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The Making of Star Wars #5

The Making of The Empire Strikes Back

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In this lavish thirtieth-anniversary tribute to the blockbuster film Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back, New York Times bestselling author J. W. Rinzler draws back the curtain to reveal the intense drama and magnificent wizardry behind the hit movie—arguably the fan favorite of the Star Wars Saga.
Following his The Making of Star Wars, the author has once again made use of his unlimited access to the Lucasfilm Archives and its hidden treasures of previously unpublished interviews, photos, artwork, and production mementos. The result is a comprehensive behind-the-scenes, up-close-and-personal look at the trials and triumphs, risks and close calls, inspiration, perspiration, and imagination that went into every facet of this cinematic masterpiece. Here’s the inside scoop on:
• the evolution of the script, from story conference and treatment to fifth draft, as conceived, written, and rewritten by George Lucas, famed science-fiction author Leigh Brackett, and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan

• the development of new key characters, including roguish hero Lando Calrissian, sinister bounty hunter Boba Fett, and iconic Jedi Master Yoda

• the challenges of shooting the epic ice planet battle in the frozen reaches of Norway and of conjuring up convincing creatures and craft—from tauntauns and snowspeeders to Imperial walkers

• the construction of a life-sized Millennium Falcon and the swamp planet Dagobah inside a specially built soundstage in Elstree Studios

• the technique behind master Muppeteer Frank Oz’s breathing life into the breakthrough character Yoda

• the creation of the new, improved Industrial Light & Magic visual effects facility and the founding of the now-legendary Skywalker Ranch
In addition, of course, are rare on-the-scene interviews with all the major players: actors Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and David Prowse; director Irvin Kershner; producer Gary Kurtz; effects specialists Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston, and Phil Tippett; composer John Williams; and many others. Punctuating the epic account is a bounty of drawings, storyboards, and paintings by Ralph McQuarrie, Joe Johnston, and Ivor Beddoes, along with classic and rare production photos. An added bonus is a Foreword by acclaimed director Ridley Scott.
The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is a fittingly glorious celebration of an undisputed space-fantasy movie milestone. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

372 pages, Hardcover

First published October 1, 2010

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About the author

J.W. Rinzler

75 books97 followers
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.

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Profile Image for Mark.
Author 125 books147 followers
March 5, 2014
Having read Rinzler’s excellent “The Making of Return Of The Jedi” earlier this year, I decided I wanted to go back into the wonderfully informative environment he created and asked for this for my birthday. Luckily for me, since I’m so difficult to buy for (apparently), it was gratefully bought.

Using mainly contemporary interviews (from late 1977 through to 1980), with a few conducted in the 90s and 00s, this covers the whole of the production from the opening of “Star Wars” (which took everyone by complete surprise) to the opening of “Empire Strikes Back” and touches on pretty much every aspect of the production in between. As with the Jedi book, the research is thorough and extensive, which even extends to captioning pictures and identifying people way in the background. The success of “Star Wars” does help the cause a bit here, since “Empire” benefited from an accomplished unit publicist in Alan Arnold, who later published “Once Upon A Galaxy: A Journal of the making of The Empire Strikes Back”, which I read a couple of years ago. A thick paperback, it was the official making of (there was also a magazine too) and Rinzler quotes from it extensively, whilst also drawing on other interviews Mr Arnold made at the time but which have previously been unpublished. At first I thought this overlap of information might be too repetitive but it isn’t at all, with the longest lift (where Irvin Kershner was miked up on the Carbon Freezing set) being interspersed with later comments made by the principals concerned.

By the end of 1977, George Lucas was already at work on the sequel and brought in Leigh Brackett to shape the screenplay. The script conference transcripts published here only have his contributions (no explanation is made as to why) but they’re very interesting, with the bare bones of the film clearly already in place in his mind (though he gets as stuck here with Vader living in a castle as he did the Empire planet during the Jedi conferences). As it was, Brackett died before she could work on the second draft and virtually none of what she wrote was used, though Lucas ensured she retained a screen credit. Instead, Lawrence Kasdan was drafted in - he’d just written the “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” script - and his approach is clearly like a breath of fresh air, as he questions ideas and motives and suggests (on occasion and usually unsuccessfully) that Lucas might not be right.

Adamant that he wouldn’t direct, Lucas suggested his old USC film tutor Irvin Kershner for the role with the latter agreeing after several conversations (I imagine the fact that his son was ten-years-old also played a part). Kersh, as he’s affectionately called by everyone, was clearly a different director, keen to take his time on composition and although Lucas had concerns about producer Gary Kurtz’s ability to rein him in, he chose not to air them - a decision he would later come to regret.

As well as the pre-production of the film, the book also follows the formation of several Lucasfilm entities, including Black Falcon (the licensing arm, which I only discovered the existence of in the Jedi book), how the various divisions were structured and the plans for Skywalker ranch. Having read “Skywalking” (which is not listed in the bibliography at the back of this), I love that whole late seventies period, as the company sets up and operates out of The Egg Company in LA and ILM hides in plain sight as The Kerner Company in San Anselmo and Rinzler is thorough in his exploration of this period. It’s also interesting to see how the merchandising helped the entire operation, with Black Falcon lending money to both Lucasfilm and ILM to get things moving. Best of all though is the information about the ranch - the plans, the daytrips, the fourth of July picnics - and Rinzler paints a wonderful picture of the era, the atmosphere remembered fondly by all those involved in it, a tight and small close-knit group that felt like a family. But even as the production wore on and the dealings with the banks got more intense and Lucas was pushed into an executive role with his companies (Lucasfilm funded the whole project), things were changing. Lucy Wilson - Kurtz’s assistant and one of the original employees - comments that where once she and Lucas could say hi and chat, she soon had to book appointments to see him. As it is, this seems as troubling to Lucas as anyone else.

Production began with the main unit at Finse in Norway and it seems to have been a disaster from the beginning. Weather delayed shooting, Kershner took his time and things got away from Kurtz, leading to his eventual estrangement from the Lucasfilm group, with Howard Kazanjian (who would go on to produce Jedi) getting more involved.

Things were more settled at Elstree Studios in London, though Kershner, working with his DoP Peter Suschitzky to produce the best work possible, played havoc with Lucas’ plans. As his pace upset the schedule and pushed the film over budget, issues with cashflow and the banks kicked in, adding further to the stresses that Lucas was trying to hide from his director.

Rinzler covers every aspect of the production in equal detail (I loved the discovery that the filming was juggled to fit the sets - since the Falcon was built full-size, it pretty much stayed where it was and new sets were built aruond it) and doesn’t shy away from some of the more candid conversations. Lucas was a large presence on set (but not to the extent that he would be on “Jedi”) and although he takes every opportunity to point out he’s not the director (he didn’t do any of the publicity tours), the very thought of it clearly annoys Kershner, who bristles with journalists who suggest it. For his part, Kershner comes across well, imbuing the material with depth and emotion and working hard with his cast and crew to make things are good as they possibly can be. Working in the moment, having already planned thoroughly, he liked to leave enough room for conversations and discussions with his actors (the Carbon freezing sequence, as mentioned above, shows this brilliantly) that clearly benefit the film.

Of the actors, Mark Hamill comes across very well, though he does comment he and Carrie Fisher clashed a few times. In fact, Fisher also clashes with Kershner and Harrison Ford (in the miked-up section) and Billy Dee Williams later tries to be diplomatic, in saying that her mind perhaps wasn’t on the job all the time. In fact, with the production keen to film her scenes and release her, it appears her well-documented foray into addiction was already taking hold. Ford, for his part, comes across as occasionally stroppy but always keen to do a good job.

As production released cast members to move into the Dagobah set and the schedule goes ever further over, you can almost hear the rankling in Lucas’ comments as the pressure being put on him - as the financier - must have been incredible. That’s not helped by the whole Yoda situation and it’s worth noting that whilst the world readily accepted the puppet as a living, breathing character, at the time it was an enormous risk. We watch “Empire” now, we see Yoda everywhere and we take him as read but back in 1978/79, nobody had tried anything like it before. I was surprised to read that Frank Oz only worked on the film for 12 days (he was lent out by Jim Henson’s company as they were gearing up for “The Dark Crystal”) and completely agree with Kershner’s observation that the Dagobah sequences are made by the sincerity of Mark Hamill’s acting.

Another thing I discovered is something I’ve long wondered, that the second and third films can’t have been as much fun for Hamill since Luke was often split up from the other characters. He’s quoted as saying, “It was almost like two separate films were being made. I got nostalgic for the grand old days on the Death Star, when Harrison, Carrie, Chewie and I were all together in the trash compactor.” Hamill ended up working on the film for 103 days.

Production complete, the action moves back to California. ILM was put together again in San Anselmo, moving away from LA and the original building and leaving John Dykstra and several colleagues there. In between designing shots (far more than the original film) and creating new worlds and ships and creatures, the team also had to design and build new equipment and the schedule very quickly becomes constrictive. Everyone keeps their sense of humour though - especially effects supervisor Ken Ralston - and by the end of the period, they’re even changing original shots (the Wampa monster) because they don’t want anything “crappy” popping up in ‘their film’.

Rinzler, as with every other aspect of the production, is exhaustive in his approach to the ILM work, with shots often mapped out by the frame so that they fit into the already fine-edited final cut of the film (which Lucas would add a few shots too, between the initial limited-run 70mm release and the wide 35mm one). Phil Tippett and Jon Berg quite rightly get a lot of attention for their stop-motion work with the AT-AT’s (another risky visual image) and Tauntauns, but it’s clear to see that ILM was a more harmonious place with everyone being given a chance to shine (Lucas later says he was very pleased with the work they did). Hoth seems to have been the hardest work in terms of technical difficulties (not only colour matching snow and hiding matte lines, but also trying to comp stop-motion creatures into it), with a lot of effort put into them - Bruce Nicholson, head of the optical department, shrugs away his successes by saying he used a “Norway filter”.

Towards the end of post-production, Alan Ladd jr left Twentieth Century Fox, which didn’t help Lucas with the studio or the banks since Ladd was their key supporter. Lawrence Kasdan was also caught out, since Fox was going to make his noir-thriller “Body Heat” and once Ladd left, the film was put into turnaround. Ladd set the film up at his new Ladd Company and Lucas was sponsor on the film, with the proviso that if it went over budget, the funds should come from his fee. As Kasdan says, “this was a generous, supportive thing to do”.

Rinzler examines contemporary interviews and one, from Time magazine in 1978, seems particularly pertinent. When asked about his future directing ambitions, Lucas says “I will go back and direct another [“Star Wars”] film, but it will be toward the end of the cycle, about 20 years from now”. The Phantom Menace was released in 1999.

Rinzler also details how perceptive Lucas was with future technology and how it would assist the film-making process, especially with digital images. Sprocket Systems (later renamed Skywalker Sound) had a Computer Research and Development Division set up within it, headed by Ed Catmull, to develop computer aided visual and sounding editing equipment. They also developed the Pixar system, which would later become the Pixar Division and be sold off to Steve Jobs.

The post-production part ends with a section on the matte paintings which Harrison Ellenshaw, Ralph McQuarrie and Michael Pangrazio created. Showing them in progress and often against the final frames, these are gloriously reproduced and a real sight to behold.

As with Jedi, the final part of the book deals with the release and reception of the film, as Lucas’ risky venture proves a hit with the paying public (he made his money back in three months), if not all of the critics (though some would change their tune over the years) though it did win several awards in 1980 (including a special Academy Award for the visual effects). Reading some of the reviews back - again with the benefit of hindsight, knowing that this sequel is generally considered the best film of the trilogy (I prefer “Star Wars”, as it happens) - it’s interesting to see how people’s perceptions changed.

Candid, thorough and superbly researched, this is painstakingly extensive and never less than readable and filled with beautifully reproduced photographs. I thought the Jedi book would be the benchmark but I think Rinzler has excelled himself here.

I’m a huge fan of the original trilogy and Making Of Books and this is pretty much perfect, to the extent that I dragged out the last few pages because I didn’t want it to end. Very highly recommended.
Profile Image for Andrew.
Author 1 book10 followers
July 14, 2021
The second in a trilogy of extensive "making of" books dealing with the original Star Wars films. Once again, an extremely difficult film to make. Despite having learned how to do many things in the first film, the ambition behind its sequel was to make it even better. The pressure was on as sequels normally don't do as well as the originals, and as Star Wars had become a huge phenomenon by itself. It is now considered one of the greatest films ever made, and fans are pleased that Lawrence Kasdan (chief screenwriter of "Empire") co-wrote the screenplay for the upcoming Episode VII.

This series definitely comes highly recommended. Not only does it provide a great deal more information about the films and the film-making process, but it puts to shame critics of the recent prequel trilogy as numerous references make it clear that - with the exception of Jar-Jar - the prequels turned out very much how Lucas envisioned them (which is what he's said all along). There are, here and there, hints of possible plot elements concerning the new trilogy that is forthcoming. All of this makes it a fun, informative read.
Profile Image for Tony.
42 reviews
April 13, 2021
Another great entry in this series. Rinzler’s narrative is addictively readable and gloriously detailed, from conception of the sequel to post-release.

Really shows the craft and technique that Kershner brought to the film and helped elevate it. The step-by-step walk through of how the carbon freezing sequence was modified is especially insightful.

Also, while I don’t know much about Kurtz’s falling out with Lucas, the budget and schedule overruns that happened under his watch would be pretty clear grounds for not bringing him back for Jedi. (Though the schedule and budget seemed underestimated, especially given the technological challenges involved).

Reading about the variety of technological feats accomplished makes ILM’s work all the more impressive. Some of those folks have to be literal geniuses...

One note: I started this on the large former coffee table bill and finished on Apple Books on my phone. Quite a shift, though the overall experience ok Apple Books was positive, all things considered.
Profile Image for Darrell Reimer.
138 reviews4 followers
March 21, 2021
Continues the narrative that began with Rinzler's The Making of Star Wars, the better of these two books. That any of these movies made it to release is NOT a minor miracle. Heaps of detail, lovely photographs, gossipy insider intel. My only regret is I was forced to purchase this rib-crushing volume after Amazon pulled its Kindle version off the market. Reading this in bed is an invitation to injury.
Profile Image for Luke.
345 reviews5 followers
August 29, 2019
If you love the movie, you will love this book.

Beautifully written, beautiful photos and an amazing story behind the story.
Profile Image for Parka.
796 reviews449 followers
December 5, 2012

(More pictures at parkablogs.com)

This book is finally out after being postponed for a few times. It's actually 362 pages, slightly thicker than the previous book, The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film, which is already a massive book. It seems that no paperback edition is available yet at the launch.

Once again, I'm marveled by the amount of information packed into the book by author J.W. Rinzler. I can't even begin to imagine the amount of research and effort is needed to put everything together, after the movie was screened 30 years ago.

The book details the arduous journey in the making of the film from the first story conference up to screening, and to the film awards won after that. The writing is excellent, filled with all sorts of stories and quotes. You get to read about the technical aspect of creating the movie, the little tricks used to create something believable on screen - see how they use fiber optics for lighting spaceships, painting the backgrounds, fixing up Yoda, and much more including production diaries of how they shoot.

The pages are also loaded with concept art, sketches, storyboards, memos, film stills and photos. All well reproduced, very detailed. There are lots of fun stuff happening behind the scenes captured on camera.

While the book is pricey, yes, it's well worth the money. With so much material, it will take more than one sitting to go through them.

Definitely a "must have" for any Star Wars fans.
Profile Image for Jeff.
28 reviews1 follower
November 2, 2010
You may have heard of this movie. It is pretty okay.

The main thing you learn, again and again, is that the reason this film is the best of the trilogy is because Irvin Kershner was at the helm. (Kasdan's contributions were few and Brackett's were nonexistent.)

I find the behind-the-scenes struggles to be really captivating: Lucas trying to build his own artistic empire 500 miles from Hollywood, the crew shooting in the frigid snowdrifts of Norway, Stuart Freeborn praying his radio-controlled Muppet wouldn't look totally fake. Even Dennis Muren painstakingly photographing AT-AT stop-motion is fascinating to me (because gray against white is basically an optical compositor's worst nightmare).

Oh and if you're a fan the "I love you""I know" thing, there's like 14 pages of transcription from the day they shot it, describing how they came up with it, including a part where Fisher stops speaking to Ford (cocaine is a hell of a drug).

Rinzler may never top his work on the Revenge of the Sith making-of book but this is superb nonetheless.
Profile Image for Terry.
214 reviews77 followers
January 19, 2011
The Making of The Empire Strikes Back isn’t a fluffy coffee table book celebrating Empire’s 30th anniversary with behind the scenes pics and recycled stories. It’s an epically detailed tome which completely covers every aspect of the movie, from the corporations Lucas established to finance the movie to Lucas luring talent away from Battlestar Galactica (and the changes he asked Universal to enact) to detailed breakdowns of almost every shot (with special attention to the Han and Leia’s scene in the Carbon Freezing Chamber and the Luke/Vader duel) – though minus any mention of the CGI-infused special edition.

In other words, it’s probably more than you wanted to know about the making of the movie.
Profile Image for Anika Claire.
Author 3 books44 followers
January 3, 2013
A fantastic look at every aspect of the making of The Empire Strikes Back - from the preparation and development of the script (including the way the story and names evolved), the filming itself, script changes, special effects, to post-production and release!

Each chapter contains a mixture of interviews with George Lucas and other major players in the movie's production, as well as recorded conversations, script drafts and other articles. There are plenty of photographs and stills from the movie, as well as gorgeous concept art.

This book is quite a heavy one in large-format hardback but it is highly recommended for any Star Wars fan.
Profile Image for Revan97.
39 reviews2 followers
November 17, 2014
Like "The Making of Star Wars", "The Making of The Empire Strikes Back" stands as the only single book to contain everything a person could ever desire to learn about the epic motion picture. After receiving a copy of the book from Del-Rey SWAT (http://fcrps.me/Revan97), I was not surprised to discover that this volume contains a greater amount of information than its predecessor, just as the film "The Empire Strikes Back" possesses a greater length than the first Star Wars movie. If you have been in search of all the details concerning the creation of episode five, you need look no farther.
Profile Image for Angie.
356 reviews909 followers
January 12, 2011
Excellent book... wonderful pictures. Perfect for any Star Wars fan!
Profile Image for Tim Johnson.
4 reviews1 follower
October 4, 2019
I think that Empire Strikes Back is the BEST of the Star Wars universe. Period. Dark, mature, love, death (or possible), secrets and new discovers.
Profile Image for Jason.
238 reviews4 followers
June 3, 2022
The Empire Strikes Back is in my top 3 favorite films, and is quite likely my favorite film of all time, so I lived for years I lived in a strange in-between place where I simultaneously wanted to have all of this film's mysteries revealed while also wanting to enjoy the feeling of having them always waiting to be discovered. As a result of this, this book took me over ten years to finish, which is in no way a comment on how compelling this book is. If anything, it's a testament to how thorough a deep dive this book takes into the making of the film. By the time you finish this, you'll feel like you know everything there is to know.

I was blown away by J.W. Rinzler's The Making of Star Wars book years before, and this book continued the tradition with utmost quality and detail. There are so many fascinating facts the reader learns about the making of the film, from the early, roughly sketched out ideas of the story to the reactions of the film upon its release. I love to see the early character designs to appreciate how much the characters have evolved over the course of the film's creation--several of the early designs for Yoda have him looking very much like a garden gnome. And in early drafts of the script, Yoda had a first name--Minch, and before that in one of the earliest treatments he was called Buffy. The book reveals details of Leigh Brackett's wildly different first draft of the script, in which Lando was a clone, and Luke and Vader have several bizarre conversations that seem wildly out of character for Vader (he's very chatty). I greatly enjoyed seeing the changes in each of the five iterations of the script which gradually turned into the story we know and love today.

One of my favorite sequences in the book provides a transcript from the day director Irvin Kershner wore a tape recorder on set, while they were filming the carbon freezing chamber scene, and reading those conversations between him and the actors, you get a real sense for what it was like on set that day. It's very enlightening to see the insecurities of the actors who wanted to do the best job they could, and I would never have guessed that Harrison Ford was so invested and involved in helping to shape the character of Han Solo in this film. For all his supposed disinterest in the Star Wars films in the years since, he very much wanted to portray the character with as much depth as possible at the time, and brought plenty of ideas on script edits to the director. They also apparently hated working on that carbon freezing set, as it was incredibly hot with all the steam in the room, and since the whole thing was suspended 30 feet in the air, no one felt particularly safe working on it. This is my favorite set in all of the Star Wars films, so it was quite interesting to learn these things about it.

With such a special effects heavy film, of course much of the book is devoted to how Industrial Light & Magic rose to the challenges of getting some of these groundbreaking effects shots into the movie. It's so fun to read about the challenges they had while filming these effects shots and the ways they overcame the problems they encountered. It's also wild to read about their worries that the film may not be taken seriously, particularly with regard to Yoda--everyone was terrified that one of the most magical movie characters of all time would look ridiculous on film.

Every book in this series is of course chock full of design photos, production photos and behind-the-scenes shots from the movie, so in addition to all the wonderful anecdotes and descriptions, you also get tons of remarkable photographs to pore over. You simply cannot do better than J.W. Rinzler when it comes to the definitive tomes about the making of these Star Wars films. I've enjoyed this book in such bite-sized chunks over the past decade that I feel a bit lost now that I'm finished with it!
Profile Image for Jack Herbert Christal Gattanella.
526 reviews10 followers
June 14, 2018
"I'm just as used to having things fail as I am to having them succeed," says Lucas. "It's a reasonable risk that I'm willing to take, being a reasonably cautious person. But I usually have to bet the store in order to make it work, so everything either sinks or we swim. There is no in-between." (p. 346)

"It was a darn good story dashingly told, and beyond that I can't explain it... failure has a thousand explanations. Success doesn't need one." - Alec Guinness (p. 2)

When I was much, much younger, like first really becoming aware that cinema was more than just these things that come on a TV or a movie screen and that there's an art to them (and probably around when the special editions came out, which isn't the first time I saw TESB but certainly the one and only time I got to see it on film in a theater), this was one of the major movie experiences of my life. All of the three Star Wars movies were, but I especially took a liking to this one since it expressed some deeper themes than the first movie, had Yoda (who is, of course, the most interesting character in the whole series, if not quite the most entertaining as that goes to the Emperor or R2-D2, again these are my opinions, don't quote me on this), abd just had things going on that I knew were special but couldn't articulate it.

Seeing it a little over a year ago, when doing a marathon before episode 7, I realized how much technical effort was put in to it and that everything comes together like a grand opera. Just because it's for 'families' doesn't mean it can't touch the darkest/more adult sides of humanity, or at least suggest them.

It's with this in mind that Rinzler's 2nd book in this series is as consuming and exciting as the first book, only here there is more depth in some parts simply because it was a bigger, more ambitious effort. I also went in to this knowing, or thinking I knew, some of the history: that George Lucas wasn't really that involved in the making of it and that if it wasn't for the, uh, 'good' K-K-K - Kurtz, Kasdan, and Kershner - were the ones really responsible for the film's daring and major turns (screenwriter Leigh Brackett, as it turns out and as I had also sort of read, only contributed one draft that was barely usable and died before doing more drafts, a sympathy credit); that there were as many problems during shooting as there were shooting the first movie, if not more; getting Yoda to work was a nightmare. Turns out I was about half right on those. If Rinzler is to be believed reading this (and why not due to his insane plethora of interviews and information at his disposal) it was more of a George Lucas film than one might think.

Hell, he probably from the reading of this deserved a screenwriting credit with Kasdan as the story and large chunks of the dialog and scenarios are all Lucas, and that he did have a specific vision for the locations (Hoth, Dagobah, Cloud City), and so on. But also like the first book, this is an extraordinary account of the art of collaboration, and that Lucas had so much faith in a film that could have, in truth, taken him down completely if it didn't work. Some of that went with Yoda, which was the final scenes filmed during principal photography, and some of that went into developing more of the special effects (some of this was easy enough to try to improve on from the experiments of the first movie, some not).

But if it wasn't for Kershner being so adept at character work and at allowing improvisation - this is actually more of what we might associate "70's movies" than one might expect as far as being loose with some of the scenes, the high-point being how the Han put into carbon-freeze almost completely fell apart - and Kasdan being so strong at making dialog just a little sharper than Lucas had in mind (let's be honest, his weak-spot is dialog, yes?) - and Kurtz being there for support (I think it did dawn on me reading this he wasn't really as part of the creative process as I'd assumed, he was there as a regular producer, and eventually he lost control of the production as it went far over-budget) - we wouldn't have the film we do today. Not to mention all of the actors, Frank Oz especially, Ford and once again Hammil and Fisher to lesser extents (which they weren't always happy about it seemed), and ALL of the technical crew. Holy shit - reading about the continuing adventures of ILM is totally fascinating to me, how the process had to go often incrementally, and then it was pedal-to-the-metal in order to meet the release date.

I think if you have read the first book it's probably a no-brainer to get this. If you're jumping right into this volume though, here's what you can expect: lots and lots and lots and lots and LOTS of pictures from the production, from likely on-the-fly photos captured as the ILM crew made their spaceships and stop-motion (holy mother of God Phil Tippet is one of the heroes of this production as far as just... who knew a Taun-Taun would be one of the trickiest parts of this!) as well as art-work, designs, rejected concepts, the models, the technology, funny moments with the cast, 'Kersh', how Yoda came to be (and OH YES JIM HENSON'S HOLDING HIM!). You'll also get such a day-by-day breakdown of production you'll understand why Lucas probably at some point decided to make a break with doing the technology that was available and go to digital technology (yes, the empathy is there), not to mention the ups and downs with the actors (even Hamil at one point loses his crap, due to a broken thumb), and how Kershner at times could just barely keep it together (the amount of shooting days, over 100, coupled with his unconventional shooting style, and all of the technical problems and issues, were a lot for a guy not used to such a production).

And you'll know how the story of this film developed from Yoda being "Minch Yoda" and some of the scenario being quite different (again, Brackett diverting from Lucas's draft, it's so weird reading it), and how it took a lot of finessing to get the film to where it needed to be storywise, though so much was there in Lucas's intentions to expand mythology and Campbell-isms. Again, there's a lot of process talk here, so while the interviews with the actors and Kershner are fairly straightforward, once you get into the specifics with the ILM people and how that went, you need to know it's a tech-heavy book at times. For me, this was delightful because it wasn't difficult to understand and Rinzler describes the process of all of this clearly. And like the first book he interweaves many things happening at once: while ILM is being built up and buildings created to DO the things, drama happens at Fox, Lucas almost runs out of money completely (again, the budget practically doubles by the film's end), and while an intense shoot is going on in the unpredictable tundra of Norway, a 'Dykstraflex' becomes more trouble than its worth. And how about those TOYS! Even that you may get a different perspective on reading this (only slightly).

This is terrific storytelling about an amazing story that could have gone so wrong at so many different points. But through Lucas's tenacity as a creator and visionary (yes, he really is a visionary with this film, he gets more points from me on this score here than I thought before), Kershner's attention to detail and psychology, and the innovations of Yoda on an *emotional* level even as much as the technical side, it became a classic.

PS: The best part? I laughed uncontrollably at a particular detail in how the blocking and a detail that got cut from the Han Carbon-Freeze scene went down between Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher. By God.
Profile Image for Keith.
614 reviews3 followers
October 2, 2020
Like the first book in this series, this book is a treasure trove of information and behind the scenes stories. This second book was much easier to get into because it pretty quickly jumped into the filming and story of this movie, while the first book spent quite a bit of time on the events leading up to the idea of Star Wars.

Like the previous book, I wish it spent a bit more time explaining the technical aspects for the special effects. I think the author didn't do a good enough job explaining this for people who aren't in the industry.

Some of the interesting anecdotes that stick out:

- During the battle of Hoth, there is a scene where snowtroopers and Darth Vader make their entrance. When they first filmed it, none of them could really see out of their helmets. The snowtroopers both tripped over pieces of the blown up wall and fell down. Someone stepped on Darth Vader's cape, ripping it off, before he tripped alongside the snowtroopers. I'm a little worried that this will change how I watch the movie.

- Some of the asteroids were potatoes (this one is pretty well known).

- Boba Fett drank a few beers before one of his early scenes and had to pee really badly, but couldn't because it was too time consuming to take his costume off.

-After the insane success of the first movie, I never considered that they would have tremendous challenges paying for this movie (because Lucas wanted to go his own way and he had really huge dreams for his production up near San Francisco).

- I'm still in awe of the matte paintings and how they would incorporate them into the filming. I really enjoyed reading about how they used two paintings for when Luke left Dagobah. One painting was the planet, and the other was clouds. They filmed them slightly offset with lighting set up so that the clouds had actual shadows on the planet.

- Harrison Ford wasn't committed to coming back for a third film, so one of the reasons he ended up being frozen in carbonite was because he might not be in the last movie. Alec Guinness wasn't a lock in the movie due to health reasons, so they didn't know if he would be able to reprise his role until the day before they shot his scenes.

-Carrie Fisher didn't come off that well in the book from the stories and interviews. She was really petty and it sounded like she was always throwing fits and being a diva. Kershner, the director, and Harrison Ford would change some dialogue, and if they didn't run it by her, she would go scream at Ford. Stuff like that. She was also early (I believe) in her drug using days and often called out sick.
Profile Image for Robert.
99 reviews
March 7, 2019
Amazingly in-depth. Covers everything from writing, casting, directing, and SFX creation to the financial aspects of the film (and related Star Wars licensing concerns) and the Lucasfilm 4th of July picnic!

A special treat is a transcript of the recorded conversations director Irvin Kershner had with the cast around the filming of the Carbon Freezing scene. While I'm shocked that this was recorded, I'm even more surprised that it was published for public consumption. (The actors don't always come off in the best light.) What's more, it was fascinating to watch Kershner struggle with the logic of the scene before fixing it, and seeing Kershner and Harrison Ford hit upon the dialogue for the scene was incredible.

One of my favorite bits of the book was Rinzler's summarizes (including excerpts) of the original story treatment and early drafts for the film. The "what might have beens?" are great to get a glimpse of. The accompany concept art is also fantastic.

If I have any gripe at all (and it's a minor one), I'd've liked to have seen the sources for each of the many quotations more clearly cited. Yes, this isn't an academic work, but it's hard to tell sometimes when and where what Rinzler is quoting is coming from. (Was it something George Lucas said in a public interview in 1978? Was it all from Alan Arnold's tapes made during the film's production?)

For Star Wars fans who have any interest in the creation of the original trilogy, this book (and the two other books in the series, I suspect) are an absolute must-have. It's a shame that it seems to be out of print and is therefore hard to find.
Profile Image for Patrick Lum (Jintor).
327 reviews15 followers
May 4, 2021
I ordered this book a few weeks back and by some coincidence it was delivered on May 4th. Naturally, I took this as a sign to read the book in a marathon across the course of the day.

Rinzler again accesses the archives to tell the tale of the making of the Empire Strikes Back, and it's an interesting story to compare to the making of the first film. This time he's working largely from the notes and transcripts of Alan Arnold, the on-set author of the then-concurrent making-of book, to such an extent that at times I feel Arnold should have had more prominent co-authorship of the book. It's sometimes to the book's detriment; often paragraphs will consist of barely-connected interview fragments in a way that is actually a bit difficult to follow, as Rinzler jumps from quote to quote with no apparent throughline to hang everything together. Non sequiturs abound.

Where ''A New Hope'' felt like an out-of-control student film by a team of mad people making it up as they went along, the participants of ''Empire'' feel the crushing weight of expectations throughout. The money behind them is bigger, but so too does everything else feel more extreme; the weather, the technical issues, the relationships between the cast, the technical issues with the special FX and matte paintings and so on. Like the original, a greatly enjoyable read, and the decision to really zoom in on particular moments in filming is a good one, but it loses a little to A New Hope simply because of the aforementioned issues with readability.
Profile Image for NickM.
220 reviews1 follower
December 16, 2020
I'm glad this book, and one for Return of the Jedi exist. Empire of Dreams, maybe the definitive Star Wars, making of, documentary mainly talks about the trials and tribulations of the first film. It makes sense. Unfortunately, it means the meat of that documentary goes into Episode 4, with 5 and 6 being left in as an afterthought.

This book is huge. It's a 'coffee table edition', but it's bigger than a coffee table. For a Star Wars fan with an interest in behind-the-scenes material, it's a gift. Aside from production stills and the like, the information there-in is second to none. J.W Rinzler's level of research has to be commended. A person could go mad trying to ferret out those incredibly early drafts of the script (and read George Lucas's handwriting).

As someone who likes learning about the genesis of stories, the first half of the book was more interesting to me than the second part. While special effects are always fun to see and hear about, they don't necessarily make the best material to read about how shots were put together. Certainly interesting all the same.

Not everything you read will be new information. Learning that David Prowse was kept in the dark about Darth Vader's revelation to Luke along with more or less everyone else is well-known at this point.

All in all, a must-have for Star Wars fans.
54 reviews1 follower
May 21, 2020
As with the first book (about the first film), the narrative of the creation of "The Empire Strikes Back" is primarily sourced from interviews done at the time, and so there is no "retroactive" color applied to the recollections of the principals involved. Somewhat surprisingly, the book exposes a fairly testy production, with some relatively intense personality conflicts between cast and crew - along with a horrifying financial crisis that was bubbling behind the scenes. That all of this turmoil ultimately produced what is - arguably - one of the very best "sequels" ever made, is a remarkable testament to the people involved.

It is, however, not exactly a "fun" book to read, since sometimes it is nicer to think that people were happy and not always so much nipping at one another's heels. Certainly, the book is not all doom and gloom - there are happier memories mixed in among the drama, but (especially from looking back on the much more rose colored reflections on the film, 20 to 30 years on) but it is a bit of an eye-opener to see just how precarious the production really was. In this, all credit must be given to Lucasfilm for allowing Rinzler to present a relatively unvarnished perspective on the creation of this (arguably) greatest of the "Star Wars" films.
Profile Image for Mike Whiskey Bravo.
53 reviews3 followers
May 15, 2017
Okay, so I enjoyed the "Making of Star Wars: A New Hope" immensely, and this one is just as good, if not better. A few surprises, one of which being how difficult it was to film the carbonite chamber scene, and also, most surprisingly, Leigh Brackett's contribution to the movie, which was just about zero. All other books I've read have said she helped write it. Indeed, because the tension is so taut in the movie, I thought she may have helped write it. But no, it was Lawrence Kasdan...a big surprise.
But yes, everything you wanted to know about the making, from locations, photography and effects, with the beginnings of ILM and all.
A good read.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
41 reviews1 follower
October 22, 2019
This is another great, great book of a great film. However, there are disturbing bits about Zen Buddhism that make me question the religious stance of characters in the film; there are probably some evil bits put into the film that others ignore. This is one of the reasons why I don't currently own this book, otherwise I might have ordered and asked for it.
Profile Image for I.D..
Author 10 books15 followers
March 4, 2022
A wealth of fascinating making of info that illuminates so much about what went into the movie. Of particular interest is the section of Kirschner working out the scene with Ford that really hammered home why Empire was the best of all. Loads of photos and anecdotes make this a must own for any film fans or Star Wars buffs. Now on to ROTJ!
Profile Image for David Jumeau.
5 reviews
September 12, 2022
I bought the e-book version with added audio and video snippets of the making of the movie. It shows the behind the scenes where George Lucas pulled it off to allow creativity, and funding to produce the most celebrated Star Wars sequel (of all time?) and not be bound by the major studios and distributors whims.
Profile Image for Mati.
988 reviews1 follower
June 10, 2018
There many books about the Star Wars phenomena, but very few are so detailed like this one. It is about the background of the movie, not only the filming but also about the plot development. I suggest the kindle version with the media extras.
Profile Image for Paxton Holley.
1,437 reviews8 followers
October 10, 2019
Exhaustive. This book drowns you in information. And I wallowed in it. Loved it. Can’t wait to start Rinzler’s Return of the Jedi.
10 reviews1 follower
April 26, 2020
Amazing pictures as well as in-depth look into the film-making process
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,636 reviews4 followers
December 1, 2020
One of my favorite books about one of my favorite movies. The first day I had it I read it twice. Lush photos and fascinating text.
Profile Image for Jetta.
32 reviews
December 6, 2020
I really liked this book from writing, visualizing, building sets, costumes, and cast.
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