One of the most iconic lines from The Empire Strikes Back came from Han Solo. Right before he’s frozen in carbonite, Princess Leia says, “I love you” and Han responded with, “I know”. It was such a Han Solo thing to say!
Turns out, George Lucas initially hated the line and he apparently went apeshit over it. Lucas originally had Han Solo say “I love you, too” in the script. But most of us know that Harrison Ford came up with the “I know” line on the spot.
In a 2010 Vanity Fair interview, director Irvin Kershner explained that the “I love you, too” line “just didn’t seem right for the character of Han Solo,” and Ford agreed so they started exploring different reactions that Han Solo might have. Kershner explained:
We were into the lunch break and I said to Harrison try it again and just do whatever comes to mind. That is when Ford said the line, ‘I know.’ After the take, I said to my assistant director, David Tomblin, ‘It’s a wrap.’
Kershner said it was “the perfect Han Solo remark,” but Lucas didn’t think so. When he saw the scene with the new line he said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. That’s not the line in the script.” In a separate interview with Jon Favreau, which you can watch below, Ford went on to say that Lucas went apeshit, saying:
I think it’s fair enough to say he went apeshit. He thought it was horrible and that it would get a bad laugh.
Apparently, Lucas hated it so much that he wanted to have two test screenings for the movie. One with the “I love you, too” line and one with the “I know” line. Ford went on to say:
So I was obliged to sit next to him when he tested it for the first screening. There was a laugh but it was a laugh of recognition, and so he generously let it stay in the movie.
That test screening won Lucas over. Kershner said, “When the film was over, people came up and said that is the most wonderful line and it worked. So George decided not to have the second screening.”
It seems like one of those rare moments where Lucas didn’t get his way and it worked for the benefit of the film. He must’ve really come to love the line because he never changed it back to “I love you, too” in his revamped “Special Edition” version of the film.
Ford just wanted Han Solo to stay true to who he was and be a badass to the end. He gave the character that with a simple, “I know.”