Book Review: Once Upon a Galaxy...

With all the recent excitement over The Force Awakens, let's rewind back 35 years and see how the saga's next chapter came about.

Subtitled A Journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes Back, unit publicist Alan Arnold's journal charts the production of the film, from the snow-filled below zero section of Finse, Norway (which stood in for Hoth) to the studios of London to some coverage of the post production process. What becomes clear is how big this production was for its time and how complicated the filming was, from problems with effects and weather to delays in studio space (due to a fire that destroyed the Overlook Hotel set from The Shining) to tensions between the actors and director Irvin Kershner. Arnold provides a good overview, broken up with interviews with Kershner, Gary Kurtz, the actors and members of the crew, as well as a long broken up talk with George Lucas.

What's interesting in this book is reading now 35 years later and seeing how things have passed. Among some of the more interesting tidbits is concern that Harrison Ford would not return for the third film, Lucas' prediction that video would take over for actual film, how movies would become more dissected in production, the conflict between story and visual effects and more. Probably the most interesting comments come from Lucas, who confirms that the third film was going to be called Revenge of the Jedi and that he planned nine films. I guess it's ironic we are now getting that third set of films but with new people in charge.

Arnold also does a good job keeping providing his own thoughts on the process of filmmaking and what his job entails, from interviewing the actors to keeping things out of the press and the issues that working on a highly expected film can bring. His writing style is nice and sharp, bringing his own opinions to play while letting others have their say. It's done to great effect throughout the book and provides a "fly on the wall" aspect that other making of books don't have.

I'll admit that I still haven't read JW Rinzler's book on the making of the film from a few years ago (the cost still keeps me from it) but for fans this is a book to see out and read, especially now. Rating: **** out of 4.


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