George Lucas Explains How Return Of The Jedi's Ending Got Spoiled Before Release

The following article contains spoilers for the 1983 film "Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi." 

Usually, I wouldn't put a spoiler warning about a film from 1983, but I have recently discovered people who have never seen the original three "Star Wars" films. Worrying about spoilers is a huge part of the social media era, whether it's people getting mad about plot points being posted the second a midnight film premiere lets out or someone mentioning the ending of a film from decades ago. However, it's not a new problem; it's just more widespread. 

"Star Wars" is one of those franchises that is very secretive by design. There are huge plot twists, redefined relationships, big reveals, and character shifts that the filmmakers want you to experience while watching the film. I wholeheartedly agree as someone who had a certain brother/sister relationship from this franchise spoiled on the playground. 

George Lucas was dealing with spoilers all the way back in 1983 when "Return of the Jedi" was about to come out. In a Rolling Stone interview from that year, he spoke about having the ending of the film spoiled. This is your last warning about spoilers for a 40-year-old film. 

'They bought a story from one of the crew members in London'

The publication mentioned to Lucas that someone on a local news station "winked at the camera and said there were rumors that Darth Vader (David Prowse, with the voice of James Earl Jones) might not be such a bad guy after all." As you know, at the film's end, Darth Vader — who has been evil the entire time — saves his son Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) from the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) and shows Luke his real face. It was a really powerful moment in the theater, and knowing about it going in would have spoiled that moment. Lucas spoke about how it all happened. He said: 

"Well, that was published in a science-fiction magazine, and then they called the newspapers, and the newspapers published what Vader does in the end — the whole end of the movie. They bought a story from one of the crew members in London, and then they put it together with the fact that the title had been changed from 'Revenge' to 'Return.' They wrote this whole thing about the plot, and that got published in newspapers."

I cannot imagine the frustration that goes along with spending years crafting a story, which is itself a continuation of years of work for thousands of people, and then having the climax of the tale spoiled before anyone but critics have gotten a chance to see it. I'm still mad about the Luke and Leia (Carrie Fisher) thing, and it's been decades. One thing about the film did help in that area, though, as Lucas said in the same interview. 

'You just didn't give away the end of a movie before it opened'

"Return of the Jedi" doesn't hinge on a single reveal. It's the culmination of a story that we first saw in 1977. We watched character development and the politics of a galaxy play out over all those years. The entertainment value wasn't dependent on something like the identity of a murderer, as Lucas explained, saying:

"I think the film works on a better level than Agatha Christie because if it were an Agatha Christie, it would be in the toilet right now. But I think it does spoil it for a lot of people who would rather be surprised and be caught up in the story. It used to be that you just didn't give away the end of a movie before it opened. Now it's become the thing."

It is most certainly a thing. (I might argue that even knowing the identity of the killer — as one might after reading a mystery a few times — an Agatha Christie novel is always good, but point taken.) By the way, he mentions a spoiler for the TV series "Dallas" in the rest of that quote, saying that if a certain plot point got out, it, too, would have been written up everywhere. I'm sure you can guess what that spoiler was, but just in case, I will leave it out. 

All of the Star Wars films are currently streaming on Disney+.