How Studio Interference Almost Changed the Ending of Star Wars

Vice TV's "Icons Unearthed" with Brian Volk-Weiss takes you behind the scenes of a galaxy far, far away.

American actor Harrison Ford, as Hans Solo, on the set of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope written, directed and produced by Georges Lucas.
Photo: Sunset Boulevard | Corbis via Getty Images

One of this summer’s most surprising television events has been Vice TV’s Icons Unearthed: Star Wars. What makes this program — whose latest episode covering the production of Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones, airs Aug. 16at 10 p.m. ET — so compelling is how it somehow manages to be a treasure trove of new information about George Lucas’ space saga.

Even before the internet made information about the original and prequel trilogy easy to come by, Star Wars was the most dissected franchise in motion picture (and pop culture) history. With every bit of minutiae relating to the film’s production having been analyzed to death by this point, what, if anything, is there to learn about Star Wars that we haven’t already heard a million times before?

Enter Brian Volk-Weiss.

The mastermind behind The Toys That Made Us, The Movies That Made Us and At a Toy Store Near You, is the director of Icons Unearthed, and he got the biggest fandom scoop in recent memory by landing Marcia Lucas (ex-wife of George and editor of the original Star Wars) for her first on-camera interview ever. This is a major coup, as Marcia is a key figure in Star Wars lore, and one whose voice hasn’t been heard before with the exception of a long-forgotten newspaper interview.

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For Volk-Weiss and fans everywhere, the interview yielded results. To say the least.

“I’ve been studying Star Wars since I was five,” Volk-Weiss told us at the Den of Geek suite at San Diego Comic-Con, “so I would say over the last 10 years, I probably learned maybe one or two new things about Star Wars in any given year.” This all changed for him after his six-hour interview with Marcia Lucas for Icons Unearthed in which he “probably learned 50 to 60 new things.”

“Almost every five or six minutes, she said something where I couldn’t really pay attention to what else she was saying because I was like still trying to recover from what she had just dropped,” he stated, still reeling in the best possible way from the interview. “I was there six hours, and that probably happened 20 times.”

Arguably the biggest nugget of new info that Volk-Weiss gleaned is how the ending of Star Wars could have been incredibly anti-climactic if Fox studio execs had their way. In the interview, Lucas revealed that her then-husband had to fight for the final battle since the movie was over-budget and beset with production difficulties. Which is to say that in another universe, Star Wars ended with, as Volk-Weiss told us, the Millennium Falcon fighting off “four tie fighters.”

Can you even imagine?

Obviously George Lucas won this battle, and the Death Star destruction run went on to become one of the most iconic moments in 1970s cinema. But what could have been is fascinating to ponder. Thanks to the in-depth work on Icons: Unearthed, these previously unknown bits of information form a bigger picture of how when it comes to a juggernaut like the Star Wars franchise, there is still much to be learned — so be grateful we have researchers like Brian Volk-Weiss leading the way to unearth this important knowledge about a galaxy far, far away.

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Icons Unearthed: Star Wars airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. ET on Vice TV.