When it comes to Star Wars films, ad-libbing would seem strictly verboten. Even apart from the fact that it's a multibillion-dollar franchise that needs to appeal to multiple demographics, how do you improvise dialogue in a science fiction setting without common frames of reference?
But that's the thing about Star Wars: It's not about the spaceships or the droids or the whimsical Force (though all those things are quite nice); it's about the characters we love and hate, and how they relate to each other. With that in mind, there's plenty of room for improvised lines in Star Wars, ad-libs thrown in on the spur of the moment, and unscripted jokes or winks that emphasize the humanity of these aliens in a galaxy far, far away.
These are the unscripted Star Wars scenes that rank among the best moments in the franchise.
It's easy to overlook now, but in 1980, "I know" were the last words Han Solo (Harrison Ford) ever spoke.
It's a classic Han line - both flippant and heartfelt - but it's not the one originally featured in The Empire Strikes Back script. Depending on which source you read, when Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) finally told Han she loved him, he was originally supposed to respond, "I love you, too," or possibly with the much longer, "I love you. I couldn't tell you before, but it's true. Just remember that, I'll be back." However, Ford thought it wasn't in character for Han to pour out his heart like that, even when facing his probable demise.
Ford and Empire director Irvin Kershner liked the briefer, more ambiguous line. According to Ford, Star Wars creator George Lucas did not. As the actor explained in an interview with Jon Favreau:
So I said, I mean what's the last thing a woman wants to hear when she says I love you? She says, "I love you," and I say, "I know." And so we shot one like that just for protection where I spoke the line as written and George and I think this is fair to say he went apesh*t. He thought it was horrible and that it would get a bad laugh. So I was obliged to sit next to him when he tested it for the first screening. There was a laugh but it was a laugh of recognition. And so he generously let it stay in the movie.
During Luke (Mark Hamill) and Han's (Harrison Ford) attempt to break Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) out of prison in the original Star Wars, Han makes a poor attempt at subterfuge by telling the Imperials, "Uh, everything is under control. Situation normal... Uh, had a slight weapons malfunction. But, uh, everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here, now, thank you. How are you?"
Unfortunately, the hard evidence that this was an improvised line are lacking, though multiple online sources report that it was. However, given its tossed-off, super-casual nature, as well as the fact it clashes so severely with everything else in the film, and Ford admittedly has a derisive opinion of Lucas's dialogue - it's a pretty safe bet the actor made this up on the spot.
Before being taken to Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), a rebel who is apparently too rebellious for the Rebels, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and friends have bags thrown over their heads. This is a bit redundant for blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), and he loudly tells their captors so. "Are you kidding me?" he quips. "I'm blind!"
According to Yen, this was an improvised bit of dialogue that came from the actor's desire for Chirrut to have a sense of humor.
While K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) is trying to fool some Stormtroopers into believing he's escorting Cassian (Diego Luna) and Jyn (Felicity Jones) to prison, he smacks Cassian and warns him, "And there's a fresh one if you mouth off again!"
Both the slap and the line were improvised by Tudyk, and if you watch closely in the film, Luna covers his face - not because of the pain but to hide his huge grin.