[Discussion] “I know.” The History of Star Wars’ Best Line and How George Lucas Tried To Kill It.
The Star Wars movies are full of famous lines, from looking for droids to clarifying paternity, but there's one that always stands out:
It shouldn't work - when a partner says they love you for God's sake repeat it back, or prepare to start having 'the talk.' But when Han Solo answers with it? Sure, he's literally a rogue, what else would he say?
But that wasn't the line as George Lucas wrote it. And, as it turns out, Harrison Ford explains, "he went apeshit" when he found out Ford and Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner had conspired to do something different.
“I love you, too” was the original line explains Kershner in a 2010 Vanity Fair interview. "I shot the line and it just didn’t seem right for the character of Han Solo." So Ford, Kershner and the cast "worked on the scene on the set," trying different things and searching out the right line. "We were into the lunch break and I said to Harrison try it again and just do whatever comes to mind. That is when Ford said the line, 'I know.' After the take, I said to my assistant director, David Tomblin, 'It’s a wrap.'"
As Kershner puts it that was "the perfect Han Solo remark," but George Lucas was less certain. When he saw the edit with the new line he immediately spoke up: “Wait a minute, wait a minute. That’s not the line in the script,” was the reaction according to Kershner
Harrison Ford is more direct: "I think it's fair enough to say he went apeshit. He thought it was horrible and that it would get a bad laugh," he says. George hated it so much that he insisted on two screenings - one with the line shot as written, and one with the ad lib he hated. "He thought it was horrible and that it would get a bad laugh," explains Ford. "So I was obliged to sit next to him when he tested it for the first screening. There was a laugh but it was a laugh of recognition, and so he generously let it stay in the movie."
The audience reaction essentially saved the line and gave us the moment we know and love, says Kershner. "When the film was over, people came up and said that is the most wonderful line and it worked. So George decided not to have the second screening."
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