The making of The Return of Return of the Jedi: 30 Years and Counting was a whirlwind experience to say the least.
Geoff Boucher of Entertainment Weekly rang me up in early spring to inform me of his plans to celebrate Return of the Jedi with a series of special screenings on May the 4th in conjunction with Lucasfilm. He asked me if I had interest in making something that could play before the main event to honor Jedi turning 30. I desperately wanted to help out but was deep in planning on my next feature film and it didn’t look likely. But two weeks before the screening the stars aligned and a window presented itself. Thankfully Geoff was still in need of an opening act for his Star Wars extravaganza.
If I was going to do this I wanted to do it right. And BIG! My goal was to craft a loving, fun, tribute to a seminal story, but to do so with a chorus of voices. I quickly asked around to some friends in the industry — directors, actors, and musicians with a love of the saga — to see if they would be willing to participate. Across the board, everyone wanted in! The race was on.
With a crew of just two (myself and J.C. Reifenberg) we recorded over eight hours of interviews with nearly 20 people in less than a week. Through this process the narrative of the film began to take shape. We interviewed a host of talent: Adrianne Curry, Donald Faison, Dan Fogler, Clare Grant, Topher Grace, Seth Green, Chris Hardwick, Jaime King, Jason Mewes, Isaiah Mustafa, Scott Porter, Eli Roth, Matthew Senreich, Kevin Smith, Patrick Stump, Rileah Vanderbilt, Pete Wentz, and Sam Witwer. I was reaffirmed of Jedi‘s powerful influence on a generation. It was fascinating to discover so many fellow fans from different backgrounds all sharing similar observations. And watching them poke fun where appropriate in true “roast” fashion!
This whole production reminded me how much we take Jedi for granted. It was, of course, technically groundbreaking, but it is a much bolder film than people give it credit for. Perhaps the boldest of the original trilogy. Darth Vader, the greatest cinematic villain of ALL time became a good guy(?!), saving the galaxy with his last decisive action having been liberated by the love of his son; a son tasked to kill by his mentors, who thankfully carved his own future and abandoned the “wisdom” of his elders to find a new solution. It was not safe storytelling, as some critics would have you believe, in the least.
Return of the Jedi will always remain an iconic and special film to me. It hit theaters when I was seven years old…and highly impressionable. Star Wars: A New Hope caught my imagination when I was a mere toddler, and Empire cemented my obsession, but Jedi wrapped it up with aplomb and turned me on to the art of movie making. Through Jedi I suddenly became aware that these films were stories people told. I became fascinated by the craft. And a whole new world opened up to me. So I will always be grateful to Jedi.
I am very pleased with how the film came together. And am thankful so many friends rallied to be a part of it! I couldn’t have made this without the incredible talents of J.C. Reifenberg (cinematographer/producer), Jeff Yorkes (editor/producer), David W. Collins (post sound mixer/co-producer) and super fan Topher Grace, who not only shares his Jedi memories onscreen but was invaluable offscreen, lending an extra creative voice to the production. They all worked tirelessly to help me turn the film around in less than 10 days!
All in all, it was an incredible experience and I am so honored to share this extended and improved “Special Edition” with fellow fans exclusively on StarWars.com! I hope you enjoy The Return of Return of the Jedi: 30 Years and Counting and please, please, please share it with your friends as we celebrate 30 years or Return of the Jedi!
P.S. Kudos to Paul Bateman with the additional help of Mark Newbold for crafting this wonderful poster — a fun throwback to the classic one-year anniversary of Star Wars one sheet!