The Star Wars franchise is one of the most popular—and iconic—film series of all time. The original film, which was never expected to be a success, has spawned books, action figures, and even more movies. With a legacy spanning decades, there are many reasons Star Wars has become the cultural cornerstone it is today.
Addiction and More!
A lot of things went on behind the scenes of Star Wars. Did you know that Carrie Fisher, the actress playing Princess Leia, was battling a cocaine addiction while filming The Empire Strikes Back? Or that she had a real-life affair with Harrison Ford, who played her love interest Han Solo in the films? Keep reading to find out even more mind-blowing facts that you never knew about Star Wars!
Harrison Earned It the Hard Way
By now, Harrison Ford’s role as Han Solo has gone down in history as being one of the most iconic casting choices of all time. But did you know that he was not supposed to be Han Solo? George Lucas was hoping to find an A-list actor to play the role, and Harrison Ford was at that time only starting out in his career. He had a few small parts under his belt but was not the star Lucas was looking for.Big names like Al Pacino, James Caan, and Sylvester Stallone were originally considered for the role. Harrison Ford was involved in the auditions only to help other actors as they auditioned. By chance, he happened to read Han Solo’s lines, and George Lucas was so impressed that he hired Harrison, giving him the role that would launch him to superstardom.
Ford was Paid Peanuts
Despite Han Solo becoming his breakout role, Harrison Ford did not make very much for the initial Star Wars film. The franchise started out as an independent film, with much of the funding coming from George Lucas. Because of this, he could not afford to pay his actors very much money. Since Harrison Ford was virtually unknown at the time, he did not merit a very large salary.So how much was Harrison Ford paid to play Han Solo in A New Hope? Just $10,000. He earned a much larger salary for the next film after the Star Wars films became a hit. Harrison Ford may not have made much money on the film, but one of his co-stars made a lot of cash…
Making Millions the Smart Way
Han Solo’s actor only made a few thousand bucks from filming the first movie, but Alec Guinness, who played Obi-Wan, earned millions. Alec negotiated a deal with George Lucas in which he agreed to appear in the film in exchange for 2 percent of the box office returns.George Lucas probably did not realize just how much money A New Hope would make at the box office, or he may not have agreed to such a large payout. Alec’s total earnings were upwards of $95 million, a sharp contrast from the measly ten grand that Harrison Ford was paid.
A “Fairy Tale”
Despite the millions of dollars he made, Alec Guinness was not thrilled about appearing in Star Wars. He was notoriously grouchy about being associated with the film, although those millions of dollars probably went a long way to appeasing him. He considered Star Wars to be a childish gimmick, dismissing it as “fairy tale rubbish.”Despite his feelings for the premise of the film, Alec Guinness still agreed to star as the iconic character Obi-Wan in a deal that would turn out to be one of the best of his life. Of course, when you are the universe’s only hope, it makes sense that you get paid the big bucks!
Orson Welles Was to Be Lord Vader
Harrison Ford was not supposed to be Han Solo and Alec Guinness did not want to be Obi-Wan, but that is surely the end of the drama over casting in Star Wars, right? Wrong. George Lucas originally wanted the legendary filmmaker Orson Welles to voice the character of Darth Vader. While Lucas had wanted famous actors to play the roles of Han Solo and Obi-Wan, however, he did not want someone too famous to play Darth Vader, and the role ended up going to James Earl Jones.It seems crazy to think that there was a time when James Earl Jones was not the megastar that he is today, but his voice was not as recognizable when A New Hope was filmed as it is today. The Star Wars franchise is what helped him to become as iconic as he is today.
Lions and Tigers and Yoda as a Monkey
Not willing to consider a famous actor for Yoda, George Lucas initially wanted the character portrayed by a monkey. While Yoda was eventually portrayed by famous puppeteer Frank Oz, of Muppets fame, he was very nearly played by a monkey wearing a cane and a mask before producers decided the idea was too ridiculous.Apparently, a crew member shot down the idea saying “Look, the monkey’s just going to pull the mask off over and over again. It’s never going to work.” Making Yoda a puppet whose strings were pulled by a master puppeteer turned out to be a much better option.
Albert Einstein, Muse
There is a lot more to the Yoda saga than his character almost being played by a monkey. His facial features were actually based on a famous figure; Albert Einstein. The wrinkles on his upper lip were inspired by Einstein’s iconic mustache. It makes sense when you think about it.Yoda’s character is known for being wise, so it’s perfectly reasonable that he was modeled after one of the greatest minds of all time. Who better than the man who came up with the theory of relativity to remind Luke Skywalker that it’s all relative? One thing is for sure: the decision to model Yoda after Einstein paid off.…
In fact, the character of Yoda was so well portrayed that George Lucas thought Yoda was worthy of winning an Oscar. The Empire Strikes Back, the first movie in which Yoda appeared, was a critical and commercial success and regarded as one of the best sequels ever made. Lucas tried to spin that into an Oscar nomination for Frank Oz, who was the puppeteer and voice of Yoda.Lucas launched a campaign to get Oz the nomination, but the Academy would not allow it. While Oz did a great job creating one of the most iconic characters of all time, the Academy does not consider puppeteers to be actors, making Frank Oz ineligible for an Oscar nomination.
Fined over Credits
This was not the only time rules and regulations interfered with Star Wars’ success. One of the most iconic things about Star Wars is the opening crawl that can be seen at the beginning of the films, telling us that these things happened “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” George Lucas, however, would be fined for this.Union rules require movies to list the credits at the beginning of a film or before it starts. George Lucas, however, decided to plunge viewers right into the story. Since the credits in Star Wars films don’t appear until the end of the film, George Lucas was fined for breaking the rules of the filmmaking union.
Steven Spielberg Almost Added His Touch
Yet another big name that would become attached to the Star Wars franchise is Steven Spielberg. He and George Lucas are good friends, and Lucas wanted him to direct one of the Star Wars films. They would later collaborate on the Indiana Jones franchise, but Spielberg passed on directing Return of the Jedi.Lucas then considered David Lynch and David Cronenberg to direct the last film of the original trilogy, before eventually hiring Richard Marquand. Things may have turned out very differently had Spielberg been the director. Marquand ended up being fired during filming, leaving Lucas to direct the rest of the film.
Meet Joe Black
The Phantom Menace, the first film of the second trilogy, helped the Brad Pitt film Meet Joe Black a box office success. Back in 1998, people did not rely on the internet for the news or for entertainment. When it was announced that the trailer for the newest Star Wars film would be played before Meet Joe Black, fans went nuts.Many of them purchased tickets to Meet Joe Black just to see the trailer for The Phantom Menace, leading to inflated box office numbers. Despite the fact that Brad Pitt was already a superstar, diehard Star Wars fans were more excited for a sneak peek of The Phantom Menace than to see the latest Pitt film.
Darth Vader Is Hated
Hatred for Darth Vader is nearly universal, despite the fact that the second trilogy tried to portray his origins in a more sympathetic light. Yet even crazier is the fact that David Prowse, who was the actor (although not the voice) between Darth Vader in the first three films, is loathed by George Lucas and banned from attending any Lucasfilm events or Star Wars events for the rest of his life.The feud between Prowse and Lucas goes back a long time and has to do with the fact that the actor’s face was never seen in the films, despite a promise from Lucas. Prowse later said, “The only thing I’ve been told is I’ve burnt too many bridges between Lucasfilm and myself.”
*NSYNC Would Have Made a Cameo
The ’90s and early 2000s were a strange, strange time. It seems odd to look back on a period before everyone had a smart phone and people listened to boy band *NSYNC on their Walkmans. The boy band was almost featured in Attack of the Clones.Fortunately, the band’s cameo was cut from the final edit of the film. Apparently, George Lucas was trying to make his young daughter happy by featuring her favorite singing group, but fans were not thrilled at the idea of having Justin Timberlake and his friends being featured in theStar Wars franchise, even if they did have a hit song called “Space Cowboy.”
Chewbacca was big and imposing but also somehow endearing and cuddly, and it turns out that there is a reason for this; he was inspired by a dog. George Lucas had an Alaskan malamute named Indiana who served as the inspiration for Han Solo’s sidekick, Chewbacca, and presumably the strange language he half-spoke, half-growled.Indiana was also the inspiration for another George Lucas character, or at least his name was. Indiana Jones was named after George Lucas’s dog. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indian’s dad, Henry Jones, explains his son’s name. “Indiana was the dog’s name.”
Peter Mayhew Not as Big as Others
Speaking of Chewbacca, you might wonder what the deal is with Peter Mayhew, the actor who played him. While you might not recognize him out of his Chewbacca costume, surely his face is recognizable as some other character, right? He had to have gone on to star in some other huge films like his costars in the Star Wars franchisedid.Sadly, that was not the case. Peter Mayhew’s career was almost entirely spent portraying the character of Chewbacca, aside from a voice over role in Dragon Ball GT: A Hero’s Legacy. His adult career pretty much just consists of playing Chewbacca.
Despite not taking place on Earth, or anywhere near it, the Star Wars films were heavily influenced by Earth cultures. The Jawa language spoken in the films is based on the Zulu language. The language Ewoks speak has some Tagalog thrown in. The planet of Tatooine was filmed in Tunisia, where some of the sets still remain to this day. In fact, some of the buildings are in use by Tunisian natives.
In contrast, the ice planet of Hoth was filmed in the Scandinavian country of Norway at the Hardangerjøkulen glacier. Star Wars, despite taking place in a galaxy far, far away, is quite the international film franchise.
From Star Wars to (Almost) Real Wars
While on location in Tunisia, the Star Wars film crew almost caused a real war or at least a major international incident. The set of Tatooine caused some issues with the Libyan government during filming. A Jawa sandcrawler was parked on set, near the Tunisian-Libyan border, drawing some concern.
The Libyan government was worried that the sandcrawler was, rather than being a film prop, some sort of massive military vehicle. Fearful that Tunisia was preparing for an attack, the Libyan government threatened Tunisia with military mobilization. The problem was solved by asking George Lucas to move the Jawa sandcrawler further from the border.
Never Give Too Much
While that crisis was averted, the later films would go on to provide some historical commentary, although subtly. A war may not have broken out between Libya and Tunisia, but the lead-up to World War II is touched on in Attack of the Clones. In the film, the Supreme Chancellor is given emergency powers to go to war. The Senate gives the Supreme Chancellor this power in order to defeat the Separatist forces.Sound familiar? That’s because this is exactly how Hitler gained power in mid-1930s Germany, proving that it doesn’t matter what galaxy you are in—giving too much control to one person is never a good idea.
Star Wars Was Originally Meant to Be One Long Movie
The original screenplay George Lucas wrote was over 200 pages long, well over the typical 95 to 125 pages. His vision for Star Wars was supposed to be depicted in just one film, but he had too many ideas to isolate it to a single film. The screenplay was eventually shortened, and the cut parts were instead expanded to create two more films.The end result was even greater than people imagined it would be, with the original trilogy spawning two trilogies. What was supposed to be one independent film turned into an iconic and timeless franchise that is still going strong a generation later.
Carrie Will Be Missed
At 60 years of age, Star Wars star Carrie Fisher passed away from having a heart attack on a plane. After just appearing in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, fans were eager to see more of Princess Leia in future Star Wars films, and they will but not all of them. Sadly, Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be the last time we will get to see the princess in new footage.It was reported early in 2017 that Fisher would not be featured in the yet to be titled episode nine. Head of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy said, “Sadly, Carrie will not be in nine But we will see a lot of Carrie in eight.”
Storyline Rewritten Due to Tragedy
Having a significant character pass away can put a huge dent on the creative process for any movie. Assuming that they were planning to include Carrie Fisher in as many films as they could, she was included in the writings of the films that have not even begun filming yet. Once tragedy struck, things had to change for episode nine
“Obviously, with Carrie having passed away, it shook everybody,” Kathleen Kennedy said. “We pretty much started over.” The whole storyline had to be rewritten and one can only wonder how much that will effect the movie and the series in the long run. While Star Wars: The Last Jedi is set for release on Dec. 13, 2017, episode nine will be released May 24, 2019.