Star Wars: Life growing up in the Jedi's glow

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Return of the Jedi was released in summer 1983

You are a teenager in the 1980s - the biggest Hollywood blockbuster ever made is Star Wars - and you are having a barbecue with its stars.

Welcome to the world of James Marquand, whose father Richard directed Return of the Jedi.

Thirty-five years on, the force is still strong in the son of the Cardiff-born film-maker.

And he has some very special memories of Jabba the Hutt's palace - and, of course, Princess Leia.

"It was obviously a pretty amazing thing," recalled James, who lives in Cheshire.

"I remember being younger and watching the first Star Wars film. To then get the call from my dad that he was doing the third one - yeah - it was pretty unbelievable."

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Richard Marquand (left) died just four years after Return of the Jedi's 1983 release
Image source, Getty Images
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Robots C-3P0 and R2-D2 approach Jabba the Hutt's palace in Return of the Jedi

If it was unbelievable then, it became even more surreal when he was invited to spend time on the film set - when scenes about the galactic crime lord Jabba the Hutt were being filmed.

"One of my first special memories was walking on to the gates of Jabba's palace, you know, which is a famous scene where (robots) R2-D2 and C-3PO turn up and kind-of try to get in.

"Just suddenly being brought into that world and sort of actually feeling yourself out of the real world."

James added: "Until you actually go up to the set and you knock on, this great big, you know, fortress - and it's like plywood or something.

"But in a way, that sort of makes it more amazing."

Image source, Alamy
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Return of the Jedi took nearly £1bn worldwide

The third film in the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi sees Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance defeat the evil Empire, and a deathbed reconciliation with Darth Vader - Luke's father.

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Film-maker Marquand with his son James

James Marquand was just 18 at the time, and was able to mix with cinematic royalty - including the film's famed creator George Lucas, directors Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola, and crew members including the late Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia.

"I remember going to a barbeque picnic that he [Lucas] had and my sister and I hung out with Carrie Fisher. She was brilliant. Steven Spielberg was there on a picnic blanket," he recalled.

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The filmmaker with with one of the Ewok characters

But memories of the film are sometimes bittersweet for James and his family.

Richard Marquand died just four years after Return of the Jedi's 1983 release, aged 49.

In the age of the internet and the continuing success of the Star Wars franchise, the director's son has found himself having to defend his father's creative role in the film.

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Today, James Marquand is quick to defend his father's creative role in making the Star Wars film

"He was the director, he did all the directing," argued James.

"Lucas was a presence as you would expect - he created this empire so it was always understood he would be a presence. There were specific things that my dad was brought into the project to do, mainly working with the actors."

Image source, Getty Images
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Film fact: The original working title for the Star Wars film was Revenge of the Jedi

He said there was a "fair bit of bitterness" in the family about criticism of the director.

"But I guess the Star Wars saga is owned by the world and with social media everyone's an expert," he added.

"When I think back to my dad's involvement, I'm massively proud of him. I do think he delivered. His role was was to deliver a film on time and on budget and get performances out of the actors.

"When it came out it was the number one grossing film of all time and it's still probably quite high on the list now, so job done."

Image source, Alamy
Image caption,
Marquand and Star Wars creator George Lucas on the set of Return of the Jedi

In the decades since Return of the Jedi was released, directors chosen to make Star Wars films still come under great scrutiny.

Despite 2017's release of The Last Jedi making more than $1.3 bn (£990m) worldwide, it is widely regarded as the most divisive film in the saga's history.

Director Rian Johnson has faced personal criticism on social media and one group of fans has called for the film to be remade.

This summer's Solo: A Star Wars Story saw its original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller fired and replaced with Oscar-winner Ron Howard. The film has achieved relatively modest success at the box office.