The Empire Strikes Back (lost original Darth Vader line from "I am your Father" scene of space opera film sequel; 1980)

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Star Wars episode 5 poster.jpeg

The film's theatrical poster.

Status: Lost

The Empire Strikes Back (also known as Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back) is the second - and generally considered the best - film in the original Star Wars trilogy, and contains one of the most iconic plot twists in movie history. The villain Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) reveals the twist himself to hero Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in a climactic scene: "I am your father." However, in an effort to avoid spoilers prior to the film's release, the producers & director inserted an entirely different reveal into the original script for the scene. The audio of this alternate line is currently lost.


As the long-awaited sequel to 1977's blockbuster hit Star Wars IV: A New Hope, Empire was subject to particularly intense media and fan scrutiny. Rumors of a dramatic plot twist had begun to circulate well in advance of filming the final scene, and the producers feared it leaking out to the public to the extent that they refused to divulge it even to the cast and crew until absolutely necessary. As part of this effort, the scripted reveal handed out to all was "You don't know the truth - Obi-Wan [Kenobi, Luke's beloved mentor] killed your father."

The scene was filmed as such, with an impressed Hamill duly reacting with shock and horror in the full belief that it was the final version. (This also incidentally explains a mild non-sequitur in the finished scene - Luke screams "That's impossible!", which makes more sense as a reaction to the decoy reveal.)

It was only afterwards, privately, that Hamill was told by director Irvin Kershner what the actual line would be. Since Vader's lines were recorded separately and the costume - as performed on-camera by David Prowse - did not show lip movements, no reshoots were required to swap out his single sentence. Hamill did, however, still have to film the subsequent short scene of Luke hearing Vader's Force 'call' and responding "Father..." hence the need to bring him into the loop.

Hamill and Jones remained the only two cast members let into the secret, and managed to keep it successfully for the entire one-and-a-half years prior to the film's premiere. According to Hamill, he at least was under stern warning from Lucas & Kershner, who pointed out that if the truth did leak ahead of time, he would be the prime suspect.[1]

Graham Norton Show Interview

As a guest on The Graham Norton Show in 2017 as part of the promotional tour for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Hamill revealed the original line and the rest of the cast's completely surprised reactions at the premiere, notably including Harrison Ford: "Hey kid, you didn't f***ing tell me that."


The audio of the original line - either spoken by Prowse on-set or recorded by Jones - is currently lost, rather surprising considering its key spot in Star Wars history. Given this it is possible the film/audio still exists somewhere in the Lucasfilm/Disney vaults, waiting for the right moment to be released. Meanwhile, there are a few rather crude recreations floating about online.



The iconic "I am your Father" scene.

The poorly made reconstruction of the scene with the alternate line.

The Mark Hamill interview on The Graham Norton Show that mentions the alternate line.


Scribbles to Screen's video on the subject.

See Also