The Empire Strikes Back Was The First Film Harrison Ford Was 'Happy With'

One thing a lot of Harrison Ford fans have picked up on over the years is that the actor never seemed to care that much about "Star Wars." He's said on multiple occasions that he'd been pushing for his character Han Solo to die long before they finally took him out in "The Force Awakens." Whereas Ford has always seemed fiercely protective over his star role as Indiana Jones, he's never seemed to care quite as much about the scroundrel that made him a household name.

But although Ford's feelings towards the franchise may be complicated, his feelings towards "The Empire Strikes Back" are surprisingly straightforward. "It's the first time I've ever seen anything I've done that I'm happy with," the actor said, according to the 2002 biography "The Films of Harrison Ford." A big part of what made his performance work was his easygoing relationship with the new director, Irvin Kershner, who allowed him to continue improvising and appreciated his creative input. "He was wonderful," Ford said.

Maybe one of the coolest things about Ford's experience with "Empire Strikes Back" was the way he went about reading the script. He decided to only read the sections where Han was present, so that he would only know information that Han would know in each particular scene. "So when I finally saw the finished movie, I learned for the first time all the things that happened to Luke," Ford explained. "It was great." 

You'd think Ford would've been told about the big twist in the movie he starred in, but when he went to see it in theaters, he was just as surprised as everyone else.

Should Han have died sooner?

Though Ford enjoyed "Empire Strikes Back," he was less happy with the way "Return of the Jedi" turned out. In a 2015 interview on Conan, Ford talked about how he'd pushed for Han to die in that third film. "I thought that the best utility of the character would be for him to sacrifice himself to a high ideal and give a little gravitas to the enterprise," Ford explained. "Not that there wasn't some already, but I just wanted in on that part of it."

Rewatching "Return of the Jedi," it's easy to see his point. There's certainly a lot of gravitas in Luke's storyline, as he has his climactic battle with Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. But Han Solo doesn't actually get to do much in this film. He gets rescued in the first third and then he just sort of helps out. When fans think of their favorite Han moments throughout the series, odds are they're thinking of a moment from "A New Hope" or "Empire" and not "Return of the Jedi," even though Han does get a handful of amusing moments throughout.

Considering Han started off as a selfish rogue who couldn't be bothered with any sort of larger cause, it would've been a perfectly suitable ending for him to have nobly sacrificed his life for the rebellion, and it would've given Ford the chance to do some more of the serious, emotional acting he'd get to do in his other films like "Blade Runner" or "Apocalypse Now." 

George Lucas didn't like the idea, however, and people have been debating the decision to keep Han alive ever since. Although Ford may not have loved his character's lack of meaty material in "Jedi" or Lucas's questionable dialogue in "A New Hope," he will always have the widely-acclaimed "Empire Strikes Back" to be proud of.