The glamorous Joan Crawford would have turned 110 this week.
With the latest Star Wars films on the heart and minds of nerds all around the world, it’s time to take a look back at the previous films, and collect a little bit of background knowledge on each one. Here are some of the more interesting facts behind the scenes of George Lucas’ game-changing blockbuster from 1977…
1. George Lucas was so certain Star Wars would be a disastrous flop that he didn’t attend the premiere. Instead, he went to Hawaii with Steven Spielberg, where the two created the idea for Raiders of the Lost Ark.
2. Maybe Lucas’ feeling came from an early screener he showed some of his director friends. He screened the film for the likes of Brian DePalma, who called it the worst movie ever, and many others who didn’t see the merit in the film. The only one who knew Lucas was on to something was Steven Spielberg.
3. The actors found George Lucas to be very uncommunicative towards them, with his only directions generally being either “faster” or “more intense”. At one point, when he temporarily lost his voice, the crew provided him with a board with just those three words written on it.
4. James Earl Jones supplied the voice of Darth Vader, but specifically requested that he not be credited. At the time, the reason he cited, was that he felt he had not done enough work to get the billing, but he later admitted that he didn’t want his name associated with the film because he was still an up-and-coming actor, and didn’t want to be typecast.
5. The deserts of Tunisia doubled as the planet Tatooine. On the first day of filming, the region experienced the first rainstorm in over 50 years.
6.George Lucas’s script evolved into a mammoth 200-page screenplay. Having spent a full year writing it, he was reluctant to condense it so instead he chose to concentrate on the first third, with a view to expanding the remaining two thirds into two additional films.
7. The word “Jedi” is derived from the Japanese words “Jidai Geki” which translate as “period adventure drama.” A period adventure drama is a Japanese TV soap opera program set in the samurai days. George Lucas mentioned in an interview that he saw a “Jidai Geki” program on TV while in Japan a year or so before the movie was made and liked the word.
8. Before casting Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi, George Lucas considered casting Japanese actor Toshirô Mifune. He also considered casting a Japanese Princess Leia.
9. Luke went through several changes. Lucas toyed with the idea of changing him into a woman after cutting Princess Leia from the script. He also entertained the notion of casting the principal characters as dwarfs. In an early screenplay, Skywalker was a 60-year-old general. In the shooting script, he was called Luke Starkiller but this was changed to Luke Skywalker during production.
10. Lucas took a smaller salary for the film and opted to take more royalties for product placement on the back end, which was seen as ludicrous at the time. Toys had not been big tie-ins for films. That is, of course, until Star Wars.
11. Less than 40 theaters initially agreed to show the film.
12. According to Harrison Ford, during the making of the film, he and Mark Hamill would usually fool around and not commit to their work whenever Alec Guinness was not on set. When Guinness was on set, they behaved much more professionally.
13. Mark Hamill held his breath for so long during the trash compactor scene that he broke a blood vessel in his face. Subsequent shots are from one side only.
14. The Millennium Falcon was originally modeled after a hamburger with an olive next to it. Because the name of the ship had not been finalized at this time, storyboards refer to as the pirate ship. Some boards indicate for the first version of the pirate ship (which became the Blockade Runner) to be changed into the ‘Hamburger Boogie’ version.
15. Lucas created Darth Vader first, then worked the story around him.
16. That being said, Darth Vader is only on the screen for 12 minutes.
17. And now, for who shot first…
The shootout between Han Solo and Greedo inside the Cantina was the subject for a lot of controversy and debate among Star Wars fans as to who shot first. Many fans debated that Greedo actually shot first a split second before Solo did, but with careful examination of the scene, it was obvious that Greedo never fired his shot at all. For the 1997 Special Edition release of this movie, George Lucas had edited the scene to include Greedo shooting first at Solo at point blank range, with Solo moving his head slightly to the right to dodge the shot before firing back at Greedo. This caused perhaps the worst backlash of all the alterations made to the original trilogy from outraged fans. The shooting scene was, therefore edited for a third time for the 2004 DVD release so that both Greedo and Han Solo fired their guns more or less at the same time.