There was once a rumor, for an upcoming movie titled "The Empire Strikes Back," that Han Solo -- not known for his lightsaber skills -- would find himself in a duel with Darth Vader. During this duel, the two combatants' lightsabers would become fused, with an end result of Han and Vader's "life forces" combining -- creating quite the conundrum for Luke Skywalker. (If Luke kills Vader, then he would also kill his friend Han.)
There was also another rumor about "The Empire Strikes Back": Mick Jagger would compose the score.
Obviously, those outlandish rumors never panned out -- but they are the kind of crazy development stories one might find on the Internet today. If you don't believe me, maybe go back and check out some of those "The Dark Knight Rises" rumors. In the late 1970s, however, there was no Internet to accelerate or decelerate unfounded rumors like the ones above. It was up to genre magazines -- "Starlog" in particular.
"Starlog" was a glorious publication. In the mid-1980s, at a small-town newsstand in mid-Missouri, I had my first experience with "Starlog." This particular newsstand often carried back issues of comic books (most often "The Flash," for whatever reason), but one day I discovered a box full of "Starlog" magazines from the late '70s and early '80s that were practically being given away. Darth Vader himself was on one of the covers; I just had to own these.
I plowed through each and every issue. Most of the content was fairly informative -- older interviews with William Shatner, Gene Roddenberry, Mark Hamill and Billy Dee Williams were still interesting, considering they were discussing movies that I loved -- but what really caught my eye was the wild speculation. Sure, by the time I was reading these issues, I had already seen "Return of the Jedi," so I approached what I was reading with an attitude. How could anyone believe THAT would happen? In the days between the original "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back," however, fans were starved for information. Similarly, as "Star Trek" fans eagerly awaited the return of Captain Kirk in 1979's "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," any update was welcome. This was the heyday of "Starlog." This was why people purchased "Starlog." This was no different than going to your favorite movie rumor website right now and looking for any tidbit of information on what will happen to your favorite characters next.
For some reason, this always stuck with me -- at parties, I've often recounted the crazy rumors that I still remember. (I'm a terrible party guest.) Sadly, the "Starlog" archives are not online. So, earlier this week, I spent a day deep in physical research (i.e. I went to a library) and read through every single issue of "Starlog" magazine from January 1978 until June 1980, taking note of every crazy rumor (some of which turned out to be true) -- whether it came in the form of an article written by a staff writer, an interview, or a published letter from a reader in what was called the "Communication" section. Here is what I found:
March 1978: I blissfully remember the Darth Vader-is-a-robot debate, too. After this reader question, "Starlog" was nice enough to put that rumor to rest.
There's been an argument in our house about Darth Vader. My dad think's he's a robot but I don't.
Darth Vader, the malevolent Dark Lord of the Sith, is not a robot. Vader's stiff robotic looks arise from an incident during his Jedi youth. In a recent issue of a rock fanzine, George Lucas explained that, after killing Luke's father, Darth fought Ben Kenobi. During the duel he fell into a volcano. His horribly mutilated body is now housed in his metallic suit: a working iron lung.
March 1978: When this issue went to print, the plan was not for a series of "Star Trek" films, but a brand new television series. Here, it's confirmed that Shatner is returning for the new series, but Leonard Nimoy is still holding out.
CAST: William Shatner has signed to star as Capt. Kirk in the new 'Star Trek II" series. The announcement was made by Paramount on Sept. 12. There is no definite word yet on whether or not the studio has reached an agreement with Leonard Nimoy to play Mr. Spock in some or all of the episodes.
March 1978: Here, Gene Roddenberry himself explains why it's not so terrible that Nimoy is not coming back.
I've gotten a few letters from fans who have said, "Hey, we won't watch the show unless everything is the same and everyone is back on it." Well, in spite of the rumors going around, we made offers to EVERYONE in the original Trek's cast. Nothing would have pleased me more than to re-unite the entire crew. As it is, we've gotten seven out of the original eight for sure. Which is pretty darn good, I think, for a show that's been off the air for ten years.
March 1978: And, later, in the same issue, he explains his frustration with the failed movie project.
Paramount went about the movie in exactly the wrong way to accomplish anything artistic. They decided to make it a committee effort, and have no one really in charge [...] I found myself being second guessed by people at the studio who had never even seen "Star Trek." It was just a horror tale.
May 1978: A reader writes in about a crazy rumor about a movie involving both Lucas and Spielberg.
The following article appeared in the New York Post: "THE sci-fi picture to end 'em all is now being cooked up by George ("Star Wars") Lucas and Steven ("CE3K") Spielberg. The pair are planning to co-write the picture for Lucas to produce and Spielberg to direct ... It's scheduled for 1979 after the pair have cleared their current commitments." Can you please get some information on this?
Apparently, no one but The New York Post has heard of the proposed teaming. A Post editor, when questioned by STARLOG, cheerfully refused to divulge his source but admitted that he got the facts from a close friend of Steven and George. The mystery movie, if there is one, is yet to be written, titled or made public knowledge in any way, shape or form.
September 1978: Alan Dean Foster wrote the first sequel to "Star Wars," titled "Splinter of the Mind's Eye." It was written as a lower budget story in case "Star Wars" wasn't a huge success. At the time, even with "Star Wars II" in production, there was still hope Foster's story would become a movie -- you know, considering there would be nine of them.
Although "Splinter" is officially being tagged as being the sequel to "Star Wars," it is not the story that is already in production for the film "Star Wars II." That Skywalker opus originated in the typewriter of the late SF great Leigh Brackett. Although Foster has been out of the movie this time around, his "Star Wars" contract does allow "Splinter" to be filmed in the future, perhaps as one of the nine planned sequels to the original film.
My friend says that "Star Wars" was filmed in its entirety and cut into three parts, of which we have seen the first.
Your friend has an excellent imagination.
October 1978: It's just interesting to read Gene Roddenberry envisioning "Star Trek" as a lengthy film series -- in the vein of James Bond -- because, well, here we are.
And, if Roddenberry and director Wise have their way, it's going to be a milestone on science-fiction filmmaking -- the first of a possible fleet of Enterprise adventures. "If 'Trek' is a hit," grins Roddenberry as he disappears down one of Paramount's walkways, "we'd love to do a series of films -- a regular event. Look at James Bond's films. They've been around since the early sixties." Look out 007, here comes NCC-1701!
December 1978: This interview with producer Gary Kurtz is the first time the "Star Wars" sequel is referred to as "The Empire Strikes Back." What's remarkable here is how ridiculous it seems to Kurtz to number the films, because that would be way too confusing.
The film, for instance, is never referred to in Lucas-Kurtz circles as "Star Wars II." "I would never call it that," Kurtz winces. "Our working title is 'The Empire Strikes Back.' And as I said, it's part of a plan that George and I had from the inception of the original film. What we wanted to do was relate every subsequent 'Star Wars' adventure as an episode of a continuing story, like the old serials used to do. We were going to call this movie 'Star Wars Episode Two: The Empire Strikes Back,' but we ran into some problems. You see, although this story is a direct sequel to the first movie, we have three more stories that we eventually want to film that actually occur before the point where the first 'Star Wars' begins.
"So, we've been toying with the idea of ignoring the numbers completely. Instead, we'll give each movie episode a unique title. I mean, if we had to give each film its true number in the series, this movie would be called 'Episode Five: The Empire Strikes Back.' The first film would be called 'Episode Four'! Can you imagine how complicated it would get? If we released a story like that publicly through a press release, thousands of people would be totally confused. Everyone would want to know what happened to the other three movies."
April 1979: This gentleman wrote in to voice his displeasure with "Superman."
I have just wasted eight dollars and two hours of time watching the new Superman film. The film is simply a botched-up mess that is receiving too much publicity.The special effects are well done, but the storyline is very weak. Many fine performers were put in the film so that their names could be used in the advertising; for example Glenn Ford, who does not appear long enough to allow him to develop the character of Jonathan Kent. I feel that the public is being cheated out of its hard-earned money by a lot of phony publicity that oversells the product. The excellent special effects are useless without adequate story development.
April 1979: As for why Chewbacca doesn't receive a medal at the end of "Star Wars," this is as good of an explanation as any other.
I think the reason the wook [sic] didn't get a medal was because Princess Leia simply isn't that tall. He could have received his after the ceremony.
April 1979: In an interview with Mark Hamill, he gives us an early view of the grumpy Harrison Ford we would all come to love. (Of course, it's hard to blame Ford in this situation.)
The problem was that we had been booked on a Sunday morning financial show. This guy was only interested in how the picture affected 20th Century Fox's stock, and to him we were just three dumbbell actors who got a lucky break. He finished up by saying, "I don't want to put you on edge or anything, but let me sum up by saying that it's certainly not Ingmar Bergman." I looked over at Harrison, and I could see the veins on his neck popping out.
June 1979: Author Harlan Ellison is not a fan of Mark Hamill.
Mr. Hamill's confusion about my attitude toward the little film in which he appeared is touching. Equally touching is his understanding of the unimportance of his opinions; would that have more of us had the sense and nobility to perceive our limitations. Since Mr, Hamill is, by his own admission, one who does not read books, I take it as a gesture of magnanimity not to further ridicule him: As a functional illiterate, Mr. Hamill does a good enough job on himself.
June 1979: The man who was in the Darth Vader suit once said there would be 12 "Star Wars" movies.
I have just read an article on David Prowse. He said that not only will there be a "Star Wars" 3 and 4, but that it will go all the way up to 12. He says that George Lucas' dream is to turn out 24 hours of "Star Wars" so people can go into a theater and stay for the whole day. He said it would take 22 years for it to happen. Could this be really true?
A dozen sequels may be Lucas' dream, but Prowse speaks about Lucasfilms' plans in more realistic terms in this issue, starting on page 52.
June 1979: Later, in that mentioned interview, Prowse basically states (among other wrong things) that Han Solo will die in "The Empire Strikes Back." This did not go over well with fans.
STARLOG: We hear that they've cooked up a new villain for "The Empire Strikes Back," who appeared in the "Star Wars" TV special.
PROWSE: Yes, he's a character called Boba Fett ... I've heard a rumor that he's going to do away with Han Solo. Or, at least, he's after Solo.
STARLOG: Is Boba Fett going to be a major character?
PROWSE: He's going to be a very major character. He'll be my assistant.
STARLOG: Have they signed you up for any of the future "Star Wars" sequels?
PROWSE: They've offered me "Star Wars II" and "III." As you probably know, "Star Wars I," "II," and "III" are actuallly the fourth, fifth and sixth in the Empire's chronology. And then they're going back to do the first three. I'll do the fifth and sixth, but I'll probably miss the first because they'll be going back in Empire history. Then I'll likely do the second and third. So I could be Star Warsing for the next ... 10 years.
October 1979 As the issues go on, speculation gets crazier and crazier over the plot of "Empire."
I recall reading that Alec Guiness (Ben Kenobi) will not be starring in the "Star Was" sequel. Is that true?
While it's true that Guiness will not be starring in The Empire Strikes Back, he will be making a brief appearance in the film. The exact circumstances of Ben Kenobi's reappearance have not been disclosed -- many people assume it will be part of a "flashback" sequence.
October 1979 And that, yes, Mick Jagger -- Mick Jagger!!! -- would be scoring the music for "Empire."
A Hollywood trade newspaper recently reported that music for the new "Star Wars" film, "The Empire Strikes Back," might introduce a newcomer to epic scoring: Mick Jagger, The item stated that Jagger had been asked to compose the score. "No," laughs a spokesman at Lucasfilm, Ltd., "we have no idea where that originated."
November 1979: And here comes your Han Solo dies backlash.
Open Letter to George Lucas:
I see in an interview with David Prowse in #23 of Starlog that rumor has it that you are going to do away with Han Solo in the "Star Wars" sequel. Man, what are you thinking of? How can you, for even one moment, consider disposing of the only character complete enough to earn your films any response from anyone past the age of 12? If you do that, I, for one, am not going to see one more of the "Star Wars" movies -- and that's final. May I suggest that there are more peaceful means of resolving the "romantic triangle" (which hardly exists) -- you could have Leia simply make up her mind, have Han find another woman, or something, but don't kill him!
December 1979: OK, this is very sad -- even though it happened 33 years ago. Still, I didn't realize there was this much love for the original "Battlestar Galctica" series.
A 15-year-old jumped to his death from a bridge near his home in St. Paul, Minnesota. Before jumping, he told police (who were trying to talk him down from the perch) that he was upset because "Battlestar Galactica" had been dropped as a network TV series.
February 1980: More "Han Solo dies" backlash.
It was in a magazine called "Star Wars" and it is strongly suggested that Darth Vader would capture Han Solo and expose him to the dark side of the Force. This would put Luke Skywalker in the position of having to face Han Solo and it asked the question, "Would Luke Skywalker be able to to face and kill his friend?" This, to me, is the same thing as saying this is exactly what's going to happen -- that Luke is going to be put in the position and maybe at the very last minute Han won't be able to kill Luke and Luke kills him instead. Then, in the trailer of "Empire," there's one scene of Han Solo being knocked out and another with him in a chair obviously against his will, so I don't figure I need any more proof of this ... if this character is killed off, I, too, am completely through with anything having to do with "Star Wars."
February 1980: And even more...
The most disquieting rumor (which was reported in People Magazine) is that Han Solo is killed in action -- leaving the field clear for Luke. But then, we've also heard that Mark Hamill doesn't want to be in "Star Wars 3" and so Luke gets killed; or that both Luke and Han die and the saga continues with either the Princess or one of the new characters in the lead.
February 1980: OK, so, here's where things get really crazy. Starlog devoted an entire article to recount all of the rumors that were floating around. Here is a sample of what was listed:
It seems that there are more rumors involving Han Solo than any of the other characters. Someone who claims to have read the "final synopsis of the script reports this:
"While on the ice planet, Hoth, our intrepid Rebels are attacked by Stormtroopers. Although the Rebels defeat the troopers, the representatives of the Empire knock Chewbacca unconscious and take him as their prisoner. Although Leia insists that Chewie's rescue must wait, that other Rebel business must take precedence over an attempt, Han defies the orders and takes off in the Falcon to rescue is friend and co-pilot.
Someone else who claims to have read the same "final synopsis" says no, that it is Han Solo who is taken prisoner, not Chewbacca!
Near the climax, Han Solo crosses lightsabers with Darth Vader. Although Han doesn't really know how to use the weapon, he's doing fairly well when suddenly the light beams are "fused" together and Han's and Vader's "life forces" are intermingled. Luke has a chance to come to the rescue -- but if he kills Vader, might he not kill his friend too?
It should be noted that Christopher Lee eventually did appear in the prequels.
Word has gotten around that the Emperor will make an appearance in "The Empire Strikes Back." Equally persistent are the rumors that he will be played by Orson Welles ... and by Christopher Lee.
Hey, hey, this one is (kind of) right! But, sadly, mixed in with everything else, this seems just as crazy as anything else out there.
And more than once we've heard that it turns out that Vader is really Luke's father! Of course, we've also heard, from reliable sources, that Ben Kenobi is really Luke's father, and, from still other sources that Ben killed Luke's father.
Luke and C-3PO are captured by a horrendous alien (stop-motion animated, the story goes) who dumps them into a tank-like prison filled with a breathable liquid. The only way the alien can be killed (shades of Dracula) is to drive a metal stake through his heart. The only metal around, unfortunately, is C-3PO; and Luke melts the 'driod down to fabricate the weapon.
Why Vader would be aboard is anyone's guess.
The Millennium Falcon falls into a black hole -- with Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie and Darth Vader aboard -- and travels through time.
On a jungle planet, where Luke and Han are seeking allies against the Empire, the two enlist a race of winged aliens called the Quarrels.
Princess Leia is captured by Stormtroopers and delivered to Darth Vader who, by use of the force, seduces her into betraying Luke and Han.
The special-effects team at Industrial Light and Magic, near San Francisco, have been working on an experimental process that uses holography and makes it possible for an image of the Millennium Falcon to fly off the screen and up the projection beam.
In their travels, Luke, Leia and Han encounter a female villain, a sort of "Queen of Outer Space."
My personal favorite:
It is said that Han Solo and Chewie land on a desert planet where they meet time travelers from Earth's 13th century who are trying to fight off Stormtroopers with catapults and crossbows.
Through the use of the Force, Luke persuades Darth Vader of the error of his ways and convinces him to enlist with the Rebels against the Empire.
"Starlog" then contacted Craig Miller from Lucasfilm who, obviously, wouldn't confirm or deny any of these, but was nice enough to add other rumors that he's been asked about:
Luke convinces Han to accept the teachings of the Jedi, initiates him into the ways of the Force and from that point on they grow and learn together.
The Millennium Falcon passes through a time warp, and Luke, Han and Chewbacca end up fighting in the Clone Wars, side by side with Luke's father and Obi Wan Kenobi.
I think my current favorite concerns princess Leia's father. Of royal heritage, he is the nephew of the Emperor, and, rather than leading the Rebellion, he is actually a double agent. Forewarned of the Death Star's attack on Alderaan, he escaped and now sits in the Emperor's court, advising him.
March 1980: Looks like that mysterious Lucas/Spielberg movie has finally been confirmed.
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are planning to team up for a top secret project entitled "Raiders of the Lost Ark" for Paramount. If the deal goes through, the script, written by Larry Kasdan, will be directed by Spielberg produced by Lucas and Frank Marshall.
March 1980: People did not like "Star Trek: The Motion Picture."
ST-TMP was a surprise. I waited so long and was so disappointed so much. Like "Star Wars," there was no plot. I realize that the movie is a special effects movie, but the creativeness of Gene Roddenberry must have failed him. I hope not...
Harold Livingston (who was blamed for the screenplay) should flee the country. Insiders say that a band of angry Trekkies are marching to his home to hang him by his Buster Browns. I'll be there.
March 1980: I actually just called the number listed below. Sadly, C-3PO no longer answers. Instead, it's a personal line for a man named Lewis (which is why I "X'd" out some numbers) who, I'm sure, has no idea what his phone number used to be.
As part of its nationwide campaign promoting "The Empire Strikes Back, Lucasfilm Ltd. has secured a toll-free number to help fans of the Empire keep abreast of the latest news. Listen to C-3PO:
"First, there was that dreadful snow planet -- I never thought I'd be warm again. Then, we were attacked by Imperial Stormtroopers. And, when we got to the Cloud City, I just went all to pieces. The next sound you hear is the heavy, throaty breathing of an old friend. "They managed to rescue the Princess and destroy the Death Star, but this time the Rebels won't be so lucky," Darth Vader predicts. "The power of the Death Star was insignificant compared to the power of The Force, and with Obi-Wan Kenobi gone, I am the master."
Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo also have their version of the story ... but we'll let them tell it. You can hear them at 800-XXX-1980 (the numbers coincide with the May 21, 1980 release date on the U.S.).
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.