"Return of the Jedi" Released in Theaters
"Return of the Jedi" (also known as Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi) was released in theaters on May 25, 1983. The film is directed by Richard Marquand. The screenplay is by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas from a story by Lucas, who was also the executive producer. The sequel to "Star Wars" (1977) and "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980), it is the third installment in the original Star Wars trilogy, the third film to be produced, and the sixth chronological film in the "Skywalker saga". The film stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew and Frank Oz.
Set one year after The Empire Strikes Back, the Galactic Empire, under the direction of the Emperor, is constructing a second Death Star in order to crush the Rebel Alliance once and for all. Since the Emperor plans to personally oversee the final stages of its construction, the Rebel Fleet launches a full-scale attack on the Death Star in order to prevent its completion and kill the Emperor, effectively bringing an end to his hold over the galaxy. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker, now a Jedi Knight, struggles to bring his father Darth Vader back to the light side of the Force. Here is the original theatrical trailer:
Following Lucas and Kasdan's discussion on making Return of the Jedi, the film went into production. Steven Spielberg, David Lynch and David Cronenberg were considered to direct the project before Marquand signed on as director. The production team relied on Lucas' storyboards during pre-production. While writing the shooting script, Lucas, Kasdan, Marquand, and producer Howard Kazanjian spent two weeks in conference discussing ideas to construct it. Kazanjian's schedule pushed shooting to begin a few weeks early to allow Industrial Light & Magic more time to work on the film's effects in post-production. Filming took place in England, California, and Arizona from January to May 1982.
The film received positive reviews, although many felt that it did not match the cinematic heights of its predecessors. It grossed $374 million during its initial theatrical run, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1983. Several re-releases and revisions to the film have followed over the decades, which has also brought its total gross to $475 million. Here is the opening scene:
Producer Howard Kazanjian felt the success of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) falling short, with his intention was the filmmakers stopped producing Return of the Jedi; he did not spend on its budget. Following the discussion with director George Lucas and Kazanjian on making Return of the Jedi, a sequel was swiftly put into production. As with the previous film, Lucas personally financed Return of the Jedi. Lucas also chose not to direct Return of the Jedi himself, and started searching for a director. Although Lucas' first choice was Steven Spielberg, their separate feuds with the Director's Guild led to his being banned from directing the film.
Lucas approached David Lynch, who had been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director for The Elephant Man in 1980, to helm Return of the Jedi, but Lynch declined, saying that he had "next door to zero interest". Also, according to Lynch, he got a headache from learning all the ‘animals’ as Lucas called his many creatures, particularly Wookiees like Chewbacca.
Lucas eventually chose Richard Marquand. Lucas may have directed some of the second unit work personally as the shooting threatened to go over schedule; this is a function Lucas had willingly performed on previous occasions when he had only officially been producing a film (e.g. More American Graffiti, Raiders of the Lost Ark). Lucas did operate the B camera on the set a few times. Lucas himself has admitted to being on the set frequently because of Marquand's relative inexperience with special effects. Lucas praised Marquand as a "very nice person who worked well with actors". Marquand did note that Lucas kept a conspicuous presence on set, joking, "It is rather like trying to direct King Lear – with Shakespeare in the next room!"
The screenplay was written by Lawrence Kasdan and Lucas (with uncredited contributions by David Peoples and Marquand), based on Lucas' story. Kasdan claims he told Lucas that Return of the Jedi was "a weak title", and Lucas later decided to name the film Revenge of the Jedi. The screenplay itself was not finished until rather late in pre-production, well after a production schedule and budget had been created by Kazanjian and Marquand had been hired, which was unusual for a film. Instead, the production team relied on Lucas' story and rough draft in order to commence work with the art department. When it came time to formally write a shooting script, Lucas, Kasdan, Marquand and Kazanjian spent two weeks in conference discussing ideas; Kasdan used tape transcripts of these meetings to then construct the script.
The issue of whether Harrison Ford would return for the final film arose during pre-production. Unlike the other stars of the first film, Ford had not contracted to do two sequels, and Raiders of the Lost Ark had made him an even bigger star. Return of the Jedi producer Howard Kazanjian (who also produced Raiders of the Lost Ark) convinced Ford to return:
Ford suggested that Han Solo be killed through self-sacrifice. Kasdan concurred, saying it should happen near the beginning of the third act to instill doubt as to whether the others would survive, but Lucas was vehemently against it and rejected the concept. Gary Kurtz, who produced Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back but was replaced as producer for Return of the Jedi by Kazanjian, said in 2010 that the ongoing success with Star Wars merchandise and toys led George Lucas to reject the idea of killing off Han Solo in the middle part of the film during a raid on an Imperial base. Luke Skywalker was also to have walked off alone and exhausted like the hero in a Spaghetti Western but, according to Kurtz, Lucas opted for a happier ending to encourage higher merchandise sales. Harrison Ford himself has agreed with this sentiment, saying that Lucas "didn't see any future in dead Han toys."
Yoda was originally not meant to appear in the film, but Marquand strongly felt that returning to Dagobah was essential to resolve the dilemma raised by the previous film. The inclusion led Lucas to insert a scene in which Yoda confirms that Darth Vader is Luke's father because, after a discussion with a children's psychologist, he did not want younger moviegoers to dismiss Vader's claim as a lie. Many ideas from the original script were left out or changed. For instance, the Ewoks were going to be Wookiees and the Millennium Falcon would be used in the arrival at the forest moon of Endor. Following the defeat of the Emperor, the film was originally intended to end with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda returning to life from their spectral existence in the Force, along with Anakin Skywalker, thanks to Yoda being able to prevent him from becoming one with the Force. They would then join the rest of the characters in their celebration on Endor.
Filming began on January 11, 1982, and lasted through May 20, 1982, a schedule six weeks shorter than The Empire Strikes Back. Kazanjian's schedule pushed shooting as early as possible in order to give Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) as much time as possible to work on effects, and left some crew members dubious of their ability to be fully prepared for the shoot. Working on a budget of $32.5 million, Lucas was determined to avoid going over budget as had happened with The Empire Strikes Back. Producer Howard Kazanjian estimated that using ILM (owned wholly by Lucasfilm) for special effects saved the production approximately $18 million. However, the fact that Lucasfilm was a non-union company made acquiring shooting locations more difficult and more expensive, even though Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back had been big hits. The project was given the working title "Blue Harvest" with a tagline of "Horror Beyond Imagination." This disguised what the production crew was really filming from fans and the press, and also prevented price gouging by service providers.
Return of the Jedi grossed $309.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $166 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $475.3 million, against a production budget of about $32.5 million.
The film made $23 million from 1,002 theaters in its opening weekend and grossed a record $45.3 million in its opening week. It finished first at the box office for six of its first seven weeks of release, only coming in second once behind Superman III in its fourth weekend. Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 80 million tickets in the US in its initial theatrical run. When it was re-released in 1985, it made $11.2 million, which totaled its initial theatrical gross to $385.8 million worldwide.
At the 56th Academy Awards in 1984, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston, and Phil Tippett received the "Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects." Norman Reynolds, Fred Hole, James L. Schoppe, and Michael Ford were nominated for "Best Art Direction/Set Decoration". Ben Burtt received a nomination for "Best Sound Effects Editing". John Williams received the nomination for "Best Music, Original Score". Burtt, Gary Summers, Randy Thom and Tony Dawe all received the nominations for "Best Sound".
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