In the annals of television history, there are few disasters as legendary as The Star Wars Holiday Special. Conceived by George Lucas as a two-hour variety show, this notorious special brought together the original Star Wars cast, famous comedians, and musicians. However, what should have been a new Yuletide classic turned into a traumatic memory for the actors and a source of embarrassment for Lucas. Despite the backlash, there is one person willing to defend the Holiday Special on the record – pioneering TV director Steve Binder. In this article, we will delve into the behind-the-scenes details of this infamous special and explore Binder’s perspective on its creation.
The Birth of a Disaster
Riding high on the success of the 1977 blockbuster Star Wars, George Lucas saw an opportunity to capitalize on the franchise’s popularity with a holiday-themed special. The Star Wars faithful were initially excited about the prospect of seeing their favorite characters in a festive setting. However, their hopes were quickly dashed when the Holiday Special premiered on CBS on November 17, 1978. The special was never aired again and has since remained a traumatic memory for the actors involved.
Even the Star Wars actors themselves reacted with horror when the subject of the Holiday Special was raised. In an interview with Yahoo Entertainment in 2015, both Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher expressed their disdain for the special. Fisher described it as “awful…not awful in a good way,” while Ford deemed it an “embarrassment.” Their reactions reflect the general sentiment surrounding the special, but there is more to the story than meets the eye.
A Different Perspective
While most people involved in The Star Wars Holiday Special are quick to distance themselves from it, TV director Steve Binder has a different perspective. Binder, who had previously worked on Elvis Presley’s ’68 Comeback Special, was brought in as a last-minute replacement for the original director, David Acomba. Despite the chaotic circumstances, Binder had a great time shooting the special and enjoyed working with the original cast.
The Purpose Behind the Special
Contrary to popular belief, the Holiday Special was not intended to be a grand Star Wars sequel. According to Binder, it was a television show designed to sell toys. Lucas had made a deal with Hasbro and wanted to use the special as a platform to promote Star Wars merchandise. The public was largely unaware of this, and their expectations of a big-budget movie were crushed when they tuned in to watch the special.
The Challenges of Production
As Binder took on the role of director, he realized that he had little creative control over the content. The storyline had been set in stone by Lucas, and Binder had to work within those constraints. One of the most challenging aspects of production was shooting the scenes with Chewbacca’s extended family, which remain some of the most ridiculed parts of the special. The heavy Wookiee costumes and the heat on set took a toll on the actors, causing discomfort and weight loss.
Behind the Scenes with the Star Wars Cast
Despite the onscreen appearances, Binder insists that the Star Wars actors were easy to work with. He bonded with Harrison Ford and found him to be a willing and cooperative collaborator. The same cannot be said for certain guest stars, such as Art Carney, who would often disappear for an extended lunch break, leaving Binder with limited time to shoot his scenes. Despite these challenges, Binder cherishes the memories of working with the cast and crew.
The Legacy of the Holiday Special
George Lucas was so unhappy with the Holiday Special that he immediately pulled it from circulation and disowned it as part of the Star Wars canon. However, bootlegs of the special have since become widely available online and at conventions. A new generation of Star Wars fans now holds a certain fascination for the infamous special, with some even considering it a cult classic.
The Director’s Perspective
Binder’s perspective on The Star Wars Holiday Special is unique. Despite the negative reception, he remains proud of his involvement and would do it all over again. He attributes the backlash to the public’s misunderstanding of the special’s purpose and emphasizes that he had a great time shooting it. Binder even expresses a desire to have a high-quality Blu-ray copy of the special for his own collection.
The Star Wars Holiday Special may have been a legendary TV disaster, but it continues to capture the imagination of Star Wars fans. While George Lucas and the actors involved may distance themselves from it, TV director Steve Binder stands by his experience and cherishes the memories of working on the special. Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying the lasting impact and enduring fascination surrounding The Star Wars Holiday Special.