The Impossible Situation: Altman Doing Star Wars

by on Jan.01, 2014

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Kershner making it happen on the Carbon Freeze set of The Empire Strikes Back

George Lucas’ first choice to direct Return of the Jedi was David Lynch. He wanted a gun for hire that didn’t belong to the Director’s Guild of America (i.e. someone not American) or an up-and-comer brazen enough to not care about getting blacklisted by the DGA (Lucas quit the DGA after they fined him for having his director credit appear at the end rather than the beginning of Star Wars). Lynch was the latter and declined the offer to make Dune instead, so Lucas went with British television veteran Richard Marquand.

I’ve seen Dune a thousand times and I still can’t really imagine what a Star Wars directed by David Lynch would be like, though I guess we get glimpses of what could’ve been in Jedi’s opening act, with Jabba’s plump grossness akin to the fat repulsive Baron of House Harkonnen in Dune, along with an entire action sequence staged around an abyssal/vaginal/rectal hole in the ground.

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The sick Sarlacc Pit from Return of the Jedi

But I can imagine what Robert Altman would do to Star Wars, thanks to The Making of Empire Strikes Back and whoever had the genius idea to strap a mic to director Irvin Kershner and record him on set the day they put Han Solo in carbon freeze (a full transcript of the recording appears in the book).

The star of Altman’s Star Wars is not Luke or Lucas, but Kershner as he relentlessly works out his most problematic scene, hitting up Ford, Fisher et al while trying to get at the truth of what Billy Dee Williams calls offhandedly “an impossible situation:” our heroes’ loss of agency as Han Solo is frozen in carbonite in front of his horrified friends and shipped off to his presumable death. This is one of two impossible situations orchestrated by Vader on Cloud City, the other occurring a few minutes later when Luke’s solution to losing his lightsaber hand and learning he is Vader’s son is to toss himself into the oblivion of an air shaft (also to his presumable death). In both situations, our heroes’ knowledge of the impossibility of their situation is key. This is Vader’s signature move and one Kershner wrestles out of the script. As he explains on set to Fisher: “See, the whole scene was based on ignorance before and I want it to be based on knowledge.”

Other highlights from the transcript include Fisher obsessing over her professional insecurities especially as they relate to Ford, which plays out like a recurring gag (Fisher: “So now he’s pissed off because I’m pissed off, because I have no right to be pissed off at him.”), David Prowse (Darth Vader’s body) unsolicitedly pitching Kershner his new fitness book called Fitness Is Fun, and Ford coming up with the iconic Leia/Han “I love you” / “I know” refrain on the spot.

For those interested, I’ve transcribed the entire recording below (it took forever, enjoy!):

___

Irvin Kershner (Director): This set is so peculiar that we’ve got to keep watching little relationships or the thing – like this light, I worry whether it’s too bright back here.

Peter Suschitzky (DP): [laughs] I think you’re just worrying about everything now.

Kershner: [directing stormtroopers] I want the camera back there, which will be out of the way. Once I get them in position, then we’re just going to take two cameras and do all the action, just do the whole bloody thing.

David Tomblin (1st AD): Alright.

Kershner: [to Harrison Ford]: Good morning.

Harrison Ford (Han Solo): How are you?

Kershner: I tried to call you yesterday. I wanted to see you, I wanted to talk with you about the scene and I couldn’t get you. I tried very hard late in the afternoon and early in the evening. I wanted to talk to you about the scene because I’ve been working on it and there are a lot of things that I’ve sort of discovered about it, [laughs] in looking at it.

Ford: You’ve got one other problem – I tried to tell the art department about it a long time ago. The shirt is not the same shirt. It’s clear there’s no jacket on.

Kershner: They’ll take it off when you go down. We missed a beat, you know why?

Ford: Why?

Kershner: I’ve been to real executions and I wanted this to be like an execution.

Ford: So did I.

Kershner: They strip people halfway down. And it’s always so demeaning. Do you know what they do in the gas chamber? They put black shorts on you, so the people who handle you afterward won’t get the gas on their hands, which burns. So we’ve got to make it look like an execution, like you’re at a gallows, except here it’s a pit, you see.

Ford: Okay, so you’ve got the shirt with no sleeves. Well, do you want to go talk?

Kershner: Yeah. I want to set up the scene, so they can work on just the entrance. It’s only an entrance. Then I thought we’d go and lock ourselves away for a few minutes.

Ford: I’ll be in makeup. Are you going to block it out?

Kershner: Yeah, I’ll block it out. Harrison, there’s one thing I discovered that will affect us here. You [Han Solo] have no way of knowing that you’re the one that they’re going to do anything to. They’re bringing all three of you in, but you don’t know anything, she doesn’t know anything. You’ve never been in this place. We have to add some lines to that.

[Harrison departs].

Kershner: [to Suschitzky] It might be nice if the stairway was much dimmer.

Suschitzky: I can’t make it that much dimmer without putting filters on because they’re fluorescent lights. They can’t be dimmed.

Kershner: Oh, I see.

Suschitzky: Who are you bringing in?

Kershner: The whole group is coming in and I’m just wondering where the strongest shot is. I could bring them from the back. In other words, I can bring them down here and place them and then reverse it for the master when they go back.

Tomblin: You’ve got to reverse on the set anyway.

Kershner: Wait a minute. [looking] There’s something nice here – a high angle. This isn’t bad, right through the stuff. Yeah, oh yeah, this works. I never looked up here. That’s the trouble with this set. You can’t move around. If we could just move this bloody thing, thank you. [Crew moves object] You didn’t see the rushes, did you?

Suschitzky: No, I didn’t, no.

Kershner: Oh shit, well, I want you to run over to the editing room and see it, okay? This morning. Because it will help us to visualize everything. [Suschitzky agrees and Kershner returns to his shot.] Oh boy, I got it, I got it. Boy, I saw something really interesting with the 150 [mm lens].

Suschitzky: I want to see how wide.

Kershner: Let me look at it with the 100 now. You got a finder?

Suschitzky: At the moment, there’s a 40.

Kershner: Try looking at a 100. Take a look, just for the hell of it. [yells to actors] Alright, action! Walk! [to Suschitzky] Then I’ll cut in to a couple of close shots. I’ll cut in to a closer shot of Vader and Lando when Vader says, “Put him in the Carbon Freezing Chamber.” Bam! Cut to close-up there of reaction and then cut back to the long shot as the Wookiee goes crazy and starts throwing things around.

Tomblin: Don’t you want to shoot it as a master and just pick the points that you want?

Kershner: I’m talking about the cutting. But I do want to bring it in—

Kelvin Pike (Camera Operator): I think both cameras want to end up dead center, you know, both shots.

Kershner: On the longer lens it should be over there, yeah. The symmetry doesn’t work with a longer lens. On the wide lens, you’ve got to be symmetrical. The group is nice. It’s a good group now, don’t you think?

Pike: Oh, I do. It’s excellent.

Kershner: It all works. I think the grouping is fine; it all works. We can even put stormtroopers here, you see, out of focus. We can enclose the frame with a couple of stormtroopers in the foreground, which would give you a whole other dimension.

[break in recording, we move to Kershner’s office]

Kershner: As Luke comes to this point, this is the first time that he sees Vader.

Norman Reynolds (Production Designer): Yes.

Kershner: His natural reaction will be either to jump back or to just begin to back up.

Reynolds: Yes, that’s how I see it also.

Kershner: He starts to back-up and we suddenly reveal the set on a wide-angle shot and, my God, he’s going out onto this pinnacle. Luke turns his sword on. We don’t even see what he sees and he starts to back up. As he starts backing up in close-up, on his face, we fill up the frame with his head and there is Vader, just taking the last few steps. That works nicely.

Reynolds. Yes.

Kershner: I better make a note of that, because it works so well. See, that’s why the model helps. Without the model, I’d never see it.

Reynolds. Yeah.

Kershner: Thank you for bringing it to my attention, because now I’ve got that – it always worried me. Next? Medical [the last set of the film].

Reynolds: Now, this is just a sketch, but anyway, there is a question of the round window or the square window.

Kershner: Don’t we want a round window?

Reynolds: Gary has said that while he thinks it ought to be a square window, I don’t know. I wanted to bring it to your attention at this point to get your reaction to it.

Kershner: Why should it be a square window?

Reynolds: His thinking, really, was that if there’s part of the square window in the frame, it sells the idea of it being on a ship.

Kershner: Uh-huh. They don’t have round windows on that ship?

Reynolds: It can be whatever window you like. We could make it round or whatever. That was just his feeling. I do want to get –

Kershner: First of all, Luke and Leia end up standing in front of it, you see? Then, we come around so they actually look at the Millennium Falcon in here, at the end. See, this would be lovely to shoot against bluescreen. Then we see the droid working for a moment. Then we pull back and we see the people walking here. Now, that will be done in a reverse.

Reynolds. Yeah.

Kershner: Luke gets off the table in a close-up, you see, and Leia walks past him and we go with her, coming to the window. I don’t know if that window looks so elegant at the end there. We have the window, right?

Reynolds: I’d have to make one.

Kershner: Can’t you use the window from the reactor station?

Reynolds: We won’t have shot it.

Kershner: We won’t have shot it?

Reynolds: We won’t have shot it. They’re anxious to get – I think this is Carrie’s last thing, isn’t it? They’re anxious that she should finish.

Kershner: I see, I see. Oh boy. Have we worked out this business of Luke’s hand?

Reynolds: That’s the other thing I just wanted to talk to you about, just to get your reactions.

Kershner: Well, we have to come up with something.

Reynolds: I’ll come up with something – is it a stainless steel thing?

Kershner: Wait a minute. I’ve got to turn this tape recorder off now because it’s sort of secret material.

[Reynolds laughs. Recording recommences in Kershner’s trailer as the director and Ford go over the upcoming scene; it is 11am]

Kershner: The thing that I realized was that you have no idea what you’re doing there.

Ford: The last time you saw us was in the cell when Lando walks out and I say “You’re a real hero,” right?

Kershner: Yeah.

Ford: And Chewie and Leia lift me up.

Kershner: Yeah, and Lando was trying to help you.

Ford: When he walked out?

Kershner: Yeah. So, okay. That’s where we left it.

Ford: So I know that I’m doomed, more or less.

Kershner: Yeah.

Ford: I mean, what does a bounty hunter mean? The script never says what a bounty hunter means, but if a bounty hunter doesn’t mean that he’s deadlier than shit, [laughs] then we’ve lost the dramatic value of the bounty hunter.

Kershner: Right, he looks deadly, yeah, right.

Ford: I’m dead. I’ve got a debt to Jabba the Hutt. I never paid my debt; this guy is coming after me.

Kershner: Yeah, except what we’ve learned is that Jabba doesn’t want you hurt. He wants you delivered intact. But you don’t know that.

Ford: I don’t know that. All I know is that since I haven’t paid my debt, I’m going to be bumped off. This guy is going to bump me off unless I can talk him out of it. I have never had the opportunity. There’s no scene where I try and talk anybody out of this.

Kershner: No.

Ford: I never say a word. They’ve got us in the jail and that’s it. Now, this is no time for a grave-side speech, but um…

Kershner: Yeah, the situation looks helpless because they’ve got troops, they’ve got Boba Fett.

Ford: But still, Han would think there was a way of getting out.

Kershner: Let me tell you what the rationale is. Why do you think that Leia and Chewie were brought in here?

Ford: In there?

Kershner: Yeah. I know why they were brought to the Carbon Freezing Chamber. It came to me. They’re brought in so that you would not make any problems. Because if you tried to make a break, if you tried to jump them, if you try to do anything, if you try not to go into that pit, they’ll say, “Okay, we’re going to kill them.”

Ford: Right, okay. I mean, Chewie tries to –

Kershner: And you stop him, so he wouldn’t get himself killed.

Ford: For a character that was built around George’s line, “Give me a good fight any day over all this hiding and freezing…”

Kershner: Right.

Ford: Well, I mean he had this line in the first script. That is the definition of Han’s character. Otherwise, I’d decide to join Chewbacca in the fight, push as many of them as I could over the edge, ‘cause we’re all dead anyway.

Kershner: Okay, so we need a scene –

Ford: So it could be a few words between me and Billy Dee.

Kershner: You can see it in his face; you realize that this is not the way he intended this thing to work, that this thing got out of hand. And as you’re stepping into that place and you see him standing there, he looks miserable. He looks miserable in the jail, too.

Ford: Billy is not in this scene.

Kershner: Yes he is. He’s standing right there.

Ford: That’s what I’m saying. He doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t contribute anything. What if, when I come down and see the others, I look at him and say, “What’s going on?” You know, I assume it’s something that he is still in charge of.

Kershner: “What are you doing? What are you up to now?” [Kershner writes down dialogue] Alright.

Ford: “What’s the plan now, pal?”

Kershner: “What are you up to?” Let’s do it cliché; it’s much better. “What are you up to now, buddy?”

Ford: [laughs] “What are you up to, buddy?”

Kershner: You’re going to be a guinea pig.

Ford: Lando says something about, “They think you’ll be a lot easier to transport frozen,” or whatever it is. My hands are chained behind me, right?

Kershner: Yeah.

Ford: Just bind them like that, in the front. They’ve got to take the bindings off in front when they put me up on the thing, because my hands are like this.

Kershner: Yeah, that’s right.

Ford: I have to come in with the manacles on. Now, that will give me the idea that something’s up. They’re coming in dressed the same way.

Kershner: I don’t think they should be. You’re the only one who should be manacled.

Ford: I’m coming in different than anybody’s seen me before, manacled like this.

Kershner: I think you should be manacled and they take them off when they send you into the pit.

Ford: I should be manacled because the – it won’t stop the love scene. I don’t have to put my arms around her to kiss her. It’s got to be rough, brisk, and over with.

Kershner: Absolutely. I don’t intend to screw around.

Ford: All I’ll have to do is shake the guy off who’s holding me and then Billy can say, “It’s alright.” Then I can walk over to him and the whole scene with him would be this: “Save your strength for another time, Chewie.”

Kershner: “When the odds are better,” yeah. That’s alright.

Ford: “When times are better.” But this part here… [refers to Leia-Han dialogue]… I’d just as soon….

Kershner: No, no, no, I’m not going to do that.

Ford: Yeah.

Kershner: I’m not going to do it. [pause] “I wish I could have told you before.”

Ford: I think she ought to just say, “I love you,” as I’m passing by her.

Kershner: “I love you.” “Just remember that, because I’ll be back.”

Ford: No, I –

Kershner: Yeah, I’m just saying how it would go –

Ford: If she said, “I love you,” I could say very nicely, “Yeah, I know. Don’t worry, I’ll be back.”

Kershner: Yeah, you’ve got to say, “I’ll be back.”

Ford: [laughs] But if she says, “I love you,” and I say, “I know,” it’s beautiful and it’s acceptable and it’s funny.

Kershner: [laughs] Right. Okay. Now, I only have one big problem here.

Ford: But I also have to say to her, “Don’t worry about this,” in some way.

Kershner: No, you can’t. You can’t because you don’t know whether this is the end or not.

Ford: The point is: I’m not worried about myself anymore, I’m worried about her.

Kershner: You know what? I may keep Vader out of there until the end. After all this stuff is over, Vader comes in. He walks right in and all he says is, “Put him in the Carbon Freezing Chamber.”

Ford: That’s beautiful, you could start –

Kershner: Why should he be watching all this crap going on? He shouldn’t even be there.

Ford: Yeah, but this is it. He’s there because he’s telling Boba Fett –

Kershner: Then he’s got to watch all this stuff.

Ford: He could walk away.

Kershner: No, he couldn’t. [laughs] There’s no place to walk to. I’m really stuck there. See, I hate a scene where the bad guy waits and finally says, “Enough of this horseshit, now let’s get on with it.” That’s really what the scene is.

Ford: I’m coming right back. I’m getting a cup of coffee.

[Ford exits]

Kershner: [sighs, resumes writing, slowly speaks dialogue out loud] Group comes in, stops near Lando. Four troopers bring them in. “What if he doesn’t survive?” Han looks to Vader.

[Ford returns]

Kershner: Okay, I’ve got something interesting. “We’ll compensate you.” Now we cut back. “What’s up, pal?” or “buddy.”

Ford: “Pal.”

Kershner; “What’s up, pal?” That’s nice and it’s ironic. And he says uh…

Ford: How about “hero”?

Kershner: No, you’ve already done that.

Ford: Why do they have to watch?

Kershner: So that you’ll behave. It’s sadistic. No, you see, the problem here is, I’ve got a two part harmony going.

Ford: What would be great, I’ll tell you what…

Kershner: Leia: “Why? Why?”

Ford:… if Chewie takes Leia, then turns her against him, puts his arms around her, doesn’t let her watch, you know what I mean?

Kershner: That’s not bad; that’s interesting. But there’s something powerful about her face while she’s watching you disappear.

Ford: Oh no, I don’t mean that she doesn’t watch.

Kershner: If he hugs her at the end…

Ford: I just can’t see that they would stand there and watch. Best friends watching the execution. It doesn’t happen… You don’t watch something like that.

Kershner: I think they have to.

Ford: I think you can’t say to Chewie, “I’ll be back,” or anything like that.

Kershner: No, no, no, no, you can’t.

Ford: How about if I say to him, “Save your strength. I’ll be alright. Look after her,” you know what I mean?

Kershner: “Look after her.” Right. [A crew member enters the room and delivers some food, and Kershner thanks them.] “Look after her.” Chewie barks dolefully.

Ford: And as I turn, she can say, sotto voce… “I love you.”

Kershner: [continues to speak slowly what he’s writing down] Leia: “I love you.” And Han says, “I know.”

Ford: Yeah.

Kershner: “Yeah, I know. I’ll be back.” The kiss. Walks onto platform. [Puts pen down.] Better scene.

Ford: Now, how can we stage the kiss so it works? If they already have me by the arms – you know how short she is. If they have me by the arms and they’re pulling me back, you know what I’m saying?

Kershner: I’m going to get this typed up.

Ford: Great.

Kershner: And give it to Lando.

Ford: But look, see, if I’m standing here talking to her like this, and Vader says, “Put him in the Carbon Freeze,” and the two guys come up and pull me back by my arms like this, right?

Kershner: Yeah. Alright, let me go get this – I’ll be right back – I want to continue.

[Kershner exits and finds Billy Dee Williams]

Kershner: I’ve got some changes. I’ve been working on the scene all night and I’m just going to get it typed up, unless you don’t need it typed, unless you want to write it in.

Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian): I will.

Kershner: I’m doing something more interesting. So what happens is, as they come down toward you, Han says to you, “What’s up, pal?” Meaning “pal” in a very derogatory way, and you say, “You’re being put into carbon freeze,” very softly to him.

Williams: You know, I had that thought yesterday, that’s when I figured I’d –

Kershner: Right, right, then Han says, “Then why are they here?” Because he’s concerned about Leia and Chewie, right? And so are you. That’s what’s interesting. “Then why are they here?” And you say, “To keep you polite,” which is ironic, you know? She says, “You know that could kill him” – as if you’re responsible. And you say, “I’m powerless.” It’s between these old friends who are really suffering. You’re suffering, he’s suffering, Leia’s suffering, you understand? The scene looked good, by the way. I saw it already, what we shot yesterday.

Williams: You don’t think it’s giving away something too soon?

Kershner: No, no, no. It’s not giving anything away.

Williams: I mean, Lando’s unpredictable – that was the whole point, wasn’t it? I mean, you don’t really know where he’s coming from.

Kershner: Yeah, that’s right. But you’ve already had the jail scene. It’s very good. [Kershner calls out across stage] Kay! [Script continuity Kay Rawlings comes over] Kay, could you type up these two pages and make a couple of copies? The master’s being set up, which is the entrance. They’re ready?

Ford: [calling over to Kershner] Are you going back to the trailer?

Kershner: I’m going back to get my stuff. [to Williams, as Ford exits] How would you like to stand next to your best friend while they’re sending him to his death?

Williams: There was a different point of view about this character before, wasn’t there?

Kershner: It’s all changed, yeah. He’s much more interesting, I think. Much more interesting. [to a stagehand] If you’re going down, could you give this to Harrison, please? Thank you. [Sighs, long pause, as he starts blocking; a few minutes later, Kershner walks over to Carrie Fisher.]

Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia): Hi.

Kershner: Hi. I’ve just changed the scene.

Fisher: I know, Harrison told me.

Kershner: Yeah, I just changed it because I had a million ways to go and nothing was really good because it didn’t answer one important thing: Why you are here to watch it. Why not just get him out of jail and just do it? It doesn’t make sense, does it?

Fisher: No.

Kershner: Well, there’s only one reason, and they do it when they take people to executions in order to keep you from fighting, from making a mess, from trying to take certain people with you. Vader doesn’t want any problems.

Fisher: Okay.

Kershner: Meanwhile, Han says, “What’s up, pal?” very sarcastically. Lando says, “You’re being put in a carbon freeze,” and he feels miserable about that. He’s beginning to feel powerless. “And why are they here?” And Lando says, “To keep you polite.” And you say, “You know, that could kill him.” See, the whole scene was based on ignorance before and I want it to be based on knowledge.

Fisher: No declaring, no kissing?

Kershner: Oh sure, all that continues, the kissing, everything. This is just the beginning of the scene that changes. I’m just getting everybody their pages.

[The stage continues to be prepped for the rehearsal.]

Fisher: You wrote this other part without me.

Kershner: No, no, no, it’s just the first piece.

Fisher: There’s nothing Leia can bargain for. There’s nothing I can do.

Kershner: That’s why you’re all here, to make Han realize that there’s nothing that he can do, that you’re all powerless.

Fisher: Well, it doesn’t keep me from like – I could slap Lando or something, I don’t know. How near is he to me.

Kershner: He’s right next to you.

Fisher: Could I slap him?

Kershner: [pause] Let’s see. “To keep you polite.” “You bastard!” is really what you would say, “You bastard!” but you can’t say that.

Fisher: Do I have to be polite? I could just have the bad manners to slap him.

Kershner: You look up at him and you just haul off and slap him? Now, you could grab Han. You don’t want to let him go.

Fisher: No, I don’t want to let him go.

Kershner: Yeah, immediately two stormtroopers come and start pulling you away and that’s when Chewbacca goes crazy. Yeah, that’s good. I think you would grab him and not let him go. It’s got to be physical action. Lines don’t do it.

Fisher: I know.

Kershner: Alright, so let’s say you slap him, because you don’t know what the hell he’s doing.

Fisher: I just think he’s scum. I wouldn’t even dignify him with any kind of conversation at all. If he’s stupid enough to buy anything that Vader said and thought that he was going to get what he wanted.

Kershner: He believed him.

Fisher: Clearly, Vader has a reputation, but Lando thinks he’s the one man who Vader is going to make a partner out of it. He’s got to be an asshole. I would just have more contempt for him.

Kershner: Okay, so you would slap him? You’re not punching him, are you?

Fisher: I’d do as much as I could before they pulled me off of him.

Kershner: Okay, okay, alright. Billy! [to Fisher] This is the most difficult scene I have in the film. I’ve been going crazy. [to Williams] Look, we’re trying to come to a conclusion. I’m going around, looking at each person’s point of view here, right? I’ve got Boba Fett’s, I’ve got Vader’s, I’ve got Han’s. I know what Chewie’s is. I’m trying to get what hers is. Vader is suckering you in and you’re buying it. So she has absolute contempt for you now, which is maintained right through the choking scene, right? She’ll attack you, you see? And at that point, the two guards come in and pull her off, you see?

Fisher: Pull me off before I actually knee you.

Williams: The only thing I feel about that is I’ve been attacked so much in this movie.

Kershner: That’s what’s good. See, then, there’s redemption. If you don’t go to the bottom—

Fisher: No, basically all I’ll do is a girl attack. I just slap you.

Kershner: But it’s interesting.

Fisher: You can slap me back.

Kershner: No, no, he wouldn’t do that.

Williams: I don’t want to do that, I don’t think so.

Kershner: When you finally quiet her down, Lando says, “I’m powerless.”

Fisher: It should be mean.

Kershner: “I’m powerless, you bitch!” That’s the whole point, see, the line is not neutral, “I’m powerless”—it’s [angry whisper] “I’m powerless.”

Williams: It’s an impossible situation.

Kershner: Let’s try it. It’s the only way we’ll know.

[Suddenly Fisher gives Williams quite a powerful whack.]

Williams: Don’t hit me like that!

Fisher: Did it hurt?

Williams: Of course it hurt.

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

Williams: I’ll just stop you. If you want to hit me, fake it. You know how to fake a hit.

Fisher: [laughs] But really grab me.

Williams: I’ll grab you, don’t worry.

[They rehearse it.]

Kershner: Okay, alright, so we’ll try that. We’ll see if that works.

[Later: It is 12:50pm, and they’re nearly ready for a take.]

Ford: Did you change this? [referring to new typed pages]

Kershner: Yeah, I think it sounds better if he says, “Make you behave.”

Ford: Nobody told me this.

Kershner: I’m going to do a rehearsal now. I’m gonna do it.

Ford: Okay.

[Kershner calls for Fisher.]

Kershner: Carrie, what’s going to happen is, Boba Fett says to Vader, and you can hear it, “What if he doesn’t survive? He’s worth a lot to me.” “The Empire will compensate you for the loss. Put him in.” That’s the first you really know of the danger. You say, “No!” I think that there has to be a reaction on your part and then Chewie goes crazy. So I’ve reversed the whole thing.

Fisher: I resent that I love Han and he knows…

Kershner: We’ve got to find a way of doing it so that we don’t say cliché things.

Fisher: Harrison was here while you were making changes and I always feel like it’s behind my back, that you’re rehearsing.

Kershner: No, no, no. This we haven’t rehearsed yet. This we’re going to rehearse.

Fisher: Yeah, but I don’t know that, I—

Kershner: See, I couldn’t tell you before.

Fisher: I’m just talking about the other thing that you guys started to rewrite and I wasn’t there. I always feel like, “It’s the bimbo again.” They can’t do anything with me, I guess.

Kershner: No, it’s not the bimbo.

Fisher: [irate tone] I would just like to be there. I don’t even need to say anything…

Kershner: You weren’t here, you weren’t here!

Fisher: You’ve got to know I’m here in the studio.

Kershner: Okay, alright, okay.

Fisher: And then I yelled at Harrison.

Kershner: Yeah, don’t yell at him, yell at me.

Fisher: I did and now Harrison’s angry at me.

Kershner: No, he’s not angry at you.

Fisher: Well, he thinks I’m angry at him for no reason and I’m not angry…

Kershner: See, I’ve worked on it for two days now and I have not been able to come to any conclusion. The scene is totally illogical unless we obfuscate.

Fisher: Alright, but there’s no reason for me to be mad at him and I got mad at him. Because he came to me with the changes and I thought, Wait!

Kershner: Because I had given to him the page first, and I haven’t given it to Lando and I hadn’t given it to you.

Fisher: His assistant was coming to me, but I mean, it’s all because of a mistake. It’s like I’m a day worker.

Kershner: No, you’re not a day worker.

Fisher: I know that. But then I get mad at him and then it fucks us up.

Kershner: Okay. Where is Harrison?

Crew member: He’s right there. Harrison!

Fisher: So now he’s pissed off because I’m pissed off, because I have no right to be pissed off at him. And that’s totally valid.

Kershner: Because he feels very insecure about coming up with any ideas at all.

Fisher: He’s not insecure—I never even speak!

Kershner: No, he feels insecure. You can speak at any time, with any scene at any moment. You can stop a scene in the middle at any time.

Fisher: I don’t know. As you can see, he is very angry, as he has a total right to be because I would not speak to him. I’m sorry. So it may play well for the first part of the scene, but if we have to kiss each other, there might be trouble.

Kershner: No, I’ll fix it, I’ll fix it.

Fisher: He shouldn’t have to come to me; he can come to you.

Kershner: He was eager.

Fisher: I know he was.

Kershner: He was eager because he was worried about the scene.

Fisher: And I was stupid. But I…

Kershner: And I’ve been very worried about it, I’ve been so worried about this scene. I worked on it yesterday afternoon until I had such a headache. You know, I worked on it all day Saturday and Sunday. I came to no good conclusions because I realized the illogicality.

Fisher: There’s certain information I should at least have for myself, where I can at least come to the conclusion for myself while I’m watching you guys do a scene that may not center around me.

Kershner: Okay, okay, I’ll take care of that. Do you want me to do it now or later?

Fisher: It’s always been a precarious relationship anyway.

Kershner: Why?

Fisher: Because I do shit and because he was bored with everything. “When you’re older, we’ll all tell you about it.”

Crew member: We’ve got to put the steam in now and you’re in the firing line.

[The stagehands prepare for the shot and the conversation is interrupted.]

Tomblin: [speaking through a bullhorn] Has everyone got their heads on and you’re ready? Alright, Dave [Prowse], put your head on, please. Okay, start walking. Blow out the steam now.

Kershner: [speaking quietly to Tomblin] I don’t want to do this scene. Some of the actors are all angry at each other. [laughs] Everybody’s furious with each other. Carrie went crazy.

Tomblin: The only person we haven’t given a position yet is Vader.

Kershner: He can come in and we’ll give him a position on this one.

Suschitzky: It’s still too clean around here. Do we need some smoke as well?

Kershner: Yeah, it looks clean. It really looks clean. Yeah, with all that steam and everything, it still looks—I think we need…

Suschitzky: What do we need in the foreground?

Kershner: There’s nothing there. Yeah, we need a big pile of steam right there. There’s nothing there at all and I’ll be shooting the scene right there. You really need it. I want to see the CO2.

Tomblin: [on the bullhorn] Dave—he wants to see the CO2, in the foreground please.

[Another test is performed.]

Kershner: Everything has to work now.

Tomblin: [on the bullhorn] Alright, here we go! Action!

[More CO2 effects as the scene is blocked.]

Kershner: That’s better. Is Vader in the right spot?

[They do a take.]

Tomblin: How did that work, timing-wise?

Kershner: Very well. [to Williams] What’s nice is when they get to the bottom of the steps, you just turn away.

Williams: Alright, now, when Han says something to me, do you want me to turn toward him?

Kershner: No, don’t turn to him in this shot, okay?

Williams: Okay.

Kershner: Because I want the shot only to work until the moment that Boba Fett walks over to him. Then I’m going to cut into the dialogue.

Williams: Okay.

Ford: I come up behind him while that other scene goes on?

Kershner: No, I’m taking it to the moment when Boba Fett walks away. As soon as Boba Fett walks away, you’re all standing back here and that’s when you say, “What are we doing now?”

Tomblin: It’s gone quite well.

Kershner: [to Fisher] Carrie, you’ve never been in this place, it’s something new.

Fisher: Alright.

Kershner: It’s an industrial complex of some sort. But why you’re here, you don’t know.

Fisher: Okay. Harrison and I will probably not be speaking to one another for another couple of hours. I tried to apologize and he just waved me away.

Kershner: That’s why I love him, because he’s sensitive [laughs].

Fisher: So am I.

Kershner: What are we gonna do. [laughs] Did I imply that you’re not?

Fisher: [amused] No.

Kershner: Okay, okay. We’ll work it out, we’ll work it out.

[More scene prep.]

David Prowse (Darth Vader): If I can just change the subject completely and take your mind off of it: Have I given you a copy of my book?

Kershner: No. What book is that?

David Prowse: I’ve written a book called Fitness Is Fun. I want to give you a copy. I brought one in, so sometime this afternoon.

Kershner: Just published? Oh, great.

David Prowse: Yeah, I’m doing a signing at Harrods on Saturday.

Kershner: Gee, that’s great, that’s lovely you took the time to do that.

David Prowse: Yeah, I worked on it every Sunday all the way through. It took me the best part of nine months to do it. It’s a lot to do with exercising. Your son would love it, because it’s really a textbook on weight training.

Kershner: Okay, well, I’ll buy one and have you sign it and give it to him. Boy, this is some scene. [More stage prep.] Oh boy. [to Peter Mayhew] Now, Chewie, we’ve got to talk. Of course, you’re a Wookie and you don’t know what this place is. When he says, “You’re going into a carbon freeze,” you don’t know what a carbon freeze is. All you know is it’s dangerous. Give us one of your reactions, then do the growl. When Vader says, “Put him in,” she says, “No!” And the two troopers will grab him. I want to work it out so that you will grab one of them, this one first, and—[yells across the stage] Peter! Peter Diamond!

Peter Diamond (Stunt Coordinator): Yes!

Kershner: While we’re waiting, let’s do some work! [laughs] This is going to be dangerous, yeah. You’ve got to work out something, so he can take you and start to tussle with you. The gun comes out of your hands, clunk, and wham!

Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca): Do you want a backhanded swipe?

Kershner: It could be. Okay, you’ve got that. Now, David!—no, another David—I’ve got too many Davids. [to Prowse] Now, you’re here, he [Boba Fett] walks over to you, and he says two lines of dialogue. And then you say, “Put him in.” Okay, at that moment…

David Prowse: There’s a big melee going on, isn’t there?

Kershner: No, there’s no melee going on. When you finish the dialogue, you say, “Put him in.” At that moment, the realization that it’s about to happen takes place. Leia’s horrified, she holds on to him, he picks up his big clammy arm and goes wham because the two stormtroopers come forward. Now, Harrison, your position here, when he says, “Put him in,” these two guys come to grab you.

Ford: Okay. I still want to know some things about the first one. Will I hear Vader?

Kershner: Yeah. I haven’t done a rehearsal yet. I’m trying to get little pieces while they’re doing all this shit that has to be done.

Ford: All I’m asking is, when Vader is talking to Boba Fett, I’m standing here—

Kershner: You hear him.

Ford: I can hear what he’s saying?

Kershner: Yeah, you can hear it.

Ford: Then why do I ask him what’s going on? You just had them come in and play this little scene with me behind, then I say, “What’s going on?”

Kershner: No, no, no.

Ford: Are we going to rehearse it? I’m just trying to figure out how to make it work, too.

Kershner: Yeah, alright. I can’t work with this steam going on. I’ve got to shut all the steam off and do the rehearsal without the steam. We can go nuts with this; you can’t hear anything.

Ford: And we’re rehearsing from the very beginning?

Kershner: From the very beginning we’re going to rehearse, from the very beginning. [to Mayhew] So, you reach for him, wham! That’s it and now the others descend on you. We’ve got to find a place where he would stop you.

Ford: What keeps me—

Kershner: You’re shackled.

Ford: If I was going to be able to stop him with, “Stop, Chewbacca, stop,” then I would stop him before he killed any more guys and before the other guys had a chance to even get to him.

Kershner: First of all, why do they hit him? Why don’t they just pull their guns on him and blast him?

Ford: I’ve got to stop him so fast for it to work. The other guys won’t even have a chance to get over there.

Kershner: Yeah, maybe that’s right, maybe that’s true.

Peter Diamond: We’re going to need to do this fast-paced, yeah?

Kershner: Yeah, we’re going to do a rehearsal right through—I’ve never had one rehearsal with the dialogue and everything. Let’s just do one without the steam where we can actually hear everything and see that everything is working.

Peter Diamond: Okay. [Tomblin calls for the staging of the scene.]

Kershner: What’s that thing? I’ve never seen it all together without the steam. Bob, Bob, whoa, whoa, what is that?

Bob: That’s just paint from the can, that’s all.

Kershner: You know, we’re breathing so much shit in here, I don’t think we need any more, I really don’t think so. Yeah, we don’t want that there. Boy, they throw propellant around like it’s candy.

[More scene prep.]

Williams: At what point do you want me to turn?

Kershner: [to Fisher] What’s the matter?

Fisher: I apologized and he can’t even…

Kershner: He’ll calm down, don’t worry, he’ll calm down.

Williams: At what point do you want me to—is there any specific place you want me to turn? When they come to about the top of the stairs?

Kershner: No, when they’re halfway down, you look over. Give it about three beats and then look away. That reads nicely, you know. [to the crew] Alright, let’s go, this is a complete rehearsal.

Tomblin: Okay, let’s clear unless you’re acting, please.

Kershner: With all three cameras. [whispers to Tomblin] Now, is Lando’s aide clear in terms of not being right in back of…?

Tomblin: Yeah, that’s John Hollis.

Kershner: He can be a little bit more to the left, huh?

Tomblin: Right, okay, why don’t I move John Hollis?

Kershner: [to Hollis from across the stage] John Hollis, move half a step to your left.

Tomblin: That’s it.

Kershner: Right. [to the assembled crew] Okay, here we go. Alright, this is a rehearsal. We do everything, minus the steam. Alright-action! [Steam is released.] Minus the steam! No steam, no CO2! [Scene proceeds briefly.] Cut, cut, please cut.

Tomblin: Hold it. It doesn’t seem to be working properly.

Kershner: Not again.

[Tomblin directs the crew to their places.]

Tomblin: Alright, ready, here we go! Action!

[Scene is played out as Tomblin directs the troopers and little people.]

Kershner: Cut! Okay. Kel, how did it work?

Kelvin Pike (Camera Operator): Pretty good.

Kershner: Yeah, it looked alright for me. [to Williams] As Boba Fett walks away, he starts the dialogue.

Williams: Do you want me to continue with the dialogue?

Kershner: Yes, I want to do the dialogue.

Williams: Oh, I didn’t know that.

Kershner: We’re going to do the dialogue, yeah. I thought you understood.

Williams: I thought you wanted to wait until the cut.

Kershner: No, no, no. I want to do the dialogue right there. Yes, Harrison, he misunderstood that. [whispers to Williams] Okay, we do the dialogue in a long shot and then we’ll overlap it.

Williams: You didn’t tell me.

Kershner: Okay, I’m a fool. [laughs; he then turns to Tomblin] Okay, now, precisely when Vader is about here, that claw should be coming up.

Ford: Are we continuing?

Kershner: Which?

Williams: Dialogue. That’s what I asked you.

Kershner: We’re doing the dialogue, yes, you’re doing the dialogue.

Ford: [irritated tone] We never got past, “What’s going on, pal?” Do you want to go past that, or not?

Kershner: No.

Ford: Okay.

Williams: So one last time, we’re not going to go into…

Kershner: Yeah, you’re going to do your dialogue. Then…

Williams: He’s going to ask me…

Kershner: Yeah, “What are we doing here?”

Ford: That’s what I just asked you, Kershner. I say to him, “What’s going on, pal?” We’ve never gone any further in rehearsal than that.

Kershner: I thought you did it. It looked like you did it.

Ford: Billy didn’t know, Billy never answered.

Kershner: Oh, okay, yeah, we do that.

Williams: Oh, we do that, okay.

Tomblin: Do you want to break for lunch?

Kershner: No, I want to do the shot now. I want to just do it because it’s a long shot. It’s only for an overlap, you see what I mean?

Ford: [sounding stressed] Nobody noticed anything. This is the third time I’ve come up to Billy and said the line and Billy hasn’t turned around and said a word to me. Now, that’s because Billy didn’t know that we’re supposed to do the dialogue.

Kershner: Okay, I’ll tell you what, while you’re standing here, let’s see how you do the dialogue.

Ford: Can we have someone stand in for Carrie?

Kershner: Yeah, absolutely. [to a crew member] Where’s Carrie?

Crew member: On the stair.

Kershner: Carrie! Could you stand here please?

[The actors go over their lines.]

Ford: Are we going to have to raise our volume here to be heard above the steam?

Kershner: You’re talking just to yourselves. This is a little scene between just the four of you.

Tomblin: Everyone in position.

Diamond: This is the easy bit, Kershner [laughs].

Kershner: No, this isn’t; this is the hard one. I need to know just where to cut in. Whew! It’s a monster.

[Time passes.]

Tomblin: Okay. [Barks orders to stagehands with a bullhorn.]

Kershner: Harrison? Where is he? [to stagehand] I want this jet to be moved to this side because it’s obscuring Lando completely. [Bell rings.]

Ford: I started the dialogue while he was still there because there was nothing going on that…

Kershner: Well, it won’t look like nothing’s going on in this extreme long shot. There’s so much going on, you’re bewildered by the whole thing.

Ford: That’s what I play, bewildered?

Kershner: Yeah. And I’m gonna send Vader in a little sooner. I’ll try to speed the whole thing up a little bit.

Ford: Well, it worked out because by the time Fett got to Vader, we were done with our dialogue.

Kershner: Yeah. Except that I want to cut in on your dialogue, so I can hear it. And therefore, I wanted to wait until Boba starts walking and then I cut in, you see?

Ford: Why doesn’t he walk a little bit faster?

Kershner: Alright, Jeremy!

Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett): Yes?

Kershner: You start walking around here as soon as Vader has stepped off the last step, then you start coming around to him. You’re setting the pace, aren’t you?

Bulloch: I’m setting the pace, yes.

Kershner: Set the pace a little faster; you’re too slow, okay?

Bulloch: I couldn’t see a thing. The helmet steamed up, but I can do it; it’ll be alright.

Kershner: Oh, gee, that’s a shame, yeah, but it should be a little bit faster. [to crew member] Okay, as soon as I get this, we cut and go to lunch. We come back from lunch, we do a rehearsal and stay right to the end; knock it off with two cameras to the end.

Tomblin: We leave that set.

Kershner: We leave it set. We don’t change that setup. We stage the whole thing to the end, the fight, the whole thing.

Tomblin: Okay, stand by!

Kershner: Ready for fate to take over. We should start making bets on how many things go wrong. [laughs] At least nobody’s fallen off yet.

[They do a take.]

Crew member: Are you happy with that or do you want to go again?

Kershner: Can we have somebody fix Threepio here? Wardrobe! Okay, we need some wardrobe here. Can you get him, please, right here? His arm came off. David [Prowse], can you walk just a touch faster? Without falling.

Tomblin: We’ve got too many people up there. Jesus Christ. What’s going on? [He directs with his bullhorn.]

Camera crew member: Three-seven-nine, take two! [Uses clapboard.]

Tomblin: Ready?

Kershner: Yeah. Action!

Tomblin: Action!

[Incredible loud steam jets operate as the scene proceeds during several takes.]

Kershner: Cut! Okay, print it. Okay, print those two; that’s it.

Kay Rawlings (Script Continuity): We’re printing four and five.

Tomblin: [bullhorn to crew] Now everybody listen. [off bullhorn, quietly to Kershner] You want all the principals back, yeah?

Kershner: I’d rather do the rehearsal first, then…

Tomblin: You ought to get that one done, Kershner, get that one done, then…

Kershher: Yeah? Okay, let’s get that one done.

Tomblin: [bullhorn] Listen, please, after lunch we’re doing exactly the same shot on a close-up lens, after the makeup checks for the principals to be here. Everyone else, come back at three o’clock, thank you. Break now for lunch.

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3 comments for this entry:
  1. Joyelle McSweeney

    That was awesome. The part abt the fitness book kills it. You are maybe a boss hibiscus, Dan. That’s what autocorrect thinks so I guess we’ll let it stand.

  2. Dan Hoy

    The boss hibiscus needs to rewatch the other sequels Kershner directed, Robocop 2 and the James Bond movie Never Say Never Again

  3. Dan Hoy

    Just remembered that David Prowse (Darth Vader) appeared in Clockwork Orange too — wish we had onset recordings of him giving unsolicited cardio advice to Kubrick