Study Guide

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Director

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Richard Marquand

No Extra-Terrestrial Experience Required

Welsh director Richard Marquand was primarily a TV director before Star Wars creator George Lucas handpicked him to direct Return of the Jedi. How did Marquand snag such a primo gig? Lucas caught a rough cut of Marquand's film Eye of the Needle, a WWII spy drama that had absolutely zero aliens in it.

Still, Marquand was precisely who Lucas was looking for to wrap up his beloved trilogy. "I fit the bill in that it seemed like they were looking for a younger man who has a great deal of experience, can work hard and fast, make up his mind and stick to it, and run a crew very quickly," Marquand told Starlog magazine (source). With Marquand at the helm, Return of the Jedi's production was officially off and running like a speeder bike.

First Director, Second Fiddle

While Marquand's work ethic landed him the Jedi directing job, it was his ability to take direction that helped him keep it. Lucas, who co-wrote the film with Lawrence Kasdan, was a constant presence on set. Marquand handled the main action, shooting the principal cast, but Lucas was never far, far away—he shot second-unit footage like scenery and stunts. "It is rather like trying to direct King Lear—with Shakespeare in the next room!" Marquand joked about the experience (source).

Since Return of the Jedi was the third film in a trilogy, the cast and crew were used to working with (and taking notes from) Lucas, even if it wasn't his butt in the director's chair. "You know, I don't really have much memory of Richard," special effects wizard Dennis Muren told

"I remember him being around. I'm sure we had communications on things, but the communications were pretty much with George because he knew us all and Richard didn't… Richard was very nice and deferred to him, at least in front of us." (Source)

Making his Marq

Marquand may have known when to get out of Lucas' way, but that doesn't mean he just hung out doing crossword puzzles and snacking. Marquand was involved in Jedi's pre-production, even pulling up a chair in the writers' room. In fact, the director made several super-important contributions to Return of the Jedi's story itself.

Marquand told Starlog:

"There were a number of things I wanted to introduce, characters I wanted to bring into the movie. In every way, George was absolutely ready to listen and Larry [Kasdan] and I saw eye-to-eye about many new things we wanted to do." (Source)

Chief amongst those characters Marquand wrangled into the movie is Yoda. Marquand insisted that the little green guru make an appearance in the film to confirm for Luke that Darth Vader is his dad (source).

Totally Jedi

Ultimately, Marquand would go on to direct just three more films after Return of the Jedi before dying of a stroke at age forty-nine, but the director left a lasting mark on the Star Wars universe.

Marquand said:

"The actual Star Wars saga from chapters one through nine is a total symphony… You know what I mean. I'm not making a sequel. I'm doing the third movement of a piece of music." (Source)

Sacrificing ego for the greater good? How totally Jedi.

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