A long time ago in a galaxy far, far closer than you expect, a young filmmaker named George Lucas unleashed his sprawling space fantasy epic on an unsuspecting public. That movie, which released on May 25, 1977, some 40 years ago, was Star Wars and it has evolved from what was seen as a misbegotten passion project by studio executives to one of the most profitable and popular franchises in the world. Four decades later, the influence of Star Wars–and specifically Episode IV – A New Hope as it came to be subtitled–can be seen practically everywhere in modern pop culture. To celebrate this auspicious anniversary, today’s episode of The Dan Cave is all about little known A New Hope facts that only diehard Star Wars fans will already know.
Star Wars is why you have to leave the theater after a movie
When Star Wars first hit theaters on May 25, 1977, it launched a phenomenon. By the end of its first weekend, it grossed $1.5 million in limited release, playing in some 32 theaters across the country. If you adjust for inflation, that is approximately $6.14 million–and it made exponentially more cash from that point on. But that profit didn’t necessarily come from repeat viewers, at least not at first. Back then, many cinemas had a policy where you could just stay in the theater as long as you liked if you’d paid for a ticket. The runaway success of Star Wars led them to change that, forcing theatergoers to leave the theater after the credits rolled and purchase a new ticket instead. Of course, this gave way to a cottage industry of crafty teens loitering around the lobby, pretending to play Cruis’n USA until the coast was clear to sneak into a second movie, so I guess it wasn’t all bad.
The title used to be dumb as hell
[/nerdist_section]It turns out there’s a really good reason that scripts go through multiple revisions. Before it was simply called Star Wars, George Lucas envisioned a much longer title for his space fantasy saga. The second draft of the script was entitled Adventures of the Starkiller as Taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars. It’s kind of like how my show used to be called Cave Quest: The Dan A-Cavens – Recollections from the Secret Diary of John Wilkes Booth, Compendium IV: That Old Chestnut.
The studio was afraid of Chewbacca’s Li’l Wookiee
Image: Lucasfilm/Del Rey
Many of you know that Han Solo’s fuzzball of a co-pilot Chewbacca was inspired by George Lucas’ giant dog, a massive Alaskan malamute named Indiana. But studio execs at Fox were worried that audiences would be scandalized by the fact that Chewbacca was basically a nudist wearing naught but a bandolier, airing his parts out for all the galaxy to see. According to Mark Hamill, concept art of Chewbacca wearing everything from lederhosen to culottes was drafted up, but ultimately George Lucas got his way. And I think I speak for everyone when I say nice.
R2-D2 wasn’t always a bleeping, blooping little sassbot
Everyone’s favorite astromech droid originally had actual lines of dialogue in which he would chastise his gibbering golden compatriot, C-3PO. The dialogue was removed in the post-production process, and replaced with the iconic bleeps and bloops we know and love today. Ultimately, it was for the best because it makes C-3PO seem like an anxiety-riddled lunatic rather than the victim of droid rage.
George Lucas’ ex-wife killed Obi-Wan Kenobi
Anyone who has seen Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope remembers the visceral gut punch of seeing Luke Skywalker’s mysterious mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi reduced to an empty pile of robes after Darth Vader skewered him in a lightsaber duel. But Darth Vader didn’t actually kill Obi-Wan; Marcia Lucas did. In addition to winning an Oscar for her work editing Star Wars, Marcia Lucas was also responsible for cracking the plot wide open when George Lucas was struggling with writer’s block and unable to figure out how to finish his story. Originally, Marcia suggested that Threepio would get shot, but George said no because he wanted to start and end the film with droids. Next, Marcia turned her crosshairs on Ben Kenobi and his untimely demise turned out to be exactly the impetus Luke needed to fully embark on his hero’s journey.
The Millennium Falcon didn’t always look as cool as it does now
Image vis StarWars.com
The original concept for the Millennium Falcon was a long, cylindrical spacecraft that was ultimately nixed because it looked a little too similar to the spaceship from Space: 1999. A version of that original design made it into the final version of Star Wars as the Rebel Blockade Runner seen at the very beginning of A New Hope. So where did the iconic design for Han Solo’s sweet spacecraft come from? Legend has it that George Lucas was eating a hamburger with an olive on the side when he looked down at his plate and realized he wasn’t eating a delicious beefy sandwich at all, but rather he was staring at the blueprints for the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy. Some conspiracy theorists hold that it was cribbed from Austrian architect Otto Wagner’s 1880 design for a never-built office building, but I prefer the beef version personally.
Ralph McQuarrie gave Darth Vader space asthma
Image: Ralph McQuarrie/StarWars.com
Did you ever wonder why Darth Vader had such an intense suit of armor, complete with a breathing apparatus that puts most iron lungs to shame? Sure it’s because he didn’t have the high ground when he faced off with Obi-Wan back on Mustafar, but it’s actually because of concept artist Ralph McQuarrie. George Lucas originally wanted a samurai influence for Darth Vader, but McQuarrie felt that something was missing. The original Star Wars script called for Vader to travel back and forth between spaceships, exposing him to the infinite blackness of space, so McQuarrie thought he needed a specialized spacesuit to keep him alive. Thus, McQuarrie drew a mask on him and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Force originated in Montreal
I know, I know, you thought it was some weird bacteria that turns immaculately conceived podracing phenoms into murderous sand-hating asthmatics, but the Force can trace its origins to a 1963 short film by Montreal filmmaker Arthur Lipsett.
About 3 minutes into the movie, entitled 21-87, there is a conversation between artificial intelligence scientist Warren S. McCulloch and cinematographer Roman Kroitor in which Kroitor says, “Many people feel that in the contemplation of nature and in communication with other living things, they become aware of some kind of force, or something, behind this apparent mask which we see in front of us, and they call it God.”
While 21-87 isn’t the only thing to influence the Force, it’s certainly one of the earliest. Let’s just be glad that Infinite Jest hadn’t been written yet or George might have been really insufferable.
Star Wars almost featured some very different stars
I’ve done an entire episode about this before, but there are tons of super famous actors that auditioned for Star Wars only to turn down a trip to the galaxy far, far away or they simply couldn’t stay on target in the casting call. Far and away, the hardest role to cast was Han Solo. Before the carpenter-turned-world’s handsomest grump Harrison Ford landed the role of a lifetime, the following rogues’ gallery of talented actors allegedly took a stab at it: Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Robert Englund, Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Bill Murray, Nick Nolte, Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and James Caan.
George Lucas had some “interesting” casting ideas
Image: Joi Ito
As Ernest Hemingway once purportedly said, “It is easy to write. Just sit in front of the typewriter and bleed.” With Star Wars, Lucas didn’t just bleed; he straight-up hemorrhaged. That massive metaphorical blood loss led to some, shall we say, impulsive ideas about casting Star Wars during the pre-production process. At various points, Lucas considered making Star Wars with an all-black cast, an all-Japanese cast (including Akira Kurosawa staple Toshiro Mifune as Obi-Wan Kenobi, which is fitting given the direct Kurosawa parallels in Star Wars), and a cast comprised entirely of little people–which Lucas chalked up to being influenced by Lord of the Rings. That’s all well and good, but I have one big question: where the here are those special editions?
How many of these facts did you already know? What would you add to this list? What’s your earliest memory of A New Hope? Let us know in the comments below.
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