In a piece on Gary Kurtz — an early producing partner of George Lucas — Geoff Boucher at the Los Angeles Times blog Hero Complex dug out this fascinating tidbit on why Kurtz quit Star Wars after The Empire Strikes Back:
After the release of “Empire” (which was shaped by material left over from that first Lucas treatment), talk turned to a third film and after a decade and a half the partners could no longer find a middle ground.
“We had an outline and George changed everything in it,” Kurtz said. “Instead of bittersweet and poignant he wanted a euphoric ending with everybody happy. The original idea was that they would recover [the kidnapped] 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.”
The discussed ending of the film that Kurtz favored presented the rebel forces in tatters, Leia grappling with her new duties as queen and Luke walking off alone “like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns,” as Kurtz put it.
Kurtz said that ending would have been a more emotionally nuanced finale to an epic adventure than the forest celebration of the Ewoks that essentially ended the trilogy with a teddy bear luau.
More emotionally nuanced? Hell yes! What a film that would have been. And much more appropriate to that awesome original title: Revenge of the Jedi
Don’t miss the whole Hero Complex piece. Kurtz blasts the prequels, insists that “the popular notion that ‘Star Wars’ was always planned as a multi-film epic is laughable,” and much more. It’s a great read.