George Lucas Clears Up That Controversial Han Solo Gunfight

The 'Star Wars' director was thinking about John Wayne when he tweaked the Greedo scene.

Is Han Solo a good guy with a rough streak, a bad guy who gets converted to the side of the good or somebody who dwells in the space between good and evil?

For some "Star Wars" fans, the answer to this question turns on a brief scene in "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope." Early in the movie, Solo (played, of course, by Harrison Ford) is sitting at the Mos Eisley Cantina when alien bounty hunter Greedo accosts him and demands money for his boss Jabba the Hutt. Their parley goes south fast. Solo takes out his blaster and shoots Greedo under the table, killing him. 

The crux of the controversy, though, is what Greedo is doing during this whole exchange

In the original version of "A New Hope," shown in theaters in 1977 (when it was still titled "Star Wars"), Solo is the only one to take a shot. But in the special edition of the movie released 20 years later, Greedo actually shoots Solo first, but misses, allowing Solo to take his fatal shot. Subsequent tweaks of the movie also changed things around in various directions. As it now stands, in the version available for download and purchase, the two shoot more or less at the same time.

According to some fan theorists, this makes a big difference. They say that if Solo fired first, he's the aggressor, which would muddy his moral waters, whereas if Greedo shot first, Solo killed him in totally justifiable self-defense. 

To get closer to the truth, The Washington Post asked George Lucas about this controversial scene. And he freely admitted that he changed his mind about the scene, and even possibly Han Solo's character more broadly. 

"Han Solo was going to marry Leia, and you look back and say, 'Should he be a cold-blooded killer?' Because I was thinking mythologically -- should he be a cowboy, should he be John Wayne? And I said, 'Yeah, he should be John Wayne,'" Lucas said. "And when you’re John Wayne, you don’t shoot people [first] -- you let them have the first shot. It’s a mythological reality that we hope our society pays attention to."

The implication here is that Lucas originally intended Solo to be more a murky moral agent than Lucas later decided he was. 

Lucas also spoke about the "Han Shot First" controversy in 2012, with The Hollywood Reporter. But at that point, he alleged that he didn't actually change any of the content of the movie. Rather, the new cut in the Special Edition just "made it clear that Greedo is the one who shot first."

To some extent, this is an old argument -- but it's gaining new currency because of the imminent release of "Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens" on Dec. 18. That movie will allegedly feature another scene in a cantina like the one in "A New Hope." (Or perhaps the exact same cantina!) And while Greedo won't be there, a new song by "Hamilton" composer Lin-Manuel Miranda will be. 

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