Was there originally another fate for Lando and the Millennium Falcon at the end of Return of the Jedi? The answer is no, but let’s examine the origin of this urban legend.
Rumor has it that in an early rough draft of the script or treatment, Lando contacts Wedge while trying to get out of the Death Star II. He regrets not being able to return the Falcon without a scratch and that he hopes Han will forgive him. Then KABOOM!
There’s a little foreshadowing of this in the film when Han is looking at the Falcon from the shuttle cockpit. He says that he feels like he’s never going to see her again. Not much, but it makes you wonder how the ending celebration might have been different.
There was once a site called B Squared’s STAR WARS Stuff that was quite informative. There was one section in particular that I’d like to reference and it deals with the subject of the Falcon’s rumored demise. It’s quite interesting, though I have to say I very much disagree with some of it. Robert Brown, the author, seems to be very sure that this scene was filmed and even tested with audiences! I have found very little proof of this. I was always under the impression that this idea was something possibly written into one of the early drafts but was written out almost as fast.
Robert posted an image which he claimed to be the Falcon blowing up (which I think was doctored by the source). I’m not sure how Robert meant to explain the pictures on the page but he implies that this picture of the ship exploding was cut from the film and not just a fan-made picture sent in by a guy named Tim Ketzer. If he is in fact claiming that this picture is a deleted still, then I have to disagree.
I overlaid the two images in Photoshop with the fiery shot at 40% transparency. As you can see, they are the same exact still. If the shot in question was in the film at all, even moving one frame at a time there would be some kind of movement, especially in the background.
I don’t think that this scene was ever filmed, never mind test screened.
To further debunk this rumor, on June 9th 2000, the Official Star Wars Site posted an article in their Urban Legends of Star Wars section dealing with this idea. Here’s an interesting excerpt that proves this was never filmed.
One definite culprit in this legend’s longevity is a revised plot synopsis treatment entitled ‘The Revenge and Return of the Jedi’. Dated July 6 1980, (though undoubtedly printed at a later date), this concise retelling of the basic story — with notable changes — is a fake. It describes Luke taking over the Death Star (re-christening it the Life Star), Vader being the ‘other’ Yoda spoke of, and Leia and Han marrying at the film’s end, with Wicket one of the attendants at the wedding. It also contains the following passage:
‘Meanwhile, the Death Star ray begins destroying Rebel ships. Lando and the Rebel Forces unsuccessfully attempt to penetrate the force field, and the efforts on Endor have failed. Lando sees many of his comrades dying for the Alliance. He feels that the Alliance might die itself if something is not done soon. Lando makes a final decision to plow the Millennium Falcon through the force field in a self-sacrificing gesture for the Rebel Alliance. Lando and the Falcon explode in a beautiful burst of energy and color.’
An excerpt from the screenplay that has Lando and the Falcon destroyed and Han looking up, quietly voicing his loss, has shown up on the Internet, but it too is a fake. Also untrue are tales that footage of the Falcon made its way into test screenings of Return of the Jedi, but was ultimately left out of the movie because it didn’t score well with the audience.
Given the weight of this evidence, it appears there is no truth behind the rumor that the Falcon and Lando were originally to have perished. It is possible the idea may have been thrown around during undocumented brainstorming sessions, but the legend that it actually was committed to film is false.
It’s a burning question that has gone unanswered for a long time but at least they confirmed that it was never filmed. I’d still like to know if it was a glimmer in Lucas’ eye at one time.
Just for kicks, Greg Rossiter, was having some fun going through the Google archives that go back into the early 1980’s, before the Internet was really around in full swing. There was much discussion back then on the BBS and such. One post caught his eye. Return of the Jedi had been out less than a month and someone was already claiming that their friend saw the “Lando dies” ending. Now you can see just how far back some of these rumors go.
Now a friend who’s seen an unreleased version of RotJ tells me that in that version, the Falcon was consumed at the last moment as it was escaping from the exploding Death Star, presumably killing Lando and co-pilot. This seems like a much more dramatic (though perhaps less mass-appealing) ending. My friend says that there are other differences from the released version, as well.