Howard Kazanjian
Kazanjian in 2019
Howard G. Kazanjian

(1942-07-26) July 26, 1942 (age 81)
Alma materUniversity of Southern California
Occupation(s)Film producer, author
Years active1968–present
Carol Anne Eskijian
(m. 1970)

Howard G. Kazanjian (born July 26, 1942) is an Armenian-American film producer best known for the Star Wars films The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as the Indiana Jones movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. Kazanjian was an originating member of Lucasfilm, Ltd., serving as its vice president for approximately eight years (1977 to 1984).

Howard Kazanjian is a published non-fiction author, with a focus on the factual Old West of US history. In 2021, Kazanjian also published his well-received 340-page memoir Howard Kazanjian: A Producer's Life,[1][2][3] edited and compiled by prolific Star Wars historian J.W. Rinzler.[4]

Early life

Kazanjian was born in Los Angeles County, California, and is of Armenian descent. He graduated from the University of Southern California. While there he first met a young George Lucas, and they became not only Delta Kappa Alpha cinema fraternity brothers but also long standing friends.[5] They were members of a clique of filmmakers known to the Hollywood system and the university circuit as The Dirty Dozen.[6] During those college years, Kazanjian and Lucas both met their respective future wives, and the couples would often double date.

Kazanjian's early credits include being First Assistant Director on Alfred Hitchcock's Family Plot and Second Assistant Director on Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch. He later worked with director Robert Wise on his production of The Hindenburg. Kazanjian eventually moved into film production rather than directorial work. He later stated, "The films offered to me I don't want to direct. The films I want to direct are not offered."[7]


As Lucasfilm's Vice President of Production, Howard Kazanjian was intimately involved in the day-to-day strategic and practical operations of Lucasfilm during the times immediately after the 1977 release of Star Wars until approximately 1984 or 1985.[8][9]

Star Wars and Indiana Jones

Kazanjian is most notable for having served as executive producer on Raiders of the Lost Ark and producer on Return of the Jedi. He is also recognized as an uncredited producer on The Empire Strikes Back, replacing producer Gary Kurtz midway through the production.[10][11] For Jedi he came up with the idea of shooting the production under a fake name, Blue Harvest, in order to forestall any attempts at price gouging by suppliers. Blue Harvest was purported to be a horror film with the tag line "horror beyond imagination". Hats and T-shirts were printed up for the crew to wear and to further add to the authenticity of the ruse.[12]

During the casting of Raiders, Kazanjian heavily campaigned for Harrison Ford to be cast as Indiana Jones, to the point he almost lost his job over it. Jones was intended to be a smoker and a drinker, but Kazanjian convinced Lucas and Steven Spielberg to remove that. The scene where sunlight passing through the Headpiece to the Staff of Ra reveals the location of the Well of the Souls was proposed by Kazanjian, who was inspired by the golden statues of Ramesses II at the Abu Simbel temples in Egypt. The temple was positioned so that sunlight would penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate the statues once a year.[8]

The issue of whether Ford would reprise his role of Han Solo for the third Star Wars film arose during pre-production. Kazanjian was responsible for getting him to return:

I played a very important part in bringing Harrison back for Return of the Jedi. Harrison, unlike Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill signed only a two picture contract. That is why he was frozen in carbonite in The Empire Strikes Back. When I suggested to George we should bring him back, I distinctly remember him saying that Harrison would never return. I said what if I convinced him to return. George simply replied that we would then write him in to Jedi. I had just recently negotiated his deal for Raiders of the Lost Ark with Phil Gersh of the Gersh Agency. I called Phil who said he would speak with Harrison. When I called back again, Phil was on vacation. David, his son, took the call and we negotiated Harrison's deal. When Phil returned to the office several weeks later he called me back and said I had taken advantage of his son in the negotiations. I had not. But agents are agents.[9]

The ending scene of Return of the Jedi was originally only going to show the Force ghosts of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, but two days before the scene was shot, Kazanjian suggested that the ghost of Anakin Skywalker appear as well.[8]

Later years

Kazanjian has authored books with Chris Enss. In 2004, they collaborated on The Cowboy and the Senorita: A Biography of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans ISBN 0-7627-3053-6 and Happy Trails: A Pictorial Celebration of the Lives of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans ISBN 0-7627-3089-7; In 2006, The Young Duke: The Early Life of John Wayne ISBN 0-7627-3898-7; in 2009, Thunder over the Prairie: The True Story of a Murder and a Manhunt by the Greatest Posse of All Time ISBN 0-7627-4493-6.[13]

He has been an instructor at "Act One", a group designed to train Christians entering into film and television,[14] and was named by Beliefnet as one of the twelve most powerful Christians in Hollywood.[15]

Kazanjian is an active member of the Armenian charity and cultural community, and a USC alumnus.[16]

Since 1998 Kazanjian has been co-chairman and 50% shareholder of Tricor Entertainment, Inc, an independent production company, which owns and operates a 19,000+ seat theater chain in Southeast Asia and a film distribution company.[17][18]

Personal life

Kazanjian lives and works in the community of San Marino, California with his wife Carol (née Eskijian), and three children, Peter, Noah, and Andrew.[19]

Kazanjian and George Lucas remain close friends to this day.[8]


He was producer for all films unless otherwise noted.


Year Film Credit Notes
1979 More American Graffiti
1980 The Empire Strikes Back Uncredited
1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark Executive producer
1983 Return of the Jedi
1990 The Rookie
1993 Demolition Man
1999 The Sky Is Falling Executive producer
Carlo's Wake Executive producer
2000 The Amati Girls Executive producer
2001 Extreme Days Executive producer
The Homecoming of Jimmy Whitecloud Executive producer
2003 Shortcut to Happiness Executive producer
2004 The Bridge of San Luis Rey Executive producer
Worlds Apart Supervising producer
2017 South Dakota Executive producer
Second unit director or assistant director
Year Film Role Notes
1967 The Cool Ones Assistant director Uncredited
1968 Finian's Rainbow
1969 The Wild Bunch Second assistant director Uncredited
The Great Bank Robbery
Once You Kiss a Stranger Assistant director
1970 The Christine Jorgensen Story
1974 The Girl from Petrovka First assistant director
The Front Page
1975 The Hindenburg
1976 Family Plot
Miscellaneous crew
Year Film Role
1977 Rollercoaster Production executive
Year Film Role
2001 All Over Again Special thanks
2009 Sutures Very special thanks
2016 Christmas Ranch The producers wish to thank
2021 Hope's Legacy
As an actor
Year Film Role Notes Ref.
1983 Return of the Jedi Pilot Voice role


Year Title Credit Notes
1996 Rattled Executive producer Television film
1995−96 JAG
2003−08 Danger Rangers Executive producer
2016−17 Mark Hamill's Pop Culture Quest Executive producer Documentary
2017 Celebrate the World! The Hey Wordy! Movie Executive producer Television film
Second unit director or assistant director
Year Title Role Notes
1973 Trapped Assistant director Television film
1974 The Rockford Files Television pilot

Awards and honors


  1. ^ Howard Kazanjian Talks Career, Life, and His Book 'Howard Kazanjian: A Producer's Life', Fantha Tracks, October 28, 2021, retrieved November 14, 2021
  2. ^ 'Star Wars' Editor Marcia Lucas Slams Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams and Sequel Trilogy: 'They Don't Get It', Variety, September 20, 2021, retrieved November 14, 2021
  3. ^ Mark Hamill Says 'Star Wars' Prequels 'Impressed' Him: 'They Had Their Own Identity', IndieWire, September 24, 2021, retrieved November 14, 2021
  4. ^ Remembering Jonathan Rinzler, Bestselling Author of 'Star Wars' Books, Berkeleyside, August 4, 2021, retrieved November 14, 2021
  5. ^ Pollock, Dale (2009). Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas. New York: Da Capo Press. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-306-80904-0.
  6. ^ Pollock 2009, p. 48.
  7. ^ a b "HOWARD KAZANJIANAN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ONE OF THE KEY PLAYERS BEHIND THE CREATION OF THE STAR WARS / INDY UNIVERSES" (PDF). Star Wars Aficionado. 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 3, 2013. Retrieved September 2, 2009.
  8. ^ a b c d Pellegrom, Dennis (January 2010). "Howard Kazanjian (Producer)". Star Wars Interviews. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Howard Kazanjian interview". Star Wars Interviews 1. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  10. ^ Ward, Jason (October 2, 2018). "Remembering Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz". Making Star Wars. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  11. ^ Leibovit, Arnold. "George Lucas". Sci-Fi Station. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  12. ^ "Project Blue Harvest Revealed". Brian Jay Jones. July 26, 2010. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  13. ^ Kazanjian, Howard (May 29, 2017). "What History Has Taught Me: Howard Kazanjian". True West Magazine. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  14. ^ Act One Archived October 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "Mel Gibson Named 'Most Powerful Christian' in Hollywood". October 18, 2007. Retrieved February 3, 2013.
  16. ^ "Men's Forum – Howard Kazanjian – Major Motion Picture Producer & Director". St. Gregory Armenian Church of Pasadena. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  17. ^ Hindes, Andrew (April 21, 1999). "Distrib Tricor shouts Good Morning, Vietnam". Variety. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  18. ^ Nazaretyan, Ani (March–April 2011). "The Dealmaker & The Filmmaker" (PDF). Occidental Entertainment. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  19. ^ "Luther Eskijian Obituary". Pasadena Star-News. April 12, 2007. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  20. ^ "Howard Kazanjian". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  21. ^ "Inkpot Award". San Diego Comic-Con. December 6, 2012. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  22. ^ "Hollywood Legends Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award at Biola Media Conference | Christian Industry News". FrontGate Media. Retrieved February 3, 2013.
  23. ^ "Honorary Marshals". Boot Hill Museum. Archived from the original on June 1, 2019. Retrieved June 1, 2019.