Closing out the original Star Wars trilogy, 1983’s Return of the Jedi saw Luke Skywalker finally fulfill his Jedi destiny and redeem his father while the Rebel Alliance secured their final victory against the Galactic Empire. Helmed by prolific television director Richard Marquand, the sequel very nearly had a much different filmmaker behind the production.
Cult filmmaker David Cronenberg confirmed that he was approached by LucasFilm to direct the film after the success of his 1981 film Scanners before turning down the offer.
“I was asked if I would be interested in considering that, and meeting with everybody, and I said, with the arrogance of youth — relative youth, anyway — I said, ‘Well, I’m not used to doing other people’s material.’” recalled Cronenberg in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “And there was like a stunned silence and then ‘Click’ — hang up. Basically, that was as close as I came to that.”
Written by George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan, the Star Wars film went on earn both critical and commercial success upon its release while Cronenberg went on to direct cult horror classics including 1983’s Videodrome and 1986’s remake of The Fly. Even decades later, Cronenberg does not regret turning down the chance to direct a Star Wars film.
“In a way that’s like doing one episode in a well-established TV series. The casting is fixed of the main characters — the look of it, the tone of it, people’s expectations for it, are all fixed. You are not involved in the creating of that,” explained Cronenberg in the restrictions of directing a big-budget studio film. “There’s the lure of money, and having a big budget, and having excitement around the film you’re making — but on the deep creative level, it would for me be frustrating.”
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