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The Empire Strikes Back Writer Lawrence Kasdan Tells What It Was Like To See The Movie The First Time - Exclusive

When "The Empire Strikes Back" opened in May 1980, it was a momentous occasion for fans who had breathlessly waited three years for a follow-up to 1977's unprecedented hit, "Star Wars" (now known as "A New Hope"). It also must have been exciting for George Lucas, who had written and directed the original film but had no idea that it would become a life-changing success and allow him to continue telling the epic story (anywhere from six to 12 parts, via The National Post) that he envisioned in his head.

For screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who worked on the script for "Empire" following the death of its original writer, Leigh Brackett, seeing the film on the big screen was also a transcendent experience. A former ad copy writer, Kasdan had sold two scripts in Hollywood –- including "The Bodyguard" –- but had yet to see either of them produced when he was asked by Lucas to pen the screenplay for a movie he was producing and Steven Spielberg was directing, "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Impressed by his work on that, Lucas tapped Kasdan to work on "Empire." The latter refined and revised the story into what eventually became the now-classic sequel beloved by generations of fans -– while also becoming Kasdan's first produced screenplay.

Asked in an exclusive interview how it felt to see the words he wrote translated into some of the most extraordinary images captured on film up to that point, Kasdan tells Looper, "You feel you've wandered into some magical land that you never knew existed."

Seeing The Empire Strikes Back on screen was a miracle

Following the success of "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark," Lawrence Kasdan also co-wrote "Return of the Jedi" and launched a writing and directing career that has included cinematic gems like "The Big Chill," "Body Heat," "The Accidental Tourist," and "Grand Canyon." He also returned to the world of "Star Wars" by working on "The Force Awakens" and "Solo: A Star Wars Story."

He's now directed a six-part documentary, "Light and Magic," that chronicles the history of Industrial Light and Magic, the visual effects company that George Lucas founded in order to make "Star Wars." ILM has since become the most famous, innovative, and in-demand VFX shop in the world, with the company and its all-star roster of artists creating some of the most groundbreaking effects of all time.

It was seeing how ILM brought his script for "The Empire Strikes Back" to life onscreen that cemented Kasdan's respect for what the company could do. "It's miraculous, it's astounding," he tells Looper about seeing the film for the first time. "You feel you've wandered into some magical land that you never knew existed."

Kasdan's documentary is a loving tribute to the spirit, energy, and talent that has powered ILM for decades, the same elements that brought his first produced screenplay to astonishing life on the screen. "One of the things that I think comes across in the [series] that was a surprise to me is how much people like Steven Spielberg and George and [Robert] Zemeckis and [James] Cameron depended on ILM," he says. "They would say, 'This is what I want. Can you do it?' And ILM didn't always know how to do it, but they were absolutely committed to helping these directors achieve those things."

"Light and Magic" is now streaming on Disney+.