Mark Hamill on why Luke's Empire Strikes Back scream 'makes no sense'
Forget about whether Han shot first. When George Lucas released his Special Edition versions of the three original Star Wars films in theaters in 1997, there was an equally horrifying — and, frankly, confusing — change put in.
The moment in question occurred in The Empire Strikes Back where Darth Vader has just cut off Luke’s hand and revealed that the dark lord of the Sith is actually Luke’s father. SURPRISE! He then asks Luke to join him and rule the galaxy as father and son… which, considering Luke had spent not even a single day working for the Empire at that point, screams of nepotism, but whatever.
In the original film released in 1980, a panicked Luke considers the offer, then collects himself, pauses, and then calmly chooses death over the dark side, letting go and allowing himself to fall into the Bespin abyss. (He then appears to conveniently land in some sort of Cloud City waterslide before using telepathy to be saved by his soon-to-be-revealed sister.)
It’s a powerful moment of ultimate sacrifice — and one that was then ruined when Lucas nonsensically decided to add a cowardly scream to Luke’s descent. Go ahead and see for yourself.
Why Luke would scream in horror after having a true moment of Jedi zen and choosing to drop is a question that remains unanswered. Making the scream even more ludicrous is the fact that it apparently is recycled from the Emperor’s scream from Return of the Jedi after being tossed into by Vader to save his son. All of which perhaps explains why that scream ultimately disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared in the first place, being removed from home video editions of the film after Lucas thought better of it.
But what does the person who had the scream added to his scene think about it? We asked Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, exactly that when he stopped by Entertainment Weekly Radio studios (SiriusXM, channel 105) to appear on EW Morning Live on Tuesday morning. What did he make of the egregious change when it was first put in?
“I had no idea of this,” says Hamill about when the scream was put in back in 1997. “My son watches them. I haven’t seen this since they were in the theaters. He said, ‘Dad, you know they put a scream where you let go?’ And the whole idea was, rather than joining him, you see him become very calm and he just lets go. He commits suicide, in effect. So to put a scream in?” Hamill also confirms that it is indeed not his voice coming out of his mouth during the drop. “I didn’t record it. I don’t know if they had a library of screams or another actor came in.”
Suffice it to say, Hamill was not a fan of the audible addition. “It never came to the point where I challenged George on it,” says Hamill, “but that’s really going in and interfering with the performance. And I guess he got enough negative feedback that he took it out. But it makes no sense. Irvin Kershner and I discussed it. That was the director, and he says, ‘You have that choice. He’s holding out his hand. He’s going to rescue you, but you make that choice. He’s stressed and then all of a sudden he becomes very calm and closes his eyes and just lets go.’”
Of course, Hamill does acknowledge this is only his opinion and the creation is ultimately the creator’s to control, even if he does not personally agree with it. “You know, it’s one of those things. I can argue both ways because it’s George’s property. It’s his to tinker with as sees fit. But like my son and a lot of fans says, we’d love to see the original, pre-fixes. Just the way it was in 1977.”
To listen to Hamill share his thoughts on the scream, listen to the SoundCloud clip above. And also check out his explanation for why Luke is so whiny when it comes to Tosche Station.