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Post-Production On Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi Was Plagued By A Mysterious Thief

Back in 1982, during the post-production process of the highly anticipated “Star Wars: Episode VI – The Return of the Jedi,” there were a few things that went missing at George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic effects house. The book, “The Making of Return of the Jedi” by J.W. Rinzler, reveals that the excitement surrounding upcoming films worked on at ILM, such as “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” may have led to the disappearance of items from the studio. While the stolen items included tools and promotional materials, it is a relief to know that none of the vital elements required for the production of “Return of the Jedi” were affected. Despite the missing items, the focus remained on delivering a thrilling conclusion to the original Star Wars trilogy.

Post-Production On Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi Was Plagued By A Mysterious Thief

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Background

Excitement around ‘Return of the Jedi’

Back in 1982, the anticipation for “Star Wars: Episode VI — The Return of the Jedi” was at an all-time high. Fans were eagerly awaiting the conclusion to the trilogy, especially after the cliffhanger ending of “Empire Strikes Back.” They were desperate to know if Han Solo would be rescued, if Luke Skywalker would defeat Darth Vader, and if Princess Leia would be able to save the day. The excitement surrounding this film was unlike anything seen before.

Security measures for the film

Unlike the first film, “A New Hope,” which didn’t require extensive security measures, “Return of the Jedi” needed to be kept under tight wraps. Mark Hamill even showed people his script during the production of the first film, but now, with the anticipation reaching its peak, security measures were necessary. The Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) effects house, founded by George Lucas for the first “Star Wars” film, took great precautions to ensure the secrecy and protection of their work.

Industrial Light & Magic and their work on other films

Between 1981 and 1982, ILM was not only working on “Return of the Jedi,” but they had a string of other high-profile films in their lineup. This included blockbuster hits such as “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Dragonslayer,” “Conan the Barbarian,” “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn,” “The Dark Crystal,” “Poltergeist,” and “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.” The anticipation for these films may have contributed to some items going missing at ILM during the post-production process of “Return of the Jedi.”

The missing items at ILM

During a meeting at ILM in 1982, it was discovered that certain items had gone missing from the model shop on-site. These items were described as tools, “Raiders hats, patches, posters, and even some Hollywood trade papers.” It was unclear whether these items were actually stolen or just “borrowed,” but their disappearance raised concerns among the team.

Efforts to keep everyone employed at ILM

George Lucas and the ILM team were committed to keeping everyone employed, even during the periods when they were not directly working on “Star Wars” films. They actively sought outside projects to ensure a steady workflow and continuous employment for the talented team at ILM. However, having a permanent staff dedicated to special effects was a unique situation, and this also created opportunities for theft or the unauthorized borrowing of items.

Missing Items at ILM

Discussion during a meeting

During the meeting at ILM where the missing items were discovered, there was a discussion about the situation. The team acknowledged the disappearance of tools and various promotional items, sparking concerns about the security of valuable assets. The meeting became an opportunity to brainstorm solutions and formulate a plan to confront the issue.

List of missing items

Among the missing items were tools that were crucial for the post-production process. Additionally, promotional items related to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” were also gone. The specific items mentioned were “Raiders hats, patches, posters, and even some Hollywood trade papers.” While these items were not directly related to the production of “Return of the Jedi,” their disappearance was unsettling and raised concerns about potential theft.

Setting a trap

In an attempt to catch the person responsible for the missing items, the idea of setting a trap was proposed during the meeting. The team hoped that by implementing this trap, they would be able to identify the individual responsible and put an end to the thefts. However, it remains uncertain whether this trap was ever executed or successful.

Concerns about stealing bigger items

While the focus of the meeting was on the missing smaller items, there were concerns about the possibility of thefts targeting larger, more valuable assets. The visual effects supervisor, Richard Edlund, voiced these concerns by noting, “The whole place is like a toy chest anyway.” It was clear that precautions needed to be taken not only to safeguard the missing items but also to prevent potential thefts of more significant items.

Uncertainty about the return of borrowed items

The precise nature of the missing items was ambiguous, as it was mentioned in the book that some items were simply “borrowed.” It is unclear whether these borrowed items were returned or if they remained in the possession of the individuals who took them. This uncertainty added to the overall concern and prompted increased vigilance to prevent any further theft or unauthorized borrowing.

Impact on ‘Return of the Jedi’

Only minor tools and promotional items missing

Fortunately for the production of “Return of the Jedi,” the missing items primarily consisted of tools and promotional items related to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and other films. While these items were undoubtedly valuable and needed to be replaced, their absence did not have a significant impact on the overall production of the film.

No major impact on the film’s production

Despite the thefts and the subsequent need to replace certain items, the production of “Return of the Jedi” continued smoothly. The team at ILM was able to move forward with their work on the film, ensuring that its completion would not be compromised by the missing items.

Focus on completing the film despite the theft

The thefts served as a reminder to the team to remain focused on completing the film. While the missing items caused concern and necessitated additional security measures, the priority was always the successful completion of “Return of the Jedi.” The team rallied together to ensure that the film would be finished on time, despite the challenges posed by the mysterious thief.

Current Status of ‘Star Wars’ Films

Availability of ‘Star Wars’ films on Disney+

Currently, all of the “Star Wars” films and shows are available for streaming on Disney+. This includes the original trilogy, including “Return of the Jedi,” along with the prequel and sequel trilogies, spin-off films, and various television series. Fans have the opportunity to revisit the entire saga and explore the expansive “Star Wars” universe from the comfort of their own homes.

Recommendation for viewers

For fans who have not yet experienced the magic of “Star Wars,” “Return of the Jedi” is a must-watch. The epic conclusion to the original trilogy offers thrilling action, captivating storytelling, and iconic characters. Whether you are a longtime fan or a newcomer to the franchise, “Return of the Jedi” is a film that showcases the enduring appeal of the “Star Wars” universe. Grab some popcorn, gather your friends and family, and embark on a journey to a galaxy far, far away. May the Force be with you!

Source: https://www.slashfilm.com/1413628/star-wars-return-of-the-jedi-post-production-thief/