Posted on Herald Sun, May 25, 2017 | By James Wigney

1. No one expected much from Star Wars before it was released. George Lucas’s well regarded director friends such as Francis Ford Coppola and Brian De Palma thought it would be disaster. So did Lucas — to the point that he took a holiday to Hawaii to avoid opening day.

2. Luke Skywalker’s name went through several versions, one of which was Luke Starkiller. George Lucas changed it after it was thought to be too violent.

3. On its release in 1977, Star Wars made $775 million dollars at the global box office, to surpass Jaws as the highest grossing film of all time. It held that record until ET: The Extra Terrestrial was released in 1982.

4. Adjusted for inflation, Star Wars is still the third highest grossing film of all time, behind Gone With the Wind and Avatar.

5. Star Wars was nominated for ten Oscars, including Best Picture. It won seven, mostly in technical categories.

6. It was one of the first movies to be placed in the US Library Of Congress’ National Film Registry, for films that are deemed to be “ulturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

William Katt — akak the Greatest American Hero — was considered for the part of Luke.

7. William Katt auditioned for the role of Luke. He had already been in Carrie, and would go on to star in Big Wednesday and The Greatest American Hero.

8. Jodie Foster turned down the role of Princess Leia.

9. George Lucas had already worked with Harrison Ford on American Graffiti and, after initially wanting a new face, cast him as Han Solo ahead of Warren Beatty, Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone and Bill Murray, among others.

British actor Kenny Baker beside R2D2 robot used in Star Wars film trilogy.

10. Kenny Baker, who plays R2D2 was 1.12m tall. Peter Mayhew who plays Chewbacca is 2.21m tall. Both were cast mostly for their size.

11. Orson Welles was considered for the voice of Darth Vader but rejected on the grounds that his mellifluous tones were too well known. The gig instead went to James Earl Jones, who would later voice Mufasa in the Lion King.

Orson Welles was considered for the voice of Darth Vader.

12. Han Shot first. In the original film cantina scene where Han Solo is confronted by the bounty hunter Greedo, Han blows him away under the table. George Lucas modified it so Greedo shot first in the revised edition to make Han seem less of a cold-blooded bastard.

13. George Lucas originally wanted to make a Flash Gordon movie — when he couldn’t obtain the rights he came up with his own space Western concept.

14. Han Solo was originally envisioned as a large, green-skinned monster with gills.

Chewbacca was inspired by George Lucas’ Alaskan malamute, Indiana.

15. Chewbacca was based on George Lucas’ Alaskan malamute dog, which would often ride shotgun in the car with him. The dog, Indiana, would also give his name to Lucas’ other famous franchise, Indiana Jones.

16. George Lucas started writing the script for Star Wars in January 1973 — he didn’t finish it until March 1976.

17. Brian De Palma, director of The Untouchables and Carrie, helped draft the first iconic Star Wars “crawl” that kicks the film off.

Tattooine was originally envisaged as a jungle planet until George Lucas chose Tunisia over the Philippines.

18. Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tattooine was initially envisaged as a jungle planet and locations were scouted in the Philippines. George Lucas changed his mind about shooting in the jungle and changed it to a desert planet instead, with Tunisia chosen as the best location.

19. Darth Vader’s now legendary breathing was recorded by sound designer Ben Burtt (who also masterminded R2D2’s noises) by putting a microphone in a scuba diving regulator.

20. The now legendary Star Wars theme was written by John Williams, who was recommended by George Lucas’ friend Steven Spielberg after the job he had done on Jaws.

21. Steven Spielberg was one of the few who thought Star Wars would be a hit. George Lucas thought his friend’s upcoming Close Encounters of the Third Kind would be bigger — and the two traded a 2.5 per cent share of profits on each other’s movie, meaning that Spielberg still makes money from Star Wars.

22. The Jawas’ language is Zulu electronically sped up. Greedo’s language is Quechua, an indigenous South American language, played backwards.

Alec Guinness. pictured here with director George Lucas was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Star Wars.

23. Alec Guinness was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing Obi-Wan Kenobi. He lost to Jason Robards for the movie Julia.

24. The first Star Wars follow-up was not The Empire Strikes Back, but rather the disastrous Star Wars Holiday Special, which screened on November 17, 1978. It told the story of Chewbecca returning to his home planet to visit his father Itchy, wife Malla and son Lumpy. George Lucas has supposedly said of the universally panned TV special: “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.”

25. Star Wars was one of the first film properties to make a fortune from toys and merchandising. Original action figures from the 1977 film still sell for thousands of dollars. An original Darth Vader figure with a telescoping lightsabre can fetch more than $7000. The shrewd George Lucas accepted a lower salary in exchange for full merchandising rights.

Star Wars merchandise is still a hot property.

25. United Artists and Universal studios both passed on Lucas’ initial script outline before 20th Fox commissioned him to write a full outline. Big mistake. Huge.

26. Sci-fi was a dirty word in Hollywood when Star Wars was released. Hits were few and far between — even Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001 had taken years to make its money back.

27. Dennis Lawson, who plays Luke’s friend Wedge (aka Red Two) is Ewan McGregor’s uncle.

McGregor would go on to play the young Obi Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy.

28. The technology didn’t exist at the time so create the special effects that George Lucas wanted for Star Wars so he started his own company, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) which has ever since been at the forefront of film technology.

29. Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill performed their famous Death Star swing to safety themselves. In one take.

Harrison Ford — Han Solo — had worked with George Lucas on American Graffiti, but was often dismissive of his Star Wars dialogue.

30. Although the two were friends, Harrison Ford was at times dismissive of George Lucas’s dialogue, coining the famous quote: “You can type this shit, but you can’t say it.”

31. On the first day of filming in the deserts of Tunisia, the country experienced its first major rainstorm in 50 years. A sandstorm later destroyed several sets, holding up filming for two days.

32. David Prowse, the actor in the Darth Vader suit, was less than pleased that his voice wasn’t used for the character. But because of his strong Bristol accent, the cast and crew nicknamed him Darth Farmer.

Actor David Prowse, pictured here with Peter “Chewbacca” Mayhew, was annoyed his voice wasn’t used for Darth Vader.

33. Veteran UK actor Peter Cushing was perplexed by his character’s name: Grand Moff Tarkin. He later said: “I’ve often wondered what a ‘Grand Moff’ was. It sounds like something that flew out of a cupboard.” Cushing died in 1994, but his likeness was digitally reproduced when Tarkin was brought back in last year’s Star Wars: Rogue One.

34. The late, great Carrie Fisher revealed that she was going commando under her Princess Leia robes. She said in her HBO documentary Wishful Drinking: “So they put the dress on me the first day and bring me to George. He takes one look at me and he says, ‘you can’t wear a bra underneath that dress’, so I said, ‘why?’, and he said, ‘because there’s no underwear in space’. And the man said it with such conviction too.”

35. There is a real town in Tunisia called Tatouine, which means “water springs” in Berber. George Lucas liked it so much he named Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tatooine after it.

36. At just over two hours, the first is the shortest of the seven Star Warsfilms so far. Attack Of the Clones is the longest at 2 hours, 22 minutes.

Mark Hamill was nearly part of the TV favourite Eight Is Enough — not Star Wars.

37. Mark Hamill played the role of David in pilot for the beloved ‘70s comedy-drama Eight Is Enough and his contractual obligations nearly kept him from taking the role of Luke Skywalker. Ultimately, the TV show’s producers released him from his contract after a car crash in 1976 left him hospitalised and unavailable.

38. The American Film Institute (AFI) voted John Williams’ music as the best score ever. The AFI also voted Darth Vader as the 3rd best villain of all time, Han Solo as the 14th best hero of all time, and “May the Force be with you” as the 8th best quote of all time.

39. American producer and musician Meco had a US No. 1 hit in 1977 with a disco version of the Star Wars theme. The album that followed, Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk was certified platinum and went up against John Williams’ original soundtrack at the Grammy’s the following year. It lost.

The late Carrie Fisher had an affair with the then-married Harrison Ford on the set of Star Wars.

40. In her memoir of last year, The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher revealed that she and the then-married Harrison Ford had an affair on the set of Star Wars. She wrote in her journal at the time: “I’m sorry it’s not Mark [Hamill] — it could have been. It should have been. It might’ve meant something. Maybe not much, but certainly more”.

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