Turning The Page: The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi by J.W. Rinzler

Marking the 30th anniversary of Return of the Jedi (1983) is the arrival of final definitive tome on the original Star Wars trilogy written by J.W. Rinzler; the series has become so popular that the Lucasfilm Executive Editor and Writer has become a familiar name on the New York Times bestseller list.  A great asset for the author is the open access to the archives of his employer which means that concept art, script revision summaries, behind-the-scenes photographs, and progress reports make the publication a sumptuous feast of information and imagery.
Chosen to write the foreword was filmmaker Brad Bird (The Incredibles) whose enthusiastic personality and insightfulness clearly shows through the words printed on the page.  “For George, the Special Editions were an exercise in using new tools to fix what he viewed as old, unsolved problems,” noted Bird.  “But for some moviegoers, it was as if George had doctored photographs from their childhood without their permission.”  Like with his exploration of Star Wars (1977) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Rinzler tells the story by following the moviemaking process from the script drafts to the theatrical release; what is different this time around is the reliance on his own interviews rather those conducted in the past.
While a number of creative and technical challenges that need to be resolved, a major business saga unfolding as the creator of the space opera sought to expand upon his independence while the Hollywood studio system sought to control and profit from him.  One of the 12 Chapters was aptly titled Post-Traumatic Film as the creative expectations of George Lucas would put his own employees on a verge of a nervous breakdown by his willingness to throw out footage.   “Each time he altered the sequence a little,” recalled, Co-Visual Effects Supervisor Ken Ralston, “it would end up affecting the seven shots before it, which caused a great deal of grief.”  An interesting piece of trivia is that due to the feud with the Directors Guild of America resulting in Lucas resigning from the organization British and Australian directors were considered potential candidates such as Peter Weir (Witness) and Bruce Beresford (Breaker Morant).
Reading the summaries of the various script drafts are insightful but it is the one dealing with story conference involving George Lucas, Richard Marquand (director), Lawrence Kasdan (scriptwriter) and Howard Kazanjian (producer) that gives an insider’s view with intriguing and humorous results, in particular the determination of Kasdan to kill a major character which gets a disdainful reaction from Lucas.  “I think you should kill Luke and have Leia take over,” remarked Kasdan.  “You don’t want to kill Luke,” responded Lucas.  “Okay, then kill Yoda,” retorts Kasdan.  “I don’t want to kill Yoda,” answers Lucas.  “You don’t have to kill people.  You’re a product of the 1980s.  You don’t go around killing people.  It’s not nice.”  
Needless to say with The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, J.W. Rinzler has once again crafted a reading experience that is epic in scope while maintaining a personal touch with all of the individuals who produced an iconic movie franchise.
Images Courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.
Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada. 

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