The Battle of Yavin

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Yavin IV is a small moon orbiting the gas giant Yavin. It’s also where the Rebel Alliance decided to set up camp. Most of the battle preparation scenes took place in the hangar, briefing room, and throne room, not counting the few exterior shots. The battle obviously took place in space and there were a few changes made from script to film. Let’s take a look.

THE REBEL BASE

85According to the Star Wars Insider magazine #41, the elusive Lost Cut of Episode IV contains many shots of rebels doing their rebel thing while preparing for the fight of their lives. There are more shots of the hangar and ships, the briefing room, and some of the pilots even got close-ups.

On a related note, a hotly debated subject in some fan circles for years has been what I call the “The Briefing Room Wedge” debate. My good friend and Rebel Pilot fanatic Jim Fisher tells this tale best:

The Briefing Room Wedge – Jim Fisher – 4/28/2005

In 1996 Decipher, the makers of the Star Wars Collectible Card Game, released their “Wedge Antilles” card in the A New Hope expansion set.  The photo on the card was clearly not Denis Lawson — rather, it was the actor who delivers the line “That’s impossible, even for a computer,” in the briefing room.  Jason Winter, then Decipher’s online representative, posted the following to the newsgroup alt.fan.wedge:

“In Star Wars [A New Hope], Lucas originally got the actor Jack Klaff to play Wedge. He did so in the briefing room scene, where he  said “That’s impossible, even for a computer.” We have  confirmed with Lucasfilm that indeed, this is Wedge Antilles. Later, Jack “became unavailable”. Denis Lawson was the actor who played Wedge in the  Death Star attack scenes, as well as later in ESB and RotJ.”

Sandy Wible, another Decipher rep, commented “Well, I’m not sure that he [Klaff] actually appeared in the Death Star scenes, or whether that was just  an error in the credits. The credits are flat wrong in at least two other  places, so it’s not unbelievable.”

However, it turns out that Decipher is flat wrong on this issue.  Jack Klaff once wrote to me: “I can tell you that I most certainly WAS in Star Wars, but that I most certainly was not in the briefing scene.”  Klaff also identifies himself in the film as a pilot seen during the trench run. Decipher identifies Klaff’s photo as “Lt. Naytaan, Red 9.”

So, this leaves the question as to who plays the “Briefing Room  Wedge” open. Carolyn Brady has done some research into the “alternate Wedge” and has theorized the actor is not Jack Klaff,  but is in fact the British actor Colin Higgins.

Brady writes:

After scrutiny of videos (Jack Klaff in “For Your Eyes Only” and Colin Higgins in “Brideshead Revisited”), I was going to concede that “Not-Wedge” could conceivably be Jack Klaff if he had bulked up into someone handsomer between the making of SW and Eyes, but I still wasn’t sure so I recently showed the segments to 3 friends and they all said that Not-Wedge was definitely not Jack Klaff because his nose and cheekbones were all wrong. Two thought he was more likely to be Colin Higgins though they weren’t sure, and one friend (who like me loves SW and all those Brit Lit tv series) said she had always thought it was Colin Higgins too (though she didn’t know his name, she mentioned three other shows he had been in and when I showed her the Brideshead clip she said, “That’s him!”).

However, when I flashed the game card around on the movie discussion board at a Jane Austen site (where  they’re all obsessive about Brit actors like I am), a woman who had seen Jack Klaff in Ivanhoe on A&E went back to her video to look and said she thought it could be him (although his character in Ivanhoe had a beard and  he’s twenty years older now). I’m almost sure that Jack Klaff IS the X-wing pilot who says “I’m  hit!” and  gets blown up (I had to freeze the frame to see his face which is partially obscured by his helmet but he has a very distinctive nose). Anyway, look at JK in For Your Eyes Only. He plays one of the villain’s (Julian Glover, AKA  General Veers) henchmen (dark hair, looks Greek, wears jeans and tight t-shirt). And if you can find a copy of Brideshead Revisited  at the library, I can tell you which episode/scene Colin Higgins shows up best in so you don’t have to watch all 11 hours.

As I mentioned, I still think he [Klaff] actually does appear briefly in the final battle as the X-wing pilot who shouts “I’m hit!” before  exploding. Compare facial structure there (all you see is his mouth, chin, nose) with Jack Klaff in “For Your Eyes Only” [Ed. Note:  Klaff has confirmed that the aforementioned pilot is indeed him]. His publicity info at the Southern Shakespeare Festival also stated that he was in Star Wars (and somehow I  don’t think he’d be broadcasting that fact in that venue if he had ended  up  entirely on the cutting room floor but who knows!)  I have not come across any pictures on the ‘net yet (not even at the  British Actors web ring).  They are both obscure enough to have not one  webpage devoted to them!

Best comparative screen capture for Colin Higgins would probably be found in Brideshead Revisited, Epis. 4 “Sebastian Against the World” towards the end  of the episode where his character Partridge has a conversation with  Charles  Ryder (Jeremy Irons) while sitting on a bench in a quadrangle at Oxford. He’s in good profile and looks particularly non-Wedgie. If you go to the closing credits and watch in reverse it’s the first scene outdoors wedged  (no pun intended) between a scene with Jeremy Irons and Simon Jones packing things {SJ asks:  “Do you think Sebastian will need this elephant’s foot again?”}  and a scene  with Irons and Sir John Gielgud eating before Irons goes off to art school  in Paris and they roll the closing credits.  Higgins also appears briefly in the first episode as one of the scholarly  group Jeremy Irons hangs out with.  Especially look for the scene  where they  are discussing academics in a dorm room when Anthony Andrews sticks his  head  in an open window and throws up on the seat.  If you can’t find  Brideshead  at your local video rental you should be able to borrow it through a good  university library or large public library system since it’s Great  Literature.  (Unfortunately I don’t have video capture technology and  my  illicit copy of Brideshead is about 10 years old)

I realize that this doesn’t clear up who actually played “briefing room Wedge,” but it should help point out who Klaff is in the film.

I’m including some other photos from Yavin IV here. The picture of R2-D2 being raised into Luke’s X-wing was never used in the original version of the film and can be seen in The Star Wars Storybook, among other places.  If you look closely during the restored “Biggs” scene in the Special Edition, you can see the droids and the tech in the background raising R2 into place.

The astromech droid in the close-up (the reddish R5 unit), according to Starwars.com, was Red Leader’s astromech droid in the battle of Yavin. Here’s the text from Starwars.com:

Filming of the cockpit scenes took place on one of Britain’s hottest days in 400 years. The production crew only built a single X-wing interior and it served as the cockpit of all the X-wing pilots seen in the film. The astromech droid head seen behind the cockpit was interchangeable. Red Leader’s X-wing had a Red R5 unit assigned to it.

Star Wars Insider issue #42 includes a quote from Anthony Daniels who tells a short story about how a scene at the end of the film involving C-3PO and R2-D2 was altered. Here’s the text:

“We (Threepio and Artoo) were scripted to march up the aisle with the rest… On a good day I could do steps — at great personal risk. Like my cleaning lady, Artoo doesn’t do steps — even on a good day. So a decision had to be made. My companion and I would not make the trip at all. Instead we would lurk on the platform awaiting the arrival of the superheroes who could go the distance without seizing up.”

Cinefex Magazine, in their 1996 tribute to ILM issue (#68), makes a quick mention of the Yavin IV shots indicating that many were left out. Here’s an excerpt from the article called War Stories by Kevin Martin:

With the studio maintaining a tight-fisted attitude towards the production, funds for second unit work were only sparingly alloted. Thus, when the time came for a second unit shoot in Guatemala, where the jungle surrounding the Rebel base on Yavin was to be filmed, only Richard Edlund and Dick Alexander were sent to photograph the required plates. “By this time, most of the show was in optical, so they could afford to let us go,” recalled Edlund. “With a production scout, we went to the Mayan ruins at Tikal. There we met up with Lorne Peterson who was on vacation by now and decided to join us on his own. We hired some local péones and schlepped our incredibly heavy Technirama camera – in its case with a two-hundred-foot magazine and a car battery to run it – to the top of a giant pyramid still covered over with jungle. As a lookout post, we erected a pole with a glorified trash can on the end of it that the model shop had made, and Lorne got to play the guard. We were there for about ten days and did a bunch of shots – three or four of which wound up in the movie.”

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REBEL PILOTS

94Red Four, otherwise known as “John D”, is a young pilot who gets shot down after eliminating his first target. He was played by actor Jack Klaff and originally had a few lines of dialogue which were removed from the film. Here’s an interesting quote from the “Behind the Magic” CD-ROM about John D. I say “interesting” because it’s actually wrong… from a certain point of view:

An additional fighter pilot, Red Four (or “John D.”) is mentioned in the novel. He is a young, eager pilot who is sadly shot down after destroying his very first TIE fighter. Actor Jack Klaff was cast in the role for the film and his three lines (“Red 4 standing by…,” “I’ve got one, I’ve got one…,” and “I’m hit! Arrrrgh!”) were shot in under an hour. To reduce the film’s overall length, these scenes were ultimately eliminated. Although he does not appear in the film, Jack Klaff does receive a credit at its close.

The part that’s incorrect is where they say he does not appear in the film. John D actually does appear in the film for a few brief seconds when his fighter is followed and destroyed. The script excerpt below even contains a line from Red Leader (Blue Leader in the original drafts) that made it into the film (“…watch it, you’ve got one on your tail.”)

Here are the script excerpts from the “Star Wars Revised Fourth Draft Screenplay” (dated March 15, 1976) with Red Four’s deleted moments intact:

First, John D. gives the famous “standing by” line:

JOHN D
Blue Four standing by.

and then later in the script we find this…

181. INT. JOHN D’s STARSHIP – COCKPIT – TRAVELING
CU. John D, a young pilot with a scar across one eye, adjusts his targeting device.

JOHN D
I’m on one! I’ve got one!

182. EXT. SPACE AROUND THE DEATH STAR
Full Shot. A tie ship races by camera followed by John D.

183. INT. JOHN D’s STARSHIP – COCKPIT – TRAVELING
POV. shot over John D’s shoulder. The tie ship attempts to outmaneuver the young rebel, to no avail. John D closes on the Imperial craft as it skims the surface.

184. INT. JOHN D’s STARSHIP – COCKPIT – TRAVELING
CU. John D reaches up and pulls the trigger of his laser cannon.

185. EXT. JOHN D’s STARSHIP – TRAVELING
POV. Gunsite. The ship is blown to oblivion and spirals down toward the Death Star.

186. INT. JOHN D’s STARSHIP – COCKPIT – TRAVELING
CU. John D. A gleeful expression crosses his face at his good shooting.

BLUE LEADER
Good shooting, Blue Six…
watch it, you’ve got one on your tail.

John D’s smile instantly disappears from his face as he looks around, but can’t see the ship behind him. His ship shudders as a laserbolt explodes nearby, creating flak out the cockpit window.

187. EXT. SPACE AROUND THE DEATH STAR
Full Shot. John D’s x wing races past camera, closely chased by an Imperial tie ship firing both guns.

188. INT. JOHN D’s STARSHIP – COCKPIT – TRAVELING
CU. John D. The inside of the cockpit explodes as John D is hit.

JOHN D
I’m hit! I’m hit!

189. EXT. SPACE AROUND THE DEATH STAR
Full Shot. John D’s X wing explodes in a fiery ball, parts flying in all directions.

Greg Rossiter alerted me to this bit of information about Red 12 (or Blue 12, if you’re reading the novel/screenplay). Apparently what happened is that Red 12 (along with Red Leader and Red 10) was part of the second run on the Death Star exhaust port. Red 12 was the first to be shot down by Vader during that particular run. When Red 10 was destroyed, however, the editors used Red 12’s cockpit destruction shot instead, probably assuming no one would know the difference.

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TIE FIGHTERS

188Starwars.com once posted that the TIE Bomber, first seen in Episode V, was originally to be included in Episode IV:

The TIE bomber’s design was actually conceived for A New Hope, though the vessel was not seen in that film. Early sketches labeled it a TIE boarding craft, suggesting its use at the start of the film. From those sketches, both Marvel Comics and the daily Star Wars newspaper comic strip incorporated the twin-pod design in their tales before the bomber’s formal introduction in The Empire Strikes Back.

They also once posted this bit of trivia in a TIE Fighter Pilot Databank entry:

An interior shot of a TIE fighter’s destruction is never seen in the original trilogy, though behind-the-scenes photos prove that such shots were filmed.

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SNOW PLANET

This isn’t exactly tied into the battle of Yavin but it’s planet related and who knows how the film might have changed. Yavin IV could have ended up a snow planet instead of a jungle planet.

That said, it’s no secret that George Lucas likes to use a wide variety of planets and environments in the STAR WARS films. One interesting fact that most people might not be aware of is that the idea for a snow planet didn’t originate with Episode V.

Here’s a quote from producer Gary Kurtz:

“We took out the snow scenes in the first film [A NEW HOPE] partially because George doesn’t like shooting in the cold. This time, we were able to include a snow environment.”

 

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