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The Urban Legends of Star Wars
We’ve all heard them: urban legends, friend-of-a-friend stories (FOAFs), tales too good to be true. These are stories of dubious origin that get passed around, distorted, and retold so many times that they acquire a certain authenticity. After all, if so many people claim them to be true, they must be, right?
Numerous books and websites chronicle the spread of urban legends. Most of the tales are patently false. Some have a small kernel of truth to them, and a few are actually true.
The popularity of Star Wars has spread to become part of the public consciousness. And when something enters the arena of popular culture and folklore, the urban legends invariably follow.
This series will present some of the most popular Star Wars urban legends that have been floating around for years.
Urban Legend: A “naughty” Star Wars trading card was printed and made it out on the market, the result of a mischievous airbrush artist.
Sometimes, the truth behind a legend is stranger than the fiction. Topps has long produced quality trading cards for the Star Wars movies. Their first series for A New Hope was an extensive showcase on all the photography taken on set. Collectors cherish their original cards from a time when UV-coating and holographic seals were unheard of, and cards came in wax-pack with sticks of gum. One particular card, though, is valued for collectors for its notoriety.
Star Wars card #207, part of the green-bordered series, has gathered a fair amount of attention. To be delicate, this image of C-3PO looks to be sporting a piece of anatomy that has no business being on a PG-rated protocol droid. Theories blossomed about how this giggle-inducing card could have come about. They invariably followed a common urban legend template — a disgruntled artist on the eve of being fired added a personal touch to the artwork.
The true explanation doesn’t make as entertaining a story, but seems to be a bizarre case of coincidence. In combing through the old archives at Topps and Lucasfilm, it appears that the extra appendage is not the work of an artist, but rather a trick of timing and light. The untouched archive photo shows the image just as it appears on the card. The current theory is that at the exact instant the photo was snapped, a piece fell off the Threepio costume, and just happened to line up in such a way as to suggest a bawdy image. The original contact sheets from the photo-shoot attests to this. They are not retouched in any way, yet still contain the same image. Whatever the real explanation is, the ‘mischievous airbrush artist’ scenario simply doesn’t fit.
No matter how innocent the photo, the card did generate attention. Rather than explain the admittedly hard-to-believe story, Topps re-issued the card with an airbrushed correction. The corrected version currently trades at considerably less value than the original–even though there are probably fewer copies of it in print–which only helps to keep the legend alive.
Urban Legend: Footage exists of the Millennium Falcon being destroyed at the end of Return of the Jedi.
One of Return of the Jedi’s most exciting sequences is the Millennium Falcon’s escape from the exploding Death Star, just meters ahead of a burning wall of fire. It’s a very close call for Lando, and for a moment, it seems that Han’s bleak prophecy — that he’ll never see the Falcon again — will come true. But the freighter blasts through the flames triumphantly.
It’s hard to pin down where the rumor of the Falcon’s demise started. Perhaps Harrison Ford’s suggestion to George Lucas that Han Solo die at the end of Jedi fueled it spread.
One definite culprit in this legend’s longevity is a revised plot synopsis treatment entitled “The Revenge and Return of the Jedi”. Dated July 6 1980, (though undoubtedly printed at a later date), this concise retelling of the basic story — with notable changes — is a fake. It describes Luke taking over the Death Star (re-christening it the Life Star), Vader being the “other” Yoda spoke of, and Leia and Han marrying at the film’s end, with Wicket one of the attendants at the wedding. It also contains the following passage:
“Meanwhile, the Death Star ray begins destroying Rebel ships. Lando and the Rebel Forces unsuccessfully attempt to penetrate the force field, and the efforts on Endor have failed. Lando sees many of his comrades dying for the Alliance. He feels that the Alliance might die itself if something is not done soon. Lando makes a final decision to plow the Millennium Falcon through the force field in a self-sacrificing gesture for the Rebel Alliance. Lando and the Falcon explode in a beautiful burst of energy and color.”
The first giveaway that the treatment is bogus is that its 1980 date pre-dates Lucas’ hand-written first draft of Jedi by over six months. Not only that, but this supposedly older treatment more closely matches the finished film than the first draft screenplay, which has such differing elements as two Death Stars, the Imperial capital world, and tribes of “Ewaks.”
Lucas’ very first hand-written draft screenplay of Jedi, dated February 24, 1981, has Lando surviving. “Chewie slaps Lando on the back, almost knocking him over,” Lucas writes of the end celebration. Different versions of this survive to the final screenplay. Lando is alive and well in every version.
An excerpt from the screenplay that has Lando and the Falcon destroyed and Han looking up, quietly voicing his loss, has shown up on the Internet, but it too is a fake. Also untrue are tales that footage of the Falcon made its way into test screenings of Return of the Jedi, but was ultimately left out of the movie because it didn’t score well with the audience.
Given the weight of this evidence, it appears there is no truth behind the rumor that the Falcon and Lando were originally to have perished. It is possible the idea may have been thrown around during undocumented brainstorming sessions, but the legend that it actually was committed to film is false.
Urban Legend: Long before Star Wars made it to the movie screen, the entire story existed as a series of novels entitled “The Journal of the Whills” which told the tales of Episodes I-VI and more.
It would be the ultimate find: the rumored tome which contains the complete Star Wars saga. One rumor pegs it as a series of 12 books. Unfortunately, such books do not exist outside of wishful thinking.
At the bottom of the Prologue to A New Hope’s novelization is the tantalizing attribution: “From the First Saga, The Journal of the Whills.”
This cryptic citation has caused much confusion over the years. The Journal is not a massive tome with a maddeningly low print run that is eluding collectors. Rather, it is a fictitious work from which the Star Wars stories are culled.
The storyline of the entire Star Wars saga has never been printed. It exists in the mind of George Lucas, and in his binders of notes and story treatments. “Originally, I was trying to have the story be told by somebody else; there was somebody watching this whole story and recording it, somebody probably wiser than the mortal players in the actual events,” explains Lucas in Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays. “I eventually dropped this idea, and the concepts behind the Whills turned into the Force. But the Whills became part of this massive amount of notes, quotes, background information that I used for the scripts; the stories were actually taken from the Journal of the Whills.”
That said, though, there was one Star Wars book published before the 1977 release of the film, which may have helped keep this legend alive. The novelization of A New Hope – then called Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, came out a full six months early, in December of 1976. Now a collector’s item, the novel features early Ralph McQuarrie artwork of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, and proudly states on its cover “soon to be a spectacular motion picture!”
So though the novel was written based on the movie screenplay, it did come out first. This was a time when no one knew about Star Wars, and Lucasfilm had to do anything it could to spread the word about its soon-to-be revolutionary movie. Perhaps fans that saw the 1976 first printing dates began to speculate on there being other early books.
Urban Legend: The footage of Luke and Biggs at Anchorhead appeared in a few early screenings of Star Wars, and was shown when the film first aired on TV.
The letters column of the Star Wars Insider magazine revealed just how pervasive this legend is. A few years back, many fans wrote in, adamant that they remembered cut scenes featuring Biggs Darklighter and Luke Skywalker being shown theatrically or on television. To paraphrase Obi-Wan, “your mind can deceive you; don’t trust it.”
Most fans know of the cut Anchorhead scene. Early in A New Hope, as the droids trek across the deserts of Tatooine, Luke Skywalker has a reunion with his old friend Biggs Darklighter. The footage was cut from the final release of the film. It was never released theatrically. Yet there are many fans who seem to remember seeing it.
Where are these false memories coming from? Well, most Star Wars fans have vivid imaginations — after all, Star Wars is an excellent playground for the imagination. A combination of half-remembered images together with an active imagination could have constructed these past memories. Although the Biggs footage was never shown theatrically, it did survive in a number of forms:
The Star Wars novelization has the scene with Luke and Biggs
The very first Star Wars comic book, from Marvel Comics, included the sequence
A very brief excerpt of filming this scene is visible in The Making of Star Wars television special, which aired on September 16, 1977 — this may account for fans remembering it being shown on TV
The original Star Wars Storybook featured the scene complete with photos
The 1981 Star Wars radio drama included an expanded version of this scene
So, the above sources combined with a fertile imagination may have produced memories of this film being shown theatrically and on television.
Urban Legend: A rocket-firing Boba Fett action figure was made and several were shipped to early buyers.
This one’s been the bane of many an action figure collector. When the first Boba Fett action figure was planned in 1978, following that year’s “Star Wars Holiday Special” on television which introduced the bounty hunter in an animated segment and in anticipation of the character’s role in the upcoming film, The Empire Strikes Back, toymaker Kenner Products had plans to incorporate a special rocket-firing backpack.
The Boba Fett figure wasn’t available in stores initially. It was first unveiled as a 1979 mail-in promotion in which collectors could send in cut-out proofs-of-purchase and then receive the rocket-firing figure a while later. While the toy was still in the final stages of planning, however, a similar missile-firing feature in Battlestar Galactica toys from Mattel raised some child safety issues and caused a product recall. Kenner quickly realized it had to modify the coolest and most promoted feature of its new action figure. It experimented with a few variations to see if it could figure out a child-proof “locking” mechanism for the small firing missile, but quickly gave up and retooled the figure. It removed the firing mechanism and permanently glued the missile into the backpack.
Kenner quickly modified all advertising and promotional material so that the offer no longer made mention of the rocket-firing feature. Also, the Fetts that were mailed came with a small note explaining the following:
“Originally, our Star Wars Boba Fett action figure was designed to have a spring-launched rocket. The launcher has been removed from the product for safety reasons. If you are dissatisfied with the product, please return it to us and we will replace it with any Star Wars mini-action figure of your choice.”
While some people “remember” getting a missile-firing Fett in the mail, none of the rocket-firing Boba Fett figures were released. Their memories are playing tricks on them. A small amount of production-test figures, called “first-shots”, were made for Kenner’s inspection, but these were usually rough, unfinished, unpainted action figures, although these and some painted variations have made there way to collectors’ hands.
So, if you hear tales of “a friend of a friend who got a rocket-firing Fett in the mail,” be gentle.
Urban Legend: At the end of A New Hope, an excited Luke Skywalker can be heard to yell “Carrie!” to Princess Leia.
Actors do make mistakes. They are, after all, humans (even the computer-generated ones, at heart). Since so much work has to go into turning an on-set performance into a finished Star Wars movie, mistakes can be caught and fixed by the many people who handle the film after the shooting is done.
Much of the sound heard in Star Wars was created and crafted after the action had been shot. Though on-set microphones captured the live performance as it occurred, many times actors had to come back in to loop dialog. Even dialog that is captured on set is carefully mixed and massaged by sound editors to achieve a certain consistency and interaction with other added sound effects. In the end, so many people scrutinize the audio recording that it seems unlikely that such a gaff could have gotten through.
So, while it indeed sounds like “Carrie!” to many people, in the finished film, that’s not what Mark Hamill says.
What does he say? While putting together the improved soundtrack for the Special Edition Trilogy, sound editor Ben Burtt investigated the matter. All the original tracks, 1/4-inch tapes, and source materials were pulled out from storage, and listened to in a big mix room at Skywalker Sound. “We made loops out of everything Mark said and played them for a panel of listeners,” says Burtt. “We edited the recording and filtered it and did everything we could to clean up the phrase where he yells as he hugs Princess Leia”
The audio investigation included numerous takes of Mark Hamill recording that scene. “The consensus was that he is yelling ‘hey’ or ‘yay,’ rather than ‘Carrie.’ In other takes he specifically yells ‘yay!’ at that point,” explains Burtt. “Like most garbled dialog, if you listen to it over and over with all the other voices in there you can convince yourself that he is saying ‘Carrie’ or any number of things. But we were convinced that he really was just cheering.”
According to Mark Hamill, he excitedly yells “Hey! There she is!” indicating that Luke was scanning the rushing crowd for Leia. In the excitement, Luke doesn’t stop to enunciate each syllable like a certain golden protocol droid would do. “I ended up swallowing the ‘is’ part,” says Hamill. So the end result was garbled to the point that some people believe it sounds an awful lot like “Carrie!” So much so that even those closely involved in the production can hear that if they listen to it enough times.