How The Star Wars Crew (Tried To) Keep The Darth Vader Reveal Under Wraps

Spoiler culture is a big deal today. While certain studios have leveraged spoiler culture to influence audiences to rush to cinema halls on release day, others use it as means to create buzz and anticipation for a particular film. For obvious reasons, nobody likes spoilers because they most certainly ruin the excitement of watching a movie and take away from its ability to let surprises and secrets unravel naturally. Today, with social media usage at an all-time high, it's nearly impossible to keep a massive movie secret under wraps. Back in the day, however, word of mouth was the only way for spoilers to get out, and studios worked hard to keep big reveals a mystery.

When the 1980 "Star Wars" film "The Empire Strikes Back" was set to release, the film's cast and crew worked hard to conceal the reveal: that Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker were father and son. "Star Wars" creator George Lucas made sure only three people knew about the major plot twist: director Irvin Kershner, Mark Hamill (who played Skywalker), and himself. When Lucas was asked if the secret could've been harbored in the age of the internet, the film director seemed hopeful, stating it was hard for sensitive information to break out if only three people knew its details.

'I didn't tell anybody ... '

In an interview with, George Lucas explained how the "Star Wars" cast and crew tried to keep the truth behind Darth Vader a mystery. The filmmaker ensured the plot didn't make it to the scripts, and he didn't share the information with anyone. Mark Hamill was only informed of his onscreen father's presence on the day of filming — there was no room for anyone else to find out!

"... The thing about it is I didn't tell anybody — anybody — about it. And it wasn't in any of the scripts. It wasn't even in the story treatments. I kept that aspect of it secret and I was the only one that knew about it. And it really wasn't until the day we shot that we told Mark [Hamill] so he could react appropriately."

The film's director, Irvin Kershner, was the one to inform Mark Hamill that only three people knew about Darth Vader's secret, and if the world found out, he'd know who spilled the beans.

He said: "'I know it. George knows it. And when I tell you, you'll know it,'" Hamill recalled. "'But that means, that's only three people. So if it leaks, we'll know it's you.'"

The Star Wars cast and crew were dedicated secret keepers

Weeks after filming had concluded, George Lucas sat outside a recording booth with actor James Earl Jones (who dubbed for the character). After Jones recited the iconic "No, I am your father" dialogue, sound designer Ben Burtt and the other sound mixers learned of the big reveal.

"The mixers, those guys were all dedicated to being quiet. [...] They weren't going to tell anybody. But there were very, very few people who knew about it until it was shown for the first time. [...] By the end, with the actors, about 12 people knew what that line was."

Lucas continued, revisiting his early statement, sharing that it is much harder to keep plot points under wraps these days. "I think, in this era now, with the internet the way it is, it's very hard to have surprises in a movie. And I don't think you could do it today."

Interestingly, the Darth Vader reveal had been leaked far before "The Empire Strikes Back" even had a script. Actor David Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the original film trilogy, accidentally revealed to the press that Darth Vader was Luke's father, which deeply affected his relationship with George Lucas and caused him to be replaced. Years have passed, the relationship between them has severed, and Prowse was banned from all "Star Wars" events.