Watch a Lost Documentary About The Empire Strikes Back

Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 28 2013 3:30 PM

Watch a Lost Doc About The Empire Strikes Back

Still from Empire Strikes Back documentary
The Wampa takes its first steps.

Still from YouTube

In 1979, the French journalist and director Michel Parbot filmed behind the scenes of The Empire Strikes Back. His footage appeared the following year in two TV documentaries (one American, the other Dutch), but while the American documentary ended up on the Star Wars Blu-rays, the Dutch one reportedly remained holed up in the archives of LucasFilm and of two French TV broadcasters, leaking out only in low-quality snippets.

Thanks to some relentless fans, however, the longest version yet of the Dutch documentary is now available online. The film includes interviews with Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher, as well as director Irvin Kershner, who insists repeatedly that the film is “not a science fiction movie” but a “fairy tale.” “Science fiction has certain qualities that you have to respect, all kinds of scientific jargon,” he tells the interviewer. “We’ve eliminated all scientific jargon. There’s almost none. Just a touch, like salt and pepper. It’s not a science fiction movie.”


The documentary provides a (sometimes funny) view of Star Wars behind the curtain. During the filming of the Hoth battle scene, a snowstorm comes up; the crew rushes to protect the cameras and props, pulling a full-sized Tauntaun across the tundra with a snowmobile. Later, a headless Wampa takes his first wobbly steps—and face-plants. There’s also the uncomfortable fact that Hamill keeps saying that Luke would like to put the moves on Leia himself; as Return of the Jedi fans know, the two characters turned out to be siblings.

William Brennan is an associate editor at The Atlantic. His work has also appeared online at The New Yorker. You can follow him on Twitter.



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