The original Star Wars trilogy is one of the greatest movie trilogies in history. It opened with a stellar film, Star Wars, was followed by an even better sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, and ended with an adequate conclusion, The Return of the Jedi. This we already know, but there is something not many people know that could have completely changed the latter film in the trilogy.
Of these three films, the one that is considered to be the most problematic is Return of the Jedi. While there wasn't anything particularly horrible about the film, it just didn't feel up to par. However, we almost got a very different Return of the Jedi — perhaps one that could've lived up to the first two films - as the movie was nearly directed by one of history's single greatest directors...
The Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark director was George Lucas's first pick to direct the third Star Wars film. The two had previously worked together on Raiders of the Lost Ark, and their chemistry was amazing.
Spielberg was open to directing the film, and they actually began working out a deal to let him direct. It would have taken a lot to beat Empire in terms of ratings, and it looked like Spielberg could have been the key to critical success.
So What Happened?
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There was only one thing standing in the way of Spielberg directing Jedi - the union. Steven Spielberg was a member of Directors Guild of America (DGA). The DGA is usually a force for good within the film industry, but during this particular time, it caused one serious issue.
The DGA was upset with Lucasfilm for the pettiest of reasons: they did not include opening credits at the beginning of the Star Wars movies. Today, this doesn't seem like a big deal, as only around half of the films released include opening credits. When Return of the Jedi was entering production, however, not including opening credits was a serious issue, and the unions felt like this was disrespectful to the creative forces behind the film.
Because of this, the DGA would not let their members direct the third Star Wars - this unfortunately included Steven Spielberg. Instead, Return of the Jedi was directed by Richard Marquand, who was also a well-established director, but not linked to the DGA.
Spielberg did work with Lucas later in the Star Wars franchise, though. During post-production of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Lucas called Spielberg into the studio to play around with the Mustafar fight, in addition to the fight between Yoda and the Emperor. He was credited as Assistant Director.
It is quite upsetting to know that Return of the Jedi almost had Steven Spielberg as a director. Spielberg is one of the greatest minds in Hollywood and I'm sure he would have improved the film in remarkable ways.
Return of the Jedi is still a great film, but I can't help but wonder what more Spielberg could have brought to the table.
What do you think, though? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!