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Star Wars was a mess before it was saved by the editor

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How a train wreck becomes a classic

George Lucas wrote and re-wrote the original script for the first Star Wars film, and he barely seemed to know how to tell the story or where it would take him. That’s not rare when it comes to movies with this amount of lore and world-building, but it led to a first cut of the film that was a bit of a mess.

The video above, from RocketJump, explores how A New Hope was saved by editing, including a series of deleted scenes and decisions in restructuring that led to the blockbuster we remember today.

Paul Hirsch edited the film, but you rarely hear his name when people talk about the quality of the first film. It’s a shame, because Hirsch is responsible for excavating the film we know and love from the pile of footage that was made available to him.

That situation isn’t a knock against the rest of the crew who worked on A New Hope. This is just the reality of many films when they reach the editing stage. Everyone knows who directed each blockbuster, but it’s rare to find people who understand the crucial role that the editor plays in creating the rhythm and pacing of what we see on the screen.

The creators of the video even had to state in the comments that they weren’t trying to attack Lucas.

“That was never the goal, nor the intent of this video,” they wrote. “It should go without saying that George Lucas supervised, approved, and even contributed to all of these editorial changes. However, having seen the response, this is a point of fact that clearly should’ve been stated and it was an oversight on my part that that simple acknowledgment wasn’t included.”

This is a great look at how A New Hope was constructed, and why those decisions were made. What could have been a slow, plodding film featuring a whiny teenager became a punchy, beautiful film about a galaxy far, far away that changed the world of science fiction. Thanks, Mr. Hirsch.