Han and Greedo

The confrontation between Han and Greedo evolved a great deal during the creation of Star Wars. This page outlines how that happened.

The scene is written as follows in the shooting script:

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

Notably, Greedo is not named in the script, simply referred to as “alien.” However, the script does retroactively give him a name later, where Jabba asks Han, “And why did you have to fry poor Greedo like that?” Additionally, the script states that Greedo speaks with a “electronically translated voice.”

The cantina sequence, including Han’s confrontation with Greedo, was shot from April 12 to April 22, 1976 on a set at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, a suburb of London.[1] Lucas had envisioned the cantina sequence of bizarre and dangerous aliens for years through the writing of Star Wars. In January 1976, he hired makeup artist Stuart Freeborn to design the alien costumes for Star Wars, particularly Chewbacca.[2] However, as was typical for the troubled production of Star Wars, Freeborn was hospitalized with a serious illness a few weeks before the cantina scene was to be shot, leaving Lucas with only some of the cantina aliens finished. As Lucas said, “The ones we did have were the background monsters, which weren’t meant to be key monsters.”[3]

Because of Freeborn’s illness, Greedo’s costume was particularly plagued with problems. Worn by English actor Paul Blake, the costume’s mask did not offer Blake much ability to express emotion – the mouth did not move, and he had difficulty grasping and pointing the blaster at Harrison Ford because the alien hands were difficult to articulate.[4]

Still, Blake and Ford performed the scene as best as they could manage. Blake read his lines from the script largely verbatim in English, while Ford performed with his typical ad-libbing to changing the wording of a line while preserving its meaning. Thus:

“But I’ve got the money this time!” became, “Yeah, but this time I’ve got the money.”

“I bet you have” became “Yes, I’ll be you have.”

While the production got usable footage for the entire cantina scene, the original shoot did not live up to Lucas’ imagination. Furthermore, sometime in the fall of 1976, Lucas and his editors decided to cut Han’s confrontation with Jabba the Hutt, in part due to its redundancy with the Greedo scene. However, the scene with Han and Jabba did have additional information not present in the Greedo confrontation as shot: that Han had dumped a shipment of spice for Jabba when he was boarded by Imperials and that this was why Jabba placed a bounty on Han’s head. The Greedo scene as shot only mentioned the bounty.[5]

Because Lucas was not happy with the cantina aliens, including Greedo’s lack of facial movement, the production ended up filming additional shots of aliens designed by a group led by Rick Baker on January 24 and 25, 1977.[6]

Costume designer Doug Beswick added mouth movement to the Greedo mask, as well as the ability to move Greedo’s antennae. The suction cup fingertips of the original costume were also removed. For the reshoots, Maria de Aragon portrayed Greedo to reshoot the close-up shots with facial expression. Unfortunately, the mouth mechanism broke right before the shoot, so Aragon was asked to hold a clothespin between her teeth to move the mouth around. As she recalled:

“It was hot under the mask, and I almost lost my life because I was out of breath. I started to make gestures that were out of the ordinary, and George Lucas noticed and made sure I got help. I had a very bad three or four minutes there.”

- Maria de Aragon, one of the actors to portray Greedo[7]

Thankfully, the production got the new closeup shots of Greedo they needed. The last thing to do was insert new dialogue for the alien to carry over additional information from the now cut Jabba scene. By this point, Lucas decided to make Greedo speak an alien language with English subtitles. Sound designer Ben Burtt worked with Larry Ward, a linguist at the University of California, Berkeley, to develop the language (later named Huttese), with Ward providing a voice-over and Burtt editing it to add a “phasing sound,” as Lucas put it. Burtt and Ward used a variety of languages as inspiration, including an appropriation of the Quechuan language family of the indigenous people of the Andes in South America.[8]

Greedo’s subtitled dialogue added additional context to Han’s predicament with Jabba, particularly the addition of these two lines:

  • “Jabba’s put a price on your head so large every bounty hunter in the galaxy will be looking for you. I’m lucky I found you first.”
  •  “Jabba’s through with you. He has no time for smugglers who drop their shipments at the first sign of an Imperial cruiser.”

In addition to Greedo’s new dialogue, Harrison Ford also provided an additional line, modified from one in the Jabba scene, as he and other actors re-recorded their dialogue in the spring of 1977 in a process known as ADR or looping.[9] This line, “Even I get boarded sometimes, you think I had a choice?” was dubbed into the scene over a shot of Han handling his blaster, and audiences never see Han say the line with his mouth.

As a result, the final scene is a combination of shots of Harrison Ford (Han) and Paul Blake (Greedo) together in April 1976 and close up shots of Maria de Aragon (Greedo) in late January 1977, with dialogue modified both from Ford’s ad-libbing and the insertion of additional information from the deleted Jabba scene.

[1] J. W. Rinzler, The Making of Star Wars (New York: Del Rey Books, 2007), 167.

[2] Rinzler, The Making of Star Wars, 111.

[3] Rinzler, The Making of Star Wars, 168.

[4] Rinzler, The Making of Star Wars, 168.

[5] Rinzler, The Making of Star Wars, 232.

[6] Rinzler, The Making of Star Wars, 249.

[7] Rinzler, The Making of Star Wars, 253.

[8] “Much to Learn You Still Have: 9 Things You Might Not Know About Rodians,” StarWars.com News Article, July 29, 2016, (accessed January 5, 2022) https://web.archive.org/web/20220105200505/https://www.starwars.com/news/much-to-learn-you-still-have-9-things-you-might-not-know-about-rodians; Rinzler, The Making of Star Wars, 264; Bendu, “The Voice of Greedo & Jabba... Lawrence Anderson Ward,” RebelScum Forums Post, January 6, 2008, (accessed January 5, 2022) https://web.archive.org/web/20220105200620/https://forum.rebelscum.com/threads/the-voice-of-greedo-jabba-lawrence-anderson-ward.1116407/.

[9] “What is ADR?” filmmaking.net Internet Filmmaker’s FAQ, February 21, 20015, (accessed January 5, 2022) https://web.archive.org/web/20220105200703/https://www.filmmaking.net/filmmakers-faq/answer.php?id=154&catid=10; Rinzler, The Making of Star Wars, 265 and 253.