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I recently heard a story that Mark Hamill was in a serious car accident between the filming of Episode IV: A New Hope and Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, and the resulting surgery, causing visible changes to his face, was the reason for the Wampa attack scene in The Empire Strikes Back. Apparently this scene was only filmed so that the change in Hamill's face due to real injuries could be explained away by in-universe injuries to Luke Skywalker.

Is there any truth to the tale that this scene was influenced by Hamill's real-life injuries, or was it already planned beforehand?

  • The truth is out there. I want to believe. – zxq9 Oct 29 '15 at 7:13
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    -1 No research performed! – Lightness Races with Monica Oct 29 '15 at 12:23
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit Gah. Actually I'd seen most of the quotes provided in the answers below - just wondered if there was anything more solid to settle the issue once and for all. – Rand al'Thor Oct 29 '15 at 12:26
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    They used a wild wampa in the filming and invented the story about the car crash as a cover story to explain his injuries to the doctors in the hospital. – frostschutz Oct 29 '15 at 16:38
  • I always thought that the only thing really affected by Hamill's real-life injuries, as far as Star Wars is concerned, was his appearance in the Holiday Special. Behold: 40.media.tumblr.com/a60989df107c221a7a79148ec206fa50/… – John Sensebe Apr 21 '16 at 20:13
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Seemingly, no it wasn't

On the DVD commentary for The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas denied that the Wampa scene was created to address Hamill’s injuries, noting that the scene had been written some time earlier.

From IMDB

However, George Lucas explains in the DVD commentary that this attack was merely to keep the audience interested while the Empire searched for the Rebels and to introduce Obi-Wan Kenobi's Force ghost and, by extension, Yoda.

From a different section of IMDB

An oft-quoted myth is that the Wampa attack on Luke was devised to explain the actual scars on Mark Hamill's face because he had been involved in a car crash and had to have reconstructive surgery. Hamill did indeed survive a serious car crash in January 1977 but did not have any visible scars by the time Empire began filming over two years later

From BusinessInsider quoting George from the Bluray Commentary

“At the end of ‘A New Hope’ he had been in a car accident and I knew Mark was going to look a little different than he was in the first film,” said George Lucas in the Blu-ray commentary of “The Empire Strikes Back.”

“But my feeling was some time had past, they have been in the Rebellion fighting, that kind of thing, so the change was justifiable. There’s a scene in the film where Mark gets beat up by the monster [Wampa], which helps even more, but that wasn’t really the meaning of why we wrote the monster in the beginning. We needed something to keep the film suspenseful at the beginning while the Empire is looking for them.”

Left is A New Hope and Right is Empire Strikes Back (Above) Left is A New Hope and Right is Empire Strikes Back

(Below) His scars are however a lot more prevalent in this scene of Empire Strikes Back.

After the Wampa attack

Hamil addressed this in a recent youtube interview he did.

they used a lot of the real scars to build upon

So there you have it, if the scars looked real it's because the make-up department used his existing scars to create a more realistic aesthetic for the fake scars.

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    Yes, the story goes that the make-up department used those same scars to great effect in Batman: The Animated Series. – Tobia Tesan Oct 29 '15 at 18:56
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    Am I the only one who can't see the difference in Hamill's facial features? – Lightness Races with Monica Apr 21 '16 at 14:02
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No, but maybe sort of.

This is a rumor that has been purported for many years. Even Hamill and Lucas' direct quotes sometimes seem at odds in regards to it.

This blog post goes over a lot of the back-and-forth and notes that many of the supposed quotes from Hamill where he claims that the scene was re-written are completely unsourced.

There are lots of discussions regarding it all over.

But there is damning evidence that points to "no".

Details about the accident are sketchy, but it seems to have occurred sometime between late 1976 and early 1977.

Why is this important?

Because according to The Annotated Screenplays, story discussions for Empire did not occur until November 28-December 2, 1977.

The story changed a bit through the writing process, but Hamill already had the scar before they even started writing the script.

From the screenplay:

Luke sits up in a recovery room bed, weak but smiling. His face shows terrible wounds from the wampa's attack.

Despite the story passed around that the attack on Luke was added later, the notations mention that the snow creature was in all versions of the script only changing details regarding its nature (it was originally meant to "swim" in the snow and have supernatural powers).

It is possible that Lucas originally wrote the script to accommodate the scar, but there are no signs that anything was changed because of it.

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There are conflicting reports. A Business Insider article cites statements made by different members of the cast and crew, who say different things. George Lucas, for example, is quoted as saying that it did not (emphasis mine):

"At the end of 'A New Hope' he had been in a car accident and I knew Mark was going to look a little different than he was in the first film," said Lucas in the Blu-ray commentary of "The Empire Strikes Back."

"But my feeling was some time had past, they've been in the Rebellion fighting, that kind of thing, so the change was justifiable. There's a scene in the film where Mark gets beat up by the monster [Wampa], which helps even more, but that wasn't really the meaning of why we wrote the monster in the beginning. We needed something to keep the film suspenseful at the beginning while the Empire is looking for them."

Carrie Fisher, however, claims that it was a factor (emphasis mine):

"I was still shooting 'Star Wars' when Mark got into the car accident," Fisher said in the commentary. "It was a really bad accident. Miraculously his teeth didn't shatter. But his nose did. He had to have some of his ear put into his nose. So they adjusted the film with this snow monster to right away in the movie scratch his face to account for his looks being different."

  • Nice source you've got there. ;) – CandiedMango Oct 29 '15 at 0:40
  • @CandiedMango Likewise. Good thing the timestamps are so close together, or somebody might think there was something fishy going on – Jason Baker Oct 29 '15 at 0:41
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No.

From the officially licensed magazine Star Wars Insider, issue #119:

enter image description here

Contrary to popular opinion, the wampa attack sequence was not written in to explain the scars incurred by Mark Hammill's car accident.

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