There’s a very real chance Luke Skywalker and the rest of the Rebellion could have attacked the wrong trench in Star War: A New Hope while looking for the weak point. Luckily for the Star Wars galaxy, they were paying attention.
It turns out that employees at Industrial Light & Magic were shocked to find out that the trench containing the legendary exhaust port that Luke chased down in A New Hope wasn’t where they thought it was. The trench isn’t the large one at the Death Star’s equator. It actually runs vertically.
No worries, you’re not alone in your shock. Visual effects artist Todd Vaziri posted on his blog on January 23 to share this vital but overlooked fact he’d known for a year, saying:
Nearly everybody points at the equatorial trench of the Death Star. I asked dozens of die-hard fans, including many co-workers at Industrial Light & Magic, and nearly every single person pointed to the equatorial trench. If you asked me, I would also have said the equatorial trench… Computer Graphics Supervisor Vick Schutz and Visual Effects Supervisor John Knoll were chatting about the details of our computer graphics version of the Death Star, and Knoll casually remarked that the trench run in “Star Wars” is a longitudinal line on the Death Star (meaning, a north-south trench).
Vaziri said that most of the people in the room Star Wars experts and artists — were “dumbfounded” to find out they’d been wrong about exactly where Luke and the rest of the Rebellion fighters were closing in on the vital exhaust port their entire lives.
But Vaziri doesn’t blame anyone (or himself) for the assumption that the Death Star’s giant, equatorial trench was the location of the exhaust port and A New Hope’s legendary run. The equatorial trench is actually the location of the hanger bays (which, actually, makes a lot of sense and is pretty obvious).
The embarrassment continues when you realize that the briefing scene for the Rebellion’s plan of attack explicitly shows that the trench is, in fact, vertical, running North to South on the surface of the Death Star. It’s a good thing the Rebels were paying attention to General Jan Dodonna’s presentation, because the audience sure as hell wasn’t.