Star Wars (retroactively titled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope) is a 1977 American epic space-opera film written and directed by George Lucas, produced by Lucasfilm and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker and Peter Mayhew. It is the first installment of the original Star Wars trilogy, the first of the franchise to be produced, and the fourth episode of the “Skywalker saga.”
I am deeply indebted to International Movie Database (IMDb) for providing these facts I now share with you.
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o George Lucas was so sure this movie would flop that instead of attending the premiere, he went on vacation to Hawaii with his good friend Steven Spielberg, where they came up with the idea for Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) after they found out Star Wars became a success.
o George Lucas‘ decision to accept a lower salary on the movie in exchange for full merchandising rights was considered a fool’s gamble on his part. Toys based on movies had never been major money-earners (though some movie-toy combinations had done moderate retail returns) because of the long gap between when a movie would go through its theatrical run and when any products based on it would be available. This movie, however, was such a phenomenon that it reached the holiday 1977 sales period in full swing, and changed the way movies were merchandised forever.
o The skeleton that C-3PO passes belongs to a Tatooine creature called a Greater Krayt Dragon. This artificial skeleton was left in the Tunisian desert after filming, and still lies there. During filming of Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002), the site was visited by the crew once more, and the skeleton was still there. In The Mandalorian The Mandalorian: Chapter 9: The Marshal (2020), locals on Tatooine join with Sand People to fight and kill one of these serpents.
o The actors found George Lucas to be very uncommunicative towards them, with his only directions generally being either “faster” or “more intense”. At one point, when he temporarily lost his voice, the crew provided him with a board with just those two phrases written on it.
o Stunt doubles were not used for the scene where Luke and Leia swing to safety. Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill performed the stunt, shooting it in just one take.
o According to Harrison Ford, during the making of the movie, he and Mark Hamill would usually fool around and not commit to their work whenever Sir Alec Guinness was not on set. When Guinness was on set, they behaved much more professionally.
o The name Wookiee came about as a result of an accident. When San Francisco D.J. Terence McGovern was doing voice-over work on THX 1138 (1971) for George Lucas, he made a blunder and exclaimed, “I think I ran over a wookiee back there.” George Lucas, confused, asked what he meant by the term. Terence McGovern admitted that he didn’t know, and added that he simply made it up. George Lucas never forgot the cute word and used it in this movie.
o Prior to the release, George Lucas showed an early rough cut to a group of his movie director friends. According to Lucas, this version still contained a lot of stock footage from old war movies in the place of special effects shots, and did not make a lot of sense. Most people in the room had a “what were you thinking?” response toward it; Brian De Palma reportedly called it the “worst movie ever”. Nearly everyone, including Lucas, felt the movie would be a flop; the only dissenter was Steven Spielberg, who predicted that the film would be “the biggest movie of all time” and make millions of dollars. Lucas admitted that everybody in the room looked up at Steven and thought “Poor Steven”.”
o The first movie to make over $300 million domestic box office. It was also the first movie to cross $500 million worldwide in its initial release.
o After visiting the set of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), George Lucas was sure Close Encounters would outperform the yet-to-be-released Star Wars at the box office. Steven Spielberg disagreed, and felt Lucas’ Star Wars would be the bigger hit. In the idea of getting a compensation if Star Wars were a box office bomb, Lucas proposed a gentlemen’s pact (as they were close friends from the university), trading two and a half percent of the profit on each other’s movies. Spielberg accepted the deal, and he still receives two and a half percent of the profits from this movie (as Lucas receives the same from the Close Encounters).
o Due to the limited budget, the American cast members and crew (including George Lucas) all decided to fly coach class to England, rather than first class. When Carrie Fisher‘s mother, Debbie Reynolds, heard about this, she called Lucas, complaining about how insulting it was for her daughter to be flying coach. Fisher was in the room with Lucas when he took the call, and after a few minutes, asked if she could talk to her mother. When Lucas handed her the phone, she simply said, “Mother, I want to fly coach, will you f**k off?!” and hung up.
o Although their respective characters obviously despise each other, Carrie Fisher found Peter Cushing to be very charming, polite and humorous on set. They got along so well, in fact, that Fisher found it a real challenge to act as if she hated him.
o When Twentieth Century Fox attempted to distribute this movie in the U.S., fewer than forty theaters agreed to show it. As a solution, Fox threatened that any cinema that refused to show this movie would not be given the rights to screen the potential blockbuster The Other Side of Midnight (1977), which ended up grossing less than ten percent of what this movie did.
o Peter Mayhew and David Prowse were given a choice as to which giant character they wanted to play, Chewbacca or Darth Vader. Mayhew wanted to play a good guy, and Prowse wanted to play a bad guy, so they ended up playing the matching characters.
o Kenny Baker has said that often when the cast and crew broke for lunch, they would forget he was in the R2-D2 outfit and leave him behind.
o George Lucas came up with the name R2-D2 during post-production of American Graffiti (1973). One of the sound crew wanted Lucas to retrieve Reel #2 of the Second Dialogue track. In post-production parlance, this came out as, “Could you get R2-D2 for me?” Lucas liked the sound of that and noted it down for future use.
o Harrison Ford found the dialogue to be very difficult, later saying, “You can type this shit, but you can’t say it.”
o The second most attended movie of all time in North America, having sold an estimated 178 million tickets over its various theatrical runs, which would equate to gross of approximately $1.48 billion at 2015 ticket prices. The only movie to have sold more tickets is Gone with the Wind (1939), with 202 million.
o Carrie Fisher‘s breasts were taped down with Gaffer’s tape, as her costume did not permit any lingerie to be worn underneath. She joked later, “As we all know, there is no underwear in space.” Contradicting this claim was Leia’s gold bikini in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983).
o Eventually, according to Fisher in her book Wishful Drinking
, George Lucas
explained the reason that Leia didn’t wear underwear was because “[in space] you become weightless…. But then your body expands??? But your bra doesn’t – so you get strangled by your own bra.” This led Fisher to quip, “I want it reported [in my obituary] that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”
o When she died in 2016, several articles detailing her death showed the above sentence.
o When the Stormtroopers enter the room where C-3PO and R2-D2 are hiding, one of the actors accidentally bumps his head on the doorway. It was always believed that this happened due to the actor’s limited visibility. However, British actor Laurie Goode, who claimed to be the one inside the suit, later said that he was distracted by an upset stomach that day. Four takes of the shot were filmed that day, and the last one which included the bump made it into the movie. When the special edition came out in 1997, a sound effect had been added to the scene to accompany the head bump, and as a sort of “homage” to the goof, George Lucas had Jango Fett bang his head on a door in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
o This is the only Star Wars movie where Darth Vader’s signature theme “The Imperial March” is not played in some form or another, as it had not been written at the time.