Star Wars Fanpedia

Star Wars Episode VII: Heir to the Empire

James Cameron

  • Neil Canton
  • Jon Landau (executive producer)
Music by

20th Century Fox


May 4, 1993


132 min


$520.8 million




5 years after Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi


New Republic era

Preceded by

The Courtship of Princess Leia

Followed by

Episode VIII: Dark Force Rising

"A New Leader Risen."

Star Wars: Heir to the Empire (also known to the group of Legends fans as Star Wars Episode VII: Heir to the Empire) is a 1993 American fan film released on May 4th, 1993, screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and Jonathan Hales, produced by Neil Canton and Jon Landau in Lucasfilm, and directed by James Cameron. Based on the 1991 Novel by Timothy Zahn, it is the first installment in the Star Wars Sequel trilogy, following the story of Return of the Jedi, and is the seventh episode of the nine-part "Star Wars Legends saga".

The film is set after destroying the second Death Star and freeing the galaxy from the Emperor’s clutches. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia find themselves trying to lead the fledgling New Republic into a new age. However, in the far reaches of space, a new threat rises from the ashes of the Empire in the form of Grand Admiral Thrawn. Despite only having the remains of the Imperial military at his disposal, Thrawn’s intellectual prowess promises to push our heroes to their absolute limits.

While talks of a follow-up to Star Wars arose following its release, its development was stalled due to technical limitations regarding computer-generated imagery, a vital aspect of the film, and legal issues with original producer Industrial Light & Magic, who controlled half of the franchise rights. In 1992, Lucas stated that the sequel trilogy would be "unbelievably expensive” after viewing an early CGI test created by Industrial Light & Magic for Jurassic Park. Principal photography began in October 1992 and lasted until March 1993. Its visual effects saw breakthroughs in computer-generated imagery, including the first use of natural human motion for a computer-generated character and the first partially urban, apocalyptic environment of city buildings for the depiction of Coruscant. At the time of its release, with a budget of $94–102 million, Star Wars Episode VII: Heir to the Empire was the most expensive film ever made.

Episode VII: Heir to the Empire was released in the United States on May 4, 1993 by Twentieth Century Fox Studios. Other sequels followed, including Episode VIII: Dark Force Rising in 1995 and Episode IX: The Last Command in 1997. It was a critical success upon its release, with praise going towards the performances of its cast, the action scenes, and its visual effects. Regarded as superior to the original film and one of the best sequels ever made, the film influenced popular culture, especially the use of visual effects in films. It grossed $520 million worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1993 and it received several accolades, including Academy Awards for Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Sound, Best Makeup, and Best Visual Effects. It also spawned merchandise, including novels, action figures, and comic book adaptations.

Opening crawl

Episode VII
 Five years after the destruction of 
 the second Death Star, the Rebel 
 Alliance has driven off the old 
 Imperial Remnants Starfleet into the distant 
 corner of the galaxy, and established the 
 fledgling government of the NEW REPUBLIC. 
 Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo are married 
 and expecting Jedi twins, while 
 Luke Skywalker has become the first 
 in a long-awaited line of Jedi Knights that 
 protect the Republic.
 But some thousands of light-years away, the last of 
 the Emperor's warlords, from the Unknown Regions, 
 has taken command of the shattered Imperial fleet, 
 readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile 
 heart of the New Republic…


  1. Opening Logos
  2. Heir to the Empire
  3. Thrawn’s Chamber Room
  4. Obi-Wan’s Farewell
  5. Han Solo and Dravis
  6. A Business Dinner
  7. The Guardian of Wayland
  8. Political Infighting
  9. An Diplomatic Trip
  10. Ambush on Bimmisaari
  11. Council Meeting
  12. Battle Meditation
  13. Lightsaber Training
  14. Bpfassh
  15. Return to Dagobah
  16. Approaching Athega
  17. Lando’s Guidance
  1. Heroes Reunion
  2. Prepare the Lady Luck
  3. The Tractor Beam
  4. Thrawn’s Discipline
  5. Rwookrrorro
  6. Abregado-rae Spaceport
  7. The Wild Karrde
  8. Luke Meets Mara Jade
  9. Encounter with Talon Karrde
  10. An Falcon’s Arrival
  11. Taking a Counsel
  12. Narrow Escape
  13. Skipray Boat Chase
  14. The Survival Prison
  15. Outside the Affair
  16. Creatures of the Night
  17. Han’s Distrust
  1. Mal’ary’ush
  2. Leia and the Noghri
  3. Through the Forest
  4. Wolf Attack
  5. Cloaking Device
  6. Poisonous Plant
  7. Hyllyard City
  8. Hostage Situation
  9. Rescue Plan
  10. The Jedi Battle
  11. Escape from Myrkr Base
  12. Sluis Van Shipyards
  13. Striking the Sluis Sector
  14. Thrawn’s Full Retreat
  15. Ackbar Arrested
  16. End Credits

Plot Synopsis

Five years after the Battle of Endor, as the New Republic holds a fragile control of the galaxy, a new threat emerges. Having been posted so far away from action, Grand Admiral Thrawn, a cunning and intelligent Chiss commander, begins to gather his Imperial forces for a strategic attack on the New Republic. With the aid of Captain Gilad Pellaeon and Thrawn's personal bodyguard Rukh, they begin to set in motion an almost unbeatable plan. They enlist the aid of a mad clone of Jorus C'baoth, a dead Jedi Master, and use the Emperor's hidden weapons vault on the planet Wayland, which the clone guards. The chain of events caused major unrest in the New Republic.

Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker encounters Talon Karrde and his gang of smugglers. The smugglers capture him but do not turn him over to the Imperials. The smugglers take him in just as Han Solo and Lando Calrissian come to see Karrde on the New Republic's interest to hire smugglers as traders. Then, as if things could not be worse, Grand Admiral Thrawn comes to visit Karrde just as Luke escapes. One of Karrde's employees, Mara Jade, chases Luke deep into the forest, where both ships crashed. Mara attempts to kill Luke because she believes that he killed the Emperor five years earlier during the Battle of Endor, and Mara was the Emperor's Hand at the time. However, she finds out that she needs Luke if she is to survive. Then Thrawn himself decides to interfere with Karrde's rescue attempts and tries to catch Luke and Mara first. The result is a firefight between Imperial troops and Karrde's men. In the end, Karrde wins, but has to evacuate his base. Han and Lando head to the shipyards at Sluis Van after they discover, thanks to Karrde, that Thrawn has plans there.

The insane Jedi clone from Wayland, Joruus C'baoth, comes out of isolation thanks to Thrawn and learns about Princess Leia's unborn Jedi twin children. Thus, C'baoth decides he will train them in the ways of the Force, unintentionally the dark side due to his insanity. Basically, Leia's unborn Jedi twins and Luke Skywalker will either join him or die. Luke and Leia are both pursued across the galaxy. Princess Leia is repeatedly hunted down by a species of aliens known as the Noghri. In order to keep her safe from more kidnap attempts and to give her a break from all the work in the New Republic, Han sends Leia and Chewbacca to the planet Kashyyyk, where the Wookiees can protect her. But Thrawn deduces the fact. Leia is again hunted down by the Noghri on Kashyyyk, but she has a plan. With Chewbacca's help, she manages to escape, and one of the Noghri is captured. The Noghri, Khabarakh, recognizes her scent as that of a child of the Dark Lord Darth Vader, as the Noghri had apparently been secret bodyguards of the Sith Lord. Determined to discover more about the Noghri's situation, Leia persuades him to bring her to his homeworld.

Meanwhile, the New Republic believes there is a spy among them that is leaking information on the New Republic's actions and plans to the Imperials. It is only known as Delta Source.

Just as Han and Lando reach the shipyards of Sluis Van, Thrawn launches his planned assault on the location. With a cloaking device, Thrawn is able to give an element of surprise as his mole miners (stolen from Lando) attempt to bore into the hulls of ships at Sluis Van, and steal them. But it just so happens that Rogue Squadron is at the scene. They fight off the TIE fighters while Han and Lando hatch a brilliant plan to stop the theft of ships. Thrawn is defeated in his first major offensive.

The Imperials retreat and order is restored…for now.


  • Mark Hamill ... Luke Skywalker
  • Harrison Ford ... Han Solo
  • Carrie Fisher ... Leia Organa
  • Billy Dee Williams ... Lando Calrissian
  • Anthony Daniels ... C-3PO
  • Peter Mayhew ... Chewbacca
  • Kenny Baker ... R2-D2
  • Jeremy Irons ... Grand Admiral Thrawn
  • Scarlett Johansson ... Mara Jade
  • Robert DeNiro ... Talon Karrde
  • Donald Sutherland ... Joruus C'baoth
  • Sir Derek Jacobi ... Captain Gilad Pellaeon
  • Kane Hodder ... Rukh
    • Ian McShane ... Voice of Rukh

Denis Lawson reprises his role as Wedge Antilles and Caroline Blakiston portrays Mon Mothma, a co-founder and leader of the Rebel Alliance, from Return of the Jedi, respectively. Leonard Nimoy portrays Cris Pieterson, who's in charge of a tractor beam on the Imperial II-class Star Destroyer Chimaera,. Ken Kirzinger appears as Khabarakh (voiced by Nick Nolte), an Noghri who meets Leia he recognized her as Mal'ary'ush: the biological daughter of Lord Darth Vader, whom the Noghri considered their savior. To portray the numerous alien species featured in the film a multitude of puppeteers, voice actors, and stunt performers were employed. Admiral Ackbar was performed by puppeteer Tim Rose, with his voice provided by Erik Bauersfeld. Michael Dorn played as Borsk Fey'lya, an Bothan Spynet, while Valeria Golino and Frederick Ward appeared as Winter and Zakarisz Ghent.



"You couldn't have grown up a Star Wars fan without encountering Thrawn in Heir to the Empire. It was a dark time when there weren't any more movies, and it blew our minds that there could be more."
Dave Filoni

According to original trilogy producer Gary Kurtz, loose plans for a prequel trilogy were developed during the outlining of the original two films. In 1980, George Lucas confirmed that he had the nine-film series plotted, but due to the stress of producing the original trilogy and pressure from his wife to settle down, he had decided to cancel further sequels by 1981. However, technical advances in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including the ability to create computer-generated imagery, inspired Lucas to consider that it might be possible to revisit his saga. In November 1989, one of Lucas’s agent, Bantam Books, secretly call Timothy Zahn to writing a new Star Wars chapters for three days. After Star Wars became popular once again, in the wake of Dark Horse's comic line and Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy novels, Lucas saw that there was still a large audience with the explosion of CG technology, by which he was now considering returning to directing more new movies.



Heir to the Empire made extensive use of computer-generated imagery (CGI) to vivify the main two antagonists: Grand Admiral Thrawn and Joruus C'baoth. The use of such technology was the most ambitious since the 1982 and 1984 science fiction films Tron and The Last Starfighter respectively, and would be integral to the critical success of the film. CGI was required particularly for Thrawn, a "mimetic poly-alloy" (liquid metal) structure, since the shapeshifting character can transform into almost anything it touches. Creation of the visual effects cost $5 million and took 35 people, including animators, computer scientists, technicians and artists, ten months to produce, for a total of 25 man-years. Most of the key Star Wars effects were provided by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), and Pacific Data Images (PDI) for computer graphics and Stan Winston for practical effects. Despite the large amount of time spent, the CGI sequences only total five minutes of running time. Enlisted to produce articulated puppets and prosthetic effects was Stan Winston's studio, who was also responsible for the metal skeleton effects of Joruus C'baoth. ILM's Visual Effects Supervisor, Dennis Muren, remarked after Terminator 2, "We still have not lost the spirit of amazement when we see ... [the visual effects on the T-1000] coming up." The technical achievements in creating the CGI for the film contributed to the visual effects team being awarded the 1993 Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

The majority of the Star Wars visual effects were created by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) under the supervision of Scott Farrar (who previously served as visual effects cameraman on the first three Star Trek films) and animator Wes Takahashi. After receiving the script, ILM created storyboards for the effects sequences before meeting Meyer and producers Winter and Steven-Charles Jaffe to discuss the planned scenes. These discussions began before the film was greenlit. ILM's initial cost estimates were over Paramount's budget, so to save money the filmmakers redesigned some shots and outsourced some to other companies.


John Williams incorporating the film's musical score with new performances by composer, Steven Linden, and album art was designed by Bob Akers.


Heir to the Empires theatrical release took place on May 4, 1993. It was originally slated to be May 1, but was subsequently changed to coincide with the date of the 1977 release of the original Star Wars film. With a massive worldwide marketing campaign, illustrator Tim Reamer created the image for the movie poster and other advertising. At the time of its release, the film was advertised on posters and merchandise as simply Star Wars: Heir to the Empire, despite its on-screen "Episode VII" distinction. The original film was later re-released to theaters in 1997.

Title change

Timothy Zahn's working title for the original teaser trailer was Wild Card. Bantam vetoed this because it was too similar to Wild Cards, another series published at the time by Bantam. In December 1992, Zahn's next favorite title was The Emperor's Hand, which Bantam also rejected. Warlord's Gambit was also a potential title, but ultimately Heir to the Empire was chosen, which was suggested by science-fiction author Lou Aronica. By that time thousands of "Heir to the Empire" teaser posters (with artwork by Drew Struzan) had been printed and distributed. Lucasfilm stopped the shipping of the posters and sold the remaining stock of 6,800 posters to Star Wars fan club members for $9.50.

Home media

The original theatrical version of Heir to the Empire was released on VHS in 1995, with exception of a new audio mix, scratch and dirt removal, and color balance changes, it matched the original theatrical releases. Some of these releases contained featurettes; some were individual releases of just this film, while others were boxed sets of all three original films.

On September 21, 1997, all three sequel films were released in a boxed set on DVD with additional changes made by George Lucas, followed by releases of the "Special Edition" in the same formats for the 20th anniversary of Star Wars. This release featured the first significant changes, which were intended to prove that Industrial Light & Magic could effectively produce CGI visual effects for the prequel trilogy.


Heir to the Empire was the first Star Wars book to refer to the galactic capital as Coruscant. George Lucas later used this name as the galactic capital throughout the prequel trilogy. This movie introduced several recurring characters and elements to the Expanded Universe, notably including Thrawn, the Chiss species, and Mara Jade.






Star Wars Episode VII - Heir To The Empire Teaser Trailer

See also