Not many media franchises belong in the same conversation as Star Wars, and none reallly compare head-to-head. That’s not a stunt, that’s a factual statement.
The Star Wars machine has raked up over 12 billion (yeah, with a ‘b’) in toy sales, just over 7 billion in total worldwide ticket sales as a movie franchise – excluding re-releases (bruhs, think about how many times you’ve seen Disney/ Lucas Films re-introduce younger generations to the OGs and Prequels on the big screen… they’ve done it at least 5 times), and 13 billion total from video games, home video and books combined. Experts estimate about 27-42 Billion in total revenue… but Disney doesn’t want us knowing how big the Star Wars bag really be.
With that allllll said, exactly 39 years ago today, George Lucas released (arguably) the greatest Star Wars movie of them all – The Empire Strikes Back (1980). At the time, it was known simply as The Empire Strikes Back but now you can just call it THE BUSINESS!
To celebrate this goliath of cinema storytelling (and effects) we thought it would be fun to go through some behind-the-scenes photos from the set of The Empire Strikes Back and run through some trivia. Peep the pics and factoids below, and if you have time then go re-watch the movie!
- The Empire Strikes Back made a little cheddar with 538.4 Million USD in total box office sales, placing it around the middle of the pack when it comes to ticket sales.
- The snowstorm from the movie’s opening scenes on Hoth was a REAL snowstorm. No CGI here, kids, Harrison Ford had to ride a snow plow onto set because all routes were closed!
- The Empire Strikes Back has the lowest body count of any Star Wars film with only 30 deaths. We know Star Wars doesn’t aim for accuracy or realistic violence, but that number is dummy low – especially when the movie showcased an entire snow-army battle scene (lol).
- Real Ones know every Star Wars movie has the phrase “I have a bad feeling about this” spoken by a character – in The Empire Strikes Back Leigh says it during the asteroid sequence.
- Weeks before the movie released in theaters a novelization of The Empire Strikes Back dropped revealing the iconic line “No, I am your father.” On set only 3-4 people knew about the secret reveal but whoever copped the novel version before May 21st unknowingly became a founding member of #TeamEarly. Good thing Twitter and IG didn’t exist back then.
- Jim Henson almost played Yoda instead of Frank Oz. Director George Lucas initially approached Henson to play the fan favorite (Yoda); but Jim’s workload wouldn’t allow it. Being a good friend n’ all, Hensen recommended his partner and friend, Frank Oz. Imagine anyone but Frank Oz playing Yoda, can’t do it… nope.
- Plot twist! During a 2014 interview Oz told a much different story. In his version, George Lucas didn’t want to use Frank’s voice as Yoda for over a year. Randomly, on Frank Oz’s honeymoon, George called and asked him to come to set. Moral of the story: people can come around.
- One of the most recognizable baddies in movie history, The Emperor, looked a lot different in the OG cut of The Empire Strikes Back. You wouldn’t believe it, but Emperor Palpatine’s hologram scene was actually an actress with prosthetics ape eyes.
- Movie Magic: How did the special effects team execute those sweet scene of Luke Skywalker using the Force to pull his lightsaber closer? By having footage of Mark Hammill (Luke) throwing his lightsaber rewound! Yep, pre-CGI meant getting creative.
- Carrie Fisher (5’1″) had to frequently stand on a box to fit in frame with Harrison Ford (6’1). Boooiii was she a baddie during Empire Strikes Back. RIP, Queen.
- Han Solo is the ONLY non-Jedi in the original trilogy to wield a lightsaber. He did so in the opening scenes of the movie to save Luke’s life.
- Normally movie extras aren’t much more than living props, normally. The Rebel soldiers from the Battle Of Hoth scenes were no common extras, but actually Norwegian mountain-rescue skiers! So in a way, The Empire Strikes Back used real badasses! George Lucas compensated the Norwegians by donating to their Red Cross.
- The unmistakable speech pattern of Yoda has an actual formula: 1) object 2) subject 3) verb
- Now-a-days any space battle would be completely rendered using computer software – no surprise there. In 1980 the space scenes were largely practical, aka, they used actual props. The space chase scene after The Battle of Hoth (you know, the one where Han attempts to lose the Empire through an asteroid field) is so real that Lucas’s prop team used a friggin’ potato as an asteroid!
Thanks for reading! Be sure to share this post with your friends so you can be cool like Han Solo!