Many fans have always assumed “Star Wars” creator George Lucas planned on a three-film story arc. That’s not exactly the case. According to Vanity Fair, the initial plan for “Star Wars” was for it to be a single film. But the story was so extensive that it was too much to fit into one movie. Lucas explained:
“It was going to go from Darth Vader coming in the door killing everybody, to Luke Skywalker realizing that Darth Vader was his father, to them, in essence, being redeemed. That was the movie. The only problem was, it was 250 pages. And at that point, I had $3 million to make it with, so it was like, ‘Yeah, right, that’s not going to happen.'”
The practical solution was to break the film up into three acts, or episodes. The planned sequels made negotiating with studios difficult. Lucas said he crafted his initial deal with 20th Century Fox based on the thinking that “Star Wars” would fail, allowing the filmmaker to retain the rights to “Star Wars” properties so he could eventually make the sequels.
Then “Star Wars” became a huge success. In hindsight, that type of deal makes Lucas look like a genius. However, at the time, it created all kinds of problems. When it came time to make “The Empire Strikes Back,” studios factored in that Lucas owned the rights to the entire project. Lucas said, “So, I made a very tough deal for that film, which everybody in town turned down, every single studio.” That left Lucas with one option, which involved gambling with all his past success and borrowing a lot of money.