Would You Have Watched ‘Return of the Jedi’ With Its Original Name ‘Blue Harvest’?

Return of the Jedi is one of the most iconic film events in history. Long before the internet made event cinema more lucrative than it’s ever been, Jedi showed that once could close out the biggest trilogy in history in a way that resonates beyond. However, the movie almost had an entirely different name. Had George Lucas gone with his shooting title, one could only wonder if it would have the same success. 

‘Return of the Jedi’ makes history

Stormtroopers
Stormtroopers | Albert L. Ortega/WireImage

Older fans may wish that we were still in a world where the on-screen Star Wars saga began and ended with the original trilogy, but younger ones may have a hard time picturing a world where Star Wars was just that. Jedi had the unforgiving task of taking one of the most well-reviewed sequels of all time and giving it a satisfying ending. 

While the film is not without its own detractors, it largely succeeded. While much can be said about the Ewoks and other commonly-derided features, the film put a definitive end to that timeline of the force and set up what is now a universe that goes far beyond Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Emperor Palpatine. 

While Star Wars remains one of the most lucrative products on the planet, nothing past the original trilogy has matched the fanfare, even if the internet gave the masses a louder voice. The Galaxy far Away is unlike anything that the entertainment industry has ever seen and had Jedi not given fans a satisfying ending for the years between its release and the prequels; audiences would have viewed the entire trilogy differently. 

While the on-screen action is the main reason behind it, their name during shooting seems strange hearing it in a post-Jedi world. However, the reasoning behind it was less about the themes and more about making shooting as easy as possible. 

‘Star Wars: Episode VI -Blue Harvest’

Making any movie, show, or art project requires adaptation, knowing what works, and changing the fly. While Return of the Jedi is an on-the-nose title, it gives the franchise, which Lucas always made for kids, a fitting name for a fitting ending. His original name, however, is more ominous and hard to grasp. Producer Howard Kazanjian explained why the franchise chose a different name in a quote collected by Brian Jay Jones

When shooting Jedi in the United States, we called the film Blue Harvest. Camera slates, invoices, hotel reservations, call sheets, production reports, crew hats, and T-shirts all read Blue Harvest. So when a visitor would ask, ‘what are you shooting’ and we said Blue Harvest, they went on their way. Can you imagine what would have happened if we had said, ‘We’re shooting the next film in the Star Wars trilogy’?” he said.

The on-location shooting is part of the Star Wars mythos. After all, the decisions to use green screens and studios are a major reason why the prequel trilogy is so derided. However, shooting on location means fans know where they are. To avoid an onslaught of fans, they shot under Blue Harvest.” Now, it’s part of Star Wars lore, thanks to a Family Guy spoof using that name and years of nostalgia for the originals.

What does ‘Blue Harvest’ mean?

Lucas was never shy about the impact that Japanese director Akira Kurosawa had on the franchise. However, the fake horror movie that Lucas and company were shooting has roots in one of Kurosawa’s inspirations, too. Mental Floss notes the reasons behind the title, but it might take a little more digging to understand the inspiration. 

According to FandomRed Harvest was a novel that inspired Kurosawa to create Yojimbo, a film that inspired the American Western and other genre pieces around the world. Star Wars was always an amalgamation of past ideas put together in a new way, and this title helps wink at this notion. Blue Harvest may have been a means to shoot in peace, but now it has fans wondering what may happen had they used that fake title instead of the one they know and love today. 

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