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Did Empire Strikes Back's Lack of Opening Credits Cause Problems?

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: George Lucas got into trouble over the Star Wars films not having opening credits.

As you are almost certainly well aware, the famous Star Wars series of movies don't have traditional opening credits.

You get the name of the movie studio who paid for the film...

Then you got the production company behind the film, Lucasfilm...

Then you got "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away"...

Then you get the title...

Then you get the scroll (note that the original Star Wars film had no subtitle, just a scroll)...

Then you got right into the story of the film.

It's been that way ever since 1977.

As the story goes, that was a serious problem that led to George Lucas quitting the Directors Guild of America.

According to CBS News (who you would think would be a pretty good source of information, right?):

In 1977, when "A New Hope" came out, the Directors Guild required all movies to begin with traditional opening credits. George Lucas had another vision for his "Star Wars" films, though. So, he paid a fine and resigned from the Guild, rather than do away with the now iconic crawl.

First off, they got the movie wrong, as the first Star Wars film worked out fine, no problem from the Guilds...

It was The Empire Strikes Back that caused the problem....

You see, just like the first Star Wars film, all of the same stuff happened...

You get the name of the movie studio who paid for the film...

Then you got the production company behind the film, Lucasfilm...

Then you got "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away"...

Then you get the title...

Then you get the crawl...

Here's the big difference, though. George Lucas directed the first Star Wars film. He did not direct The Empire Strikes Back. Irvin Kershner did.

The Directors Guild is fine with movies skipping the opening credits (come on, how many films can you think of that didn't have traditional opening credits? Plenty, right?) provided the director of the film signs a waiver saying that they are okay with them not getting a credit until the end of the film. Here, though, their concern was something else entirely.

You see, according to their rules, you can skip the opening credits entirely, but if any person gets a credit before the start of the film, then the director HAS to get a credit. What they count as a "credit" is anyone's name or a distinguishable part of their name being featured at the start of the film.

And yep, you guessed it, they felt that the Lucasfilm credit...

Was giving George Lucas credit. And if LUCAS got credit, then Kershner had to get credit, as well.

A similar incident happened with the recent hit horror film, Lights Out, where director David Sandberg also wanted to eschew the traditional opening credits and get right into the film. However, the film was produced by Brett Ratner's RatPac Entertainment...

So, just for Light's Out, RatPac Entertainment eliminated their name and just put the logo there, so Ratner's name (or part of it) was no longer present, so no one got a credit ahead of Sandberg.

Lucas refused to drop his logo from the start of the film and threatened to litigate the matter, but ultimately just decided to pay the fine that they levied and then quit both the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America.

That, of course, caused problems when it came time to get a director for Return of the Jedi, as Lucas had to use a director that was not a member of the Directors Guild, which is, in part, how Lucas ended up with Richard Marquand, a British director who was not a member of the Directors Guild of America.

So no, it is not because of the lack of opening credits. That should be obvious to everyone considering how many films out there have opening credits, but this legend remains a popular one regardless, so now you know that the legend is...

STATUS: False

Be sure to check out my archive of Movie Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of film. Click here for more legends specifically about Star Wars movies!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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