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Rare Photos From Empire Strikes Back Revealed For Film's 40th Anniversary

Even four decades after its theatrical debut, the original Star Wars trilogy still has a few secrets to reveal.

The Empire Strikes Back just turned 40, and the sophomore Star Wars outing still looks damn good for middle age. To celebrate the release of what is widely considered the finest film in the entire franchise, Mark Hamill released a hidden cache of previously unseen production stills from Empire's set, sharing them with USA Today. The largely black-and-white photo dump has provided more than just an interesting curio for ultra-fans of the series. Some of the pics actually reveal a few tricks of the trade that made Empire such an outstanding cinematic achievement.

According to the man who was Luke Skywalker himself, filming Empire was an especially memorable experience — but not for any reason having to do with the actual film. While Luke was busy tearfully denying his parentage over that chasm in Cloud City, Hamill was actually becoming a father for the first time, as the actor's son Nathan was born during the production of Empire. Almost 20 years later, during the 1997 Special Edition reissue, Hamill saw Empire in theaters accompanied by all three of his children. That was the last time the Hamill clan saw Empire on the big screen.

One might imagine that, given the franchise's legions of devotees, the entire production process had already been picked apart and mythologized over the last 40 years. On the contrary, Hamill shared quite a bit of intel about the film that he had apparently succeeded in withholding from the public until now.

The Battle of Hoth wasn't the only exciting thing going on at Echo Base

Empire's first act takes place on the frozen planet of Hoth. Aside from providing the setting for one of the saga's most memorable battle sequences, the hidden rebel base was the site of some interesting backstage action. Hamill divulged that Carrie Fisher came to visit him and Harrison Ford on set in Norway, even though she wasn't scheduled to shoot. The two actors were busy filming an important scene where Han rescues Luke from the wampa den and stuffs him inside tauntaun guts to keep warm. According to Hamill, the frozen wilderness of Hoth was actually about 300 feet from their hotel, and the two actors could see Fisher drinking hot cocoa with the cast and crew on their balconies while they were filming.

Speaking of dramatic moments on Hoth, how about that incestual kiss seen 'round the world? Just before the exciting escape from Echo Base sequence, Fisher's Princess Leia plants one on twin brother Luke in an effort to stick it to the arrogant Han. Of course, the Skywalkers don't know that they're twins at this point, but that's neither here nor there. Apparently, it could have been even more awkward, as Hamill revealed that a longer, "steamier" version of the kiss ended up on the cutting room floor. It was part of a deleted scene wherein Luke confesses his love for Leia to C-3PO and plans to do something about it just before the protocol droid stops him. This cut was probably for the best, since the sister-kiss has proven creepy enough in hindsight without the addition of extra crush vibes.

Mark Hamill has no regrets, but he reminisces about what could have been

Hamill has been adamant that he is retired from the franchise after last year's Rise of Skywalker. That said, he keeps the character close to his heart. "In the original trilogy, I had a beginning, a middle and an end — although I said to George, 'This is like if you told the story of how James Bond got his license to kill and once he becomes 007, you end the stories,'" the actor remembered.

Now, though, he's quick to point out that the new sequels "[weren't] really Luke's story anymore, but I was able to enjoy them. I never expected to see Carrie and Harrison [on set again], and working with all the new people was very enjoyable. That's something that will always be a part of me and I'm grateful for that."

If you're looking for a way to celebrate Empire's 40th, the entire Skywalker Saga is currently streaming on Disney+.