groping the people doing their costumes. It was sad that they had to have people watch them in Tunisia because the people there think that being a midget means you are cursed, so they had to make sure nothing happened to them.
It was also extremely depressing to read the epilogue describing how Lucas recently sold everything to Disney and Kathleen Kennedy was taking over. Sadly, that combination has almost completely destroyed the magic of Star Wars (the only thing they've put out that wasn't trash has been Rogue One. The Mandalorian is ok). I would've greatly preferred Lucas let Star Wars die with dignity than let Disney destroy the franchise with some of the worst writing I've ever scene and SJW messaging.
Like J.W. Rinzler's other behind-the-scenes books about making the original Star Wars films, this one gives a wealth of detail I wasn't aware of about the pre-production, production, and post-production of Return of the Jedi. What is impressive is that although this book is authorized and therefore blessed by George Lucas, it still presents some of the many narrative, creative, and personal problems that plagued Jedi.
Lucas knowingly re-used many plot points from the first Star Wars (such as the Death Star) because the image of a forest battle between furry aliens and mechanized Imperial troops was one he'd wanted to do but couldn't film before. After his struggles with independent-minded director Irvin Kershner on The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas selected a director, Richard Marquand, who had no experience with big-budget special-effects films but was willing to be told what to do by Lucas, the executive producer. Lucas also kept changing the script and adding special effects shots late in production, forcing his team to work in two and sometimes three shifts around the clock to get it all done on time. On top of all this, Lucas was going through a divorce but didn't tell any of his associates or employees about it until after the film was done.
There is no question that Jedi is the most technologically astonishing of the original trilogy of films. Some shots had well over 100 different visual elements in them. But in many ways, this was a troubled film and it is, I believe, generally acknowledged as the weakest of the three. This book, with its enhanced audio and video clips of interviews and unused movie takes, provides essential context for understanding how this film turned out the way it did.
These "making of" books are fascinating reading for both Star Wars diehards and movie nerds. I did not expect the tome on ROTJ's production to be so stressful though: the behind the scenes stories are infused with a sense of weariness, like everyone just wanted to get it over with and move beyond Star Wars. Hostility even creeps into meetings, such as the arguments between George Lucas and the other writers over the Ewoks and the second Death Star attest. Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher were all displeased with different elements of the final script. ILM staff were exhausted by the sheer amount of effects and the problems that came with making them as perfect as they could get it.
I hadn't read much on Richard Marquand the director before cracking this book open-- he's often described as essentially having been a puppet for George Lucas, someone with inadequate experience on big blockbusters who would do what Lucas wanted without severe questioning and on time. Reading about his on-set behavior and his words during interviews, I confess I do not have a favorable impression of the man. He got along with some cast members (especially Harrison Ford), but others disliked him, feeling he was too cold and distant. He constantly craps on EMPIRE in interviews, nitpicking it more than anything (all of the costumes in EMPIRE are "A joke" apparently, yet he only cites the outfit Leia wears on Cloud City as evidence of this). His insistence that Princess Leia was "a bitch" in EMPIRE and not "feminine enough" really rubbed me the wrong way too: even Carrie Fisher, who initially wanted Leia to have more vulnerable moments compared to the first two movies, felt Marquand and Lucas were softening the character way too much. And the way she had to deal with cameramen oogling her or Hamill's stunt double hitting on her when in the slave bikini was just... super uncomfortable to read about. I felt so bad for her.
Still, the ending of the book describes the film's triumphant success. Despite mixed critical reactions, the fans mostly ate it up. I loved reading about euphoric crowds on opening day. I wish I could have been there, seeing the movie fresh like that with an enthusiastic crowd. While ROTJ is my least favorite of the OT, it's still a fun movie and I think the special effects hold up very well.
Overall, this was a good read, even if stressful. My only problem is that, unlike the first two books in this series, the author interjects his personal views of the movie into the text. I much prefer when making of books or biographies of creative people in general refrain from the author's criticisms of the work in question. Even though I agree with the author's views on ROTJ, it felt so out of keeping with his usual objective tone.
"There is no difference between doing this kind of film and playing King Lear. The actor's job is exactly the same: Dress up and pretend."- Harrison Ford on working with Ewoks for RETURN OF THE JEDI (though he said this later on) also Ford: "I'm glad I did all three. I'm glad it brought itself to a natural conclusion. But three is enough for me. I was glad to see that costume for the last time. I dont think it had a very successful ending, with that Teddy Bear picnic."
(someone on the crew, I forget now who): "Nobody liked the Ewoks, except George."
I dont normally do this, but here are some notes/hot-takes if you will that I took as I was reading this and thought I'd mention here (full copy/paste really):
- Alan Rickman auditioned for Jerjerrod - Ben Kingsley read for the Emperor - Endor is in the Bible (Saul goes to meet the "Endor woman") - Lucas in a story meeting commented to Kasdan the reason why Ben didn't tell Luke about Leia is because he's a "male chauvinist pig" LOL - Salacious Crumb is a combo of Puppet man Phil Tippet after several beers at lunch trying to tie his "soolaces" and Robert Crumb. - Lucas nixed an idea to show various planets celebrating at the end of the movie because he thought it would be "too boring... It needs to be small scale." He changed his tune 15 years later. Originally we'd also see the destruction of Emperors city on Had Abbadon. - the real reason for 'Blue Harvest' was that with a non-SW title they'd pay less for using locations in California. that's it. - eyelids for Ewoks were tried but nixed - "Optical Dogs" - David Fincher, who did get hired as his first professional job at 18, espoused Kurosawa as the only director he liked when interviewed as assistant matte paintee (which the guy interviewing him found "arrogant" hmm) - "Dead on Arrival Mary" or "DOA Mary" was some technical thing. - any time George Lucas talks about story and characters overriding the special effects maybe should have looked at a couple of his later films and is automatically funny every time I read or hear it from this period. - there must have been some reeeealllly awkward moments editing with Marcia Lucas (who won an Oscar for the first movie) as she and George were divorcing at the time and no one else knew. one line from him to her sticks out: "Just because you can do it differently doesnt mean it's better." fuck. - everything involving Marquand's (very early death is really sad.
If you have read the other Rinzler books, why stop now? Finish it and get the rest of the in almost to-the-day detailing of the production of the biggest hit of 1983, with all the odd ins and outs and further transmogrification of Lucas into what he became: the mogul. And if for some reason you're skipping over the first two making ofs and going to this... why?
I've been a massive Star Wars fan most of my life, and when I was a kid, Return of the Jedi was my favorite movie. I thought it was such an exciting, satisfying ending to Luke's journey. As I grew older, The Empire Strikes Back (a movie that scared the crap out of me at 7 years old) eventually moved into the spot of #1 favorite (and I believe many other fans share the same preference). However, I still have a huge amount of nostalgia and love for RotJ.
Ordinarily, learning about the making of a beloved film just enhances the fun of the experience for me. However, in this case, it was a bittersweet and a tad disillusioning. I actually thought the early drafts of the script had some more interesting story beats than what ended up in the final film. You really do get the sense that George Lucas wanted to have a "redo" of A New Hope (especially with the second Death Star) that more closely matched the vision in his head. Lucas has gotten a lot of flak over the years for his creative approach and much of it is justified, but I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for him as he became somewhat enslaved to complete the very universe he had created, costing him his marriage in the end. Add to that the very palpable stress of all who worked so hard and so creatively to bring the film to life for so many months. Everyone on board was just burned out by this point, and it does show in the final product.
Despite the fact that the story of RotJ's creation ends on a bittersweet note, I loved the anecdotes about filming, such as the Ewok actors having a blast and the humorous tale of stuntman injuries accruing during the Sarlacc scene. Mark Hamill can also always be relied upon for some hilarious soundbites.
Overall, this "Making of..." volume was just as interesting as the other two, but the shadow cast on my own nostalgia made it a slightly sadder read for this now-adult Star Wars fan.
If, like me, you love all things “Making Of”, then J. W. Rinzlers “The Making Of Return Of The Jedi” is for you.
And when I say “Making Of” I mean true “Making Of” books that tell everything about a films production warts and all, rather than just pure promotional guff that tells you how great everyone was. It’s the honesty of the people featured in the book (and it features A LOT of people) that makes this a truly engrossing read. For example, even during pre-production some members of the crew weren’t sold on the Ewoks; during the writing stage the co-screenwriter didn’t totally believe the story he was telling; through to a key person in the sound department who admitted he had burnt out on Star Wars.
Like it’s predecessors it’s a big book, but is lavishly illustrated with many unseen images from the Lucasfilm archives. It also reproduces sections of previous drafts of the script giving the reader a glimpse at how the story transformed over time in the journey from page to screen. For example we find out how Leia became “the other” that was first mentioned in The Empire Strikes Back in order to resolve one of many dangling plot threads.
Reading through this book you begin to get a sense of just how big an undertaking the making of the movie was whilst getting a feeling for just why the film may seem slightly less than the sum of its parts. All in all it rounds off the “Making Of” trilogy in much the same way as the film it covers. It picks up all threads from the previous two films and brings them together to create a rousing conclusion.
This series was immensely enjoyable and informative, providing a lot of food for thought - and not just in useless nerd trivia. See my reviews of the other two books in this series.
This appears to have been the most difficult film to make, with the late Richard Marquand receiving an ambiguous treatment as the film's director and David Prowse nearly getting sued for constantly leaking information about the plot. The film was shot by Marquand, but was really put together over two years of post-production by Lucas. You would think after going through this process twice, the making of this third film would have been much smoother. But no, it was easily tougher than even the first Star Wars film and took a greater toll on Lucas.
What is it about a storyteller that makes them willing to endure so much and demand so much for the sake of the story's being told?
I got the feeling that everyone involved with the trilogy, especially George Lucas, was just glad to get this film made and out of the way. This book suffers slightly from having fewer direct sources to draw from, with most of the quotes coming from interviews done after the production was over. It's still very enjoyable if you're a Star Wars fan and interested in movie-making though.
Like the films that preceded them, this "third chapter" in the "Making of ... " Rinzler trilogy rounds up the usual suspects and attempts to define the (by times) agonized process of bringing the third film to the screen. Unlike the first two installments, this one depends a great deal more upon later recollections of cast and crew, and as such, it sometimes feels as though there has been a bit of self-censorship in hindsight, at play. As such, it lacks some of the immediacy of the first two books, and it definitely is missing the "boots on the ground" sensation that propelled the first two in this series.
Nevertheless, and as was the case with the prior volumes, there is not a lot of sugar-coating, here, and the agony (as well as the increasing sense that - by now (in terms of the film-making) everyone involved was coming to the ends of their creative ropes - after having spent (essentially) 6 to 10 years at the crux of a cultural maelstrom. To a point, it is sometimes alarming to think (or speculate) upon just how fraught with turmoil the production was, and how close to proverbial disaster it sometimes seemed to skirt. That the trilogy was wrapped up in as effective a manner as it did is absolutely a testament to the skill of the cast and crew which labored on the film.
There is a lot to unpack, here, and a smattering of behind the scene particulars that even the most die hard of "Star Wars" enthusiasts may find to be surprising. As with any massive undertaking, there are good days and bad - pettiness, tempers, laughter, love of the work, and - of course - practical business concerns of keeping the "Star Wars" cottage industry afloat, as well as the increasingly broadening swaths of Lucas' various growing companies. Nevertheless, there is a sense of loss hovering over the book (and the film) in that endings are always, at best, bittersweet - it is hard to close the cover on a well loved cast of characters, and after 6 years of anticipation, two films, and an endless course of audience speculation, it would have been all but impossible to go out on a note that would speak to everyone's expectations/demands, and the book is oddly honest about the frustration involved in tilting at that particular windmill.
Rinzler's final epic on the making of Star Wars begins with an apology for the lack of contemporaneous interviews that powered the making of Empire and A New Hope, but the book nonetheless does an excellent job tracking the tale of the final chapter in the first trilogy beat-by-beat and day by day.
To some extent the subject matter dictates the flow, and in that sense Jedi is a hard slog, with highly technical and confusing SFX talk taking up at least equal time to the easier-to-grasp day-to-day of principle photography and filming anecdotes. Certainly the book's interest factor is highest during the early segments (as Lucas gears up to collaboratively discover his definitive ending), and during filming itself (as the actors deliver the more human side of the great process).
Much like the film it examines, The Making of Jedi serves as a great conclusion to it all, providing that definitive ending that its predecessors had no opportunity to deliver, but simultaneously perhaps lacking quite the same level of wonderment and charm as went before.
I know how people feel about Jedi, and they've felt that way since 1983, but as a disco baby, I've always held Episode VI in a special place given that it was the first Star Wars movie I was old enough to anticipate before it came out. In a typically detailed, sensitive history, Rinzler makes clear how George Lucas pushed himself to the end of his rope making the most epic production in the original trilogy, financially and logistically overextended yet again but committed to seeing the story to its conclusion.
For some reason this book has been on my t0-be-read pile for a long time, but I finally got around to it. If you are a fan of the original Star Wars trilogy and are interested in the behind-the-scenes details of how the movies are made than you should read J.W. Rinzler's books on the making of the Star Wars movies, including this one on the making of The Return of the Jedi. I perhaps didn't enjoy it as much as the first two books, but that is likely because I don't love the movie as much as the first two.
I've skimmed through this one, but it is a masterpiece and very revealing about the production of Return of the Jedi. Much of the book makes me wish or long for what could have been put into the final film, but it's clear that the lack of budget and time, as well as a lack of creativity in some areas, caused the film to be altered.
The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi by J.W. Rinzler is truly an impressive book to behold. Within the 372 pages, the story of how Return of the Jedi was made is fully laid out in a wonderful format that’s thoroughly engaging. The book covers the entire process, from securing the funding for preproduction to the response of critics and fans after its release. There are summaries and passages from the early drafts of the scripts, behind the scenes stories from the actors and special effects artists, and a wide array of pictures and concept art throughout the book. If you’re a fan of the films, this is definitely a must read.
As a long time fan of Star Wars, I found this book to be very surprising. I haven’t read the other books in the ‘Making of’ series, so this was my first exposure to J.W. Rinzler’s chronicling of the films. With non-fiction books like this, it can be hit and miss with the subject matter. Sometimes it can be too dry and weighed down with facts. In The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, that doesn’t happen. Every paragraph in the book has some fun factoid that keeps things interesting. There was a ton of information I did not know. For instance, ROTJ producer Howard Kazanjian was second assistant director to one of my favorite westerns The Wild Bunch. Another fun aside was that the idea for the Ewoks (initially called Ewaks) was born from George Lucas’ work on Apocalypse Now and his desire to have primitives defeating a technologically advanced force. In fact the core idea for ROTJ was based on that with Jabba, Tatooine and Han all being afterthoughts. Other cool notes were presented in early drafts of the script where Obi-Wan and Yoda don’t come back as Force ghosts but actually come back to life fully in the flesh. One of my favorite discoveries in the book was the naming of Salacious Crumb, the little monkey creature in Jabba’s palace that hackles and laughs. One night creature designer Phil Tippett had one too many pints of beer and said, “Wait a minute guys while I tie my soolacious.” Those who heard that loved it, and thus Salacious got his first name. George added the Crumb after adult comic book artist Robert Crumb. Throughout the book there is an endless array of information, from the intriguing to the hilarious.
Beyond fun facts, the book also covers aspects that fans may never have thought about before. Things like keeping ILM alive between Star Wars sequels, their work on E.T., Dragonslayer and Poltergeist, and George’s work creating a Star Wars film in between Indiana Jones movies. I thought it was interesting that the Director’s Guild took George Lucas to court over the credits in The Empire Strikes Back. They felt that the appearance of “Lucasfilm” in the credits, which popped up before Kershner, was like giving George credit over the director, thus they wanted to fine him. Then there was the drawn-out negotiations with Fox for the rights of the movies. The behind the scenes details expanded my knowledge of the film in ways I never perceived before. It’s like exploring the movie on a whole new level.
One of my favorite quotes in the book is by ILM general manager Tom Smith.
We had developed the best talent, built up and tested the most powerful tools of the day, and every Academy Awards season we had won the Oscar for visual effects. We were the best in the world when George brought us Jedi.
There were so many talented people who worked on Return of the Jedi. In this book, Rinzler manages to cover quite a few of them, bringing them to the reader’s eye, and expressing their role in the film and the nature of their personalities. It was through the work of all of those people that the movie was able to be made. And while there was some criticism of the film, which the book does cover, it was still positively received by the majority of fans and went on to break several box office records.
The bottom line is that The Making of Return of the Jedi is the ultimate book on the story behind the film. Anyone who wants to know what went on to make the movie, what went on behind the scenes, and what could have been and almost was, well…this is the book to read to find out. It’s jam packed with information from cover to cover and filled with great illustrations, pictures and concept art. There are numerous quotes from George Lucas, the actors and the crew, there are tons of fun stories that happened on set, and there is a lot of insight on every facet of the film. There is only one bad thing about the book, and that’s its size. It’s a big book, and in hardcover, it’s heavy, so trying to find a comfortable position to read it can be an never ending task. However, the size is worth it as it covers every scope of the film. Plus the hardcover binding is really nice. Though if you have a full color eReader, it may be worth getting the enhanced digital version, especially with all the bonus features it comes with. Either way, this is a book you don’t want to miss out on.
I give The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi a five out of five. In fact I liked the book so much that I’m now going to pick up the rest of the ‘Making of’ series and I’m giving some serious consideration to J.W. Rinzer’s The Complete Making of Indiana Jones.