The Book





The Magic of Empire: A Visit to the Set of Empire Strikes Back

In this article we will be viewing a transcript from the private conversations on the set of Empire...

Empire Strikes Back continues to remain as a golden standard for mature fantasy films. While its story, its design and its special effects were top-notch, these are expected and common today. What makes the film special is the characters, the detail, the subtlety and the attention to emotional drama, qualities rarely found in blockbuster action films and the key to its continued endurance as a watershed genre picture. While George Lucas came up with a great melodrama, it was the screenwriting of Lawrence Kasdan that elevated this story to new heights, giving characters wit and humor and three-dimensional personality with his trademark dialog. However, while the script itself is superb, the true elusive success behind the film remains evanescent still--the actor chemistry and the fine hand of the director to weave all the elements in the film into a serious and believable emotional experience. In this, we owe a debt of gratitude to Irvin Kershner.

Reading the shooting script, I was amazed at how different it was from the final film. While Kasdan's screenplay was good, the film as we know it did not take shape until the cast and crew were assembled on sound stages in England. Re-writing dialog and re-thinking construction of scenes with the actors was a regular part of Kershner's method; the script was a guidemap to the film but not a blueprint. Improvisation and collaboration with the cast enabled the characters within the film to come to life in a way more believable, and the drama of a scene suddenly leapt out with a force tenfold of its scripted power.

One of the best examples of this is the carbon freezing scene. Not only the emotional climax of Empire Strikes Back , it stands as one of the most dramatic scenes in the franchise, captured beautifully in a delicate balance of visuals and performance. It's become filmmaking lore how Harrison Ford improvised the "I know" response to Leia's "I love you"--but in fact, Kershner and the actors basically re-thought the entire scene (watch closely--Ford actually came up with the line in Kershner's trailer, and then improvised it during shooting). It is efforts like this that gave the film a mature emphasis on characterisation--the film was constructed as if a regular drama with an ensemble cast, as if it was anything Robert Altman might make, only in a fantasy world. Efforts like this also caused the film to go way over budget and behind schedule--the first shot of this scene was not completed until the afternoon, even though the cast and crew had assembled before eight in the morning.

That day was recorded by journalist Alan Arnold. In what was an unusual move at the time, Arnold had director Irvin Kershner wear a wireless microphone in his shirt, so that his conversations could be recorded. What we got was an insight into the creative process that is rare and unprecedented.

For a primer, here is the scene as scripted:


With Boba Fett in the lead, a squad of Stormtroopers bring in Han, Leia and Chewie. Strapped to Chewie's back, with only his head, torso and one arm assembled is Threepio. Threepio's head faces the opposite direction from Chewie's and the droid is constantly twisting around in a vain effort to see what's happening. His one attached arm is animate and expressive, intermittently pointing, gesturing and covering his eyes. The remaining pieces of his body are roughly bundled to the Wookiee's back. His legs and other arm stick out at odd angles from the pack. Vader turns to Boba Fett.

I'll make your goods easier for you to transport. Put Captain Solo in the zero-cold chamber.

But the chamber is for power goods. What if he doesn't survive? This slime is worth a lot to me...

The Empire will pay for the loss. Bring him forward!


Chewie lets out a wild howl and attacks the Stormtroopers surrounding Han. Within seconds many Imperial reinforcements have joined the scuffle. The giant Wookiee is clubbed with laser weapons. From the instant of Chewie's first move, Threepio is screaming in panic while he tries to protect himself with his one arm...

Wait! What are you doing?...Oh, no...Don't hit me! No! He doesn't mean it!...Calm down, you hairy fool!...Ouch! I didn't do anything...

The Stormtroopers are about to bash Chewie in the face.

Chewie, no! Stop it, Chewbacca!

Han breaks away from his captors. Vader nods to the guards to let him go and the pirate breaks up the fight.

Oh, yes...stop, stop. Thank heavens...

Han gives the Wookiee a stern look, then a big hug.

Save your strength for another time, Chewie, when the odds are better.

Han winks at the Wookiee. Chewie barks a doleful farewell.

I'm sure I'll see you again, too. Keep well.
(turns to guard)
You'd better chain him until it's over.

In a flash the guards have slipped binders on Chewbacca, who is too distraught to protest. Han gives his furry friend a final hug and turns to Princess Leia. He takes her in his arms and she gives him a passionate kiss.

...I love you. I couldn't tell you before, but it's true.

...just remember that, 'cause I'll be back...

He sheds his cocky smile and gives her a soft kiss on the forehead. Tears roll down Leia's face as she watches the dashing pirate walk to the hydraulic platform. Lando, too, watches with anguish. Imperial guards position Han on the platform and quickly bind his arms and legs. They step back. Han looks one final time at his friends and suddenly the platform drops. Han disappears into the steaming vat of sub-zero cold.

Already, you can see a vast difference between what is in the film. This scene was filmed on Thursday, June 21st, 1979 on stage 5 at Elstree studios in England. Below is a remarkable excerpt from Alan Arnold's transcript, which appeared on pages 131-147 of his journal, Once Upon A Galaxy, now sadly out of print (Ebay is your friend). What you'll see is a rare inside look at moviemaking from a creative point of view, mainly in terms of performance. I don't think anyone can doubt Kershner an "actor's director" after reading this. You will see his disposition and approach resembles more of a theatrical stage director than what is normally found on big-budget movie sets, giving attention to actors and dialog, playing scenes loosely and discovering moments through improvisation. You'll also see the precarious balance of elements--affording attention to the the gorgeous camera and lighting of Director of Photography Peter Suschitzsky, re-working a script that has not had all its potential harvested, coping with a work environment that is logistically complicated and even dangerous, allowing input from actors, dealing with creative clashes and hot tempers, hearing designer Norman Reynold's discussing sketches for a scene yet to be shot, and even trying to be courteous to a bothersome David Prowse promoting his book. At times stressed, usually enthusiastic and always energetic, Kershner is clearly a man in command of his craft.

The day begins at eight AM. The first order of business is to block the scene with actors and decide on lens choice and camera placement. As the technicians set up the scene, Kershner figures out just how the scene will play...

June 21st, 1979

Stage 5, Elstree Studios

8 AM


Arnold sets the scene: "We enter Stage 5, already throbbing with activity, and climb a stairway to the central platform where Kersh joins director of photography Peter Suschitzsky, who is lighting the set for the long shot of the group's entrance. They take turns looking through the lens."


Irvin Kershner: We've got to be very careful on this set never to put the frame-line on any strong horizontals. If we do, the light will be there as we follow the action, jumping in and out of that frame-line, and that worries me. Little things like that are so important. This set is so peculiar that we've got to keep watching tiny relationships of light like that. I'm also worried whether the set is too bright back there.

Peter Suschitzsky: (suspecting, perhaps, that Kersh is playing on the mike) I think you’re just worried about everything.

IK: Yes, I am worried about everything. Everything is important, especially little things like that.

PS: I thought that light was just fine.

IK: I want to steam it all up. I would like to see figures through steam. I know that’s hard on the light because steam washes your light out, but we’ve got to do something. (Kersh proceeds to direct the shifting of various lights.) We have to be very careful. Go back a touch. Now go all the way back. I want the camera back there out of the way. Yes, put it there. Move the lights. I have to move everything! I want it all hazy, all figures in space. I must do this now before I position my actors. Once I get them into position we’ll take two cameras and do the action, the whole bloody thing.

(Harrison Ford arrives, looking very much like student who has strayed off campus.)

Harrison Ford: Hi.

IK: Good morning. I tried to call you yesterday to talk with you about the scene. I was working on it and discovered a lot of things that look really illogical the way it’s presently set up.

HF: Yeah, it certainly is. And you’ve got one other problem. I tried to tell the art department about it some weeks ago. My shirt is wrong.

IK: That’s no problem. They’ll take the shirt off you when you go down into the carbon freeze.

HF: But this shirt has no sleeves.

IK: Shit.

HF: Do you want us to talk in your trailer?

IK: Yes, but I want to set up the scene of your entrance first. This is really your scene, Harrison. It affects you more than the others. So we’ll lock ourselves away and talk.

HF: Well, I’ll go to make-up.

(Harrison leaves for make-up and Kersh prepares a lineup.)

IK: All right. I need a stormtrooper here, a stormtrooper there, and I want one over here.

(David Tromblin, the first assistant director, is beside Kersh now.)

IK: He doesn’t move well.

David Tromblin: Which one?

IK: That one over there. Was he there yesterday?

DT: Yes.

IK: Well, he must stop moving his head. I’m sure he wasn’t there yesterday. (He positions another stormtrooper.) Would you stand back please? Stand right in the corner, but don’t fall off. If you do fall off, there are boxes below. You won't get hurt. Whoops! Don’t stand quite so close or you will fall off.

(Kersh then positions Jeremy Bullock, the actor playing Boba Fett.)

IK: Jeremy, come along and stand here. Hold it. Hold it. That’s it, Jeremy. Try that. I also need a couple of guards. We have some, don’t we?

DT: We’ve got two.

IK: Two is all right. (Turns to Suschitzky) Something’s wrong. Can you lower one of those lights on the stairway? It would be nice to have it dim on the stairway.

PS: I can’t make it much dimmer without putting filters on, and there isn’t the light for more filters.

IK: Oh, I see.

PS: You are having much more steam than we thought. It makes for very low key.

IK: I wish I could have taken those lights out altogether. I want the lights to float. Just float.

(There is further positioning and the effect is again discussed.)

IK: (Peering through camera) I wonder where the strongest shot is when bringing the entire group in. Is there no other way than along the ramp? (Suddenly spotting an angle from the top of a flight of stairs leading from the platform.) Wait a minute. There’s something nice here. High angle! Oh, yes, this works. I never looked up here before. That’s the trouble with this set, you can't get away from it to look at it! Watch it, Dave!

(Tromblin has narrowly missed falling off the set. About an hour has been absorbed by the time the main camera angle has been chosen and the guards positioned. Kersh is now looking at the set-up through different lenses; the numbers he refers to are the focal lengths in millimetres of the lenses.)

IK: Oh, boy. I’ve got it. Got it! Hold it. I saw something really interesting through the 150. You can see their feet. Look what happens.

PS: You want to be in that tight?

IK: Yes, yes.

PS: You don’t want to see a wide angle?

IK: It looks good this way. Let me look at it with the 100 now. The 100 looks great, too. All right put a 100 in.

PS: Maybe we can combine the two.

IK: Yes, let’s have a couple of cameras up there.

(He calls for a run through with stand-ins.)

IK: Action! I like the heads going out for a moment, then the heads appearing, then going out. And this grab thing [the tong] just rising as they come around. I like the fact that all this is out of focus.

PS: While you’re here, have a look at a 50.

IK: It becomes just an ordinary walk with a 50. With a long lens it’s not an ordinary walk. I want to bring them in on some crazy shot so you don’t know where they are. They stop. You see them look over. Then I’ll cut in a couple of close-ups of Vader and Lando. When Vader says, “Put him in the carbon freeze…” Boom! Cut to a close-up of the reaction. Cut back to the long shot as the Wookie goes crazy. Everything starts happening. People start running. So, for a moment, you see the whole thing. But I want to withhold it. I don’t want to give it all at one go.

(Forty minutes later the decision is still proceeding.)

IK: Could the whole group come here please? You see, it works very well on the long lens. Right to the point where they’re in back of this grab thing as it’s moving. Cut to here and they’re going down and the thing continues to move.

(David Tromblin calls all the actors together to warn them yet again about the dangers of falling off the set. They try another run-through. The noise is cacophonous. There is shouting and banging as carpenters and grips put final touches to the set.)

IK: Excuse me, could you leave one stromtrooper here? Just one. Give me a stromtrooper to stand right here.

DT: (To second assistant director) Steve, I need another stormtrooper.

IK: I’m wondering if we want that tong thing down…actually it could be rising up.

DT: Weren’t we going to have it come up as we pan across on the longer lens?

IK: Yeah, but the problem is it’s such a big thing it cuts everything out. It becomes a great black mass with no definition on it. It would be interesting to bring them in when the tong is moving, so they’re hidden behind it as the pit closes up. No, that’s too complicated.

DT: Why don’t I have them do it once so you can look at it?

IK: I’ll tell you what’s better. Let’s have the tong down as they come in and take their positions. Then we cut from their point of view and you see the thing rise up, revealing Vader standing there with Lando. He says, “Put them in the carbon freeze.” See what I mean?

DT: Keep the platform up?

IK: No, no, I want it down. Actually, the tong should just go down to the platform, just to touch the platform.

DT: And the platform stays there until Han actually gets on it.

IK: That’s right.

DT: (To a stagehand) Les, bring the claw down as far as it will go.

Les: The floor?

IK: No, the claw. The claw right down to the floor.

DT: Les, please lower the claw.

IK: (Exasperated) Just drop it down.

(They wait for the clawlike tong to be lowered)

IK: (Observing through camera) Yes, I’ve got an interesting pattern going now. With the tight lens I’ll take them all the way down till they disappear behind the claw, which is moving. They disappear behind it. We cut to a shot across that claw. As it rises, you see Vader.

DT: Excuse me interrupting. That claw. Does it go right into the pit?

IK: (Beside himself) Just put it down!

DT: Well, wait a minute, Kersh.

IK: (Still impatient) Leave the platform where it is. Just drop the claw.

DT: You don’t want to have it tucked in the platform?

IK: That’s all I need! Please leave it right where it is.

DT: Leave it where it is for the moment, Les. (To Kersh) Do you want to see the group in position?

IK: Yes.

DT: Come in, folks.

(Norman Reynolds, the production designer, has been waiting in the wings for a chance to talk to the director. He seizes the opportunity provided by the change of set-up to show Kersh a sketch of a window to be used on another set in a future scene.)

Norman Reynolds: It’s just a sketch. I never have time to give you a finished drawing, I’m afraid, but it’s this question of the window. Do we want a round window or a square window?

IK: Don’t we want a round window?

NR: That’s why I’m anxious that it comes to your attention now. We need enough of the window to take in a long shot and then you need to go close, right?

IK: No. No. No. Oh, yes.

NR: I just wanted to know. Gary has said he thinks it ought to be a square window.

IK: Why should it be a square window?

NR: Well, his thinking is that a square window suggests the idea of being on a ship.

IK: Don’t they have round windows on ships?

NR: We could make it whatever shape you like. We could make it round or whatever. That was just his feeling.

IK: Well, first of all, Luke is standing in front of it. We start very close, then we pull back and we see the people watching him. There they are, this whole group against this wonderful scene of the fleet. The scene is really out there through the window. Then Leia walks past him. We go with her coming to the window and standing looking out and…I don’t know, would a square window look elegant there?

NR: I’ll have to make one.

(Now the scene is Kersh’s trailer. Harrison has arrived to talk further about the scene to be filmed this morning. It is 11 AM)

IK: You see, Harrison, one thing I discovered that is going to affect us crucially is the fact that you have no way of knowing that you are going to be put in the carbon freeze. They bring all three of you in, but you don’t know anything. The princess doesn’t know anything. She just senses danger. None of you has ever been in this place. You don’t know what this place is. That’s the reality of the situation. So we have to add some lines.

HF: Yeah, there’s something missing.

IK: Right.

HF: I don’t have any lines. I’m on my way to an appalling fate and, well, it’s no time for a speech, but surely I should say something, try to talk my way out.

IK: You’ve got heavily armed people all around you. Why do you think that Chewie and Leia have been brought in, too? I know why they are brought in. It came to me last night. They are brought in so you will not make problems. If you try to make a break, if you try to jump them, try to do anything so as not to go into that pit, they’ll kill Chewie and Leia, too. They use them to subdue you.

HF: But they don’t use them well enough, do they? Chewie tries to fight them off, but I don’t raise a hand to help him.

IK: No, actually you stop him so he won’t get himself killed.

HF: But I stop him before I know that if he fights he’ll get himself killed. It’s in Han’s character to join Chewie in the fight. The bargain I’m likely to keep quiet for is if I’m convinced that Leia is safe because Lando has taken a shine to her.

IK: So we need another scene.

HF: No, all I have to do is ask Lando “What is going to happen to Leia?”

IK: “What is going to happen to them?”

HF: No, to her.

IK: All right, her.

HF: And he says, “She’s too beautiful to harm.” Something on that level. You know what I mean?

IK: He could say, “I’ll see she’s all right.”

HF: How about “She will be mine”?

IK: It’s a little, well…besides, by that time you know he’s stuck on Leia.

HF: Yeah, but how does the scene play? There’s no time for thought process.

IK: Suppose Lando walks in with you. No, let’s say he’s already there. Before Vader says, “Put him in the carbon-freezing chamber,” you come to a stop and…no, I’ve got another idea. He comes from the foreground. Suppose that before Vader comes in, Lando comes over to you and says, “Listen, fella, I just want to tell you,” but he doesn’t know how to phrase it. Nevertheless, you understand his position. You don’t like it but you understand it. No, that won’t work either. That assumes you know that you’re the one that’s going to go into the pit. That’s no good.

HF: Let’s just look at this, okay? Vader says, “Put him in the carbon-freezing chamber” and Boba Fett says, “What if he doesn’t survive?” It takes a moment for everyone to realize how callous it all is. But there are still questions to be answered. For example, what about Leia?

IK: You still assume they’re going to do something to Leia, too, but you’re the one who’s going to be the guinea pig.

(Harrison rummages in Kersh’s fruit bowl.)

HF: Are there any more apples?

IK: Have this one. It’s been here a week but it’s still good. As I was saying, they’ve brought Leia and Chewie along to make you behave.

HF: But I don’t think there should be any “buddy buddy” stuff with Lando.

IK: Of course not. Lando, after all, is acting out of expediency. Wait. There is something interesting developing here. “What’s up, buddy?”… “What’s up, pal?” That’s your line to Lando.

HF: But I come in with my hands chained! Surely that gives me an idea of what’s up. I’m the only one who’s manacled.

IK: Right. But I don’t think you should be manacled when they send you down to the pit.

HF: I think I should be.

IK: (Still trying to devise the line.) “What’s up, buddy?” “What’s up, pal?”

HF: I think I should be manacled. It won’t stop the love scene. I mean I don’t have to put my arms around Leia to kiss her. I can’t see how they would indulge in more than a straight kiss in such circumstances. It has to be rough and brisk and over with.

IK: Absolutely. I don’t intend to mess around…”What’s up, buddy boy?”… in the love scene.

HF: As I pass by her, I think Leia ought to say very simply, “I love you.”

IK: (Tries it out) “I love you.” And you say, “Just remember that, Leia, because I’ll be back.” You’ve got to say, “I’ll be back.” You must. It’s almost contractual!

HF: If she says “I love you,” and I say “I know,” that’s beautiful and acceptable and funny.

IK: Right, right. You know what? I may keep Vader out of this till the end. When all this stuff is over, Vader walks right in and all he says is “Put him in the carbon-freezing chamber.” Why should he watch all this other stuff going on?

HF: He’s there because he’s telling Boba Fett what he intends to do with me.

IK: Then I guess he has to watch everything.

HF: He could walk away.

IK: No, he couldn’t. There’s no place to walk. (Laughs) I’m really stuck here.

HF: I think he could walk out and Boba Fett be the one to say, “Put him in the…”

IK: No, no, no, no…Boba can’t…No, no, no, no.

HF: Well, Vader has given me to Boba Fett.

IK: (Now wrestling with Boba Fett’s lines) “What if he doesn’t survive? He’s worth a lot to me.”

HF: I’m going to get a cup of coffee.

IK: “What if he doesn’t survive?”

(Kersh tries out several variations in Harrison’s absence and when the actor returns he’s still at it.)

IK: “What’s up, pal or buddy?”… “What’s up, pal?” That’s nice. It’s ironic. And he says, “You’re going to be frozen.” I don’t like frozen. “You’re going into the carbon-freezing chamber.” And he knows you’re likely to die if you go in there.

HF: I would know it, too!

IK: “You’re being put into carbon freeze.” How about that? And you ask, “What about them?” indicating Leia and Chewie.

HF: But I can’t say, “What about them?” I said the same thing in the cell scene we’ve already shot.

IK: So, instead of saying, “What about them?” you say, “They’re putting me in the carbon freeze,” and Leia asks why and you say, "It’ll make me behave better.”

HF: You don’t like “To make me more polite”?

IK: Polite is too obscure. Behave is much better because you’ve been a rascal, a thorn in their side. It implies a form of punishment. Leia says, “It could kill you,” and that sets Chewbacca off. (Reprising lines so far) “What’s up, pal”… “You’re being put in the carbon freeze”… “Why?”… “It’ll make you behave.” It is sadistic.

HF: Leia’s got to be the one to recognize how sadistic it is.

IK: “What’s up, pal?” “You’re being put in the carbon freeze.” “Why?” “It’ll make you behave.” No, it's too clever. The problem is I’ve got a two-part harmony going.

HF: I still don’t like “It’ll make me behave.”

IK: How about, “It’ll make me easier to transport.” You see, you’re a guinea pig, a substitute for Luke Skywalker, but we can’t say that.

HF: “What’s up, pal?”

Together: “You’re being put in the carbon freeze.”

(Later, on Stage 5 again, Kersh is joined by Billy Dee Williams.)

Billy Dee Williams: (Quietly) “You’re going to be put in the carbon freeze.” (Louder) “You’re going to be put in the carbon freeze.”

IK: (Joining him to speak Han’s line) “Why?”

BDW: “To keep you polite.”

IK: (As Boba Fett) “But that could kill him.” When Vader says, “Put him in the carbon freeze,” you’ve got to look angry as hell.

BDW: Where’s Leia at this point?

IK: Carrie’ll be right here and we’ll work that out.

(Carrie Fisher arrives. She has not yet been in make-up.)

Carrie Fisher: Hi…

IK: I’ve just changed the scene.

CF: I know. Harrison told me.

IK: I’ve just changed it because it didn’t answer one important thing: Why are you there to watch the execution? Why don’t they take him out of jail and just do it? It doesn’t make sense, does it?

CF: No.

IK: There’s only one reason. They do it to keep the victim from fighting, from trying to take people with him. Vader doesn’t want problems like that. He brings you along for that reason. You have to understand that, or otherwise you would just stand there like a lump. So I’m starting this scene in a situation where you have no idea why you’re there. Han says to Lando, “What’s up, pal?” very sarcastically. Lando says, “You’re being put in the carbon freeze.” But he feels miserable about it, powerless. Vader says, “Put him in the carbon freeze” and everybody goes nuts. I’ve changed the scene because the emphasis was on ignorance before. I don’t want it to be on ignorance, I want it to be on knowledge.

CF: No crying, no kissing.

IK: The kissing comes after. The change is just the beginning of the scene. The rest is the same. So I’m just giving everybody their new script pages…

CF: (Disconcerted) I don’t know where I am now.

IK: (Exasperated) All you did before was exclaim, “No!” That’s all you had. Do you want to say, “No!”? You can say, “No!”

CF: Well, I don’t know where I’ll be when he says, “Put him in the carbon freeze.” I could do a big gesture. I could slap Lando or something. How near is he to me?

IK: He’s right next to you.

CF: Could I slap him?

IK: What you really want to say is “You bastard,” but you can’t say that.

CF: Do I have to be so polite? There’s too much politeness about. I could just have the bad manners to slap him.

IK: All right, all right. Great. You look up at Lando and just slap him. Okay? At this point Vader says, “Put him in the carbon…” Now you can grab Han. You don’t want to let him go. Let’s not be rational. I don’t want to be rational at this point.

CF: Right, I don’t want to let him go. But if I do love him, how does he know I love him? Maybe if I threw myself in front of him?

IK: That’s possible. Then, immediately, two stormtroopers come and start pulling you away. That’s when Chewbacca goes crazy. It’s got to be physical action. Lines don’t do it. So let’s say you slap him. (Turns to Billy Dee) Billy, this is the most difficult scene I have in the film. I’ve been going around looking at each person’s point of view, right? I’ve got Boba Fett’s. I’ve got Han’s. I know Chewie’s. I’ve got Vader’s. I’m trying to get what Leia’s is. Right now she has absolute contempt for you. So instead of talking to you, she’ll attack you and at that point two guards come in to pull her off. You see?

BDW: Well, the only thing I feel about that is I’ve been attacked so many times in the movie.

IK: It’s more interesting than lines.

CF: He could even slap me back.

IK: No, he couldn’t.

BDW: What happened to my line “I’m powerless”?

IK: That’s in. You say it to her when you quiet her down. What you are trying to convey is “I’m powerless, can’t you see, I’m powerless to help.” You’re trying to make her understand.

CF: What you’re really saying is that as a man you feel powerless.

BDW: Powerless means “I can’t.” I don’t think that’s right.

IK: (Turns to Carrie) Now you see what a problem it creates if you slap him.

BDW: Well, let’s just try it that way.

(Suddenly, Carrie gives Billy quite a powerful whack.)

BDW: Don’t hit me like that!

CF: Did it hurt?

BDW: Of course it hurt.

CF: I’m sorry. How do you hit someone?

IK: You telegraph it to him.

BDW: If you want to hit me, fake it.

IK: (Concentrating on the lines again) “What’s up, pal?” “You’re being put in the carbon freeze.” “Then why are they here?” “To keep you polite”…

(Ten minutes later…)

DT: (Rather confidentially) Kersh.

IK: Yeah?

DT: Do you want these little pinpricks of steam coming through or not?

IK (His mind on something else) Yeah, yeah.

DT: You do?

IK: Can I have my script? Somebody get my script. It’s on the floor. Thanks. Now, this is what we’re going to do. “What’s up, pal?” “You’re being put into carbon freeze.” “Why are they here?” “To make you behave.” Cut. And at that point…

(The steam is turned on. The noise is stupefying.)

IK: Oh, boy, I’m getting out of here. This is too much.

DT: Turn the steam down, boys.

IK: Turn it down a little. (The noise of the steam dies down.)

DT: Sorry, but we have to blow it up before we can turn it down.

IK: That’s all right. At this pressure it doesn’t make much noise. So while everybody’s getting dressed and ready, I’m going to…

DT: Everybody is dressed.

IK: Oh, are they? I gotta take a leak so bad.

DT: Well, go have your leak while I blow this steam pressure up again.

IK: Yes, blow it up. I’ll be right back.

DT: Watch it, Kersh, you’re too near the edge.

(The incredible noise of the steam at full pressure is heard again.)

(It is 12:50 PM and they’re nearly set for a take.)

IK: Carrie? Where is she? (Shouts) Carrie. (She comes over to him) We’re going to shoot in about five minutes. What’s going to happen is this—I’ve reversed the whole thing…

CF: You talk to Harrison about the changes, but I always feel that you do it behind my back.

IK: No, no, no, we haven’t rehearsed it yet.

CF: But I didn’t know until now.

IK: I couldn’t tell you before.

CF: I would just like to be there when you decide to change things.

IK: (Getting angry) You weren’t here to be there.

CF: (Shouts) I was in the studio!

IK: Okay. Okay.

CF: I yelled at Harrison about the changes.

IK: Don’t yell at Harrison. Yell at me.

CF: There’s no reason for me to be mad at Harrison.

IK: All right, all right. Okay!

CF: But when he came to me with the changes, I got mad at him and it screws us up.

IK: Where is Harrison?

DT: He’s downstairs. We’re getting him up.

CF: He is very angry with me. And he has a total right to be. I should not speak to him in that way…

IK: Okay, okay.

DT: We’re ready, Kersh.

(The steam starts; the voices get even louder.)

CF: Harrison shouldn’t have to come to me with the changes. You should.

IK: He was eager to.

CF: I know he was. And now I have to perform at half an hour’s notice scenes that have been all changed.

IK: Your performance is not changed.

CF: All I’m asking is to be invited to watch you guys get a scene together. It may not center around me, like this one doesn’t, but I’m involved in it.

IK: Okay. Are you clear about it now?

CF: Yes, the only thing I’m not clear about is…

IK: (To himself) Jesus, what a day! I’ve got problems with the actors. Everybody’s furious with everybody else…

(And still the sound of steam. Perplexed and harried, Kersh struggles on, only to be confronted by Dave Prowse, anxious to promote his newly published physical-fitness book. It is not an entirely welcome diversion.)

Dave Prowse: Kersh, I’m going to change the subject. Completely take your mind off all this. My book is just out.

IK: (Baffled) What book?

DP: I’ve written a book called Fitness is Fun and I want to give you a copy.

IK: Really? (Not very convincingly) I would love that.

DP: Yes, it comes out on Saturday.

IK: Great! Lovely! You actually have the time to write a book?

DP: It took me about nine months to write. It’s about exercising. It’s a textbook on weight lifting. You would love it.

IK: Weight lifting! Well, okay, I’ll buy one. (As an aside into the mike) Whew! Boy, this is some scene. It really is some scene.

(Later, Kersh talks to Prowse about Vader’s part in the scene.)

IK: Now, Dave…

DP: (Interrupting him) There’s going to be this big melee going on, isn’t there?

IK: No. There’s no melee. There’s no melee at all! When they finish the dialog you say, “Put him in the carbon freeze,” and that is the moment of realization of what is about to happen. Leia is horrified. She holds on to Han. Chewie goes berserk. Two stormtroopers rush forward… (The steam effect is nightmarishly loud) Jesus, I can’t work with all this steam going. I have to shut all the steam off and do the rehearsal without the steam. You could go nuts with this noise. I know they have to check it all out but...

DT: (Shouts to a stagehand) Steve, hold the steam.

IK: (With relief) Thank you.

DT: Okay, let’s go for a rehearsal. We do everything minus the steam. All right? Action!

(Steam starts slightly.)

IK: Minus the steam!

(The steam persists.)

IK: Oh, no!

DT: Hold your positions and keep quiet.

IK: We have to have the platform coming up, you see. The platform, not the tong. It should be coming up.

DT: Don’t you want to rehearse the whole piece?

IK: No. I want to do the shot now, up to the point where they do their dialog.

DT: All right, gentlemen, we’re going to shoot. Take your positions, please.

IK: (To the actors.) Just do the dialog as you did before.

HF: “What’s going on, pal?”

BDW: “You’re being put into the carbon freeze.”

HF: “Well, why are they here?”

BDW: “To make you behave.”

IK: You see, Billy, you really don’t know. You have to guess at what’s implied when Lando says, “To make you behave.” It’s ambiguous. (The steam is once more deafening) Oh, God! Who needs this?

DT: Stand by. We’re almost ready to shoot.

IK: (An aside into the remote mike) Almost ready for fate to take over! At least nobody has fallen off the set yet. I even have an impulse to jump. It looks so inviting.

(Hardly anything can be heard above the steam.)

DT: We’re going to shoot.

IK: I think you’ve got a little too much steam coming up on the left. We’ve got so many people up here. Jesus Christ! Is there anyone we don’t need?

(Activity on the stage is at a peak.)

DT: Here we go.

IK: All right. Action!

DT: (Very loud indeed) ACTION!

(They go into a take.)

IK: Cut! I don’t know why, but I saw something move up there. Let’s go again right away. Action!


(At 1:45 PM the first shot is achieved. They go again.)

IK: Cut.

DT: That was a beauty, wasn’t it, Kersh? Everything worked. The timing worked fantastically.

IK: (Disappointed) Boba Fett started walking too soon. He screwed me up.

DT: You want to go again?

IK: Yes. Right away.

DT: One more try, please. Now, Boba, wait till Vader stops before you go across. Okay? Right, here we go. ACTION!

(The steam goes on again and they do a third take.)

IK: Cut! Print it. Print those last two takes.

(Kersh moves away from the camera, followed by David Tomblin.)

DT: What did you think of the last one, Kersh?

IK: (Although reluctant to give his opinion) Perfect. In fact, it was very nearly good.


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