‘Return of the Jedi’: George Lucas Wanted David Lynch to Direct the ‘Star Wars’ Film

Return of the Jedi could have been a very different movie if George Lucas had managed to convince one of his first picks for director to take the job. The man who created the Star Wars franchise wanted David Lynch behind the camera for the third installment in the original trilogy. But the Twin Peaks creator turned him down, saying he had zero desire to work on the film.

David Lynch had ‘zero interest’ in working on ‘Return of the Jedi’ 

Emperor in Return of the Jedi
Return of the Jedi | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

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During a 2009 talk at the Hudson Union Society in New York, Lynch discussed a meeting he had with Lucas. The mastermind behind the Star Wars films had invited the Eraserhead director to meet with him to discuss the possibility of working on Return of the Jedi. But Lynch wasn’t exactly excited by the opportunity. 

“I had next door to zero interest,” he said. “But I always admired George. George is a guy that does what he loves. And I do what I love. The difference is, what George does makes hundreds of billions of dollars.”

Despite his reservations, the recent Oscar nominee (for 1980’s Elephant Man) agreed to talk with Lucas about directing the film. 

Lynch had an awkward meeting with Lucas

David Lynch
David Lynch | Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Lynch described traveling to Northern California to meet with Lucas, who explained some aspects of the Star Wars universe to Lynch. 

“He took me upstairs and he showed me these things called Wookies,” Lynch recalled, who said by that time was developing a splitting headache. 

He and Lucas later went out to lunch at a restaurant that only served salad, much to Lynch’s disappointment. At some point, Lynch snuck away for a minute and called his agent, telling him “there’s no way I can do this.” 

The next day he called Lucas and said he couldn’t direct the movie, urging Lucas to do it instead since he was so passionate about it. But Lucas didn’t love directing, Lynch said, and Richard Marquand ending up getting the job. 

In his book Lynch on Lynch, the celebrated director elaborated on his reasons for turning down Return of the Jedi. 

“I’ve never even really liked science fiction,” he wrote, according to Mental Floss. “I like elements of it, but it needs to be combined with other genres. And, obviously, Star Wars was totally George’s thing.”

Lynch directed the sci-fi epic ‘Dune’ instead 

Despite a lack of enthusiasm for sci-fi, Lynch’s next project was an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. The 1984 film stars Kyle MacLachlan as a young man who leads a rebellion on a desert planet. It was poorly received both by fans of the novel and by critics and bombed at the box office. 

Lynch has expressed his disappointment with Dune in the years since its release, explaining that he was not able to truly realize his vision for the film. 

“I always say, Dune is a huge gigantic sadness in my life,” Lynch said in 2019 during a virtual appearance at the opening of an exhibit of his work in London. “I did not have final cut on that film. Total creative control, I didn’t have it. The film is not the film I would’ve made had I had that final control. It’s a bit of a sadness.”

A new adaptation of Dune directed by Denis Villeneuve is scheduled for release December 18, 2020.