When Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back first premiered in 1980, the ending was slightly different than what we see today. That's because, after an early public screening, the series' creator George Lucas came away feeling that the ending wasn't as crystal clear as he would have liked, resulting in a call to Industrial Light & Magic’s (ILM) general manager Tom Smith.
"I don’t wanna tell you this. We need some more shots for Empire," Smith recalls Lucas saying. Naturally, Smith reacted in horror as the film had already been seen by thousands in cinemas. Lucas apparently did his best to calm Smith's fears, assuring him that "it’s not in all the theatres."
At the ending to Empire Strikes Back sees Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian, and Luke Skywalker reunite with the rebel fleet. Then, Lando and Chewbacca take the Millennium Falcon to rescue Han Solo while Luke and Leia stay back and recuperate. Fairly clear-cut, no? Well, apparently, Lucas was concerned that the ending didn't establish clearly enough that Luke and Leia were on a different ship than Chewie and Lando. Thus Lucas – who had not directed the movie; that was Irvin Kershner – summoned ILM cameraman Ken Ralston and artist Joe Johnston to discuss three new shots to be added before Empire Strikes Back got a wider release.
One of the shots adds another view of the rebel fleet before showing Chewie and Lando aboard the Falcon, the second shot is a close-up of the Millenium Falcon, and the third new shot moves from the Falcon's exterior to a viewport on the medical frigate, establishing that Luke and Leia are not on the same ship as Chewie and Lando. The new shots were sourced from stock material as well as newly-built models.
Per StarWars.com: "In its original release, there was a direct cut from the Falcon cockpit to the medical bay, with no visual cue to understand that Luke and Leia were aboard a separate ship. Thus the last-minute remedy to clarify the geography of Empire’s final moments."
You can watch the final version of the ending to Empire Strikes Back up top to see if you can spot Lucas's added shots.
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