Thursday, April 28, 2005

Great Love Dialogue (Geek-out edition)

It's been a while since I've had an entry in this fledgling series, so here's a bit of love dialogue from, you guessed it, the Star Wars movies. From The Empire Strikes Back, this is also probably the best-known bit of dialogue from the Star Wars films at all. (Except for "No. I am your father." And that one is almost always misquoted as "Luke, I am your father.")

The exchange in question consists of just two lines, and they come just before Han Solo is lowered into the carbon freezing chamber in a diabolical test ordered by Darth Vader in order to ascertain whether or not carbon freezing is a good idea for living humans. As the "test" is about to begin, Princess Leia, whose feelings for Solo have been changing throughout the film, suddenly exclaims:

PRINCESS LEIA: I love you.

To which Han Solo replies simply:

HAN SOLO: I know.

This line is almost always interpreted as being part of Solo's general cockiness, but I've never really viewed it that way, because of Harrison Ford's delivery: he says the line in a tone that is very, very different from the way he delivers his lines when he's in full-cocky Solo mode. There's a softness and sadness in his voice and in his eyes that makes me think of the line not being cockiness at all. The "I know" line, by its simplicity, in no way detracts from the gut-wrenching nature of the carbon-freezing sequence. (And yes, for an eight year old for whom TESB was the first real look into storytelling where the good guys don't win, that sequence really was gut-wrenching.)

What's particular interesting about that simple, five-word exchange is that it wasn't even written in the original screenplay. The written exchange went something like this:

PRINCESS LEIA: I love you.
HAN SOLO: Remember that, because I'll be back.

That's not nearly as catchy, is it? It's clunky, dull, and it actually is cocky, which would have stood out like a sore thumb in the course of the scene. And it wasn't working in the course of filming, so it was finally Harrison Ford himself who suggested "I know" as a response to Leia's simple "I love you". (Many accounts have Ford finally just saying "I know!" in exasperation after hearing Carrie Fisher say "I love you" a whole bunch of times over the course of a large number of takes of the exchange, but according to the book Once Upon a Galaxy: The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, Ford actually suggested the line not during an actual take but rather in between takes, while director Irvin Kershner was struggling with changing some of the dialogue. At one point, Kershner actually wondered if Darth Vader even needed to be present for the entire carbon-freezing sequence, suggesting that Vader just walk on at the end. Luckily, someone else told him that wouldn't work.)

That exact exchange is repeated, by the way, in Return of the Jedi, but with the speakers reversed. That's one of my favorite "small moments" in Star Wars.

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