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"Han shot first" is a phrase referring to a controversial change made to a scene in Star Wars (1977), in which Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is confronted by the bounty hunter Greedo (Paul Blake) in the Mos Eisley cantina. The change was made for the 1997 Special Edition re-release of "Star Wars", and has since been altered twice more.
Han Solo and Greedo both work for Jabba the Hutt, a crime lord based on Tattooine. Before the events of the film, Jabba put a bounty on Han, who had been smuggling cargo for Jabba, but was forced to dump it to avoid capture by an Imperial search party. In the Mos Eisley cantina, Greedo corners Han, points his blaster at him, and forces him to sit down in a booth. Han tells Greedo that he has the money to pay Jabba back, but Greedo demands Han's money instead. Han says he doesn't have the money at the moment, quietly readying his own blaster under the table. Greedo tells him that Jabba has run out of patience with Han and that he, Greedo, has been waiting for a long time to take out Han. Han replies, "yes, I'll bet you have."
In the original 1977 version of the film, immediately after Han says, "yes, I'll bet you have", there is a cut to Greedo's face, followed quickly by a cloud of smoke and a blaster sound. Then, there is a cut to a shot of Greedo from behind, slumping over the table. Director George Lucas expressed his dissatisfaction with this climax, believing that it depicts Han, the film's supporting protagonist, as a cold-blooded killer.
In the 1997 Special Edition of the film, after Han says, "I'll bet you have", a shot is inserted in which Greedo shoots first at Han and misses, and then Han shoots back, killing Greedo. Thus, the phrase "Han shot first" is a retort to director George Lucas's explicit cinematic assertion that "Greedo shot first."
This alteration was disagreeable to many longtime fans of the series, provoking some to create an online petition demanding that the changes be retracted. The primary objection to the revision is that it alters Han's initially morally ambiguous character, making his later transition from anti-hero to hero less meaningful.
For the film's 2004 DVD release, the scene was altered again, altering the timing so that the shots are fired at nearly the same time and so that Han dodges Greedo's shot.
In a 2012 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lucas altered his previous statements, by announcing that Greedo had always shot first, stating that a combination of bad close-up shots and the audiences's inaccurate perception of the Han Solo character was what actually caused all the confusion. Lucas stated:
"The controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo, in Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t. It had been done in all close-ups and it was confusing about who did what to whom. 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, because they wanted to think that he actually just gunned him down."
But despite this claim from Lucas, drafts of the original shooting script on the Internet make no mention of Greedo shooting at all, only Han.
In a Reddit interview with fans, when asked who shot first, Harrison Ford's reply was simply, "I don't know and I don't care." In a 2014 photo posted by Industrial Light and Magic's Twitter feed, the actor is shown holding a piece of paper that reads "I shot first."