THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK And PAC-MAN Turn 30 Today!

Written By: Ken Hulsey

Wait a minute.......30 years old? That can't be right? It seems like just yesterday.

Even though it was.....well.....three decades ago, I can still remember the events of May 21st, 1980, very vividly.

My parents dropped me and my best friend George Johnson off at the Highland Theater in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at about 9am for the 11am screening (the first) of "Empire". We were about the 5th or 6th people in line.

You have to remember that way back in 1980 the world was a different place. You could drop your 12-year-old child and his buddy off in front of a theater and not have to worry about them getting beat-up, robbed, kid-napped or killed.

Oddly enough, even though just three years prior, "Star Wars" had become the most successful movie of all-time, two hours before the first screening of it's sequel, "The Empire Strikes Back", there were no people camped out in front of the theater, like there was for the first screenings of "The Phantom Menace."

As for the movie itself? Well, it is the greatest sequel of all-time (yes, "Aliens" is pretty good too..), so I won't have to write a review of the film here.

So began, 'wave 2' of my mass "Star Wars" collection. I, like all of my peers, had to have everything from the trading cards to the bed set.

As a matter of coincidence, this was also the same day that "Pac-Man" was released into arcades.

Which, combined with the release of "Empire", should have also been the day that my parents financial ruin began. I mean really, with the hundreds of dollars worth of "Star Wars" related items purchased, plus the hundreds of dollars worth of quarters I plunked into "Pac-Man" machines should have put us (my family) in the poor house.

I don't know how they did it? I'm sure that my inheritance has been cut in half by the pop-culture monster known as 1980.

To celebrate the birthday of these two icons that shaped my young teenage years, here are some little known facts about "The Empire Strikes Back" plus the lyrics to the Buckner & Garcia song, "Pac-Man Fever":

Creator George Lucas insisted on moving the credits to the end of the film. The Writers Guild and Directors Guild didn't approve and tried, but failed, to pull The Empire Strikes Back from release. They fined Lucas and tried to fine Kershner, but Lucas paid all the fines, Lucas paid nearly $250,000 in fines and dropped his membership in the Writers Guild, Directors Guild and the Motion Picture Association of America.

Yoda's full name was Minch Yoda. In the first draft, he was known only as Minch. Changed for the better, that was.

Kershner initially turned down the chance to direct Empire, but his agent convinced him to give it a go.

Producer Gary Kurtz came up with the title for the film.

Meet Cliff Clavin, Rebel fighter. Before his role as the annoying mailman on Cheers, John Ratzenberger played Major Derlin, a good guy on the ice planet Hoth.

Boba Fett, the memorable bounty hunter, actually debuted in an animated short on The Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978.

Another preemptive hit from 1978: The first depicted lightsaber duel between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker didn't happen in Empire, but instead in the 1978 Star Wars novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye. Vader lost his arm in that battle.

Empire won an Oscar for Best Sound, plus a special award for visual effects. It was nominated for Best Art Direction-Set Direction and Best Original Score.

Lucas spent thousands on an advertising campaign to get Frank Oz an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor for his performance/puppet work with Yoda, the gnomelike Jedi Master. The campaign failed.

The set for the swamp planet Dagobah was elevated to give Oz and other puppeteers room to control the Yoda puppet from below.

Han Solo was frozen in carbonite partly because it was uncertain whether Harrison Ford would be back for a third film. Unlike Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Ford refused to be signed for a three-picture deal. He even asked Lucas to kill off Han.

In the original Star Wars trilogy, the only time Darth Vader and C-3PO share the screen is during the carbon freezing scene. The 1999 prequel, The Phantom Menace revealed a young Anakin Skywalker, who would become Vader, actually built C-3PO.

An early version of Lando Calrissian, the role made famous by Billy Dee Williams, had Lando not as head of Cloud City but instead the clone leader of a clan left over from the Clone Wars, which takes place well before Empire.

To maintain the austere interiors of Cloud City, crew constantly mopped and polished the set between takes, and everyone wore cushioned shoes.

Lobot, Lando's silent aide on Cloud City, gets his name from "lobotomy." Lobot was supposed to have dialogue but the filmmakers decided he was lobotomized to accommodate the cyborg implant around the back of his head.

The evil Emperor who his film debut in Empire was actually played by a woman with prosthetic makeup and chimpanzee eyes superimposed in post-production. Clive Revill did the voice in the original release. Ian McDiarmid played the Emperor in Return of the Jedi and subsequent films.

Director Irvin Kershner provided the voice of Darth Vader in the temporary mix of the film before James Earl Jones recorded the final version.

Boba Fett and the rest of the bounty hunters are never referred to by their proper names. Boba Fett is only referenced as "bounty hunter."

After an extra got sick, Boba Fett actor Jeremy Bulloch was called in to replace the Imperial Guard who escorts Leia and pulls her into the Cloud City elevator when she screams at Luke that he's entering a trap.

Actor Michael Sheard played Admiral Ozzel, one of two Imperial officers Darth Vader kills by telekinetic strangulation in Empire. Sheard later played Hitler in a small scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Mark Hamill sustained facial scars in a car accident before Empire started shooting. It's long been rumored the scars were explained in the Star Wars universe courtesy Luke's nasty encounter with a wampa ice creature early in the film. Actually, that scene was already in early Empire drafts before Hamill's accident.

That's no moon ... or asteroid. In the dizzying asteroid scene, one of the asteroids is a potato and another is a shoe.

Han Solo's Millennium Falcon was life-size. The 23-ton ship was 65 feet in diameter and 16 feet high with a mandible giving it an overall length of 80 feet.

The film used eight R2-D2s. Actor Kenny Baker used two, three were remote controlled and three were dummy versions that could be damaged.

Hamill had to bang his head on the ceiling of Yoda's hut 16 times before the director was satisfied.

Empire was the first film to have a 5.1 surround sound mix.

Luke's home planet Tatooine appears in five of the six Star Wars films, but not this one.

The most famous line is often misquoted. Darth Vader did not say, "Luke, I am your father." Instead he said, "No, I am your father."

Lucas was so intent on keeping that ending a secret he had David Prowse, who portrayed Darth Vader, say "Obi-Wan killed your father." He later dubbed the bombshell that Darth Vader was Luke's father. Only six people knew the true ending: Lucas, Kershner, writers Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, Hamill and James Earl Jones.

Hamill's wife gave birth to their first son, Nathan, during the Empire shoot. Hamill went straight from the hospital to shooting. That day's shots had Luke hanging by a weather vane below Cloud City.


Pac-Man Fever
by Buckner & Garcia

I got a pocket full of quarters, and I'm headed to the arcade.
I don't have a lot of money, but I'm bringing ev'rything I made.
I've got a callus on my finger, and my shoulder's hurting too.
I'm gonna eat them all up, just as soon as they turn blue.

Chorus:
'Cause I've got Pac-Man fever;
Pac-Man fever.
It's driving me crazy.
Driving me crazy.
I've got Pac-Man fever;
Pac-Man fever.
I'm going out of my mind.
Going out of my mind.
I've got Pac-Man fever;
Pac-Man fever.
I'm going out of my mind.
Going out of my mind.

I've got all the patterns down, up until the ninth key.
I've got Speedy on my tail, and I know it's either him or me.
So I'm heading out the back door and in the other side;
Gonna eat the cherries up and take them all for a ride.

Chorus

I'm gonna fake it to the left, and move to the right;
'Cause Pokey's too slow, and Blinky's out of sight.

Guitar solo

Now I've got them on the run, and I'm looking for the high score;
So it's once around the block, And I'll slide back out the side door.
I'm really cookin' now, eating everything in sight.
All my money's gone, so I'll be back tomorow night.

'Cause I've got Pac-Man fever;
Pac-Man fever.
It's driving me crazy.
Driving me crazy.
I've got Pac-Man fever;
Pac-Man fever.
I'm going out of my mind.
Going out of my mind.
Repeat and fade

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