For the purists who think that Star Wars peaked with The Empire Strikes Back and turned into a showcase for toys and merchandise, you’re not alone. In fact, the producer of both Star Wars and Empire, Gary Kurtz, is one of those who agrees with you, and he’s told the LA Times’ Hero Complex blog all about it.
Kurtz is quoted as saying,
The toy business began to drive the [Lucasfilm] empire. It’s a shame. They make three times as much on toys as they do on films. It’s natural to make decisions that protect the toy business, but that’s not the best thing for making quality films… The first film and ‘Empire’ were about story and character, but I could see that George’s priorities were changing.
Part of those changing priorities caused a move from the original ending to the original trilogy, which included the death of Han Solo, Leia becoming the Queen, and Luke wandering off into obscurity “like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns,” he continues:
We had an outline and George changed everything in it… Instead of bittersweet and poignant he wanted a euphoric ending with everybody happy. The original idea was that they would recover [the kidnapped] Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base. George then decided he didn’t want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason.
I’m torn about this much-rumored “original ending” to Return of The Jedi; on the one hand, the adult me likes the idea of a darker end, but as a kid, I would’ve hated anything that didn’t keep Han, Luke, Leia and Chewie around. Maybe the changes were caused by toyetic potential, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they were bad changes, right…?
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