Despite his monumental cinematic accolades that include the creation of the Star Wars franchise, George Lucas also holds the dubious honor of having made the most infamous retroactive film edit of all time. However, years after being perpetually tried in the court of fanboy opinion, the mythological mastermind finally makes his defense.
Of course, the controversial moment dates back to the 1997 Special Edition theatrical re-release of the Star Wars trilogy, and the addition of some nascent CGI elements. This included how Lucas famously re-edited the Cantina confrontation in A New Hope between Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt’s debt collector, Greedo.
The scene traditionally depicted a held-up Han Solo sneakily drawing his blaster under the table and proactively shooting Greedo. However, Lucas later decided that he didn’t want the heroic Han to appear as a cold-blooded killer, so the Special Edition was altered, making it appear that Greedo shot his gun first; making Han’s shot an act of self-defense.
It was always a move that both perplexed and exasperated Star Wars purists. However, in an interview with The Washington Post back in 2015 Lucas addressed the mindset behind the alteration of that critical character-building scene in the original Star Wars which has become a ubiquitous meme for irate fans who wanted Han Solo to maintain his initially depicted sinister edge.
As Lucas explains:
“Han Solo was going to marry Leia, and you look back and say, ‘Should he be a cold-blooded killer?’ ” Lucas asks. “Because I was thinking mythologically — should he be a cowboy, should he be John Wayne? And I said, ‘Yeah, he should be John Wayne.’ And when you’re John Wayne, you don’t shoot people [first] — you let them have the first shot. It’s a mythological reality that we hope our society pays attention to.”
While it is always problematic to argue about the nature of a character with the man who created the mythology, it could at least be argued that Lucas’ retroactive editing contradicted the perception of the fans responsible for the film’s initial success that made Special Edition re-releases even possible. Those fans always saw Han more as a duplicitous, lovably amoral pirate with a heart of gold rather than a more polite cowboy.
Indeed, the move spawned ferocious outrage from once-enamored obsessives who saw the move an egregious alteration to the roguish, “survive by any means” way Han Solo was initially presented. In essence, it is generally believed that Lucas unnecessarily nerfed everyone’s favorite scruffy-looking nerf-herder.
By most accounts, the “Han shot first” camp seem to be a very vocal majority in the controversy. And with good reason. But Lucas has spoken, so…