While re-reading issue 4 of the
Star Wars Weekly in preparation for a
forthcoming blog post, I came up against a mystery that has bugged me for quite
a few years: UK
How would Jabba the Hutt have looked if he had figured in Star Wars as originally intended?
Jabba the Hutt (or Hut, as it was often spelled in those days) is mentioned in the finished film, of course, as the shady figure to whom Han Solo owes money. But George Lucas wrote a scene in which Jabba confronts Solo at Docking Bay 94 and warns him that he had better pay up. The scene was shot, with Northern Irish actor Declan Mulholland playing Jabba, but did not make the final cut of the film. Years later, Lucas would claim that he had intended replacing Mulholland with a stop motion alien – and when the film was tinkered with for the 1997 Special Edition release, a CGI Jabba was added, looking like the giant puppet Jabba that was created for Return of the Jedi. But I could never quite believe Lucas had really intended to replace Mulholland when the scene was shot in 1976.
This is how Mulholland looked in the deleted scene:
Declan Mulholland – Star Wars' original Jabba
He is clearly in costume. Even if we believe Lucas was intending to replace Mulholland with a special effect, the fact that the crew went to the trouble of costuming him surely suggests Lucas was at least entertaining the idea that he might have to keep the actor in the movie.
But if Lucas really was intending to insert a special effect into the scene, why did he allow Harrison Ford to circle Jabba during their dialogue? This caused the CGI experts at Industrial Light and Magic a significant headache when they worked on the scene twenty years later, so in 1976 it surely would have made ILM's job impossible.
What's more, the recollections of some of the people involved at the time don't seem to accord with Lucas's own.
Gary Kurtz and Marcia Lucas on the Jabba the Hutt scene
Producer Gary Kurtz gave his account in an interview for FilmForce.ign.com in 2002. “It was a person that was there and we had technical difficulties with that scene,” he said. “We shot it over three times for camera problems, focus problems and film stock problem and then abandoned it because we ran out of time. We just said ‘Well, the bulk of the information that comes across in that scene ... we could get across in the scene in the cantina, with Greedo’”.
That account deals with another problem about the scene. Once re-inserted into the story, it only serves to give us information we've already heard in Han's exchange with the bounty hunter Greedo a few moments earlier. In fact, it even contains some of the same lines: "Even I get boarded sometimes ... You think I had a choice?" Surely this backs up Kurtz's suggestion that the Greedo scene, filmed afterwards, was amended to make sure it got across the information from the Jabba scene.
In 1983, in John Phillip Peecher's book The Making of Return of the Jedi, Marcia Lucas gave another version of events: “I lobbied to keep the scene. But Jabba was not terrific, and Jabba’s men, who all looked like Greedo, were all made of moulded green plastic. George … had two reasons for wanting to cut the scene: the appearance of Jabba’s men and the pacing of the movie.”
Frustratingly, JW Rinzler's 2007 book The Making of Star Wars doesn't settle the issue. It notes Mulholland's return for a second day as Jabba the Hutt and that: "Filming and retakes continued for several days of first- and second-unit work, as progress reports recorded various difficulties, including a defective 40mm lens..." (It also quotes Mulholland as saying: "The sets were terrific and there were all these different sorts of people wandering about. Harrison Ford was pleasant and got on with the job. he was just one of the lads, really.") Later, in its account of the post-production, the book repeats the Lucasfilm Authorised Version about the intention to use a stop motion alien, without expanding much on it.
The Star Wars novelization conspicuously avoids telling us whether Jabba is human or alien, describing him as “a great mobile tub of muscle and suet topped by a shaggy scarred skull”. The Marvel Comics adaptation, meanwhile, seems to do its own thing entirely:
|Jabba the Hutt (or Hut) in Marvel Comics' Star Wars adaptation|
All these thoughts have been niggling at me for years, but Michael Kaminski – the man behind the website and book The Secret History of Star Wars – has gone deeper into the subject than me. And in his post on the issue, he unearths some pretty convincing evidence by going back to Lucas's original script.
Anyone consulting the published version of the script in the 1979 book The Art of Star Wars might have thought it backed up Lucas's later version of events, since it describes Jabba like this:
Jabba is the grossest of the slavering hulks, and his scarred face is a grim testimonial to his prowess as a vicious killer.
He is a fat, slug-like creature with eyes on extended feelers and a huge ugly mouth.
Yet Kaminski points out something pretty damning. That last sentence didn't appear in the original script – it was added for the book, presumably to fit the way Lucas was by then envisaging the character.
The shameless tinkering with the historical record didn't end there. In 1997, in Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, that last sentence is amended again, reflecting the way Jabba finally appeared in Return of the Jedi:
He is a fat sluglike creature with yellow eyes and a huge ugly mouth.