Friday 10 July 2015

Star Wars: The Deleted Scenes #6: The original Jabba the Hutt

George Lucas directs Declan Mulholland as Jabba and Harrison Ford as Han  Solo, with Peter Mayhew  minus his Chewbacca mask – in the background

Our look at the deleted scenes of Star Wars continues with our introduction to the original Jabba the Hutt – as played by actor Declan Mulholland.

Almost all the key deleted scenes in Star Wars come from the first half of the movie, and that's not surprising. The blast-off of the Millennium Falcon from Mos Eisley is in many ways the key moment in Star Wars – the moment when the film itself lifts off to become one of cinema's greatest adventure stories.  So if valuable minutes needed to be pruned from the film, it made sense that anything which delayed that moment would be in line for cutting.

Today and tomorrow, I’ll consider two scenes that come one after the other, following the sequence in which Luke sells his landspeeder.

Han Solo's deleted scene with Jabba the Hutt, as played by Declan Mulholland

This scene would have come straight after the one in which Luke sells his speeder for a disappointing price. It made it to the novel and the comics, but it was cut from the movie.  

It takes place in Docking Bay 94, where Han Solo is planning to take off with his new passengers. But Jabba has been waiting for him, keen to see the money Solo owes him from a smuggling assignment. Solo talks his way out of immediate danger, persuading Jabba that he will be able to pay him once his latest charter is over.

Declan Mulholland played Jabba on set at Elstree. Aged 43 at the time of shooting, was a Northern Irish actor who had featured in a lengthy list of British films, including The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968), The Ruling Class (1972), Theater of Blood (1973) and The Land That Time Forgot (1975).

This is one deleted scene that has never properly seen the light of day in its entirety. Lucasfilm has released fleeting glimpses of it in documentaries, included just to illustrate how the footage was eventually “completed” with the addition of a CGI Jabba, for the 1997 Special Edition and the various subsequent revisions of the film.

The authorised Lucasfilm version of events is that George Lucas always intended to replace the actor with a special effects monster. I've written before about this scene and made the point that this sounds unconvincing to me. I won't repeat myself at length, but there are some obvious problems with the official story. Why was Mulholland in costume, if the intention was to replace him with stop motion animation, as Lucas claims? And why does Harrison Ford get so close to him in the frame, touching him and even walking all the way around him at one point? These complications proved a challenge to the animators who put a CGI Jabba into the scene for the 1997 Special Edition, and they surely would have represented insurmountable problem for visual effects artists with 1970s technology.

Producer Gary Kurtz and editor Marcia Lucas – as I noted in the earlier post – have both given their recollections of why the scene was dropped. Their stories are somewhat at odds with each other, but neither remembered its excision as being anything to do with special effects. And anyway, the scene is redundant in the story as filmed. It really only repeats information that has already been put across in the scene with Greedo (in fact, some of the dialogue is exactly the same). One of the scenes needed to go and it was right that it was this one.

What happened to Jabba: How Declan Mulholland
was replaced in the 1997 and 2004
versions of Star Wars

But while it was right to drop it from the movie, it’s frustrating that the scene has not been properly released on DVD or Blu-ray. People have attempted to restore it as best they can – as in the video above – but it is missing from the otherwise excellent bundle of official deleted scenes. 

The late Declan Mulholland surely deserves his performance to be seen, just as those of Garrick Hagon, Koo Stark and Anthony Forrest eventually were. It’s about time the people in charge of Star Wars honoured their original Jabba.

Next time: The scene which would have immediately followed this one. We ask: Who is Bast? And how did he survive the explosion of the Death Star to reappear in the Star Wars Holiday Special?


J. T. Broderick said...

Sorry to respond to such an old post, but I just found the site and am really enjoying it. To me, Star Wars has the most heart as a stand-alone movie.

Anyway... It is pretty well documented that additional Greedo footage was shot to pick up the dialogue that was lost when the Jabba scene was cut. I believe that, along with some cantina creature shots, were the last non-effects photography shot for the film.

I think cutting the Jabba scene was definitely the right decision. If for no other reason than it diminished the iconic reveal of the Falcon, which dated back to one of the original McQuarrie paintings.

Looking forward to reading future entries!

Darren Slade said...

Hi J.T.

Thanks so much for contributing. It's never too late to comment on an old post!

It's a good point you make about the Falcon "reveal". It's not something I'd thought about, but of course you're absolutely right. It's a great scene: the camera movement and John Williams' music perfectly build up to our first glimpse of the starship, and then the moment is undercut by Luke's underwhelmed reaction. Reinserting the Jabba scene before you get to this moment undermines all that.

Do keep visiting. The comments help make blogging worthwhile.

Moss said...

Sorry, like the chap above to be a little late to the party - but I might be a few years late!

I find this blog great, and this is very interesting - I share your thoughts exactly on why Jabba being replaced by a stop action creature was unlikely.

It's interesting to note that the Jabba scene and the Greedo seen didn't actually share dialogue - the subtitles for Greedo were later changed to some of Jabba's lines, and Han's 'even I get boarded sometimes' line was spliced in later instead of anothe line. It does sound odd that Lucas didn't change it back for the special editions though!

Keep up the good work on the blog!

Darren Slade said...

Thanks for the encouraging comment, Moss.
I must admit I didn't know that some of the Han and Greedo dialogue had been altered to convey some of the information from the Jabba scene. It's certainly odd that the Special Edition has the same dialogue twice.

Unknown said...

So I searched this after watching the series recently and just out of curiosity, I wanted to see the original Jabba from a new hope. Watching the end of this scene, you will notice Solo says "You're a great human being Jabba." Which I found to be interesting use of the term human beings because in the 1997 (I was born in 94, so I never had a chance to catch the original version) remaster, Jabba is far from what we would call a human being. Watching this scene, it makes much more sense!