The Story Behind Han Solo’s “I Know”


Han Solo frozen
Classic Meme

When it comes to famous quotes from Star Wars, it’s hard to top the exchange between Princess Leia and Han Solo. Leia confesses that she loves Solo, and he replies with, “I know.” It’s a line most of us know in some way, but not all of us really understand.

What’s the story behind Han Solo’s “I know?” Believe it or not, this famous line was never actually planned out by Star Wars writers. It was part of a larger-scale an ad-lib that was developed by Harrison Ford that editors really enjoyed.

The full story behind one of the most cryptic (and yet famous) lines in the series might surprise you. If you’re a fan of Star Wars, this is one story you definitely don’t want to miss out on reading about.

Why Did Leia Profess Her Feelings?

To fully understand the subtleties of this quote, it’s a good idea to start with what was going on in Princess Leia’s mind. Leia was in a deeply perilous situation where she was being hunted by stormtroopers and being forced to deal with a super-evil bad guy by the name of Darth Vader.

The guy who saved her, Han Solo, is dashing and daring. He clearly cares about her and went out of his way to save her life. And, at the time that she decided to come clean about her feelings, he was about to be frozen in carbonite.

Leia didn’t know what would happen to Han after he was frozen. So, right off the bat, there was a chance that she would never see him again. She didn’t have the courage to say it before, so she decided to let him know how she felt–just in case he would die before he saw her again.

Why Didn’t Princess Leia Admit Her Feelings Sooner?

Now, this is a loaded question! There are a lot of reasons why Princess Leia couldn’t really come clean about her feelings to Han Solo–at least, during most of the movie. These reasons include the following facts:

  • She’s a princess. It’s very un-royal of a person to be open about their feelings in many cultures, especially if it’s an extremely passionate display of affection. It’s quite possible her upbringing kept her feeling a need to be “proper.”
  • She’s a princess, and he’s an outlaw. Though Han Solo is definitely a hero, it’s important to remember that he was still on the wrong side of the law. That alone makes it extremely taboo for the two of them to get together like that.
  • Leia herself is a little bit stubborn at times. We all know people who just don’t like to talk about feelings or get out of their shells. Leia, for the most part, seems to be one of those people. 
  • It’s also safe to say that Princess Leia might not be used to dating or romance. If there’s one thing that is pretty stereotypical of princesses, it’s that they rarely ever really get to experience the natural flow of romance. This is very likely the case with Princess Leia.
  • Leia also isn’t the type to easily admit weakness or when she was wrong. Think about all the countless arguments the two had over the span of the movie. That’s just her character type shining through. Knowing this, it’s easy to see where she might have struggled with talking about her feelings.

That being said, the sexual tension between the two was pretty obvious for anyone with a pair of eyes. So maybe she just didn’t say it because it was so abundantly clear that she was interested in him.

Did Leia Know Han Solo Would Survive Frozen Carbonite?

Not really. Writers openly admitted that having Han Solo frozen in carbonite could have killed him. That makes it canon in the Star Wars universe, which means that Princess Leia probably knew it was a risk.

Even if Han Solo were to survive being frozen like that, there also wasn’t really much to suggest that he’d ever be unfrozen again. It’s safe to say that at least part of her admission was due to an impending sense of potential doom for Han Solo. 

On a similar note, it’s quite likely that Han Solo himself realized he was facing death when he was on the way to be frozen in carbonite. So, that also added a little extra drama to his current situation. 

Han Solo Frozen
Hans Solo Frozen In Carbonite

Why Didn’t Han Solo Say, “I Love You Too?”

If someone tells you that they love you, the most common reply back is “I love you, too.” It’s just common sense. So, the fact that Han Solo didn’t say this classic phrase took fans aback and made them have a bunch of different theories:

  • He didn’t actually like her. Some fans surmise that he wasn’t actually into Princess Leia, though this isn’t correct. Han Solo definitely had feelings, even if he didn’t traditionally express them.
  • It would have hurt him too much to say it. This could potentially be a viable option, especially if you’re dealing with a situation like Han’s. 
  • It was cliche. Let’s just face it. Star Wars was never a series that wanted to be cliche. The series was all about being innovative with scripts, characters, and sci-fi concepts. To a point, that’s actually what made it such a popular series. 
  • Saying “I love you too,” isn’t really in accordance with Han Solo’s character. Think about it. He’s a toughie and a bit of a stoic. Just because of the way his character was written, it’s highly unlikely that he will end up being the type of person to start gushing about love or being dramatic.

Truth be told, there was actually a bigger reason as to why Han Solo didn’t say those four words, and it all had to deal with a last-minute script change. 

Does Han Solo Really Like Leia?

For the most part, it’s hard to deny that Han Solo fell for Leia. The rogue initially only wanted to save her because of the fact that he would have been paid handsomely for doing so. The two argued, a lot during certain parts of the movie.

But, at the end of the day, the two got together fairly quickly. There was tension there, and they definitely both had moments where their interest in each other displayed on the storyline. So, the answer is pretty much a straight yes. 

Did Han Solo Really Need To Say How He Felt About Leia?

One of the more salient points brought up by Star Wars fans is that the idea of Solo saying “I love you too,” was a bit redundant. After all, he showed how he felt through actions throughout the entire movie. 

If you think about it, all of the following actions really did show how he felt about the princess:

  • He came back for Princess Leia on the base, despite everything crashing down around him. The mere fact that he came back for her despite the high risk of death showed that he really did have feelings for her. It would have been far easier for him to just run away from the danger–and he probably would have if he didn’t care. 
  • He was always watching out for her. Han Solo made a point of keeping an eye out for the princess, even when they were retrieving Luke from Hoth. 
  • As the plot progressed, they went from bickering to be a little warmer to each other. Sure, they still fought a little bit, but it wasn’t the same arguing style as it once was.
  • There’s always been tension between the two throughout the movie. Han Solo was literally the badass boy who Princess Leia couldn’t really admit she wanted. It was just too risque for someone of her ranks. That being said, he made it clear that he was interested in her as well.

To a point, it might have been a bit superfluous for Han to be open about how he felt. It was written all over his face. 

What Happened In The Original Script?

Most Star Wars fans will tell you that the original Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back script really did have Han Solo professing his love to Leia–sort of. In the original script, Han Solo replied, “Just remember that, ‘cause I’ll be back.”

The problem with this line might be a subtle one too many, but it’s not lost on Star Wars fans. Along with having a very Terminator-esque feel to it, the line also gave a light guarantee that audiences would see Han Solo again. 

Why Did The Cast Want To See Han Solo Avoid Saying, “I Love You Too?”

Believe it or not, most of the cast wasn’t too keen on hearing Han Solo tell Leia he loved her, too. The truth is that most of the cast felt like hearing Han Solo get all “gooey” about Princess Leia was not something that fit in well with his character or the mood of the movie. 

The original concept of having the two of them profess their love for one another just didn’t sit well. It would have been a very heavy-handed performance that would’ve thrown off the overall vibe of the movie, forcing people to rethink what they knew about Han Solo. 

When the crew was still trying to figure out what to replace “I’ll be back” with, the possibility of “I love you too” didn’t really enter the picture. It simply was a little bit too maudlin and cliche to work with what was going on in the script–and most of the cast agreed on that point.

Why Did “I’ll Be Back” Drop From The Movie? 

Remember how we mentioned that Han Solo’s line guaranteed that he wouldn’t die from being frozen in carbonite? That’s actually what made director Irvin Kershner drop the line from the movie. He wanted to make it clear to audiences that there was a chance Solo would die. 

That being said, most audiences really didn’t take it that way. With many viewers, it just remained ambiguous as to what would happen. After all, it’s not like modern technology involves freezing people in carbonite. 

Still, that lack of a movie line left a serious challenge when it came to the script. For a while, it wasn’t really certain what would be said instead. Thankfully, one actor had a great idea for a new line…

Who Suggested The Change? 

When the actual script reading took place, that line just fell flat with both Harrison Ford and the producers of the movie. Ford then suggested that he just say, “I know,” as he passed by Leia on his way to potential doom. 

As Ford pointed out, the line was succinct, acceptable, and to a point, just a little funny. It also helped add more suspense to the film by avoiding the question of whether or not he’d survive the freeze. Producers loved the change and decided to go with it. 

Hm. Maybe Harrison Ford should think about being a scriptwriter. 

What Did Carrie Fisher Think Of “I Know?” 

According to Kershner, the fact that Harrison Ford took his liberties with the script made things just a little bit tense. Kershner made the executive decision to let this be “Harrison Ford’s scene,” so to speak.

Kershner worried that Carrie Fisher, who played Leia, would take offense to Ford’s decision. Fisher, ever the cool-headed girl, told others that she respected Harrison Ford as an actor and let him have his time in the sun. 

What Was The Initial Reception Like?

When the famous “I know” line first hit audiences in theaters, it immediately became a smash hit. It was witty, and yet at the same time, had a certain amount of strength that made it resonate with both male and female viewers. 

The original plan for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was to screen two versions: the “I Know” version and the “I’ll be back” version. The first screening featured Ford’s “I know” line, and it immediately broke up audiences. The second screening was immediately ditched.

As the Star Wars fandom grew, “I know” became one of the most iconic lines of the entire movie franchise. It’s currently ranked up with “I’m your father” as one of the most recognizable movie lines in sci-fi history. So, it’s safe to say that the reception was fantastic. 

What Did Cast Members Think Of The Change?

Most cast members were alright with the new alterations to the script, but there was one person who really wasn’t pleased with it all: Lawrence Kasdan, co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back. He was the one who originally wrote the love scene between Leia and Han Solo.

Kasdan was actually fairly upset that his original lines didn’t make it into the script. In multiple interviews, he openly admitted that he was disappointed that his original Han and Leia concepts weren’t featured in the final movie. 

How upset was he? Fairly pissed. He even went so far as to say, “Han and Leia’s scenes were among what I was proudest of in my script, but they hardly remained.” He also claimed that the “I know” line had a “touch of falseness” to it in his eyes. 

Sour grapes, much?

How Did Harrison Ford’s Delivery Of The Line Impact It’s Meaning?

If you actually go back and look at Harrison Ford as he says that line, you’ll notice something a little strange. When Han Solo says, “I know,” he’s not smiling. He looks like he’s on the verge of tears. 

The way that Harrison Ford delivered the line really illustrated how his character felt in that scene. The way he looked, walked and even said those words signaled a lot of resignation and exhaustion. He was, if nothing else, feeling a lot of emotions when he said that. 

What we can glean from the way Han Solo said his famous line is that he knew she loved him. He knew he loved her too. However, it was fairly clear that he was upset about not being able to enjoy time with her before he faced certain death. That’s why it sounded so resigned.

Did The Line Ever Get Mentioned Again?

Considering how iconic Ford’s “I know” line has become, it only seems natural to have the movie franchise give it a mention or a reference from time to time. Most people don’t know this, but the classic “I know” line became so popular, it even became a part of another movie. 

Writers decided to make things go full circle rather quickly. In the film Return of the Jedi, Han Solo tells Leia, “I love you.” Leia, having just taken out a handful of stormtroopers, replies, “I know.” 

Making the line switch was a nice touch for audiences that love the couple’s dynamics. This cute exchange was the not-so-subtle way writers decided to tell audiences that, yes, the feeling is 100% mutual. (Not that anyone ever doubted it in the first place!)

Brad

Sci-fi lover and Tech Nerd.

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