20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

10 Fascinating Facts About The Empire Strikes Back

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

Earlier this month, to celebrate Star Wars Day (“May the 4th be with you!”), we rounded up 37 amazing facts about the Star Wars saga. But being that today marks the 35th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back’s premiere, we couldn’t let the day pass without shining a little extra saber-provided light on the Oscar-winning second entry in the original trilogy. So here are 10 more fascinating facts about one of the most frequently misquoted films in the history of cinema.

1. THE “BIG REVEAL” MAY NOT HAVE BEEN SUCH A SECRET AFTER ALL.

Much has been made of the lengths to which Lucas and his fellow filmmakers went to keep the revelation that (spoiler alert?) Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father under wraps. In a 2004 interview with Sound & Vision, Mark Hamill shared that “it was a wonderfully hard secret to keep because [Irvin] Kershner, the director, brought me aside and said ‘Now I know this, and George knows this, and now you're going to know this, but if you tell anybody, and that means Carrie or Harrison, or anybody, we're going to know who it is because we know who knows.’” But the truth is that anyone who picked up the novelization of the movie, which was released a month earlier than the film, would have known the plot twist already. (Good thing Twitter didn’t exist.)

2. DAVID PROWSE SPILLED THE BEANS ON LUKE’S CONNECTION TO VADER IN 1978.

Two years before the Empire novelization hit bookstore shelves, a crowd of approximately 1000 Star Wars fans gathered in Berkeley, California to shake hands with David Prowse, the man in Darth Vader’s suit. Believe it or not, Prowse shared that critical plot point with the crowd. A newspaper clipping from 1978 teased the genetic connection, even quoting Prowse as saying, “Father can’t kill son, son can’t kill father.”

3. ITS MOST MEMORABLE LINE IS ALSO ITS MOST MISQUOTED.

When Darth Vader drops the paternal bomb on Luke, he does so by stating, “No, I am your father.” The line is one of the most often misquoted in cinema history, and usually repeated as “Luke, I am your father.” (Yes, even Chris Farley got it wrong in Tommy Boy.)

4. MONTY PYTHON AND THE ROLLING STONES MADE HAN AND LEIA SMILE.

In 1999, Carrie Fisher penned an essay for Newsweek on her Star Wars experience and recounted the time she and Ford pulled an all-nighter at a party with Eric Idle and the Rolling Stones. “Eric had just come home from filming Life of Brian in Tunisia,” wrote Fisher. “He brought this drink that he said they gave the extras so they'd work longer. I called it Tunisian Table Cleaner. As a rule I'm allergic to alcohol, and Harrison doesn't really drink either. But that night, there was a makeshift party. The Rolling Stones were there ... We stayed up all night and drank the table cleaner and never went to sleep. When we arrived at the set the next morning, we weren't hungover—we were, like the extras in Tunisia, more than willing to work. That morning we shot our arrival at Cloud City, where we meet Billy Dee Williams. And it’s one of the very few times in the series both Harrison and I smile. To this day, Eric is proud as a papa of his impact on the trilogy.”

5. GEORGE LUCAS WANTED JIM HENSON AS YODA

In an interview with Leonard Maltin, Lucas admitted that he wanted Muppets maestro Jim Henson to play the role of Yoda. “I went to Jim [Henson] and said, ‘Do you want to do this?’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m busy, I’m doing this, and doing that, I’m making a movie and all that—I really can’t, but ... how about Frank [Oz]? You know, Frank’s the other half of me.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’d be fantastic.’”

Henson also recommended creature designer Stuart Freeborn, who explained that, “I was the one who kind of put all the elements of Yoda together, and although Jim didn’t make Yoda, George and he had an understanding that they would exchange technology information. George would give to Jim and Jim would give some of his people to George to help. Wendy Froud helped out a little bit with the character and two other people from Jim’s company worked the cables for me.”

6. FRANK OZ RECALLS THE STORY DIFFERENTLY.

In a 2014 interview, Oz, the normally reclusive puppeteer and director, said that, “George didn't want my voice in the beginning. I gave him a tape. He said, 'No thank you.' And in post-production for about a year I heard that he was auditioning voices for Yoda. He had no intention of using me for the voice. Then I was on my honeymoon with my first wife about 25 years ago or 30 years ago, and he [called and] said, ‘Frank can you come out … I think we'd like to try your voice.’ So I flew back and recorded Yoda.”

7. CLIFF CLAVIN IS IN IT.

Two years before he began his decade-plus run as Boston mailman/trivia expert Cliff Clavin on Cheers, and a full 15 years before he began voicing Hamm in the Toy Story series, John Ratzenberger made an early-career appearance as Major Bren Derlin, part of the Rebel Force in The Empire Strikes Back. While he loved being part of such a major film franchise, what he remembers most is how “I somehow got a parking space next to Kermit the Frog. It was Jim Henson’s space, with this Kermit the Frog sign. So I took a photo of it and sent it to my mom with a caption that read, ‘Look, Mom. I made it. I got a parking space next to Kermit the Frog.’”

8. THE EMPEROR USED TO BE A CHIMP.

In the original version of the film, the scene in which Darth Vader converses with the Emperor used to look a lot different. Though many viewers automatically associate the character with actor Ian McDiarmid, the original Emperor was an old woman with chimpanzee eyes and the voice of Clive Revill. (You can see both versions side-by-side here.)

9. THE FILM MARKED THE END OF GARY KURTZ AND GEORGE LUCAS’ PARTNERSHIP.

Though it’s George Lucas’ name that’s most synonymous with the Star Wars universe, producer Gary Kurtz—who came up with the title for The Empire Strikes Back and also served as an uncredited assistant director—was an essential contributor to the first two films. Yet the pair ended their partnership following The Empire Strikes Back. “I could see where things were headed,” Kurtz told the Los Angeles Times in 2010 of his reasons for stepping far, far away from Lucas’ film galaxy. “The toy business began to drive the [Lucasfilm] empire. It's a shame. They make three times as much on toys as they do on films. It's natural to make decisions that protect the toy business but that's not the best thing for making quality films.”

10. HAMILL WASN’T A FAN OF SOME OF LUCAS’ TINKERS.

While fans have long lamented the many changes Lucas has made to the original trilogy over the years, even Luke Skywalker himself wasn’t crazy about some of them. “I can't say I cared for that scream they added to the Special Edition (now gone), when Luke sacrifices himself [in The Empire Strikes Back],” Mark Hamill told Sound & Vision. “Kersh and I talked about the fact that when he actually reaches the point whether he has to join them or not, he lets go. It's like he's committing suicide rather than going to the Dark Side. So it is a calm thing. Look, it’s [George's] to tinker with as he sees fit. I always say it's his train set, if he wants to put up new billboards and new landscaping … Remember the old, ‘It's good to be the king?’ I guess George is ‘It's good to be The Emperor!’ If he wants to make them into musical comedies, that's his choice.”

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Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM
West Side Story Is Returning to Theaters This Weekend
Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM
Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM

As Chris Pratt and a gang of prehistoric creatures get ready to face off against some animated superheroes for this weekend’s box office dominance, an old rivalry is brewing once again on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. West Side Story—Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’s classic big-screen rendering of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical—is returning to cinemas for the first time in nearly 30 years.

As part of TCM’s Big Screen Classics Series, West Side Story will have special screening engagements at more than 600 theaters across the country on Sunday, June 24 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. If you can’t make it this weekend, encores will screen at the same time on Wednesday, June 27. The film—which is being re-released courtesy of TCM, Fathom Events, Park Circus, and Metro Goldwyn Mayer—will be presented in its original widescreen format, and include its original mid-film intermission. (Though its 2.5-hour runtime is practically standard nowadays, that wasn’t the case a half-century ago.) The screening will include an introduction and some post-credit commentary by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz.

West Side Story, which was named Best Picture of 1961, is a musical retelling of Romeo and Juliet that sees star-crossed lovers Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer) navigate the challenges of immigration, racial tension, and inner-city life in mid-century Manhattan—but with lots of singing and dancing. In addition to being named Best Picture, the beloved film took home another nine Oscars, including Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Actress (for George Chakiris and Rita Moreno, respectively), and Best Music—obviously.

To find out if West Side Story is screening near you, and to purchase tickets, visit Fathom Events’s website.

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Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC.
16 Prehistoric Creatures You’ll See In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Chris Pratt meets the vicious T. rex in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
Chris Pratt meets the vicious T. rex in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC.

The sequel to 2015’s Jurassic World ups the ante with a huge roster of dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and marine reptiles. While some are familiar favorites (see: T. rex), others have never been seen in a major motion picture before. Pull off your nostalgia goggles and let’s take a look at what modern science has to say about the long-gone animals of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

1. TYRANNOSAURUS

Lived: 68 to 66 million years ago in North America

Diet: Carnivore

Maximum Length: 40 feet

Name Means: “Tyrant lizard”

Apparently, the most popular dinosaur of all time wasn’t above cannibalism: Multiple Tyrannosaurus rex bones have bite marks on them that match the teeth of other tyrannosaurid species. Debate has arisen over the issue of T. rex plumage. University of Alberta paleontologist Scott Persons recently compared tiny skin impressions left behind by Tyrannosaurus and its close cousins Gorgosaurus, Daspletosaurus, and Tarbosaurus. These reveal that the dinos had pebbly scales, but the samples contain no evidence of feathers. Keep in mind though that the skin impressions only represent small patches of the dinosaurs’ tails, necks, abdomens, and pelvises—so Tyrannosaurus might’ve had feathers elsewhere on its body. For the record, Persons thinks the giant carnivore would still look “pretty cool and plenty scary” with a little fuzz. “[Nobody] ever complained that tigers weren’t scary, and they’re fluffy,” he said.

2. APATOSAURUS

Artistic interpretation of an individual of A. louisae arching its neck down to drink
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Lived: 155 to 150 million years ago in North America

Diet: Herbivore.

Maximum length: 80 feet

Name means: “Deceptive lizard”

In 1879, an unidentified sauropod (a long-necked dinosaur) was found in Wyoming. At first, this creature was given the name Brontosaurus excelsus but in 1903, paleontologist Elmer Riggs rechristened it as Apatosaurus excelsus (the Apatosaurus had been described before the Brontosaurus, so the name had precedence). A few scientists now think the Brontosaurus and Apatosarus actually are distinct and the much better-known name ought to be reinstated for that particular group, but others disagree. Regardless, Apatosaurus was pretty awesome. Some of its bones were pneumatic and the body contained a number of air sacs. Such traits would’ve made the big plant-eater very lightweight for an animal of its size. Apatosaurus may have also been able to break the sound barrier by cracking its sinuous tail like a bullwhip.

3. TRICERATOPS

Lived: 68 to 66 million years ago in North America

Diet: Herbivore

Maximum length: 29 feet

Name means: “Three-horned face”

Give credit where it’s due: Look at the baby Triceratops in Fallen Kingdom and you may notice that the horns above its eyes curve backward ever so slightly. This is scientifically accurate. The brow horns of Triceratops newborns were tiny bumps which bent backward during the adolescent years. Then they changed course and bowed forward while the animals matured. Puncture wounds and lesions on the skulls of adult Triceratops tell us these animals locked horns in head-to-head combat. Triceratops was constantly replacing its teeth, which were arranged in tight clusters and most likely used to shear through fibrous vegetation.

4. SINOCERATOPS

Lived: 75 to 66 million years ago in China

Diet: Herbivore

Maximum length: 19 feet

Name means: “Chinese horned face”

A newcomer to the Jurassic Park films, Sinoceratops first came to light during a 2008 fossil-hunting excursion into China’s Shandong Province. It belongs to the same family as Triceratops and was the first member of this group to be found in Chinese rock. Small, forward-bending horns lined the top of its frill, which was proportionally smaller than that of Triceratops. A single cone-shaped horn sat over the nostrils.

5. ALLOSAURUS

Lived: 155.7 to 150 million years ago in North America and Portugal and possibly elsewhere

Diet: Carnivore

Maximum length: 28 (or possibly 35) feet

Name means: “Different lizard”

In one of the trailers for Fallen Kingdom, a running Allosaurus falls flat on its face. The dinosaur was no stranger to injury in real life. Cracked ribs, broken arms, and badly-infected toes are just a few of the medical maladies that Allosaurus skeletons have been preserved with. Selected as Utah’s official state fossil in 1988, Allosaurus is one of the most commonly found predatory dinos in the American west. Strong neck muscles may have allowed the carnivore to disembowel prey by pulling its head backward in a falcon-esque tugging motion. And here’s something we’d really like to see on the silver screen: According to a 2015 study, Allosaurus could possibly open its jaws at a nightmarish 92-degree angle.

6. MOSASAURUS

Lived: 70 to 66 million years ago in Europe and North America

Diet: Carnivore

Maximum length: 56 feet

Name means: “Lizard of the Meuse River” (It was first discovered along this European river in 1764.)

Mosasaurus wasn’t a dinosaur; it’s more closely related to snakes and monitor lizards than it is to any of the other creatures you’ll read about here. Both Jurassic World flicks show the marine reptile leaping high out of the water to snag unwary prey. According to mosasaur expert Michael J. Everhart though, these animals didn’t have the tail strength or speed to pull off such an athletic feat. Mosasaurus is the most famous member (and the namesake genus) of the mosasaur superfamily. Late in the age of dinosaurs, these were some of the ocean’s major predators. They probably swam like gigantic crocodiles, keeping their flippers pressed against the body. Fossil evidence tells us that mosasaurs gave birth to live young at sea and at least some of them had vertically-fluked tails.

7. PTERANODON

Lived: 88 to 80.5 million years ago in central North America

Diet: Carnivore (probable fishing specialist)

Maximum wingspan: 20 feet (or possibly 24 feet)

Name means: “Toothless wing”

Here’s another non-dinosaur for you. Good old Pteranodon was a kind of North American pterosaur. What’s that, you ask? Pterosaurs were flying reptiles that patrolled the skies from 228 to 66 million years ago. Long before birds or bats took to the air, pterosaurs became the first vertebrate animals to ever achieve powered flight. The good people of Kansas designated Pteranodon itself as one of their official state fossils in 2014. Back in this animal’s heyday, there was a vast inland sea which covered most of the Great Plains, splitting North America in two. Pteranodon may have behaved like a modern albatross, using its narrow wings to soar for vast distances on air currents above the ocean waves. The creatures were apparently keen on seafood: Pteranodon skeletons are sometimes found with masses of fish bones in their throats and stomachs. We may never know how they captured prey, but one idea can be dismissed outright: Not a single known pterosaur had opposable toes, so Pteranodon couldn’t have grabbed things with its feet like the genetically-engineered flyers in Jurassic World do.

8. CARNOTAURUS

Bryce Dallas Howard and Justice Smith are trapped by the Carnotaurus in 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' (2018)
Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC.

Lived: 72 to 69 million years ago in Argentina

Diet: Carnivore

Maximum length: 25 feet

Name means: “Meat-eating bull"

Carnotaurus didn’t show up in the first four Jurassic Park movies, but Michael Crichton wrote the horned creature into his 1995 novel The Lost World. The book depicts Carnotaurus as a nocturnal hunter that can change colors like an overgrown cuttlefish. There’s no reason to put any stock in this idea, but the real Carnotaurus was not without its quirky attributes—including its forelimbs. While T. rex gets a lot of flack for its meager arms, those of Carnotaurus are proportionately smaller, and the Argentine dino didn’t even have any wrist bones. On the flip side, Carnotaurus’s strong legs and powerful tail would’ve made it a gifted sprinter. Skin impressions reveal that its back, neck, and tail were studded with bony knobs, much like the ones Carnotaurus shows off in Fallen Kingdom.

9. GALLIMIMUS

Lived: 70 million years ago in Mongolia

Diet: Probable omnivore

Maximum length: 20 feet

Name means: “Chicken mimic”

Gallimimus belongs to an ostrich-like family of dinosaurs known as the ornithomimids. Though it lacks plumage in the Jurassic movies, real ornithomimids were covered in fuzzy down as youngsters and the adults grew long feathers on their arms. Gallimimus and its brethren couldn’t fly, but their showy, wing-like forelimbs could’ve been used to help them attract mates. Ornithomimids compensated for their lack of teeth by swallowing rocks, which ground up food in the stomach. Exactly what they ate is unclear, though most paleontologists think the ostrich mimics were either omnivorous or herbivorous.

10. BRACHIOSAURUS

Lived: 155 to 140 million years ago in North America

Diet: Herbivore

Maximum length: 72 feet

Name means: “Arm lizard”

Even though it’s poorly represented in the fossil record, Brachiosaurus is well-known to the general public. This is largely due to its breakout role in the first Jurassic Park movie. The Brachiosaurus in that classic film hold their elongated necks in an almost vertical position, and this depiction might not be too far off. A 2010 biomechanical analysis argued that browsing on treetops would’ve been a more energy-efficient option for Brachiosaurus-like sauropods than holding their necks horizontally and eating ground-level plants. It’s interesting to think about the behemoth’s cardiovascular system: In order to pump blood up that lengthy neck and into the head, Brachiosaurus may have required a gigantic heart weighing in the neighborhood of 880 pounds.

11. ANKYLOSAURUS

Lived: 68 to 66 million years ago in North America

Diet: Herbivore

Maximum length: 21 feet

Name means: “Curved lizard”

We know this formidable animal had a backside covered in bony plates; yet because no one’s ever found a complete Ankylosaurus skeleton, scientists disagree about how the armor was arranged. The 19-inch-wide club on its tail was probably a weapon. Using CT scans and anatomical measurements, a Canadian research team estimated that a large Ankylosaurus club could strike its target with enough force to break bones. Evolution made some of the tail vertebrae in these dinosaurs stiff and inflexible so they could support their heavy clubs. A hammer needs its handle after all.

12. STYGIMOLOCH

Lived: 68 to 66 million years ago in North America

Diet: Probable herbivore

Maximum length: 10 feet

Name means: “Styx devil”

It’s kind of ironic that Stygimoloch is mentioned by name in Fallen Kingdom’s promo videos. Paleontologist John R. “Jack” Horner has worked as a consultant for all five Jurassic Park films. He thinks that Stygimoloch is nothing more than the juvenile version of the thick-headed dinosaur Pachycephalosaurus, which lived at the same time and place. (You may remember the latter’s cameo in 1997's The Lost World: Jurassic Park.) This would render the name Stygimoloch invalid. Horner’s argument is supported by the trademark feature of both dinos: the iconic domes on the top of their craniums. Stygimoloch’s skull bones were not fully fused together, suggesting the animal had a lot of growing to do. CT scans have also shown that Stygimoloch’s dome was significantly thinner than that of Pachycephalosaurus. Perhaps these dinos used their special skulls to flank each other—or maybe the thick noggins were designed for heavy-duty headbutts. For his part, Horner has proposed that these were used for identification.

13. STEGOSAURUS

Mounted skeleton of Stegosaurus stenops in right lateral view at the Natural History Museum, London.
Susannah Maidment et al. & Natural History Museum, London, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Lived: 155 to 150 million years ago in North America and Portugal

Diet: Herbivore

Maximum length: 23 feet

Name means: “Roof lizard”

Nobody knows what to make of the bony plates on Stegosaurus’s back. If self-defense was their purpose, why do they project upward from the spine, leaving the flanks of this vegetarian wide open? And why do the plates of other spiky-tailed dinosaurs in its family have radically different shapes? One hypothesis is that these bizarre accessories were used to attract mates—much like the peacock’s gaudy tail feathers. Maybe they also helped the small-headed herbivores recognize other members of their own kind from afar. The quartet of spikes on Stegosaurus’s tail were almost certainly used to ward off attackers. Live Stegosaurus got plenty of mileage out of these weapons: One survey, which compared 51 individual spikes, reported that just under 10 percent had been broken and re-healed at the tip.

14. COMPSOGNATHUS

Lived: 150 million years ago in Germany and France

Diet: Carnivore

Maximum length: Four feet

Name means: “Elegant jaw”

Only two skeletons of this dinosaur have ever been discovered, both of which were found with the remains of tiny lizards tucked inside their rib cages. That’s a pretty far cry from the scene in The Lost World: Jurassic Park where a swarm of “Compies” gobble up the man who’s been tormenting them with a cattle prod. But we digress. Named in 1859, Compsognathus used to be the smallest type of non-avian dinosaur known to science. It no longer retains this title, as the creature would’ve dwarfed some more recently-discovered dinos like the 15-inch Mongolian Parvicursor.

15. BARYONYX

Bryce Dallas Howard and Justice Smith encounter the Baryonyx in 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' (2018)
Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC.

Lived: 130-125 million years ago in England, Spain, and Portugal

Diet: Carnivore

Maximum length: 25 feet

Name means: “Heavy claw”

Sail-backed Spinosaurus was the main villain in 2001's Jurassic Park III—a casting choice that irked plenty of fans. Baryonyx was a close relative of this beast who now joins Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s Mesozoic ensemble. Preserved stomach contents have shown that Baryonyx ate fish as well as the herbivorous dinosaur Iguanodon. On each hand, Baryonyx had a 12-inch hooked claw that served an unknown purpose. (Artists like to imagine it as a fishing tool.) The animal’s conical teeth look well-equipped for grabbing hold of slippery prey. Despite the narrowness of its snout, Baryonyx’s jaws were able to withstand a great deal of bending and torsion.

16. VELOCIRAPTOR

Chris Pratt with a baby Velociraptor in 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom' (2018)
Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC.

Lived: 85 to 70 million years ago in Mongolia and China

Diet: Carnivore

Maximum length: 7 feet

Name means: “Swift thief”

Velociraptor stood less than two feet tall at the hip and weighed around 55 pounds. Michael Crichton’s description of the animal was inspired by its bigger cousin, Deinonychus. Even that dinosaur was smaller than the man-sized predators of Jurassic Park, though. Both Velociraptor and Deinonychus were dromaeosaurs: bird-like carnivores with bony rods in their tails and sickle-shaped toe claws. (When we say “bird-like,” we mean it: Dromaeosaurs are thought to be some of our feathered friends’ closest relatives. Many had plumage; Velociraptor itself came with sizable feathers on each arm.)

The notion that they hunted in packs can be traced back to the maverick paleontologist John Ostrom of Yale. During the 1960s, he worked at a Montana dig site where four Deinonychus were found around the body of a larger herbivore named Tenontosaurus. Ostrom’s belief that dromaeosaurs hunted in organized groups gained traction with scientists and novelists alike. A newer interpretation of the data is that the dinos lived alone and at most occasionally came together to mob vulnerable plant-eaters.

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