When Star Wars was released in 1977, it changed the face of science fiction forever. It found broad mainstream appeal (something Star Trek always struggled to do) and developed legions of devoted fans who have worked tirelessly to expand George Lucas's universe through fan fiction, video games, action figures, and encyclopedias dedicated to exploring the history and significance of the storied film franchise.
"Uhhh, okaaaay, we're listening…."Recently, new information has come to light regarding the tumultuous process from concept to big screen, and below I've compiled just a smattering of the new information. It's worth a look.
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was originally titled "Space Jam," but was changed after a dispute with Warner Brothers Studios over a similar title they already had in pre-production. Space Jam was eventually released in 1996 as The English Patient.
- Star Wars was inspired by an attraction at The Disneyland Resort, a notable favorite of George Lucas.
- The character of Han Solo was originally written for Harrison Ford, but due to a scheduling conflict (he was apparently already working around the clock) Lucas was forced to replace him with Indiana Jones.
- Eddie Murphy was originally cast as Lando Calrissian, but he dropped out after citing concerns that the project too closely resembled his screenplay for "The Adventures of Pluto Nash (Based on the Novel PUSH by Sapphire)."
- Dennis Hopper reportedly set the production schedule back several weeks by dropping acid and not showing up for his scheduled shooting days. Marlon Brando was also seen as unreasonably difficult, not allowing the other actors to look at him while he was in character.
- Lucas originally struggled to gain distribution for the films, with studios citing an untested market for big budget science fiction pictures. In a perfect storm of studio reorganization, the fourth film was released first, obscuring the far superior prequels. Riding the success of the fourth, fifth, and sixth films, Lucas eventually released the prequels and updated the Gungan characters to sound appropriately like minstrels.
- Citing contract disputes, Luke Skywalker was played by a different actor in The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. There are notable similarities, but if you look clearly at their faces, you'll notice something is different.
- Due to budget constraints, Lucas's grand vision of shooting on location was never fully realized. Consequently, the Tatooine, Endor, Hoth, Dagoba, and Death Star scenes were all filmed on Earth.
- Luke Skywalker used to bullseye womprats with his T-16 back home. They aren't much bigger than two meters.
- Star Brandon Lee was killed when a prop pistol discharged a live round and struck him in the abdomen. His remaining scenes were performed by a stunt double.
- For the 1977 special edition of Star Wars, George Lucas replaced all the walkie talkies in the film with blaster pistols.
- Darth Vader was voiced by veteran actor James Earl Jones, who also played a blind man in The Sandlot.
- Bella Lugosi was originally cast as Yoda, but Lucas was forced to scramble for a replacement when he died twenty years before the film's release.
- Chewbacca never actually intended to act. He accompanied a friend to an audition for Harry and the Hendersons for moral support, and was surprised when a casting director stopped him in the hall and offered him a job. His trademark growl was never in the script, but when Lucas heard him do it on set, he demanded it appear in the film.
- Jar Jar Binks was originally created as a favor for friend Stephen Spielberg for use in 1997's Amistad, but when Spielberg decided the use of CGI characters for a 17th century period piece would be inappropriate and historically inaccurate, Jar Jar found prominence as one of the most popular characters in The Phantom Menace.
So there you have it. I found a lot of this fascinating, and I hope some of you will too. Sometimes it's difficult to remember that the final product is not necessarily representative of its origins, and it's interesting to see how much the future of the franchise was altered during this process.