Our civilization doesn’t have fairy tales or mythology — we have movies instead. Like the legends of the incestuous Gods of ancient Greece, the biggest blockbusters became shared cultural touchstones, and nothing looms larger in our movie mythology than Star Wars, a franchise so ubiquitous it’s almost sacrilege to have not seen the original trilogy. The original Star Wars legend spawned so many new legends about the backstage goings-on and intentions of the people who put the beloved space opera together that it’s difficult to sift through all the rumors to get down to actual historic fact.
We’ll dispel some of the most pervasive lies you’ve been told about Star Wars by setting the record straight, at least before Episode VIII comes out and the rumor mill begins buzzing once more.
1. Chewbacca was mistaken for Bigfoot during shooting
Don’t you wish this were true? Not that we want hunters setting their sights on Chewbacca’s Peter Mayhew, but because it sounds just crazy enough to be true. Alas, it’s nothing but a tall tale that originated in 1982 due to Return of the Jedi‘s filming in the Redwood forests of northern California.
Thankfully, there is some odd sort of foundation to this myth — while in costume between shoots, Mayhew had to be accompanied by crewmembers wearing bright-colored vests to be sure local hunters didn’t mistake the Wookie for a grizzly bear or Sasquatch.
2. George Lucas had 12 installments planned out from the beginning
The man both credited with creating the original trilogy and blamed for the atrocious prequel trilogy, George Lucas is responsible for Star Wars, but far from solely responsible. Claims are often made that Lucas planned out an entire saga before the first film was even made, or that Lucas created the original trilogy by chopping his first screenplay into thirds, but it’s simply not true. The first Star Wars script was drastically different than the final product, a jumble of ideas that the film’s producer Gary Kurtz called “gobbledygook.”
Lucas didn’t even direct the original trilogy, instead handing the reins over to Irvin Kershner and then Richard Marquand for the latter two films. Lucas built his mythology and plans for the series all the same, but his master plan was far from complete even during filming for A New Hope, when the general attitude among the crew was that their low budget space fantasy was sure to bomb and fade into obscurity.
3. Han was frozen in carbonite because Harrison Ford wasn’t certain to return for the next film
Harrison Ford did in fact want George Lucas to kill off his wisecracking fan favorite character Han Solo, partially to free up his schedule and because he thought it would give the trilogy an added weight or gravitas. By the time Empire was near-finished, Ford hadn’t signed on for another sequel, leading many to believe his character’s uncertain fate at the end of Episode V was a result of the contract difficulties, with Lucas freezing the character just in case he wouldn’t be returning.
While this sounds plausible, Ford never planned to leave the film, unless his character had the proper sendoff he envisioned. As we all know, he got his way eventually.
4. The Wampa clawing at Luke’s face was shoehorned in because of Mark Hamill’s car crash injuries
Before Empire started filming, Mark Hamill suffered a nasty car wreck and underwent facial reconstruction surgery, noticeably changing his appearance. The story goes that Lucas felt he needed to invent an excuse for his protagonist’s new looks and shoehorned in the early scene wherein Luke suffers a claw to the face from a Wampa on Hoth.
Lucas has always denied this rumor, and the film, which shows multiple closeup of Hamill’s altered face before the Wampa attack, seems to back him up on this one.
5. The Millenium Falcon broke Harrison Ford’s ankle
During filming for The Force Awakens, the media, eager for any scoop about the impending Star Wars reboot, made a big hubbub about an onset accident that broke star Harrison Ford’s ankle and left him incapacitated for some of the shoot.
The rumor mill cooked up the tale that Ford broke his ankle when it became stuck in the door of Han Solo’s iconic ship the Millennium Falcon, but police called to the scene confirmed the accident actually involved a heavy garage door.
6. “Luke, I am your father”
Two points on this, one of cinema’s most famous twists and most oft-quoted lines — or, I should say, oft-misquoted lines. The actual dialogue never included Luke’s name, with Vader only saying “No, I am your father.” A minor mistake but a crucial one for something so famous.
Just as Lucas hadn’t planned out multiple trilogies from day one, he didn’t even anticipate this pivotal twist, one that defines so much of the trilogy’s ultimate themes, until he was writing Empire Strikes Back with Leigh Brackett that the outline changed from his original plan for Luke to meet the ghost of his real father on Dagobah.