Yes, They Did have Star Wars Spoilers back in 1978

  • PLEASE FOLLOW THE RETROIST

When the first Star Wars movie came out, my family was living in Sunnyvale, California. My mom quickly realized that, at 7 years old, I was a huge Darth Vader fan. Prior to seeing the movie, I incorrectly thought he was Darth Fader (allowing him to fade through walls and attack his victims). For this particular 7 year old, who had heard his friends speak of the movie, and tell of various Force powers, this fading ability made sense.

Anyway, my mother was good to keep an eye out for Star Wars news – and when this particular item showed up in our local paper, she cut it out for me. I still have it to this day. And, it was my first introduction to spoilers. In late 1978, David Prowse revealed that he was Luke’s father – two years before Empire Strikes Back hit theaters. In retrospect, I wonder how George Lucas felt about this. Since there was no internet in 1978, he probably never knew that David was running around spilling the beans. This article was quite the shock to my 7 year old system. Could this be correct? Were they related? Was David playing a joke? Was the post-Watergate media trustworthy? I had to wait two years to find out.

These days spoilers are pretty much inevitable. But, in 1978, this was big news. Eventually I decided that I believed the article, and shared the news with my friends. They mocked me for making up such a crazy idea. Luke related to Vader – simply impossible. A while later we moved, so I never got to gloat that I was right about this when Empire hit the theaters. They probably forgot all about it. But I was right. I have the article to prove it. Why didn’t I think of showing it to my friends back in 1978?

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65 Responses to Yes, They Did have Star Wars Spoilers back in 1978

  1. twilitezoner says:

    Wow. This is surely just gifted insight by Prowse. During the actual filming of the scene Lucas didn’t want the secret to leak out and Prowse’s lines to Mark were that Obi-Wan killed his Father. Mark did know the actual outcome of the scene, but David did not.

    This is too funny though. What are the odds that he would have guessed that and been right..

  2. The Retroist says:

    Maybe it was wishful thinking on his part? That was a real WOW moment.

  3. vinvectrex says:

    @twilitezoner – I always wondered if it was a guess too, especially since Prowse suggests it would be a good scene for the second sequel – rather than being filmed for Empire. Then again, maybe Lucas said something in passing that Prowse never forgot. It’s interesting to speculate.

  4. Retro Justin says:

    IN YO’ FACE NON-BELIEVING 7 YEAR OLDS! If they read this, then you are vindicated ;)

  5. OffisaPups says:

    I enjoy how the fans in Star Wars dress are refered to as “Cultists”

  6. metagirl says:

    Aren’t moms awesome for knowing their kids’ interests and cutting things out of newspapers? My mom has always done this too…she just sent me an article on beer and food pairings, how thoughtful. And isn’t vinvectrex awesome for having the forethought to preserve this article for all of these years. Maybe he knew that there’d come a time when sharing such a treasured relic with the masses would be easy. Any other magical prognostications, vinvectrex, you old soothsayer?

  7. SpaceMonkeyX says:

    Maybe this is something he went around telling everyone who would listen back in the day. And maybe that contributed to his getting banned from attending official Star Wars conventions. The reason never has been made entirely clear; just “too many bridges burned.”

  8. Atari Adventure Square says:

    I think Prowse publicly calling Lucas “a young boy” also might not have helped good relations with the wunderkind, SpaceMonkeyX.
    Indeed, if the filmmakers offered thoughts about the story’s direction early on with the crew, such bean spilling by particulars might have tightened the lips of all involved when filming came about.
    And Prowse might’ve been miffed about being silenced by James Earl Jones’s powerful vocal presence during the stellar confrontations.

    Anyhoo, this is pure gold, vinvectrex. Big thanks to your awesome mom.

  9. vinvectrex says:

    @metagirl – Moms are indeed awesome. I did keep this article in an old school folder- but then I owe it to my Mom for never throwing it out despite several moves over the years. And, sadly, this was the last time I had any real insight into the future. Otherwise I wouldn’t have bought that betamax player or the ticket to see Howard the Duck.

  10. Dax says:

    Considering Lucas didn’t even tell Leigh Brackett, whose job was to write the first draft of Empire, about Vader being Luke’s father, I’d be surprised if he told Prowse.

  11. VicSage says:

    @Dax Quite true.

    Like so many others have already said, I too think that Prowse was just really lucky in his guess of the future revelation between Vade and Luke.

  12. Some guy says:

    Lucas probably stole the idea from Prowse.

  13. The Retroist says:

    “So they live again to star in Star War IV”?? 4?

  14. tom says:

    In the new book on the making of Empire, the author discusses how no one was allowed to tell David Prowse anything because it would inevitably find its way to the press – not out of spite, just becasue he was generally eager to please. I’m guessing this was the major reason for that rule.

  15. dan says:

    FAKE!
    the first part of the article is real put the part where he talks about being Lukes father looks like it has been doctored.

  16. The Retroist says:

    I agree with Dan. Fake!!

  17. Peachy says:

    yea look at the paper, there’s no such thing as paper! fake! and look at those words, they didnt have words back in 1978!!

  18. vinvectrex says:

    I only wish I had the photoshop skills to doctor something like this up! I did confirm with my mom that the article is from the San Francisco Examiner. If anyone is up at their archives in Berkeley, I’d love to get an official printout. It’s too bad I don’t have the exact date.

  19. twilitezoner says:

    Maybe a clue to its possible lack of authenticity would be the way the author completely ignores the significance of the Father – Son reveal.

    Needless to say, even in the pre-internet age, this would have been big news and would have spread like wild fire.

  20. Wilson says:

    I’ve got news for you. The news that Vader was Luke’s father DID spread like wildfire BEFORE the movie came out. I remember hearing that long before EMPIRE was released, and I was already an adult, so it’s not some faded childhood memory. And I also remember thinking, “No way, that can’t be true.”

  21. The Retroist says:

    Wilson, search your feelings, you *knew* it to be true!

  22. dougp says:

    Why are the mother and father both dressed like Han Solo?

  23. Sceptic says:

    While I won’t outright say that it’s fake, this post misses some key info about the article. What paper? What date?

  24. Peachy says:

    @dougp ive only just noticed that! wtf and their small child is Leia… that’s so weird

  25. The Retroist says:

    “Why are the mother and father both dressed like Han Solo?”

    Because Han is the best!

  26. vinvectrex says:

    @Sceptic – I wish I knew the date – I’m trying to track that down. I confirmed that it came from the San Francisco Examiner (note the Examiner id with the photographer’s name underneath the photo of Prowse).

  27. Atari Adventure Square says:

    Well, Prowse is actually expressing his thoughts on the “second sequel”, not the upcoming Empire shoot. So he may have been caught in the spirit of things and adding his biased take to the ongoing saga.
    Like Wilson said, there was much excited speculation in between the first two movies.
    There’s the movie law of ‘economy of characters’.
    Only so much you can do with a limited number of characters.
    And consider that both the hinted mystery of the Skywalker patriarch and a Vader-Luke confrontation were running through every fan’s fevered brain.
    And also revenge-murders are a bit mature for family-oriented fare (which was the tone of the first movie). What other resolves are there?
    Maybe I’m still over-thinking it, after all these years.

    I don’t think the article’s fake.
    But I bet the Ingrams shoot first.

  28. Chris says:

    This reminds me of the time humorist Dave Barry (of all people) spoiled Qui-Gon’s death in a column at least a week or two before Episode 1 was released. Since it was Dave Barry I wasn’t sure whether to believe him or not, but nevertheless I saw the movie opening night and just sat there waiting for Qui-Gon to bite it.

  29. The Retroist says:

    Peachy and I were just looking at some of what other people have been saying about this article on other sites. It is hard to know what or how Prowse came up with this, but it does throw a wrench into the accepted narrative. Plus it give backing to people like Wilson who have been saying they heard this for years and had nothing to prove that they would know.

  30. Bob says:

    So… let me get this straight: Darth Vader is Luke’s father? Crazy…

  31. VarthDader says:

    George lucas didnt pay him for jedi, and banned him from all the official reunions, mabey this is why.

  32. Doug says:

    Kinda confused. Does Vin have a hard copy of this? And if so, doesn’t that mean it’s legit?

  33. The Retroist says:

    It is legit, people just enjoy going around saying things like that. It part of the “fun” of being on the web.

  34. VicSage says:

    Heck, I remember an issue of Dynamite spreading rumors that Vader was Luke’s father. :)

    @Doug Amen, friend.

  35. blur says:

    I’m calling fake. Prowse wouldn’t have known this information at the time. End of story.

  36. Benamin says:

    Maybe this article is where the writers got the idea from to mark darth his father…

  37. The veracity of this clipping should be able to be confirmed via a good library that has old newspapers on microfilm… plus, while this could easily have been faked, what gain would there be? The earth-shattering revelation that 7-year-old vinvectrex was right? Creating a fake doesn’t make sense.

  38. twilitezoner says:

    @Wilson – Just curious, exactly where did it spread.

    I was an avid reader of Famous Monsters, Starlog and the like and nobody had this scoop.

    Are you sure you are not thinking of the time frame between Empire and Jedi as opposed to Star Wars and Empire?

  39. David says:

    Why does the text not distort over the crumples/creases in the paper?

  40. blur says:

    It’s worrying how people will believe any old bollocks, even when it flies in the face of facts. Prowse is on the record many, many, many times talking about how he didn’t know he was Luke’s father until the premiere of the film. He’d been given dummy lines and was actually quite miffed when he realised they’d kept the truth from him. So there’s no way he knew two years before that would be the storyline. No way at all.

  41. Peachy says:

    @blur but what about that clipping up there?

  42. Johnny says:

    Sounds like he just guessed right. Anyway Lucas didn’t even know Vader was Luke’s dad till a few drafts in. Read The Secret History of Star Wars; it is awesome for this stuff.

  43. The Retroist says:

    So was the idea to have him be Luke’s dad ACTUALLY Prowse’s

  44. Joss Brown says:

    blur/Peachy — two possibilities (and I’m surely not the first to come up with these arguments):

    (1) Prowse knew that Vader was Luke’s father, which is kind of important for this specific actor to know, and Lucas only provided these dummy lines, so that the *crew* and the *other* actors would not know about it and spoil it later. Prowse’s later statements that he didn’t know Vader was Luke’s father could just be part of a PR strategy, or alternatively: Prowse actually forgot that he had been told about the Vader/Luke relationship. Two years is a long time.

    (2) Prowse himself simply invented this story about Vader being Luke’s father, which would be a crazy coincidence.

    The fact is that we can’t trust Prowse’s later statements, while a contemporary newspaper article like this is big time evidence, which brings us to possibility No. 3:

    (3) Retroist forged the article. ;)

  45. Joss Brown says:

    @Johnny — quote: “Anyway Lucas didn’t even know Vader was Luke’s dad till a few drafts in. Read The Secret History of Star Wars; it is awesome for this stuff.”

    If that’s true then yes, Prowse may just have guessed right. But who says that The Secret History of “Star Wars” is correct?

  46. Peachy says:

    @Joss Brown good call, I’m more inclined to believe the PR story. As it does make a great story for Lucas to throw around at interviewers and I have not seen the unedited scene with Prowse reading the lines to discourage this theory.

    Reason 2 is a shot in the dark and too much of a coincidence.

    Reason 3 is preposterous to many of us regulars as I Know the source of this clipping is as stated in the article.

  47. Peachy says:

    ok this brings up a good point, if The Secret History of “Star Wars” is correct (im not saying it is but go with me on this) and Lucas didn’t know himself that Vader was Luke’s Father, then maybe the whole Idea of the father son motif comes from Prowes himself!

  48. Joss Brown says:

    @Johnny — ADDENDUM: The second draft of Empire, where Lucas merged “Father Skywalker” and Darth Vader into a single character, and which also created the prequel trilogy storyline, was written in April 1978. Prowse’s statements that Vader was Luke’s father were made in late 1978, so Retroist’s article and Secret History actually go together well. So it’s quite likely that Prowse knew about the new character development.

  49. Johnny says:

    Joss Brown – Who’s to say ANYTHING is correct? Anyway that information is not exclusive to that book. It’s just preferable to read a well-researched book than to do the research yourself. To me, anyway, particularly on the subject of 30 year old popcorn flicks, however much I like them

  50. Joss Brown says:

    @Johnny: The development chronology holds; see above: April 1978 vs. late 1978. If Secret History is correct—and why shouldn’t it be? After all, it’s not part of the revisionist Lucasfilm output—, then we can say with some certainty that Prowse knew.

  51. Johnny says:

    Joss Brown, I’m not sure where you going with this. First you say “why trust that book?”; then you say “why NOT trust that book?” Anyway I don’t care too much one way or another. Maybe David Prowse knew about the twist at this point, I’m not saying the decision wasn’t already made. I’m just saying it seems like a coincidence, that he just happened to guess the truth. It’s not presented as gospel, just Prowse’s thoughts. He specifically says it would be in the movie AFTER Empire, after all.

  52. Derek says:

    All of you shouting “fake” are morons. You do realize there were people alive back then who are still alive today and can remember hearing this information, not from this article but…from EVERYWHERE long before Empire was out. This was probably the worst-kept secret in the world, so much so that it had to be intentionally leaked. I even had two characters in stories I wrote who were arch-enemies, and inspired by Luke and Vader, I made a plot twist where they were revealed to be father and son. This was months before Empire came out. Geez people it’s not fake. AND, Prowse mentioned Star Wars 4 (i.e., episode 1) because at the time Lucas was planning to make 9 movies all together: the 3 originals, 3 prequels, then 3 sequels.

  53. Shecky Byanjankar says:

    In journalism circles that’s what we call “burying the lead.”

  54. Chuck Kahn says:

    Who told Prowse that Vader was Luke’s father? It was the time-traveller from the Chaplin premiere. It all makes sense now!

  55. Harry says:

    This post has made front page of the news website news.com.au with one of the above replies even being quoted. http://www.news.com.au/technology/a-long-time-ago-the-biggest-movie-spoiler-of-all-time-went-relatively-unnoticed/story-e6frfro0-1225952095355

  56. I do remember when this came out. Lucas was very upset that David had ‘spilled the beans’ on plot points. He was so upset, he wasn’t going to let David appear in the sequel. I heard that David was surprised he wasn’t the voice of Vader – George never told him during filming he’d be dubbed by James Earl Jones.

    Another fun fact – Grant Imahara from Mythbusters used to be in the C-3PO suit for public appearances! I got to see him a few weeks ago in Boston – here’s the link. Grant starts 2:10 into the clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EtAHPT7pTY

  57. Harold says:

    Did any of you knew that VADER in dutch means “Father”? Even bigger spoiler that was… :)

  58. pvilmur says:

    We just posted more about this item at the official StarWars.com Blog — check it out here:

    http://starwarsblog.starwars.com/index.php/2010/11/15/major-empire-spoiler-actually-dropped-in-1977/

  59. Sean Solo says:

    I remember reading that Prowse actually had his head taken off in an accident in a VW Bug, and wasn’t even in the suit for Jedi. If you look at the movie poster, you’ll notice a shadow that…. oh waitaminnit – I think I’m remembering it wrong.

    But seriously. I’m old enough to remember the rumors, leaks, and scouring magazine articles in the pre-internet days. And although I met Prowse when I was a kid at one of these convention things, I don’t remember him spilling any such beans. But I’m inclined to believe that the father-son tidbit was purposefully leaked to generate hype for the upcoming sequels. I think a more interesting point is: did Yoda really plan on using Leia to save the rebellion if Luke failed?

  60. Chuppy man says:

    I thought he was called “the Dark Stranger” even after seeing the film. I’d like to thank my folks for not setting me straight so that I looked like a #### in front of my peer group.

  61. Mike Ward says:

    Back in November 2004 on alt.fan.starwars a poster called Yorick pointed out that this spoiler by Prowse was published in issue #4 of Little Shoppe of Horrors magazine in April 1978. None of us believed him so he scanned the page in the magazine and emailed it to another poster who placed the image on the web. It can still be seen here:

    http://i.imgur.com/PLjU9.jpg

  62. vinvectrex says:

    @Mike Ward – thanks for the link to the other article. After posting this, I had heard that the Little Shop of Horrors magazine had the scoop – but I’d never seen the original.

  63. Prequel Hater says:

    Ask the photographer if she remembers:

    http://www.nicolebengiveno.com/#

  64. jrpacheco says:

    It’s not fake. Prowse said that this was going to be revealed in “Star Wars III” which eventually turned out to be Episode VI (Return of the Jedi). Back in 1978, the original Star Wars was not envisioned as Episode IV but as the first chapter in a trilogy. In fact, the first draft of Empire Strikes Back was titled “Star Wars, Chapter 2: The Empire Strikes Back”. So the fact that Prowse said “Star Wars II and Star Wars III proves this article was not made out.

  65. Yorick says:

    Ah, yes. That was me (Yorick). Was all that ten years ago? Wow. I was very surprised that no-one knew about this article.

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