Ever since it came out in October, I've been meaning to blog something about The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, J.W. Rinzler's spendy hardcover that covers almost every single aspect of Empire, delving into a production that was, in more ways than one, both groundbreaking and troubled. Once you get past Ridley Scott's disappointing foreword, The Making of The Empire Strikes Back proves to be a dense, info-loaded 360 pages, filled with in-depth interviews from just about everyone involved with the production, an extraordinary amount of rarely-seen photographs and gorgeous concept art, and artifacts like Lucas' handwritten screenplay drafts and Kershner's scrawled notes on Empire's storyboards. It's an exhaustive, fascinating document for anyone who likes film in general or Star Wars in particular; much like Rinzler's 2007 The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film, it's hard to imagine anything else that could more authoritatively document a production of this scope.
So the book's definitely recommended, but what made me want to write about it this week is the fact that in light of Kershner's death, his role in the book has an added poignancy. I'm particularly fond of this bit, where George Lucas and Kershner remember the first steps taken toward giving Kershner the job.
"Kersh asked me why I didn't direct Empire myself," Lucas says. "'You'll see...,' I said. These films are infinitely harder than other kinds of movies. You end up feeling like a harassed corporate executive. I had no life other than making the movie. I had to take tie out to be a normal person."
"We talked about old times," Kershner adds. "George said that it was so difficult to do the first one that I would be crazy to do the second one. He said, 'Boy, I couldn't get up in the mornings after a while; six months of shooting is very, very hard. Everything goes wrong.' So he said, 'I want somebody who under tremendous pressure will not cave in. Somebody who has a vast experience in films and likes to deal with people and characters.' I felt very flattered. He knew how to get to me. The rat. I told George that the only way I'd do the film is if I felt I could top the first one. He laughed and said that's why he wanted me to do it."