Star Wars Holiday Special ‘is so misunderstood’ claims director ‘I saved it
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It was 45 years ago today that the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special aired on the American TV channel CBS. A year earlier in 1977, Star Wars had smashed box office records becoming the highest-grossing movie of all time.
But before The Empire Strikes Back, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill were roped in to star in a bizarre TV story set after the events of the first film.
The spin-off followed Han Solo and Chewbacca attempting to visit the Wookiee home planet of Kashyyyk, to celebrate Life Day with the latter’s family, while by pursued by agents of the Galactic Empire.
The Star Wars Holiday Special received such terrible backlash it has never been rebroadcast or released on home video; only surviving through fan bootlegs.
Express.co.uk recently interviewed The Star Wars Holiday Special director Steven Binder, who also famously helmed the 1968 Elvis Comeback Special, and he claims the sci-fi TV variety show is “so misunderstood”.
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The 90-year-old told us: “I’ve always looked back at it in a positive light. I loved working with the entire movie cast, including Harrison Ford and we had a great relationship while we were doing it. I think it’s been so misunderstood after all these years.
“When George Lucas finished making the original [1977 Star Wars] movie, from what I understand Fox was unhappy with the movie and they went to George and said, ‘If you’ll pay for the closing scenes, we’ll give you all the merchandising for the movie’. George immediately made a children’s toy deal with Kenner Toys and they bought this special based on selling all the [action] figures.
“The original director who was chosen by Lucas to do [the Star Wars Holiday Special], he went through the budget in the first week. Budgets for children’s shows in those days were minuscule compared to the motion pictures. I got a call from the executive producing team…and they said, ‘We’re in trouble. This Star Wars project is ready to shut down permanently and we’re wondering if you have the time to come in and get it started again. We have a stage at Warner Bros in Burbank and they’re about to tear it down including the Chewbacca home.’
“So I was a fireman in that situation. I just came to basically save everybody’s job. I didn’t even have a chance to look over the script or make any suggestions. I understand that George Lucas was responsible for approving everything. And when I got involved he was denying everything saying [laughs]: ‘I had nothing to do with it’ etc! But I had a great time. I just felt the script, which was a children’s variety show, unfortunately, had no appeal to little kids.”
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Binder explained that he just had to get the Star Wars Holiday Special done and under budget. He added: “The fan that liked it started to comment on it and then also the plethora of fans that hated it, thinking this was going to be another George Lucas movie and nobody told them it wasn’t it. I think if they understood why it was made in the first place there would be a whole other take by people who criticise it.”
We also asked the director how he felt about fan calls for the special to be digitally restored and put on Disney+. Binder said: “We’ll see what happens, but I’ve long since learnt over my career, whenever you do anything, you do the best work you possibly can and let chips fall where they lay and you have no control over that.”
Nevertheless, he highlighted the upcoming A Disturbance in the Force: How the Star Wars Holiday Special Happened. The veteran filmmaker said: “There’s a documentary being released this year and from what I understand it’s quite good and I did participate one or two of my feelings about [the Star Wars Holiday Special]. But I think the documentary nails it and is really interesting.”
The new documentary, which premiered to positive reviews at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March, is in select cinemas now and will be released digitally and on Blu-ray on December 5. For more information, click here.
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