George Lucas weighs in on ‘Star Wars’ controversy

Updated 7:34 PM EST, Wed December 2, 2015

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George Lucas addresses his controversial tweaks to the original "Star Wars"

Fans have long been upset about a faceoff scene between Han Solo and Greedo

(CNN) —  

It was just a split second onscreen, but it became a huge bone of contention among “Star Wars” fans.

In the original 1977 “Star Wars” (officially “Episode IV – A New Hope” to fans), an altercation between heroic smuggler Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt lackey Greedo ended in Greedo’s death after Han shot him under a table. (Though all we see is Han readying his gun, an explosion of smoke and Greedo slumping over).

But the 1997 Special Edition of the movie contained a blink-and-you-missed-it change: Greedo shoots at Han and misses before Han kills him.

For the past 18 years, a vocal contingent of diehard fans has pointed to this as the ultimate sacrilege by writer/director George Lucas, who retooled the original three movies with new imagery and improved special effects. The Greedo scene change even inspired a battle cry (and a T-shirt): “Han shot first.”

In a new Washington Post interview – and on the eve of “Star Wars: Episode VI – The Force Awakens,” a movie he had nothing to do with – Lucas is once again defending the choice to alter the film to have Greedo shoot first.

“Han Solo was going to marry Leia, and you look back and say, ‘Should he be a cold-blooded killer?’ ” Lucas said.

“Because I was thinking mythologically – should he be a cowboy, should he be John Wayne? And I said, ‘Yeah, he should be John Wayne.’ And when you’re John Wayne, you don’t shoot people (first) – you let them have the first shot. It’s a mythological reality that we hope our society pays attention to.”

Lucas said he has avoided the Internet since 2000, but that doesn’t mean he’s been unaware of the fan criticism heaped on him over the controversial scene.

“Well, it’s not a religious event. I hate to tell people that. It’s a movie, just a movie,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2012 when asked about tweaks to his films. “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.”

There’s also the matter of an apparent 1976 shooting script found this year in Canada.

Kristian Brown, a librarian at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, immediately knew the first question on fans’ minds about the rare find.

“Based on the script, I can tell you 100 percent, Han shot first,” he said.

One thing is for certain: This debate is far from over.

George Lucas: I’m done with ‘Star Wars’