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A brief history of Star Wars spoilers

A brief history of Star Wars spoilers

A new chapter in the Star Wars saga will be released later this year. J.J. Abrams and company are keeping a pretty tight lid on the project, and spoilers are almost non-existent. In Chicago, that hasn't always been the case.

Upon its initial release, Star Wars opened at a single theatre in Chicago city proper—the Esquire on East Oak, near the Magnificent Mile.  In Aaron Gold’s "Tower Ticker" column in the Tribune on May 31, 1977, he reported, “Traffic around the Esquire theatre is jammed; especially in the evening, when the line for the midnight show stretches all the way to Michigan Avenue (it’s a sensational evening’s entertainment and worth the wait!)." He then offered what amounts to the first Star Wars sequel spoiler in Chicago history: “Lucas already plans a ‘Star Wars: Chapter II and III' to star the young hero, Mark Hamill."

A few days later, on June 5th, Gene Siskel published “Plato Would Have Loved Star Wars,” a very early think piece regarding what made the movie such a hit with viewers. Towards the end, he quoted Alan Ladd, Jr, the president of 20th Century Fox’s feature film division about the possibility of a sequel: "The sequel will concentrate more on the people ," he said. “There’s no reason for us to do an enormous air battle sequence again. How could we top the original?"

Two weeks later, the Tribune published an article on the film’s ground-breaking special effects and asked producer Gary Kurtz if there would be a Star Wars II. Kurtz played it more coy. “We’re working on a sequel novel right now,” he said. “And if the story works out, we’re seriously considering doing a second picture."

By November, “Tower Ticker” was reporting that Carrie Fisher had said that not two, but five sequels were planned. In February of 1978, the Tribune wrote that audiences were getting sick of sequels in general, but that a new Star Wars movie would be an exception: “Thousands and thousands of Star Wars fans favor T-shirts with the proclamation ‘Darth Vader Lives.' The way things are, it’s a safe bet that today’s young people will be in their dotage and sated with sequels before Twentieth Century Fox finally kills him off.” 

By Spring of 1979, Siskel reported that the upcoming Empire Strikes Back was only the beginning. Empire, he told readers, was really Star Wars Five, the fifth chapter in what was now planned as a 12 part cycle, with movies coming every two years “right up until the year 2000.” He quoted a few sequel spoilers right from Lucas’s mouth: “Once again, our favorite droids, C-3PO and R2-D2 and Han Solo’s wookie companion Chewbacca mingle their fortunes with those of the humans. And over all, broods the menace of that Prince of Darkness, Darth Vader, who discovers the position of a rebel base, bringing about a major confrontation.” Siskel added that the Tribune had also learned that Billie Dee Williams would play a role, though it wasn’t sure whether he’d be a good guy or a bad guy, and that parts would be filmed in Norway.

When Empire was finally released a year later, Siskel saw a preview a couple of weeks before the release and said that it topped Star Wars as a film. He didn’t spoil much besides the tauntauns and the wampa (which he compared to and albino Fozzy Bear: "one of the few special effects that isn’t very special"), but he did hint that there was a revelation towards the end that left Luke stunned. Of course, by the time he let that info out, anyone could buy the novelization and get the movie spoiled. People weren't fanatical about seeing things "pure" in those days.

Star Wars ended up out of the news for several years after that, relegated to playground gossip that never got loud enough to make headlines. The next mention in Chicago press came in 1987, when Lucas was quoted in a 10th anniversary article about the first film as saying he was still kicking around ideas in his head. The very next day, it was reported that Lucas had told a crowd at a 10th anniversary celebration in California, “The next trilogy is on the drawing boards,” and that “three others are beyond that somewhere."

 

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