When Mark Hamill jumped into work on Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, he wanted to perform every possible stunt that he could himself. In fact, Hamill did so much of his own stunt work in the Starwars movie that he was later made a member of the British Stunt Union.
During an interview with StarWars.comHamill talked about doing the stunts, saying:
“And I’ll tell you something, in those days — it’s changed as I’ve gotten older, — but in those days I wanted to do every possible stunt I could. [Empire] was the most physically grueling of them all because of the lightsaber duels and all that.”
This movie was the first time Hamill would actually use the Lightsaber to fight in his battle with Darth Vader. It took a long time to choreograph this fight sequence, and it was even delayed because Hamill injured his thumb diving away from an imagined AT-AT on a salt-covered soundstage the day his son was born.
Anyway, this duel was going to involve more acrobatics and choreographed footwork than the duel between Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first film. They wanted to do something cool and get flashy! However, the first fight sequence they choreographed was not to George Lucas’s liking and they found out that he had a rule about lightsaber fights at the time. That rule was that the character had to hold the Lightsaber with two hands. They could not hold the lightsaber in one hand when fighting. Hamill explained:
“I worked with Peter Diamond who was the stunt coordinator, and Bob Anderson who doubled Vader, who was an Olympic Fencing champion, so there was intensive training. We had worked out a sequence we were all particularly proud of. And I’m talking weeks and weeks of this…and we said, ‘Let’s bring George [Lucas] in.’ We brought George in to look at what we had done and he said, ‘Um well, you can’t take your hands off a lightsaber. You can’t hold it in one hand.’ And we said, ‘What?’ We had choreographed stuff where, you know, we did spins around and we did various things….He didn’t want us to ever take both hands off the hilt. So we had to go back and re-choreograph that whole thing. It was frustrating, but I was very lucky to have Peter who was so skilled as a stunt coordinator, and Bob. He was someone who, he could counter if I made a mistake, he could counter it and incorporate it into the routine and we could keep going. It takes an expert to make a novice look good, and that was certainly the case with him.”
That rule has since been thrown out the window, and the Lightsaber fight choreography has become so much more awesome! I’d love to get Lucas’ thoughts on why this was his original vision for the Lightsaber battles. I imagine he just liked the look of them fighting like they were holding broad swords, but Lightsabers are made. of light so they don’t have the same weight as an actual sword. Being able to fight with one hand would have made a lot of sense.
I would love to see that original choreographed fight sequence that they worked on! There’s got to be a video out there somewhere of it! What do you think about Lucas’ initial Lightsaber fight rule?