Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Review: Making of 'Return of the Jedi'


Continuing with the 30th anniversary of ROTJ-and finding it for a buck at a used book store-here's the second book review this week.

As you can tell by the title, editor John Phillip Peecher's book dives into the making of the film with behind the scene accounts, interviews and other pre-production, production and post-production tales. Among the highlights: Finding a director; getting everyone to England; coming up with the infamous "Blue Harvest" title to throw off curious on lookers and the press; a lot of Ewok tests (yes, Ewok tests) and trying to come up with a film that can equal the previous two Star Wars films. In some respects since it is an "official" making of there isn't much in the way of juicy gossip-no stories about David Lynch passing on it as he's talked about or the fallout of George Lucas leaving the Directors Guild, meaning old pal Steven Spielberg wasn't a choice-but there is some interesting anecdotes and comments along the way. Among the more interesting things I noticed:

--The first scene shot for the film was one that wasn't included, the "Sandstorm" sequence following the escape from Jabba's Sail Barge. It was scrapped to give the audience a breather.

--Director Richard Marquand talking about directing with Lucas standing feet away, comparing it to making King Lear with Shakespeare in the next room.

--Harrison Ford's much repeated tales of trying to get Han Solo killed off is addressed here but blocked by Lucas' "predisposition to happy endings."

--Shooting in the desert of Yuma, Arizona and all the problems that entailed.

--Lucas himself admitting that he didn't want to make a 2001 type sci-fi film but "a space fantasy more in the genre of Edgar Rice Burroughs." So for all of those Back to Barsoomers convinced Lucas played a part in John Carter's box office demise, get over it.

--One of the names that pops up in the book is Ed Catmull, who was brought in to establish a "brave new world of computers" at Lucasfilm and ILM. If the name sounds familiar, Catmull later teamed with a former Disney animator named John Lassiter and formed a little company called Pixar...

--Carrie Fisher admitting in good humor that if nothing else the makeup guy is hiring.

--How the book kept the real big surprises of the film-like Leia's brother being revealed or the unmasking of Darth Vader-out of it.

Filled with some reprints of schedules, set reports and 32 pages of black and white photos, The Making of Return of the Jedi is a fun look back at a time when this was the only way to get behind the scene material on a movie, before DVD documentaries and the Internet. (A side note, a much more elaborate making of is supposedly set to be released this fall written by JW Rinzler, who wrote similar books on the making of the first two films and the Indiana Jones series). All in all a good book for Jedi fans and those interested in the how to of filmmaking. Rating: **** out of 4.

1 comment:

pascalahad said...

As a young boy I would have been pretty pissed if Han had died in Return of the Jedi (especially after having him rescued at the beginning of the movie). Not fan of the bittersweet original ending described by Gary Kurtz.

I'm looking forward to Rinzler's making of books. The others were just exceptional.