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Sunday, 22 September 2013

ROTJ AT 30. REMEMBERING RICHARD MARQUAND...


RETURN OF THE JEDI's director Richard Marquand poses for a classic Hollywood image, in front of the specially built AT-ST "Chicken" Walker, on location at the Redwoods in California, for climactic filming representing the Imperial Bunker on Endor in April/May 1982.

After a long search for a director between 1980 and early 1981, George Lucas chose Welsh-born Marquand specifically as the all-important visualist on the third and final film of the middle Classic Trilogy, having been impressed with his previous seventies documentary work for the BBC and US TV (able to do things speedily and keep to a schedule) and his film style on the World War II spy thriller adaptation of Eye of the Needle, liking the way the movie maker, with experienced British cinematographer Alan Hume, brought atmosphere to its period setting, and created a romantic but dangerous troika relationship between its three main leads: Donald Sutherland, Kate Nelligan and Christopher Cazenove, a scenario not too dis-similar in some respects to the love triangle between Han, Leia and Luke between STAR WARS and EMPIRE. Importantly, Marquand, also a former actor, was a non US union director - a situation which helped Lucas, who had previously left the American unions in disgust after bad conflicts with the release of EMPIRE, a great deal, as his list of choice candidates for the position got thinner and thinner. Another plus in the Brit was his experience in transatlantic film-making beyond the established traditions in the UK.

On set for the first day's filming at Elstree for REVENGE OF THE JEDI- January 1982.

Marquand, ambitious and recognising what a career launcher the originally titled REVENGE OF THE JEDI could be, was a huge fan of the STAR WARS saga anyway, and acknowledged the impressive work by Irvin Kershner for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, but he ultimately preferred the original STAR WARS for its romanticised characters and exciting pace, wanting JEDI to capture some of that first films spirit rather than the complex darkness of the second. With his base now in America, he was heavily involved in story sessions for the film with Lucas, producer Howard Kazanjian and screenwriter Larry Kasdan, and pushed for the return of Yoda and the build-up mystery of our heroes arrival in Jabba's Palace to rescue Han Solo from his Carbon Freeze confinement.

Marquand with Lucas goes through site/building plans in Yuma for the Sail Barge set - late 1981

Once on the film, Marquand's primary lack of experience with major special effects, and in a few aspects of key STAR WARS pre-production linked to the films overall huge scale plot/character expectations, saw some early disappointing dailies footage (presumably mostly linked to a Tatooine sandstorm idea that ultimately didn't work) that was deemed too TV-movie'ish looking, and required the need for Lucas to become more heavily involved in the film's behind the scenes production than originally thought-more so than his few fleeting visits to Elstree Studios during the 1979 filming of EMPIRE- but Marquand was for the most part happy to have the film-maker and creator alongside him for the process: an extra pair of hands to keep the pressured film on course and on budget. Lucas, who liked Marquand a lot, tried not to get in the way too much (a method he brought to his relationship with Irvin Kershner), and, in some respects, became the films unofficial Second Unit director linked to certain key sequences at Elstree in its middle shooting period.

Marquand would make a fun cameo in RETURN OF THE JEDI, as an AT-ST commander soon clubbed by Ewoks!


With the intense and complex filming in the UK and US over by the end of Summer 1982, Marquand, with regular British editor Sean Barton, delivered his own director's cut of the movie by years end, whilst also getting ready to move on to his next project: the romantic comedy UNTIL SEPTEMBER. Lucas, having also done his own cut of JEDI, and having complete "Final Cut" ownership on JEDI, then worked with wife Marcia Lucas and Duwayne Dunham to refine the film further (the final cut likely a fusion of the best elements of both), alongside some additional newly photographed material (handled by both Marquand, and/or George Lucas, some of it with up and coming cinematographer Hiro Narita), into what would ultimately become by release in May 1983 the much-anticipated RETURN OF THE JEDI (Marquand returning to the LUCASFILM fold by the start of the year (which saw John Williams score recording take place) and from spring onwards to fully promote the film- a tremendous success that did indeed end the Classic Trilogy on a high and triumphant note, whilst critically guaranteeing Lucas's independent film-making plans/future for years to come. 

Always enthusiastic and proud of his STAR WARS association (so much so that he hoped to be one day involved with Lucas's future Prequel movie plans if and when they happened), Marquand made several more diverse pictures, including the superb court-room thriller JAGGED EDGE, starring Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges, before his sad passing in 1987, at the all-too young age of 49.

Previously unpublished interview: Richard Marquand interview: Return Of The Jedi, Star Wars | Den of Geek

▶ Richard Marquand & Anthony Daniels - YouTube



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