In the finished film, we’re treated to just one Wampa ice creature who attacks Luke and takes him home for dinner. Originally there were supposed to be many more Wampas causing trouble for our friends at Echo Base. Much of the sub-plot was ultimately dropped.
THE WAMPA AND HIS LAIR
Early in the film, a Wampa attacks Luke while he’s on his tauntaun. In the film, Luke just asks his tauntaun if she smells something and is then knocked out and dragged across the tundra to the Wampa’s lair.
Luke originally had an extra bit of dialogue:
LUKEWeeho, girl! What’s the matter…you smell something?
There’s nothing out there.I’ll check again…
The filmmakers tried to get some more footage of the Wampa dragging Luke. For the Wampa, they used a guy named Des Webb in the big, heavy Wampa suit on stilts but it didn’t quite work. The poor guy kept falling down and it just didn’t look right so most of the shots were removed except for a close-up of Luke being dragged across the snow. Later, a new Wampa puppet was created and shot at Skywalker Ranch for a quick close-up.
I’m including a picture of Luke with his blaster out, which is quite puzzling. I don’t recall reading anything about Luke taking some shots at the Wampa after leaving the cave. Perhaps somewhere in Luke’s snowy travels he ran into a probe droid or another Wampa?
According to an old script page posted at Starwars.com, while Luke was “hanging out” in the Wampa’s lair he was originally supposed to hear Ben’s voice again, like he did at the end of Episode IV. The page reads:
Quietly, almost at a whisper, Luke hears old BEN’S CALM VOICE. Then in a voice over, Luke was to hear Ben say, “Luke, think the saber in your hand.” Luke’s next original line, “Gotta relax, relax…” is crossed out and replaced with, “Ben…Ben…” Ben’s voice over replies, “Let the Force flow, Luke.”
WAMPAS INFILTRATE ECHO BASE
In the fourth draft script one of the rebels says to his deck officer, “…I can’t imagine, sir. Their necks are broken.” (The script refers to three dead creatures, not one).
Wampas have already broken into the rebel base at this point. They broke in once around the time of Han and Leia’s argument in the hallway and then one was supposed to be seen when C-3PO and R2-D2 are walking towards the hangar commenting about the temperature in Leia’s chamber. Later, when Han is wondering where Luke is, he comes across the rebels examining the dead tauntaun. They are wondering what happened to the creature as they have no idea there are Wampas in the base yet. Then Han takes off on his tauntaun to find Luke.
In Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, director Irvin Kershner discusses the the Wampa scenes:
“You see, my theory is it’s better not to shoot something than to shoot it and cut it out. If you know that you’re too long or if you know that the story may not need it, then it’s better to give yourself more time for the scenes that you really need. The scenes with the Wampas attacking the base would have been very difficult to realize because we couldn’t show too much of the creatures; they wouldn’t have looked real.”
According to the fourth version of the script, there is some extra dialogue concerning the Wampas and a scene involving R2 getting chased down a hallway while the Rebels blast one. One of the Rebels calls in the report to General Rieekan saying, “We got it, sir, but there may be more.” Alarms are buzzing and Leia inquires if the creature has been examined yet. The general tells her they are working on it and then they are alerted to the Probe Droid’s presence. In the film, you’ll notice Leia says, “Then it couldn’t be one of those creatures,” referring to the Wampas.
Here is the excerpt from Lawrence Kasdan’s Fourth Draft Script:
INT CORRIDOR – REBEL BASE
The drip, drip, drip of melting ice echoes throughout the long eerie corridor. A trooper walks by, followed at a short distance by Artoo, who rolls along whistling to himself. Behind him, a Wampa Ice Monster suddenly appears from out of the wall and begins following the little droid. Up ahead Artoo sees several troopers begin to act rather strangely, pointing at him. This puzzles Artoo, and he stops for a moment to figure it out. Far in the distance, alarms begin to go off.
Artoo comes to a conclusion, spins his head around and sees the Ice Monster staring down at him. The droid lets out a screech and races down the hall at full tilt ahead of the advancing monster.
A small troop of soldiers has gathered at the end of the hallway with weapons. Artoo races through the armed gathering as the creature screams and charges the troopers, laser bolts exploding around him. Artoo peeks from around a corner in time to see several troopers hurled against the walls like rag dolls. Two soldiers fire a laser bazooka at the monster and it is obscured by an enormous explosion.
The smoke clears. The silence is spooky. The Ice Monster stands seemingly dumbstruck. Artoo gives a short, worried beep. The creature topples over in a dead heap. A cheer goes up from Artoo and the troopers as they converge to inspect the fallen creature. A young CORPORAL pulls his com-link off his belt and speaks into it.
We got it, sir, but
there may be more.
INT COMMAND CENTER – REBEL BASE
Alarms buzz softly in the background. The entire command center is on full alert. General Rieekan is conferring with the HEAD CONTROLLER as Han and Leia enter the room. Threepio and Chewie follow.
Have they analyzed the
one that was killed?
Not yet. They’re
working on it now.
Another alarm goes off at a console behind them and the SENSOR CONTROLLER at that spot calls across the room.
Rieekan leaves the group as they continue…
It won’t be long before our
sensors will be able to track them.
It figures Artoo would
be in the middle of this.
It’s going to be a little tricky around
here until we know where they’re coming from.
INT COMMAND CENTER BY CONSOLE – REBEL BASE
Rieekan looks up grimly from the console in the back ground. He calls over to Leia and Han.
We have a visitor.
The group hurries over to Rieekan.
We’ve picked up something outside
the base in zone one, moving East.
In the book, Once Upon a Galaxy by Alan Arnold [pages 57-58], he talks about the day this scene was filmed which was Friday, March 30, 1979:
While tests and rehearsals are taking place on Stage 2 for the Bespin sequences, the unit is at work on one of the most difficult of the ice-cavern scenes.
It’s the scene in which the monstrous Wampa Ice Creature thrusts its hideous claws through a cavern wall – a scene that took a very long time to set up. We knew that if it were not achieved in one take the whole thing would have to be mounted again for another try, and that would consume costly time.
But we failed to get it the first time. It just didn’t work.
Sometimes, a set-up that looks good on the drawing board doesn’t work visually. The film business is an amalgam of skills. It’s seldom possible to direct the fault to a particular area; so many hands have made a contribution. Kersh explained: “In this scene we’re trying to suggest more than will actually be seen. We need to use the audience’s imagination as a means of giving color to our coloring book. It’s no good just being literal in a shot like this. The effect must be one of illusion, a sleight of hand, a conjuring trick. So we’re going to try again.”
That’s film talk, of course, as special as the industry itself. But the fact of the matter is that the concept didn’t work. Wampas smashing through ice walls are not everyday events. Filmmakers contrive things that haven’t happened before and are unlikely to happen again. It was a brave failure. The shot will eventually be accomplished.
Visitors to the set today included an important group of bankers. One wonders what they would have made of this entry in the script supervisor’s log: “Wrapping up. Unable to continue with this shot as wall too strong for ice monster to break through. Also, the man inside the monster suit has been there three hours and is suffering from stomach cramps.”
Take note that according to the script supervisor’s log, the real problem with the scene is that the wall was too strong.
Anthony Daniels spoke of filming of this scene in Number Four of his “Wonder Column” articles which can be found in Star Wars Insider, Issue 29. If you’re lucky enough to have the “Wonder Column” audio CD, you’ll also hear it told by Daniels himself. Here’s his recollection:
This was a one-take shot. The kind of destruction planned did not countenance a second go. Three cameras would whirr to record the one-time-only event. The solid cavern walls had been cleverly constructed to be less impenetrable than they looked. Hidden fault lines would cause a great tumble-down, triggered by a double-fisted blow from the belligerent wampa – played by Eric. Eric is a gentle chap but big. Sneaking a look into the wampa’s inner ice sanctum behind the ice walls, now revealed him as a giant. He stood on top of large hairy moon-boot type shoes which raised his massive frame almost two feet higher. Shaggy white fur spread across his heavily padded body and down to his huge, vicious clawed hands. With the great razor-toothed head carefully placed on his shoulders and the hair combed down to hide the join, there stood Eric, the Biggest Wampa In The World.
STAND BY. You all right in there, Eric? asked David, the ever resourceful AD (here standing for Assistant Director rather than the incredibly resourceful Anthony Daniels). Herbumunooaa said Eric. You know what you have to do? asked David. Hertumunooaa said Eric, so that was all right. Everything was ready. Barriers gently removed lest any undue vibration should bring the set to an early collapse. Crew at a safe distance. Me, as always, at a safer one. ROLL CAMERAS A, B AND C, called David. Speed! they chorused. ACTION said MFIK [My Friend Irvin Kershner]. There was a thud. Fake snow fell off fake ice. Another thud. Deep silence. CUT said MFIK.
Well, clearly something had to be done. Teams of set-builders and dressers swarmed over icy surfaces, weakening them to utter fragility under the blazing lights. Time passed. STAND BY. You all right in there, Eric? asked David. Ewaaimaakoodwin said Eric, rather woolily. You know what you have to do? asked David. Ibnocmmowhawihi, said Eric, so that was all right. ROLL CAMERAS A, B AND C, called David. Speed! they chorused. ACTION said MFIK. There were a thud. Fake snow fell off fake ice, for the second time. Another thud. Bit more snow. Deeper silence. CUT said MFIK.
So they swarmed again and set-to with Plan B. Wires and ropes were attached, invisibly, to key positions in the ice walls. On the given word, out-of-shot crew would heave and haul the ice walls to the ground. Time was running out. Temperatures were running high. STAND BY ROLL CAMERAS A B AND C, called David. Speed! they chorused quickly. ACTION said MFIK. There was a mighty hauling and the walls Jerchoed down in a flurrying cloud of snow and ice. As the fog of white cleared, there stood the Biggest Wampa In The World, magnificently fearsome from his giant taloned feet, to the muscled breadth of his hairy shoulders, above which Eric’s severly overheated and reddened face gasped perspiringly at the three cameras busy whirring at him and his wampa head, cradled football-like in his ripping-clawed hands. Sorry, said Eric. CUT said MFIK. And it was.
On the Behind the Magic CD-ROM, a picture of the Rebels under attack was mistakenly described as “Rebels defending themselves against a snowtrooper breakin.” In a similar photo from The Star Wars Trilogy DVD, Lucasfilm has apparently corrected the mistake. The caption mentions the ice creature.
THE WAMPA PEN
In another deleted sequence, it’s discerned that R2-D2’s beeping noises attract the Wampas just like in the famous “Pied Piper” fairy tale. A plan is hatched for R2-D2 to lead Wampas into a room and lock them inside where they can no longer cause trouble. The Rebels would then place a red and yellow warning sign on the door so no one wanders inside.
Later on, while on their way to the medical center to see Luke, R2-D2 and C-3PO pass by the Wampa pen and discuss the creatures briefly. You can see this illustrated in the Episode V comic book adaptation.
Skip ahead to the exodus from Echo Base at the end of the battle of Hoth. Han, Leia and C-3PO are scurrying to get Leia to her transport. On the way out, they pass a door with the familiar yellow sign. Han gives the door a quick look and almost stops but continues on after presumably recognizing the warning. That quick moment is in the finished film so look for it next time you’re watching. It’s directly after General Veers destroys the power generators.
What you won’t see in the film is C-3PO (running behind Han and Leia, trying to keep up) come trudging up to the door after them. He stops for second and then remembers that the Wampa ice creatures are locked inside the room. His devious droid mind convinces him to walk up to the door and in a quick flash, tear off the yellow warning sign. He then proceeds to catch up with Han and Leia as they make their way to the Millennium Falcon.
After Vader and his Snowtroopers bust into the base, the troopers come across the same door minus the warning sign. They open the door, only to be attacked by the Wampas inside.
I can’t really confirm this part, but what I’ve heard happens next is that the door closes and Vader shows up asking the remaining troopers if there are Rebels in the room. One of them says something to the effect of, “I don’t think so, sir.” This has shown up on a few websites and in at least one publication I know of which is a magazine called Sci-Fi Universe from July 1994.
At Starwars.com, there was once a nice shot of Darth Vader standing inside Echo Base. The caption read: “In a scene cut from The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader is less than impressed with the bumbling snowtroopers that charge a wampa-filled room in Echo Base.”