‘Star Wars’: How a Hit Romance Novel Led to the Success of the 1st Film

There’s some romance in Star Wars but you wouldn’t associate those movies with romance novels — even though a bestselling romance novel led to the film’s staggering success. 20th Century Fox feared Star Wars would flop, so they hoped to ride the success of a romance novel.

Han Solo and C-3PO
Han Solo and C-3PO | FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

The popular romance novel which changed the history of ‘Star Wars’

It all starts with a romance novel called The Other Side of Midnight. The risque book by Sidney Sheldon wasn’t exactly considered a classic but it was a crowd pleaser. It had all of the twists, turns, and intimacy fans of the genre love. Perhaps it became successful because of Sheldon’s populist approach to writing. Emmys.com reports Sheldon discussed his style in an interview with the Associated Press.

“I try to write my books so the reader can’t put them down,” Sheldon said. “I try to construct them so when the reader gets to the end of a chapter, he or she has to read just one more chapter. It’s the technique of the old Saturday afternoon serial: leave the guy hanging on the edge of the cliff at the end of the chapter.”

Sidney Sheldon with books
Sidney Sheldon with books | Tim Boyle/Newsmakers

RELATED: ‘Star Wars’: Why George Lucas Decided Not to Make Boba Fett a Woman

How ‘Star Wars’ got tied to ‘The Other Side of Midnight’

Thanks to the success of The Other Side of Midnight, it inspired a film adaptation of the same name. Roger Ebert’s website reports 20th Century Fox had faith in the film — but not in another film from the same time: Star Wars. What were they to do with Star Wars?

Because the studio was so certain The Other Side of Midnight had potential, it made a deal with distributors. Theaters had to show Star Wars if they wanted to show The Other Side of Midnight. There’s definitely theaters which would not have shown Star Wars if not for their desire to show a certain romantic thriller.

The trailer for Star Wars

RELATED: ‘Star Wars’: Why George Lucas Decided Not to Make Darth Maul Female

Although the two movies were very different, they did have one main commonality. Sheldon’s novel was supposed to feel like a Saturday afternoon serial, and George Lucas had a similar ambition for his space opera. However, only one of the films would become the beginning of an actual film serial.

How the public reacted to the two movies

According to Box Office Mojo, The Other Side of Midnight earned over $24 million at the box office. It wasn’t a flop, however, it’s not one of the Hollywood films from its era which is widely remembered today. It’s been overshadowed by other romantic films of the era like Love Story, Annie Hall, and Summer of ‘42.

Princess Leia and R2-D2 in a hallway
Princess Leia with R2-D2 | FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

RELATED: Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur Were Almost in ‘Star Wars’

On the other hand, Box Office Mojo reports the original Star Wars film earned over $775 million. It’s led to sequels, prequels, television shows, video games, breakfast cereals, and parodies. The Other Side of Midnight might have fans, but not as many fans as the galaxy far, far away.