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'The Empire Strikes Back' 40th Anniversary: George Lucas says making film wasn’t fun due to delays and budget

"It wasn’t the most fun movie to make, but it was definitely a rewarding film,” Lucas said about the stress involved
George Lucas (Star Wars)
George Lucas (Star Wars)

'The Empire Strikes Back' has made a permanent mark on history, expanding the myth of the 'Star Wars' galaxy, and giving pop culture one of its most iconic twists as Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) reveals that he is Luke Skywalker's (Mark Hamill) father. The movie released 40 years ago today, and the official 'Star Wars' side released an interview with George Lucas, who reveals just how close the movie came to never being made at all.

Despite the success of 'Star Wars: A New Hope,' the sequel was almost immediately beset by financial troubles. George Lucas wanted more creative control over the film after a sour experience working with 20th Century Fox on 'A New Hope.' This meant that Lucas would have to finance most of the movie himself - only he didn't have the money he needed to do so. "Well, to be very honest, the most challenging aspect was paying for it,” he said. “In order to be able to take control of the movie, I had to pay for it myself. And in order to do that, I did something my father told me never to do, which was to borrow money. But there wasn’t much I could do because I only had maybe half of the money to make the movie so I had to borrow the other half, which put a lot of pressure on me."

Even after procuring the money, the film ran into constant delays, and went over budget. The scenes that took place on the ice planet of Hoth, for example, were scheduled to be finished within two weeks - but took several months of filming, instead. "I realized that the movie was just going to keep going over budget and over budget and over budget unless I went over there and watched over it," he said. "So I spent the rest of the time in England working with [Irvin Kershner] and trying to get the movie done at a reasonable budget that we could afford."

The experience was a stressful one for Lucas, who was attempting to run a company at the same time. "It wasn’t the most fun movie to make, but it was definitely a rewarding film,” Lucas said. "It turned out well. I learned some things. I thought I could let somebody else direct the movie and still run a company and I realized that wasn’t gonna be possible." 

You can read the full interview here.

'Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back' is now available to stream on Disney+.