Some interesting quotes from the story conference follow.
On Lucas' facetious idea for an ending, and Kasdan taking it seriously:
Lucas: .... and then Vader gets his cape caught in the door and says, "Leave without me" and Luke takes his mask off. The mask is the very last thing--and then Luke puts it on and says, "Now I am Vader." Surprise! The ultimate twist. "Now I will go and kill the fleet and I will rule the universe."
Kasdan: That's what I think should happen.
Lucas: No, no, no. Come on, this is for kids.
On killing off characters, part 1:
Kasdan: I think you should kill Luke and have Leia take over.
Lucas: You don't want to kill Luke.
Kasdan: Okay, then kill Yoda.
Lucas: I don't want to kill Yoda. You don't have to kill people. You're a product of the 1980s. You don't go around killing people. It's not nice.
Lucas: I have always hated that in movies, when you go along and one of the main characters gets killed. This is a fairytale. You want everybody to live happily ever after and nothing bad happens to anybody.
On the three central components of the movie, as envisioned by Lucas:
Lucas: There are three parts to the movie: Jabba, the Ewoks, and Luke and the Emperor. Luke and the Emperor are not fun and the other two are.
Some discussion on Luke's new lightsaber and its symbolism in the film:
Kasdan: Maybe it should be a new color.
Lucas: But the idea running throughout the whole trilogy is: First he's given his father's sword, because his father lost it in the fight with Ben Kenobi: Ben cut his hand off and Vader fell into the volcano, so Ben then pried the lazer sword out of the hand and kept it for the son. So then what the father did was cut his son's hand and lazer sword off--and that was a way of severing the relationship between father and son. Not only did Luke lose his weapon and was castrated, but at the same time his father split that relationship. Luke was carrying his sword for his father. Now he is not doing that anymore. In this one, he's built his own. He has built his own lazer sword; he is his own man, he is not a son anymore. He is an equal.
On Luke's plan to deal with Jabba:
Kasdan: See, the trick is that we have to work back from the Sarlacc pit.
Lucas: What Luke wants to do is to get on that barge and the only way he can do it is as a prisoner. He has to become a prisoner and Chewie has to become a prisoner; they have to unfreeze Han and they all have to be at the same execution, which is what his plan is. He figures once he kills the rancor, then they have to go to the pit. He knows that's where the execution is going to be anyway. What they do with ordinary nuisances, or solicitors, is they drop them into the rancor pit. Luke knows or doesn't know that is what would happen, what kind of trap they have laid for him. He's assuming that when he is discovered and when he is subdued, which he will be, that he is bound to end up with Han and Chewie in the skiff over the Sarlacc pit.
The plan is, "I am going to knock everybody overboard into the pit and we're going to take off"--but it goes a little awry because Boba Fett screws everything up and suddenly they are in trouble and they get into the fight.
Kasdan: You can assume that Luke's plan is multilayered and the court of last resort is they are going to take him to the Sarlacc pit and they'll all be in place. But when he comes in and says, "I want to bargain for Han," he is hoping that will work.
On the change in emphasis regarding Vader's motivation between films:
Lucas: I don't like the idea of Vader saying to Luke, "Come on over to our side." Let's forget what Vader is really trying to do, kill the Emperor.
Kasdan: That's what Vader said at the end of Empire.
Lucas: I know, but I don't think at this point we should bring up that his plot is to get rid of the Emperor. It's going to foretell, in an oblique way, that he's going to kill the Emperor. The way to do it here is to make Vader evil and terrible and turn his son in, and they go before the Emperor and they have a fight.
Kasdan: You're willing now to drop Vader's explicit plan.
Lucas: It's there implicitly. It doesn't have to be an explicit plan. It has to be what is operating in the character's head.
Kasdan: What is operating in Vader's head when he brings Luke to the Emperor?
Lucas: What is operating in his head is: "The Emperor will turn Luke to the dark side because I can't do it, because I am not strong enough; he will turn Luke and then I will be able to..."
Marquand: "...join with Luke and destroy the Emperor..."
Lucas: "...join with Luke and eventually turn him to destroy the Emperor. Once he is on the dark side, then it will be easy; then we are a team, then we are father and son."
Marquand: But it is never spoken.
Lucas: Vader doesn't realize that the Emperor wants to replace him.
On the problem of fitting Had Abbadon and the Death Star into the same film:
Lucas: One of the troublesome things for me on a practical level is the rebel fleet destroying the planet [Had Abbadon, the Imperial capital]. How in the hell are they going to do it? You can blow up a city by bombing. You can't destroy the whole planet. What does the audience get that tells them, "Oh, boy, the Empire has been destroyed?" It has to be something that gets blown up. The universe has been cleansed of this evil thing. In the first show, it was a Death Star. That was the personification of the Empire.
So there is a very convenient thing of being able to have the Death Star blow up the planet and have the rebel fleet blow p the Death Star. We've gotten ourselves into a fix here.
Marquand: What you really have to decide is whether you want the rebel air force to destroy Had Abbadon or not.
Howard Kazanjian: Let's think it out.
Lucas: What about this, if the rebel plan was to capture this half-finished Death Star, turn it around so that it's pointed at the planet, the guys over there pull the plug on this protective shield and we zap the planet.
Kasdan: I can't imagine an operational Death Star is so easy to take over.
Lucas: I agree.
Lucas eventually decided to get rid of the Imperial city-planet altogether, which Kasdan didn't like:
Lucas: Just having the moon and the Death Star and not having Had Abbadon at all is... then you can have Vader's fleet, a limited number of starships out there. It's out in the middle of nowhere. It justifies the primitive moon. Right now, Had Abbadon is getting in the way of everything. It's cumbersome. And I like the idea that the trap is that the rebels think they're fighting a half-finished Death Star.
Marquand: It's wonderful.
Kasdan: I think Had Abbadon is worth saving. I think it's worth destroying the nerve center of the Empire. Forget the Death Star.
Lucas: But then you're still dealing with the question as to why have the fleet? The thing about the Death Star is it's so manageable. The planet is not manageable at all. It is too big to be manageable.
Kasdan: But it's much more interesting and it is new. The look of it is new and the idea that it's bigger than a Death Star is interesting.
Lucas apparently thought that he had to choose between one of two set-pieces going into the film: either the immense Imperial capital world-city of Had Abbadon, or the lush primitive jungle moon of the Ewoks.
We know which option Lucas ultimately chose, but Kasdan repeatedly argued for going the other way--keeping Had Abbadon and dropping the Forest Moon (and the second Death Star) entirely:
Kasdan: I think that we have to break out of here somehow and think of a simpler idea. Maybe get rid of the Ewoks.
Lucas: I know they're one of the things that are causing trouble.
Howard Kazanjian: Let me ask you a question: Just for five minutes, pretend that the Ewoks don't exist. What would we accomplish?
Lucas: Then you have a giant hole in the script that we have to fill with new ideas.
On Kasdan's idea of Luke becoming a new benevolent Emperor, after the fashion of John Carter of Mars and Dune:
Kasdan: ...There has to be some transfer of power from the Emperor to Luke. That would be very poetic in terms of your whole story. That would be the perfect thing if you had a moment where all these Imperial guys see Luke take over. That would be a real Olympian conclusion to this trilogy.
Lucas: Explain that further.
Kasdan: Luke usurps all the power of the Emperor in their final confrontation and is recognized as the ultimate power in the galaxy.
Lucas: Luke can't rule the universe, because if he's destroyed the Emperor and, consequently, the Empire, then it's a Republic again and the senate will come back. They will elect their own officials. He is a warrior. He is a Jedi Knight. He does not want to be mayor, he does not want to be president; he has sworn to be a police officer and that's what he wants to do.
On accusations that Lucas "misled" Billy Dee Williams about the size of his role (and on killing off characters, part 2):
Lucas: We're going to have to cope with Billy.
Marquand: Well, seriously, the Falcon is the thing to send him in.
Lucas: I'm just going to have to break the news that it's not about him.
Kasdan: Why does he think it's about him?
Lucas: Because he's an actor.
Kasdan: It's not because you misled him?
Lucas: No, I didn't mislead him. I said his part would probably be bigger in the next film than it was in Empire.
Marquand: You can give him something really smart to do.
Kasdan: What about killing him now, since it's so late in the picture?
Lucas: You can't kill him now.
Kasdan: Why not? What if they need someone to go to Had Abbadon for some reason and he volunteers to do that and then accomplishes his mission but is killed by Vader?
Howard Kazanjian: Then you make him a hero.
Lucas: Well, the trouble is that it's complicated. Then you have another story line that you have to intercut.
Marquand: I think Lando should fly straight into the Death Star. Give him a great ending.
Lucas: I think it'd be better to put him in the air battle, because then we've personalized the air battle.
Kasdan: The air battle at the end?
Lucas: If he dies right at the end of the movie, then you come back to the celebration and yet you've just killed one of the main characters.
Kasdan: You want me to give him some meaningless job, hey.
Lucas: Put him with the fleet and have him lead the rebel attack.
On the appearance of the unmasked Anakin Skywalker, and whether it should be gory (as Kasdan wanted) or not gory (Lucas):
Kasdan: Is he going to have regular eyes?
Lucas: Well, maybe one. "I want to see you without the aid of this machine. I want to reject the machine." When we take off his mask, we will change his voice to a much weaker version of the same thing. It will be much older.
Marquand: He's as old as Alec, isn't he.
Lucas: He's not as old as Alec.
Marquand: But visually.
Lucas: Visually, he is close.
Kasdan: I just don't want you to go too soft on it. I'm not going to have any influence on it, but I just wanted to tell you, don't pull back too much. If when you take off the mask and he's not a bad looking guy, it's a real cheat.
Lucas: You can't be too realistic about it.
Kasdan: I am sure it will work.
Lucas: It has to be a real father. It's got to be like your father, when the mask comes off, otherwise it won't work. The whole point is he might have been able to live without all that stuff, but he would have been a weak pile of nothing. Now that he was on the dark side, he wanted to be greedy, he wanted to have all this. He relied on the machine. The whole machine thing becomes a partial metaphor for the dark side of the Force, which is: Machines have no feelings.
Howard Kazanjian: Is there any electronics or wiring just under the skin of the mask? Do we have to deal with that?
Lucas: Well, we have to deal with it so that a seven or eight-year-old kid will say, "Gee, isn't that too bad about that man." We have to elicit sorrow at this point, not repulsion. We want to make him as realistically screwed up at this point as possible without going too far. I mean, the truth of it is, we went overboard on the whole thing on the last picture. It wasn't supposed to be that grotesque; as a matter of fact you weren't supposed to see any of that at all, it was supposed to be a total silhouette.
Marquand: I think it will work well. I think that his face will look great.
Kazanjian: Does he shave?
Lucas: That's a good question.
Kasdan: That might be kind of neat; a gray beard would give him a little normalcy.
Lucas: He would also look more like Ben.
Kasdan: That might be a saving grace that could hide some of the stuff.
On the idea of seeing other planets during the film's finale:
Lucas: There is another problem: If the Empire is destroyed, Had Abbadon, this whole thing is destroyed and you come back to the little fuzzy wuzzies having a party, it's like this giant thing has been destroyed and what a little party it is. Why can't you cut around the whole universe and see every planet celebrating? That's what we should do, but that's going to be boring; you just can't do that. You have to deal with it on a very small scale.
Obviously Lucas no longer thought it would be "boring" to do this by 1997!
Again, it's interesting to me how much Kasdan and Lucas seem to be at odds here--Kasdan clearly wanted a more adult film and Lucas pressed for just the opposite, a pure children's movie.