Book review: Everything you ever wanted to know about 'Jedi'

BOOK REVIEW

MCCLATCHY WASHINGTON BUREAUOctober 6, 2013 

  • 'THE MAKING OF RETURN OF THE JEDI' by J.W. Rinzler; Del Rey/LucasBooks ($85)

Now concluding his own trilogy, J.W. Rinzler provides the definitive history at the chronologically last movie in the "Star Wars" saga in "The Making of Return of the Jedi."

While "Jedi" is the final chapter in the six movies that make up "Star Wars," it was actually released third, back in 1983, behind "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back."

"The Making of" shows that even getting it produced wasn't a sure thing. Creator George Lucas and his team discussed making "Jedi" as they were finishing filming on their soon-to-be-mega-hit "Raiders of the Lost Ark" but, as producer Howard Kazanjian remembers, "If 'Empire' had gone down the drain, we could have stopped; We hadn't spent anything yet on a third one, so we were just standing out in the desert talking about the next one."

By accessing the literary archives at Lucasfilm, Rinzler documents the stresses and strains that went into the draft-by-draft thrashing out of the plot, including potential popular characters' deaths - some of which became reality.

Lucas also was obsessed with keeping important plot points secret in the face of a rabidly interested fan base prone to "periodically pilfering" the trash cans for tidbits.

The trio of actors from the first two films - Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher - returned. According to Hamill, "By the time we got to 'Jedi' we all started to feel a little proprietary about our parts."

Ford says that he'd wanted his character, Han Solo, to die but "George has a predisposition to happy endings." He later pointed out, "There was no future in dead-Han toys."

Carrie Fisher was "ambivalent" about her character's change: 'The princess is sweeter in this last episode. I've been a testy space-soldier, so single- minded I'm nearly mean, for six years. And now I'm so nice and feminine, it's almost confusing.'"

One of the more fascinating aspects of this book is not the day-by-day, blow-by-blow minutiae of movie making but a look at the creation of a modern film studio.

Lucas wanted freedom and creative control for his work and was practical enough to find a way to get it. During "Jedi, he was always thinking of tight budgets; he did not want it to run over, as "Empire Strikes Back" had. Charles Weber, Lucasfilm's president at that time, commented, "From a business standpoint, he knew everything that was going on; he knew from the very beginning what he wanted to accomplish as a corporation," including the marketing.

"The Making of Return of the Jedi" is filled with an abundance of unknown or seldom-seen photos. Fisher, wearing the well-known Princess Leia slave girl costume and her stunt double, Tracy Edon, were "very popular among the crew when they sunbathed, 'like the Double-Mint Twins,'" says Rinzler. Another is of Ford, shirtless, waiting to do a scene in the Arizona desert.

The fascination with George Lucas' world continues. But Lucasfilm's independence ended on Oct. 30, 2012, with the announcement that it had been sold to The Walt Disney Co. An era ended.

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