'Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back': Rolling Stone's 1980 Cover Story

'On the set, I would have to say, 'Don't blow up my planet, please!' and all I'm doing is looking at a board with an X on it,' says Carrie Fisher

May 4, 2011 5:40 PM ET
'Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back': Rolling Stone's 1980 Cover Story
Photograph by Annie Leibovitz

The Force has two sides. It is not a malevolent or a benevolent thing. It has a bad side to it, involving hate and fear, and it has a good side, involving love, charity, fairness and hope.
George Lucas

"There's no place for personal triumph in a film like this," says Harrison Ford dryly, referring to his return to the screen as mercenary adventurer Han Solo in Star Wars' monumental sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. Although Ford shares star billing, he is painfully aware that he and the other featured performers are mere pawns in a projected nine-part series of sci-fi films, cartoonlike components with little more dimension than the hapless androids C-3PO and R2D2.

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Star Wars, the creation of writer-director-producer George Lucas, is the largest-grossing film of all time — over $400 million at last count — and Empire, directed by Irvin Kershner, looks to be its nearest box-office rival. Yet the cast of this spectacular saga seems almost lost in an interplanetary shuffle.

This article appeared in the July 24, 1980 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

"The star is the movie," says Mark Hamill, a.k.a. Luke Skywalker, and his cohorts sadly concur. Indeed, Harrison Ford has learned so little about his own character that he cannot explain why Solo is being pursued by bounty hunters throughout Empire.

"There's no, er, I don't know why that is." He shrugs, red-faced. "I can imagine, but basically, I just work here, you know what I mean? In fact, I didn't get the script to the second picture until three weeks before we started shooting. [Some of the actors in Empire were given only partial scripts to ensure the secrecy of plot twists.] I haven't gotten the script for the third one, The Revenge of the Jedi.

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"One of George's real strengths," adds Ford, "is not giving you all the information you need, yet at the same time not denying you anything essential. You have a feeling that you want to know more at all times.

"I have heard frequently," he continues, "that there is a certain kind of disappointment with the ending of the second film. I've heard people say, 'There's no end to this film' or 'I can't wait to find out what happens.' But they will, and that's exactly the effect intended by the ending."

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To feed the seemingly insatiable appetite for news about Star Wars, Twentieth Century-Fox and Lucasfilm (George's production company) have mounted a promotional onslaught whose scope resembles a rock & roll world tour. Over the last few weeks, the films' stars have been hustled from Los Angeles to New York to Washington to London to Japan and then on to Australia to sit for literally hundreds of newspaper, radio and television interviews. The effort is further supported by a multimillion-dollar ad campaign and a glut of aggressive merchandising schemes that include everything from a soundtrack album to a proposed Yoda doll, the gnomelike Jedi master.

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