As a child growing up in the early eighties there was only ever going to be one film franchise that dominated my childhood: Star Wars.
It all started back in 1977 with the breakthrough blockbuster Star Wars: A New Hope, produced and directed by George Lucas. It is arguably the most popular film ever made, spun 2 sequels and,eventually 3 prequels, and over the years a thousand parodies in T.V, newspapers and magazines.
The $4.49 billion dollars that the movies have taken at the box office from the 6 films actually puts it third in the all-time standings, behind the James bond films and the Harry Potter Series. It should be noted though that Star Wars made six films where the Bond and Harry Potter series made 22 and 8 respectively.
However, despite not being top dog at the box office it's still the dogs reproductive parts to me as I was hooked on these films as a kid, which pretty much made me like every other kid on the planet at the time.
The films were lauded by the critics, loved by the public and everything was rosey. However, like the long shadow of an Imperial Star Destroyer there was about to be darkness shed over the magnificent light of the Star Wars Empire, namely the actions of George Lucas.
Like the mighty Anakin Skywalker, this once great man had tampered and then succumb to the dark side. Yes they are some things that you don't mess with. Some things that are sacrosanct. The horrendous news that Lucas was altering the originals was true.
First they came a re-release in 1997 with updated footage and new scenes that were deleted from the first. Then came another re-release, which made this a re-re-release, in 2004 with further changes to the original.
There was a disturbance in the force and the fans weren't happy. They voiced their complaints via chat-rooms, forums and websites across the globe. The least we say about the new films and Jar jar Binks the better.
However, this article is not about whether re-editing films should be praised or condemned, it's not about how the prequels compare with the originals. It's not about how the saga continued with Han and Leia having Jedi twins, Luke's eventual turn to the dark side, or the time when Chewie got his bikini line waxed ( guess which one I made up there).
This article is about celebrating a great film. A great film from my childhood that I still love and watch at least once a year.
Above: Lucas filming one of the opening scenes of Star Wars wherethe Imperial stormtroopers board Princess Leia ship hunting for the missing Death Star plans.
Recently released production notes describe the great detail that went into the production and direction of the film. Lucas and his team were not only concerned with building their vision of the film but having to invent the special effects processes to make their vision come true.
Included in the notes is the quotation letter for the design and building of the Y-Wing fighter that the rebels used in the battle against the Death Star in the famous end scenes from the original film.
The aged letter goes on to describe in detail the requirements needed to produce the life-size model for Lucas and gives a final valuation for the work to be between £25,000 and £27,500 GBP which with inflation works out at around $277,000 USD in today’s money.
On Location in Tunisia: The Desert Sands of Tantooine
As every star Wars fan, or indeed anyone who has been out their house since 1977, will be aware Tantooine is the desert home of Luke Skywalker and where we first meet Ben Kenobi. The actual location of the shoot was in Tataouine, Tunisia which gave the production crew a few problems. Firstly, the dust and sand got everywhere making filming difficult and making the machines and filming equipment more temperamental.
Another challenge for the crew was the climate. It ranged from extreme heat, which was difficult for them to work but also to keep the actors cool as many of whom were in large prosthetics and costumes that increased the temperature, to the cold of the night.
Left: Anthony Daniels trying to relay in the shade of an umbrella on set. The suit was so restrictive that Daniels couldn’t sit down between shots without removing parts of the costume hence the leaning frame for him.
Below: Other stage hands, who unlike the actors could work without their shirts in the worm weather, putting the finishing touches on an R2 unit.
There were a number of challenges with the costume for C3PO, least of all the fall that was needed when the Sand People attack Luke. As these documents show it was decided that a stunt man would be needed, much to the relief of Daniels.
Break-Time: Daniels smokes while on set
R2Ds was played by Kenny Baker who felt, as seen below, it was sometimes easier to stay inside his costume to eat.
Alec Guinness was the classically trained British actor that played aging Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi. It is common knowledge that Alec took a royalties cut from the box office takings so his role, while definitely being his most recognised worldwide, was almost certainly his best financially.
Although certainly a good earner Guinness disliked only being remembered for these films and was annoyed with how much it overshadowed his other work.
Once an avid fan, who had watched the film over a hundred times, approached Guinness wanting an autograph. Guinness gave him the autograph on one condition: he never watch the film again. So the boy got his autograph and Guinness got a lot of child's tears and an angry telling off from an irate mother.
Above: Guinness and Hamill on set with relatives
Below: A birthday drink on set
David Prowse as Darth Vader
David Prowse played Sith Lord Darth Vader in the original three films but his voice was dubbed over by James Earl Jones. In the videos below you can see the original footage of Prowse delivering the lines in his West Country accent. Lucas never intended him as the voice of Vader and everyone admits, even Prowse, that the character is far more menacing with the voice-over by Jones.
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
Left: Peter Mayhew relaxes on set
Below: A disguared Wookie outfit
Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin
Above: Peter Cushing shares a joke with Hamill
Below: A far more menacing Cushing playing the role of Grand Moff Tarkin
Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia
Carrie Fisher was chosen to play the fiesty character of Princess Leia Organa. Fisher, the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, broke free from the shadow of her two famous parents with a role that made her world famous in her own right.
Above: Carrie Fisher and Lucas before filming
Below: A run through of a scene with David Prowse (Darth Vader)
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Harrison Ford was the young actor that played Millenium pilot captain Han Solo. Ford would later go on to have the most distinguished career of the main actors with roles as Indiana Jones, Jack Ryan and Rick Deckard.
Like most films, they were a number of script changes made during the shooting process and many more made at final editing. The production notes (below) show a slight change to the Mos Eisley scenes.
Below are two scenes removed from the finished film in which Luke talks with friend Biggs. Biggs would later be seen at the battle to destroy the deathstar.
Images from http://www.moviepicturedb.com