Han shot first
"Han shot first" is a phrase referring to a controversial change made to a scene in Star Wars (1977), in which Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is confronted by the bounty hunter Greedo (Paul Blake) in the Mos Eisley cantina. The change was made for the 1997 Special Edition re-release of "Star Wars", and has since been altered twice more. The phrase "Han shot first" is misleading, as Greedo does not shoot at all in the original version of the 1977 film.
Han Solo and Greedo both work for Jabba the Hutt, a crime lord based on Tatooine. Before the events of the film, Jabba offers a bounty on Han, a smuggler for Jabba, after Han jettisons a cargo to avoid capture by an Imperial search party. In the Mos Eisley cantina, Greedo corners Han and forces him at gunpoint to sit down in a booth. Han tells Greedo that he has the money to compensate Jabba, but Greedo demands the money for himself. Han says he doesn't have the money at the moment, quietly readying his own blaster under the table. Greedo tells him that Jabba has run out of patience with Han and that Greedo has been waiting for a long time to kill Han. Han replies, "Yes, I'll bet you have." The scene continues in different ways depending on the version of the film.
In the original 1977 version of the scene, the film cuts to a closeup of Greedo's face, followed quickly by a cloud of smoke and the sound effect of a blaster firing. This is followed by a reverse shot of Greedo from behind, slumping over the table. Director George Lucas expressed his dissatisfaction with this climax, believing that it depicts Han, the film's supporting protagonist, as a cold-blooded killer.
In the 1997 Special Edition of the film, a shot is inserted in which Greedo shoots first at Han and misses, and then Han returns fire, killing Greedo. The phrase, "Han shot first," is a retort to director George Lucas's explicit cinematic assertion that "Greedo shot first."
This alteration was disagreeable to many longtime fans of the series, provoking some to create an online petition demanding that the changes be retracted. The primary objection to the revision is that it alters Han's initially morally ambiguous character, making his later transition from anti-hero to hero less meaningful.
For the film's 2004 DVD release, the scene was altered again, altering the timing so that the shots are fired at nearly the same time and so that Han dodges Greedo's shot.
In a 2012 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lucas altered his previous statements, by announcing that Greedo had always shot first, stating that a combination of bad close-up shots and the audiences's inaccurate perception of the Han Solo character was what actually caused all the confusion. Lucas stated:
"The controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo, in Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t. It had been done in all close-ups and it was confusing about who did what to whom. I put a little wider shot in there that made it clear that Greedo is the one who shot first, but everyone wanted to think that Han shot first, because they wanted to think that he actually just gunned him down."
But despite this claim from Lucas, drafts of the original shooting script on the Internet make no mention of Greedo shooting at all, only Han.
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- Star Wars: A New Hope script, Revised Fourth Draft. January 15, 1976
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