Imagine a Return of the Jedi much darker and more brutal than the one we ultimately wound up with ... and then imagine George Lucas staring at an unopened box of Star Wars merchandise before deciding to ditch those ideas for something a bit more happily ever after. It may not have gone done exactly like that, but according to producer Gary Kurtz (who spoke to the LA Times prior to this past weekend's Star Wars Celebration V), Lucas had a very different ending in mind for his original Star Wars trilogy.
Kurtz, who partnered up with Lucas and helped produce the first two Star Wars films, admits, "The original idea was that they would recover Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base. ... George then decided he didn't want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason." Kurtz claims it was the toys that ultimately began dictating which direction Lucasfilm would go in, claiming that Lucas' priorities changed heading into Return of the Jedi."We had an outline and George changed everything in it," Kurtz told the Times. "Instead of bittersweet and poignant he wanted a euphoric ending with everybody happy."
The original ending was supposed to include Luke walking off alone "like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns", leaving a somewhat frazzled and grieving Leia to pick up the pieces and take on her new duties as queen. Kurtz disagreed with all of Lucas' changes -- including his insistence on putting in a second Death Star (because it'd be too similar to the original film, he thought), and, fed up, Kurtz and Lucas parted ways.
Do you think George Lucas "sold out" by changing Jedi, or was he just making smart business decisions?