John Williams Made a Mistake in Star Wars

This year, Williams is resetting the record books again with his Academy Award nomination for best original score for “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.” It’s his 54th nomination, which is the most ever for someone not named Walt Disney, and thus the biggest tally for any living person — and any nonproducer, period.

In December, after seeming to suggest he was retiring after scoring the last Indiana Jones film, Williams walked back previous reports that he’d put down his baton for the final time, saying:

“I don’t care much for grand pronunciamentos, statements that are firm and finished and surrounded by closed doors. If I made one without putting it in context then I withdraw it.”

And even though he’s not ready to surrender the staff-lined paper and pencil with which he’s written his scores, Williams, 92, is also the oldest person to be nominated for an Oscar. Ask Williams what the 54 nominations mean to him, and he says, “Well, I’ve lost 49 of ’em, or something like that.” (Jaws, Star Wars, ET, Schindler’ List and Fiddler on the Roof—Adaptation and Original Score.)

The romantic style of William’s compositions was no longer in vogue, in the arty, hard-bitten ’70s when George Lucas’ asked him to score the first “Star Wars” film. His work, however, would inspire other filmmakers and composers to follow suit in the decades that have followed.

While speaking with Variety, from his office which is framed with a vintage poster, for 1938’s “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” which won Erich Wolfgang Korngold an Oscar for his music. (More on Korngold in a moment.)

“George was very clear to me that the music should be symphonic. I took it to mean late 19th century, maybe European — Mahler, Wagner, Strauss, that period of orchestral writing.”

There was one blip, however, in scoring the first movie. According to Williams, he mistakenly wrote a love theme for Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker.

“I learned later that they were brother and sister, so it was an incestuous idea to have a love theme for them. But George never told us there was going to be a second film!”

Of course, Luke and Leia wouldn’t learn they were sibling until the third film, “Return of the Jedi.” And it’s likely that Lucas himself didn’t know the origin of the twins, because in the second film, the pair kisses. And unlike the good luck peck Leia plants on Luke’s cheek in a New Hope, the smooch in Empire had more tongue than the Special Edition Sarlaac.

And if knowing their relationship, makes that latter PDA seem cringe, it could have been worse. Thanks to a deleted scene released on Disney+ in November 2019, we now know that the relationship between Luke and Leia was almost more romantic.

While the kiss as it is seen in the theatrical version of the film seems as if Leia is only intending to make Han jealous, the original footage shows it follows a near profession of Luke’s love for the princess. After being removed from the life-saving bacta chamber, Leia visits Luke by his bedside. There, Luke nearly confesses his love for Leia, and comes even closer to kissing her, before being C(3PO) blocked.

Fortunately, Lucas didn’t scrub that romantic theme music out of future releases of the film like he did Han Solo drawing his blaster first on Greedo. But realizing the error of his ways gave Williams an opportunity to write Carrie Fisher a new, non-incestuous theme for “The Empire Strikes Back,” along with first-time leitmotifs for Darth Vader and Yoda.

Yes, “The Imperial March” is only first heard in “The Empire Strikes Back,” as low piccolos play the theme when the Galactic Empire launches probe droids across the galaxy in search of Luke Skywalker. Its major opening occurs even later, when Darth Vader first appears, 19 minutes into the movie.

Finally, regarding Korngold. If the poster hanging in Williams’ office wasn’t a clear enough indicator that Williams is a fan of the early 20th century composer, listen to the opening of this score. It’s Korngold’s theme for the 1942 film “King’s Row.” Sound familiar?

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