Star Wars is in a rare position in cinema history. Among the most successful film franchises ever made, the saga — which has achieved a new lease on life thanks to the 2012 acquisition by Disney — has changed the way movies are made and the way in which audiences perceive them. It’s also launched countless iconic characters into the pop cultural stratosphere and continues to inspire generations with its adventurous tales set in a “galaxy far, far away.”
However, for all the millions of fans who turned out to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens (and later, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), there is still a lot about the saga that audiences may not know.
With nearly 40 years of history and a presence that stretches across virtually every form of media, there’s a lot of Star Wars material out there. So much, in fact, that it’s impossible to soak all of it up. That’s why we’re going to review some of the most memorable behind-the-scenes facts about the Star Wars saga.
1. ‘No, I am your father.’
Sure, by now everyone knows about the game-changing plot twist that turned the Star Wars saga into a family affair. However, the unforgettable line delivered by Darth Vader is often misquoted as “Luke, I am your father.” The scene itself was kept secret from nearly everyone involved in the film, with alternate lines subbed in for the real thing. The actual revelation proved to be such a shock to viewers, especially children, that George Lucas decided to add in the Star Wars: Return of the Jedi scene in which Yoda confirms the truth for Luke and the audience.
2. Secret cameos
The Star Wars saga has a long history of cameo appearances, as cast members Ahmed Best and Anthony Daniels appear briefly out of costume in the prequels. Even Lucas himself made a cameo in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. However, The Force Awakens is perhaps the richest film with celebrity appearances, especially with regard to the First Order troopers. Both director Kevin Smith and James Bond actor, Daniel Craig appear briefly as the voices of stormtroopers, with the latter playing the trooper who falls victim to Rey’s Jedi mind trick.
3. Family ties
The Star Wars saga, of course, centers on the Skywalker clan (at least so far). It’s fitting then that the prequels brought that theme into the making of the films. Though Lucas was reportedly unaware of it at the time of casting, the actor he selected to play the young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the prequel trilogy — rising Trainspotting star, Ewan McGregor — was actually the nephew of actor Denis Lawson, who played Rebel pilot Wedge Antilles in the original trilogy. Just another wrinkle that makes Star Wars lore so much fun to explore.
4. Industry influence
Nowadays, Star Wars is still very much the global phenomenon it has always been, but that first film actually kicked off a new wave of big-screen nostalgia, leading to a slew of throwback-style sci-fi and fantasy films. These notably include the 1980 film version of Flash Gordon, the serial that inspired Lucas to write Star Wars in the first place.
The saga also made history for Lucas’ unheard of decision to ask for full merchandising rights to his creation. It was that wise business move that helped him build the empire (pun intended) that ultimately sold to Disney for $4 billion.
5. What could have been (and wasn’t)
Whenever a film aims to create an entirely new world, there’s always a lot of conceptual work that changes or goes unused. Take, for instance, the fact that Yoda and Jabba were once furry creatures, with the former even once resembling an Ewok-like creature. Chewbacca himself was almost designed to be a short bear-like creature before taking his final form. It’s crazy to think how much changed during the design of the Star Wars universe, although it’s fun to imagine the alternate reality for the universe as well as the potential that any unused material could pop up in an upcoming film.
6. Carrie Fisher had an affair with Harrison Ford during the filming of Star Wars
As revealed in her 2016 memoir, The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford carried on a three month affair during the filming of Star Wars in 1976, reports People Magazine. According to the actress, the two began the affair after a birthday party for director George Lucas. “It was Han and Leia during the week, and Carrie and Harrison during the weekend,” writes Fisher.
7. The scenes on Hoth were filmed in an actual blizzard
The various planets we see in the original trilogy were all shot on location in a variety of countries, from Tunisia doubling as Tatooine, to Norway acting as the backdrop for Hoth. For Hoth, filming was nothing short of a nightmare for all involved. When the cast and crew arrived in Finse, Norway, the region was going through its harshest winter in decades, replete with heavy snowfall and subzero temperatures.
By the time everyone had gotten to Finse, all of the sites and equipment were buried in snow. To account for that, the scene where Luke is escaping from the Wampa Cave in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was filmed directly outside the ski lodge where the production was headquartered.
No one had it worse than Harrison Ford though, who was slated to arrive later than the rest of the cast. According to the Star Wars FAQ book, Ford was only able to get to Finse riding “in the engine cabin of a locomotive snowplow sent to clear the avalanche. He disembarked in Finse around midnight, having downed a bottle of vodka with the engine driver.”
8. The Battle of Endor was supposed to take place on the Wookiee home planet
The first drafts of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi didn’t actually have any Ewoks, instead it was set on the Wookiee home planet of Kashyyyk. Originally, the plan was to have an army of Wookiees led by Chewbacca assist our Rebels in the climactic battle. That was eventually scrapped, due to George Lucas wanting the creatures helping the Rebellion to be a more primitive culture that was rising up against foreign, technologically advanced invaders.
9. George Lucas didn’t want to cast Harrison Ford
Back when George Lucas was trying to cast for his three main characters (Han, Luke, and Leia), he was reportedly “adamant” about not wanting any actors he’d directed in American Graffiti. Despite lobbying hard for the role, Harrison Ford was among those who’d been in Graffiti, and was initially passed over for Han Solo as a result.
Producer Fred Roos began petitioning Lucas on Ford’s behalf though, eventually bringing the actor in to read with Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. During that reading, Ford famously criticized Lucas’ clunky sci-fi jargon, telling him, “George, you can write this shit, but you can’t say it.” That bluntness ended up winning him the role though, as his real life personality aligned well with Solo’s own penchant for straight-shooting. Ford was paid $850 a week for his efforts, a full $150 less than Hamill’s $1,000 a week salary.
10. Journal of the Whills
The first draft of Star Wars was nigh unrecognizable from the final product. Originally, Lucas intended on the story being told from a book found on Earth, titled Journal of the Whills. That draft began with a brief description: “This is the story of Mace Windy, a revered Jedi-benu of the Ophuchi, as related to us by C.J. Thorpe, Padawan learner to the famed Jedi.”
As we know now, “Mace Windu” later became the name of Samuel L. Jackson’s character in the prequels, the Bendu was introduced as a Force-neutral creature on the Rebels animated series, and the “Guardians of the Whills” were introduced in Rogue One. Lucas himself dubbed it a “good idea in search of a story,” which he would only arrive at five drafts later.
Additional reporting by Nathanael Arnold and Nick Cannata-Bowman.
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
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