The iconic shot of Luke, Leia, R2-D2, and C-3PO looking out at the stars at the end of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back almost wasn’t included in the movie at all.
According to Luke Skywalker himself — Mark Hamill — the final scene was filmed very late into production after the filmmakers started worrying about the original ending’s negative tone.
“Filmed 4 months after we wrapped principal photography on #ESB, it wasn’t a ‘re-shoot’, it was an added scene,” Hamill wrote on Twitter. “Concerned about the downbeat ending & thorough defeat of the protagonists, they wanted to add an uplifting moment of hope & rejuvenation to reassure the audience.”
Filmed 4 months after we wrapped principal photography on #ESB, it wasn’t a “re-shoot”, it was an added scene. Concerned about the downbeat ending & thorough defeat of the protagonists, they wanted to add an uplifting moment of hope & rejuvenation to reassure the audience. https://t.co/VIMbC3YprU pic.twitter.com/MG41dr8fgu
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) March 8, 2022
Just before the final scene, Luke’s hand is chopped off by Darth Vader, who also just revealed that he is Luke’s father. Han Solo has been frozen in carbonite, and our heroes barely escape capture from Vader’s Star Destroyer on the Millennium Falcon. It’s certainly not the most positive note to send fans out of the theater on.
However, the additional filming isn’t even the last time the scene was changed. According to the official Star Wars website, George Lucas wanted to make even more changes to the movie after it had already made its initial premiere in theaters.
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Lucas apparently realized “that the end of the film was unclear” in terms of where geographically Leia and Luke had escaped to. Shots added just weeks before the movie’s widespread release made it clear that Luke and Leia were aboard a separate medical ship, not the Falcon.
Fans will once again be able to relive the events of Empire Strikes Back next month in LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, which we just learned will get Mandalorian and Rogue One DLC. And, if you’re feeling nostalgic for the Star Wars universe, check out planets Star Wars should explore beyond Tatooine.
Logan Plant is a freelance writer for IGN. You can find him on Twitter @LoganJPlant.