Use the Try Harder, Luke

“When there’s a will to fail, obstacles can be found.” —John McCarthy

I first watched Star Wars IV-VI when I was very young. Seven, maybe, or nine? So my memory was dim, but I recalled Luke Skywalker as being, you know, this cool Jedi guy.

Imagine my horror and disappointment, when I watched the saga again, years later, and discovered that Luke was a whiny teenager.

I mention this because yesterday, I looked up, on Youtube, the source of the Yoda quote: “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

Oh. My. Cthulhu.

Along with the Youtube clip in question, I present to you a little-known outtake from the scene, in which the director and writer, George Lucas, argues with Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker:

Luke: All right, I’ll give it a try.
Yoda: No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

Luke raises his hand, and slowly, the X-wing begins to rise out of the water—Yoda’s eyes widen—but then the ship sinks again.

Mark Hamill: “Um, George...”

George Lucas: “What is it now?”

Mark: “So… according to the script, next I say, ‘I can’t. It’s too big’.”

George: “That’s right.”

Mark: “Shouldn’t Luke maybe give it another shot?”

George: “No. Luke gives up, and sits down next to Yoda—”

Mark: “This is the hero who’s going to take down the Empire? Look, it was one thing when he was a whiny teenager at the beginning, but he’s in Jedi training now. Last movie he blew up the Death Star. Luke should be showing a little backbone.”

George: “No. You give up. And then Yoda lectures you for a while, and you say, ‘You want the impossible’. Can you remember that?”

Mark: “Impossible? What did he do, run a formal calculation to arrive at a mathematical proof? The X-wing was already starting to rise out of the swamp! That’s the feasibility demonstration right there! Luke loses it for a second and the ship sinks back—and now he says it’s impossible? Not to mention that Yoda, who’s got literally eight hundred years of seniority in the field, just told him it should be doable—”

George: “And then you walk away.”

Mark: “It’s his friggin’ spaceship! If he leaves it in the swamp, he’s stuck on Dagobah for the rest of his miserable life! He’s not just going to walk away! Look, let’s just cut to the next scene with the words ‘one month later’ and Luke is still raggedly standing in front of the swamp, trying to raise his ship for the thousandth time—”

George: “No.”

Mark: “Fine! We’ll show a sunset and a sunrise, as he stands there with his arm out, straining, and then Luke says ‘It’s impossible’. Though really, he ought to try again when he’s fully rested—”

George: “No.”

Mark: “Five goddamned minutes! Five goddamned minutes before he gives up!”

George: “I am not halting the story for five minutes while the X-wing bobs in the swamp like a bathtub toy.”

Mark: “For the love of sweet candied yams! If a pathetic loser like this could master the Force, everyone in the galaxy would be using it! People would become Jedi because it was easier than going to high school.”

George: “Look, you’re the actor. Let me be the storyteller. Just say your lines and try to mean them.”

Mark: “The audience isn’t going to buy it.”

George: “Trust me, they will.”

Mark: “They’re going to get up and walk out of the theater.”

George: “They’re going to sit there and nod along and not notice anything out of the ordinary. Look, you don’t understand human nature. People wouldn’t try for five minutes before giving up if the fate of humanity were at stake.”