The Empire Strikes Back almost gave wampas a bigger role in the Star Wars universe with a scene that featured the creatures attacking stormtroopers.
Wampas originally played a much larger role in the Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back, including a massive attack on stormtroopers. The 1980 film served as the next chapter in George Lucas‘ epic story, and though 40 years have passed since the sequel hit theaters, many fans still consider The Empire Strikes Back the best Star Wars title to date. It could have been made even better if the film didn’t cut out various wampa scenes.
The Empire Strikes Back featured some of the most culturally significant moments stemming from the franchise including the Darth Vader‘s iconic “I am your father” line. The movie also introduced a handful of key characters including Yoda, Lando Calrissian, and the wampa ice creatures. The white-furred species resided on the snow-covered planet Hoth, which was also the location of the Rebel Alliance’s Echo Base. Prior to the Battle of Hoth, Luke Skywalker was attacked by a wampa while he scouted the area on a tauntaun. The creature took Luke back to its caved lair and hung him upside down before feasting on the pack animal. Luke then used the Force to obtain his lightsaber and cut off the wampa’s arm.
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Luke’s encounter with the wampa was memorable, but in early versions of the script, there were meant to be more scenes focused on the creature. There was a plan for wampas to invade Echo Base before the Empire arrived. In addition, there was meant to be an orchestrated mass-attack from wampas within the base. C-3PO tore down a warning sign outside of a wampa pen before a group of snowtroopers entered only to find hungry creatures waiting for them. Some of the scenes involving the wampas attacking Echo Base were filmed and were even teased in the trailer for the movie, but before the movie premiered, the scenes were cut due to the production quality.
Empire Strikes Back Encountered Too Many Production Issues With The Wampa Suit
To portray the wampa on screen for The Empire Strikes Back, actor Des Webb was required to wear a giant suit made of sheepskin. It was extremely heavy and forced Webb to stand on stilts while inside. The suit was also very hot, and Webb kept suffering from heat exhaustion. The full-body shots of the wampa were later cut due to the quality standards. Even the scenes of the attacks on Echo Base didn’t come together as imagined so they too were abandoned. Instead, the set designers built a small puppet of the wampa for close-up footage in the film.
As part of the 20th Anniversary of Star Wars in 1997, The Empire Strikes Back was remastered and re-released alongside the other two installments of the original trilogy. Lucas decided to recreate some of the wampa scenes by showing the full body of the creature. The production team filmed new footage with a scaled-down version of the suit while still creating the illusion that the wampa was much larger than Luke. Wampas have since appeared in other Star Wars material considered canon including an episode of the micro-series, Star Wars: Forces of Destiny. Taking place before The Empire Strikes Back, the episode featured Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and R2-D2 encountering a wampa that snuck into the Rebel base.
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