This Is How ‘Star Wars’ Writers Pulled Off ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ Twist

Star Wars began a long time ago… well, actually back in 1977, so not that long ago. But still, it’s been around for 42 years and isn’t stopping. Even though The Rise of Skywalker is the final installment in the Skywalker saga, there’s plenty more on the horizon. But looking back at the series of films, there isn’t a moment quite like Vader’s in Empire Strikes BackWhile Luke’s father’s reveal is well-known and quoted now, it was the surprise of the decade and the saga. Going into Episode IX, how did they pull that off?

David Prowse as Darth Vader in a scene from the film 'Star Wars: A New Hope' in 1977.
David Prowse as Darth Vader in a scene from the film ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ in 1977 | 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images

The writers didn’t plan the reveal until after ‘A New Hope’

As stated above, the reveal was a massive surprise when the movie came out in 1980. Entertainment Weekly reported that when A New Hope came out in ‘77, George Lucas hadn’t come up with Darth Vader as Luke’s father yet. But when he told screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan about it when writing Episode V, it was essential to do a proper lead up to it in Empire Strikes Back.

“All this energy and all this storytelling that proceeded it was aimed at this tiny spot,” Kasdan said. “It’s like if you were trying to get to Mars and you were one degree off, you wouldn’t get there… How do we get there at the perfect time, the perfect place, and have it just absolutely blow people’s minds?”

He said the movie itself was massive by this point. So they had to figure out how to deliver this blow while keeping it a secret.

Not even Mark Hamill got “I am your father” it in his script

Kasdan said that they gave the cast dummy scripts, even Mark Hamill, who is, of course, paramount to that scene. Hamill thought the surprise was going to be that Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) was going to be the villain, which he also thought was great and “didn’t see that coming.”

Hamill said they pulled him aside right before they shot the pivotal scene where Vader delivers “I am your father” as his hand is cut off. “[Director Irvin Kershner] pulled me aside and, and said, ‘Look, I’m going to tell you something, and I know it and George knows it, so if it leaks, we’ll know it was you,” Hamill said. “We’re going to dub in [the line] I am your father.’ I thought, ‘Oh my God, I was as shocked as the audience would later be. This is so primal, nothing could top Darth Vader being your father.”

Darth Vader’s reveal is partly what made ‘Empire Strikes Back’ everyone’s favorite

Empire Strikes Back is known to be many people’s favorite movies in the Star Wars franchise, even today, after nearly eleven films. It’s partly for the storytelling and the drama of it all, but Kasdan also said it’s because of this very scene. 

“It blew people’s minds,” he says. “I have never gone to a screening of the movie where people weren’t shocked, where they didn’t gasp. I would say that was the most successful secret ever kept in movies. People were amazing about not telling other people.” Even Harrison Ford gave Hamill a hard time for keeping it from him. 

Whether you remember it as “Luke, I am your father,” or the correct, “No, I am your father,” this scene is the epitome of what makes Star Wars so popular. Space, drama, mystical powers, and a possible dark dad around every corner.