I know Star Wars isn’t real. You know Star Wars isn’t real. But man, when Lando betrayed Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back, we all felt very palpable rage, right?
The magic of Star Wars is that, even though we know the battle between the Rebellion and the Galactic Empire isn’t our fight to worry about, the emotional stakes are so high that we can’t help but invest ourselves in the lives of the various Star Wars characters. Of course, I know the difference between the real people in the Star Wars cast and the fictional characters they portray, but that’s no consolation to Billy Dee Williams.
Apparently, Williams had a lot to answer for after Lando Calrissian handed Han Solo over to Darth Vader. In the book Star Wars Insider: Icons of the Galaxy, Williams said: “When [Empire] came out, I would pick up my daughter from school, and these kids would run up to me and say, ‘You betrayed Han Solo!’ I would then find myself getting into the middle of trying to explain the whole situation.”
“Even airline stewardesses would tell me I betrayed Han Solo,” he added. “I would say, ‘You don’t understand — it was a very peculiar situation. I had to deal with Darth Vader, and also I had Cloud City — this is my domain and I didn’t want to lose it because these people showed up with Darth Vader on their tail. So I had to figure out how to save them.’ Listen to me, I’m doing it now!”
I love the fact that defending Lando’s actions is so entrenched in Williams that he can’t even discuss the debates he’s had in the past without fighting for his life to protect his character once again. To be fair, though, if I had been involved in the Star Wars series in any way, shape, or form, you would not hear the end of it. Hell, I’d be starting the arguments just to let people know I was in Star Wars.
Just in case you aren’t familiar with what happened in The Empire Strikes Back (seriously, get it watched, it’s literally one of the best science fiction movies ever), Han and Leia land on Bespin hoping Lando can help out an old friend in need of refuge. Sadly, Vader got there first, and blackmailed Lando into trapping the Rebels in exchange for the safety of the citizens of Cloud City.
Thankfully, Lando saw the light and decided to thwart the Star Wars villain by helping the heroes escape in the end. Williams explains his character’s thinking behind this moment: “I had to do it in such a way that there wouldn’t be a complete demise of Han Solo or the rest, but I knew there would have to be some sort of delay.”
I’ll be honest, I had always read Lando’s actions as being more reactive, than having any kind of foresight. I had always assumed Lando genuinely caved to Vader and was resigned to the fact his friends had to die for his people to survive. It was only when he was actually faced with the friends he was betraying that the guilt set in, and then, of course, Vader changing the rules pushed Lando to fight back.
We can’t blame him for fearing Vader, though. It’s an incredibly difficult scenario to imagine yourself being in, and one which was never going to lead to a positive outcome for Lando. Williams is obviously slightly proud of Lando’s eventual bravery, though, as he added: “I even stood up to Darth Vader, which most people don’t do. Look at what he did to the guy at the opening of the movie on the ship there!”
Hopefully, fans have forgiven Lando (and Williams) for what he did in The Empire Strikes Back by now. It has been over 40 years, after all, and anyone who’s been watching the Star Wars movies in order since 1980 probably has a lot more to be angry about (yes, The Rise of Skywalker, I’m talking about you). Let’s just pray the new Star Wars movies wash the bad taste of that one out of our mouth.
If you just can’t forgive Lando, you might be keen to look ahead to other new movies aside from the galaxy far, far away, like The Marvels and Spider-Man 4, which I’m sure won’t involve any kind of cowardly acts at all.