When Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980, for a limited time its theatrical run also included a short film by the name of Black Angel. It wasn’t linked to Star Wars in any way, but it was the passion project of Star Wars designer Roger Christian (one of the men responsible for creating the first lightsaber). George Lucas commissioned the short, which was shot in Scotland on a budget of merely $35,000, and the film ran with Empire Strikes Back for a short period before the negatives were mysteriously considered to be lost.
Those negatives were unearthed in 2013, rediscovered somewhere in Universal’s archives. Despite its limited run, the film still managed to have an influence on other fantasy films that came after it- like 1981’s Excaliber, directed by John Boorman. Black Angel told a classic tale of a knight trying to rescue a captured maiden while vanquishing an evil force.
Where am I going with all this? Well, it would appear that Black Angel had enough going for it that it’s about to get a whole new life. Christian is amidst preparing a feature length version of the film, and has all ready cast Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner) and Jonathan Rhys-Davies (Raiders of The Lost Ark, Lord of The Rings). This time around, he’ll have a budget of around $15 million, and intends to give his passion project all he can.
He told The Hollywood Reporter, “Itâ€™s my passion project, has been for 35-36 years. I guess â€˜patience is a virtueâ€™ is a true saying.” The writer-director sounds excited about having a real budget this time around, and wants us to see every dollar of it up on the screen. “I can make a huge epic film with that. Iâ€™m going down and dirty, I want the audience to smell the blood and the sweat and the tears,” he says. “Iâ€™ll be doing fights in mud and rain.“
Funny enough, the timing of the rediscovery of the original short, and the new momentum for creating a new version has once again linked Black Angel to Star Wars. Christian points out, “It kind of happened â€“ serendipity of the universe â€“ as J.J. [Abrams] was about to start filming [The Force Awakens], so it became this legendary story of a lost piece of Star Wars history.“
He’s also very excited to have Hauer and Rhys-Davies on board, with their credibility in the realm of genre films. “These kind of faces fit into this ancient world so well, theyâ€™re powerful actors and I need that,” Christian said.
One person who won;t be involved this time around is Lucas, who Christian says is actually busier than ever since selling Star Wars to Disney.
Were any of you fortunate enough to see the original Black Angel in theaters? Was it cool enough to deserve the notoriety it has gained? Does the film getting the feature treatment excite you? Regardless, you can’t help but be happy for Christian. Let’s hope he can build on the film’s enduring legacy.