One thing I am consistently asked is what happened to the original Millennium Falcon? The first Falcon was destroyed after production. The second was made for Star Wars II, which became Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. It was then stored for three years, until Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. It appeared in the ill fated sandstorm sequence from Episode VI, which had our heroes back together again after they destroyed Jabba’s sail barge. The Falcon was too costly to move, so in Return of the Jedi, we only have matte paintings of her on screen. You can see this sequence on the Complete Saga Blu-ray. The Falcon from Empire and Jedi was then trashed and burned in a giant bonfire. You can read all about it in J.W. Rinzler’s excellent Making of Return of the Jedi.
In Rinzler’s Making of Empire there are a few quotes that spring to mind:
“We needed a full-sized Falcon,” says Kurtz. “We never had one in the first film. That one was a half-size prop built into a wall and supported by hidden wires and things” (location 3632 of the Digitally Enhanced Edition).
Then later on the same page:
“The original Falcon got put out behind the studio, in various parts, and then it got rained and snowed on, ” says Lorne Peterson. “It deteriorated, and eventually it was no longer usable. I think for this show, they probably realized that it could be used again and again, so that’s when they decided to do a really good bang-up job of it and actually make it out of metal and plywood, so they could store it in pie-shaped sections” (location 3632 of the Digitally Enhanced Edition).
The Falcon for The Empire Strikes Back was constructed by a firm of maritime engineers at the Pembroke Docks (in Pembrokeshire), 260 miles away from London:
“They fabricated the steel into 16 sections, very much like a pie, which would be bolted together so that when the picture was over, we could take it apart and store it,” says Kurtz. “The five feet that touch the ground have built in compressed-air hoverpad units so that we could move it even though it weighed 23 tons. We would move it around by pumping enough compressed air into it and pulling it with a forklift” (location 3646 of the Digitally Enhanced Edition).
“A full-scale 1:1 Millennium Falcon has been built as well as the interiors of the ship for filming,” [the source] explained. “The Falcon is done—inside and out. The sets were built off-site, ready to move when Lucasfilm/Bad Robot were ready to move into Pinewood.”
This is one of those rumors that everyone who runs gets to pat themselves on the back for eventually. Because it will eventually be true, most likely. I agree with Dion at Star Wars Always that the Falcon will likely appear in the new film and then be used again in a spin-off Han Solo movie should that rumor pan out. They know they’re making several films that will likely feature the Falcon, unlike in the past when it was never clear if there would ever be another Star Wars film, since the next film always depended on the financial success of the previous film.
There are a few questions to take into account here:
1. Could you make a Falcon and everyone keep quiet about it? Originally, when they made the Falcon at the docks, the entire community knew they were making a spacecraft in there.
The rumors we hear aren’t “linked” in any way. They’re rather disparate and contradictory even. I think we are more likely to hear carpenters talk about how they built the Falcon than we have been hearing over the last six months.
2. I would assume the Falcon would have to have been put together someplace and then taken apart and moved to Pinewood Studios. To move the original Falcon is costs $40,000 in 1982. That’s why they just used matte paintings in Return of the Jedi. That was just to move the Falcon from one set at the studio to another set at the same studio. Today that amount would be closer to $100,000 with inflation adjusted. Now lets take some transport costs and figure that in. Did they build it in the U.S. or in the U.K.? Either way, we’re getting into a really expensive area here. The benefits of building the Falcon and moving it at this point just do not seem to really add up that well unless we predicate it on the believed they were going to be filming in January 2014 and now it has been moved to Spring 2014.
3. Do they have a place to build this Falcon, keep it a secret, and then pack it up and move it?
I’m assuming they would put it together and make sure it all fits and works before they paid transport costs. That’s my assumption. Maybe they’re so good at such things today they worked it all out and that was that.
I am skeptical. It is possible. I am not calling anyone a liar. I want to believe this rumor because I want this ship built! At the same time, it seems kind of early to have a Falcon just set up and built, ready for someone to eventually take a picture of it and leak it online. The economics don’t seem make sense either. But we clearly do not have a solid picture of what is exactly going on behind the scenes with Star Wars Episode VII and most everything is based on assumption.
I hope the Falcon is built right now. That’s terribly exciting. But more than one scoopster out there has wanted to get pictures of something that didn’t even exist….yet.
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