James Earl Jones never believed Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father.
In an early interview reported recently by The Hollywood Reporter, Jones was reported to have said: “When I first saw the dialogue that said, ‘Luke, I am your father,’ I said to myself, ‘He’s lying. I wonder how they are going to play that lie out?’”
As strange as it may now seem, Jones wasn’t the only one who didn’t initially believe the plot twist was for real, assuming it was all part of a nefarious plan to bring Luke to the dark side. This was something George Lucas became well aware of even prior to the release of The Empire Strikes Back, and realised he needed a far more reliable source to break the news to Luke in the trilogy’s closing chapter.
The Return Of Yoda
Yoda wasn’t in the original draft of the screenplay for Return Of The Jedi, but this changed when Lucas needed to add an authoritative voice to properly confirm what was revealed in Empire.
As revealed in the director’s commentary on the 2004 DVD release, Lucas spoke to child psychologists after wrapping on that movie, and was taken aback by how they stated that children would most likely not believe the twist was for real.
He stated: “When I did the end of the last movie… one of the issues that came up, in terms of my concern about how kids would take Darth Vader revealing that he is Luke’s father, is that most psychologists said that most kids would just deny it.
“I had to reaffirm in the audience’s mind and in Luke’s mind that it actually is true. So going into this movie, I had to assume that at least half of the people didn’t believe it.”
The choice to make the character who breaks the news be Yoda was equally vital.
Your Father, He Is
In the movie’s most emotional sequence, Yoda tells all to Luke on his deathbed, one of the most powerful moments involving a puppet in the history of cinema.
Lucas explained in that commentary that no other character was fit for this job, saying: “(Luke’s) going to have to do it (confront Vader) on his own, and he’s not really equipped to do it. He was too impatient, he didn’t finish his studies, and now he’s going to be half-trained to face a difficult, physical and emotional challenge.”
Having the Jedi Master be the one to set him out on this deeply personal mission, one which requires as much emotional growth as it does physical, was the only way to get audiences to believe it. Now, James Earl Jones certainly has no doubts about who Luke’s father is.