Starburst Memories: Revenge of the Jedi

Wish that I had a Nien Nunb!

Wish that I had a Nien Nunb!

Dom Dirk has added RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983) to his alternative 100, so I have delved into the archive at Dirk Towers to explore some of the points that he raises in his entertaining piece.

The observation that most people assume that George Lucas directed all of the trilogy was not lost of the Directors Guild of America (DGA). They slapped a heavy fine on Lucas for not giving Irwin Kershner sufficient prominence in the opening credits for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980). Kershner didn’t escape censure either for being complicit in defying the DGA rules, leading him to complain, “The DGA works for me, I don’t work for the DGA.”

In Starburst volume 1, number 11 (the first copy I ever read) they have an article celebrating Lucas’ divorce from Hollywood. THE EMPIRE … had brought in 70% of Fox’s revenue in 1980, so Lucas was keen to increase his share by moving his production entirely ‘inhouse’ at the newly built Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, California. He also made a bid for Pinewood Studios over here in England by telex. The new-fangled technology spooked the suits and knocked it back with, “Telex purchase bids are just not on old boy.”

“By George he’s done it!” declares Starburst as his increased independence is announced. He resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the home of Oscar), the Writers’ Guild and the DGA in a manoeuvre designed to put Lucasfilm in a ‘strike-busting’ position to prevent the delay in producing the next film. At this time, according to the magazine, he was committed to producing all nine films with a three year gap in between. The DGA was behaving ‘like a trade union’ with its impositions. Lucas was scouting for a British director to avoid any further issues (as they are exempt from the DGA rules.) Marquand eventually got the job for this reason.

Starburst Revenge155

The Starburst article is titled REVENGE OF THE JEDI which was what the film was known as until December 1982 when the mutterings of a change were being circulated. ‘REVENGE’ was half-way around the world before ‘RETURN’ had chance to put its boots on, thanks to long-lead in times for the manufacture of toys and cinema programming schedules.

Revenge Poster156

A teaser poster was released in the autumn of 1982. Super geeks will be intrigued by Luke and Darth’s light-sabre colour. Skywalker jnr appears to have Sith red while his dad’s is Jedi Blue. Surely some mistake?

Ackbar Production note158

Admiral Akbar was the poster-boy for the new film. He had his own syndicated comic strip and a pre-released action figure, but Captain Fish-Face is no Boba Fett.


I remember my friends and I still referred to the film interchangeably as REVENGE and RETURN when it was eventually released a year later. Dom-Dirk quotes the official line that Lucas insisted on the change as the concept of revenge was not within the Jedi code. There is another version of the story available. RETURN was always Lucas’ preferred option but was persuaded by producer Howard Kazanjian that REVENGE would be stronger for audiences. When audience testing was conducted in the latter half of 1982, they expressed a preference for RETURN.

Which story is most likely to be true?  A version that presents Lucas as an artist who is keen to maintain the integrity of the spirituality that underpins his narrative vision; or a version where Lucas is a dollar-hungry tycoon who desires to harvest as many bucks as possible?

I’ll let you decide.

I’ll say just two words, “Yoda” and “Vodaphone”.

Dirk Malcolm