‘Captain America’ Director Joe Johnston Had a Cameo in the Original Star Wars Movie

As much rivalry as there is between Marvel and the Star Wars franchise, it was inevitable some of the original creative team from the latter would join the MCU fray. No doubt there’s others, but it turns out Captain America: The First Avenger director, Joe Johnston, was once a major special effects artist for George Lucas’ productions.

Should this be considered a defect from one competitor to another? It’s really not since Johnston hasn’t worked for Lucas since the 1980s. What’s most notable about his time working on the original Star Wars trilogy is he did a little cameo in A New Hope.

Fans have scoped this out and posted a pic of him on the set of the film. Not that Johnston had any aspirations in becoming an actor.

Joe Johnston’s cameo in ‘Star Wars’ almost looks like ‘Spaceballs’

Joe Johnston, Chris Evans and Hugo Weaving
Joe Johnston, Chris Evans and Hugo Weaving | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

When someone on Reddit posted the pic of Johnston during his cameo in A New Hope, some of the commenters noted his helmet looked like something out of Spaceballs, Mel Brooks’ 1987 Star Wars parody.

Apparently Johnston had one of those “blink and you’ll miss it” scenes since he’s credited as “Death Star Trooper” alongside Visual Effects Artist. It’s an example, though, of how even technical crew were sometimes used as extras to eliminate hiring more people.

Let’s all remember the first Star Wars had to work within a specific budgetary framework. Even so, the visual effects team were absolute wizards in what they were able to do before having the unlimited funds available to expand later.

Joe Johnston was the head of this (including creating Boba Fett), later becoming art director next to visual effects artist for each original Star Wars movie. His work with George Lucas branched out from there while also working with director Steven Spielberg.

Hitting a peak with ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’

In 1981, George Lucas picked Johnston to head the visual effects artistry team for the Indiana Jones franchise. Johnson then won an Oscar for his visual effects in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Being a creative high for Johnston, one would think he would have stayed working with Lucas on everything. He instead decided to move into directing, making his debut as director for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids in 1989 following work on some other films not quite as successful.

He’d also moved into associate producing, something he started with Willow a year before. There’s an interesting connective string he started, however, once tapped to direct the 1991 film The Rocketeer.

A few people think there’s a direct line between the latter film and similarities to Captain America.

The MCU was obviously happy to land Joe Johnston as a director

After directing movies from the original Jumanji to Hidalgo through the ’90s and mid-2000s, Marvel called Johnston in 2011 to direct Captain America: The First Avenger. Remembering back to The Rocketeer, many would say this character was slightly reminiscent of Cap, including being set during the same time period.

Yes, one has to wonder if the connections there ran fairly deep, leading to Johnston giving the same type of directorial touch. In 2011, it was also 25 years since he’d had any association with Star Wars.

Lucas ultimately didn’t bring Johnston back to the prequels, and Lucasfilm didn’t utilize him for the new trilogy. By then, his association with Marvel might have been too touchy of a subject since they are fierce competitors in box office performance.

If Johnston ever does go back to Star Wars, fans will want to know if his Death Star Trooper is still around, hiding out somewhere. A quick cameo in one of the Disney+ shows would bring things full circle as much as The Rise of Skywalker did.