A phenomena like ‘Star Wars’ is the product of the hard work and unquestionable skill of many, but there’s also another key ingredient - chance. Happy accidents and occurrences of pure circumstance play a huge part in how all films are made and that is why ‘Star Wars’ could easily have been so different.
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Different actors playing those iconic roles, different plot points and all manner of craziness in between. Allow us to present to you some of the nearlys, some of the could have beens, some of the almosts of the ‘Star Wars’ universe.
Chewbacca almost wore lederhosen
We’re not easing you into this, we’re going for broke straight away! Yep, Chewbacca almost wore shorts. 70s studio executives weren’t entirely convinced by the seven-foot-three rug walking around set wearing just an ammo belt, so at one point they suggested he cover up.
"I remember the memos from 20th Century Fox,” said Mark Hamill of the fuss. “’Can you put a pair of lederhosen on the Wookie?'”
The Skywalkers were almost the Starkillers
In the early stages of the script Luke Skywalker went by the name of Luke Starkiller, which certainly sounds cooler, but it doesn’t exactly scream “fairy tale hero” does it?
If it was Anakin Starkiller running around the prequel trilogy doing morally questionable things and toeing the line between the light and dark side we’d have to question the intelligence of Obi-Wan and Yoda. Starkiller is the name of an evil person, so just stop him already!
Burt Reynolds and Bill Murray almost played Han Solo
Not just Burt Reynolds and Bill Murray but Christopher Walken, Al Pacino, Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Nick Nolte, Kurt Russell and Billy Dee Williams (who went on to play Lando Calrissian of course) all either auditioned or were considered for the role of the smuggling scoundrel.
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Harrison Ford playing Solo now but closest out of all the other potential candidates was Burt Reynolds, whose intense moustachioed gravitas would have completely changed the entire trilogy.
For example, Leia wouldn’t have thought twice about who to choose out of Han and Luke if Solo had boasted Burt’s manly charms.
Luke, Owen and Beru were almost dwarves
Another almost of the early scripts would have seen Luke, his uncle Owen and aunt Beru as a family of dwarfs. Most long-running fantasy series (see also: Harry Potter) are inspired in some way by the work of J.R.R Tolkien but making the hero a little person would have been a step too far.
The series would have changed immeasurably if this had been the case. Would Vader have also been a dwarf? If not, it would certainly have made the revelation that he was Luke’s father an even bigger shock for movie fans.
The Force was almost a large crystal
Early on in the scripting process George Lucas envisioned the Force as being a physical entity, a large crystal. A sort of galactic Holy Grail. It’s hard to imagine Lucas would have included mentions of such an object without making it part of the plot.
How such a MacGuffin would have changed the film is pure speculation, but the idea of a quest for it returned to Lucas when Indiana Jones eventually trotted the globe in pursuit of the original grail in ‘The Last Crusade’.
‘Star Wars’ almost started a real war
Whilst filming in Tunisia the Libyan government thought the sand crawler being used for a scene towards the beginning of the film was a military vehicle. Filming was taking place close to the Libyan border so in reaction they sent the Tunisian government threats of military mobilisation unless the alleged war machine backed off.
Tunisian authorities asked George Lucas to move the sand crawler and he duly complied, never to return so close to the border again. Certainly puts those online wars about which is the best film of the saga into some kind of perspective.
Admiral Ackbar almost had a sad backstory
Admiral Ackbar was nearly a lot more than the “It’s a trap!” guy, he almost had a small but quite sad backstory in ‘Return Of The Jedi’. A story that was later told and padded out in the ‘Star Wars’ expanded universe fiction.
Ackbar was once the ill-treated personal servant of Grand Moff Tarkin (played in ‘A New Hope’ by Peter Cushing), doing whatever he asked and acting as his own interpreter. This part of his tale was intended to explain his knowledge of the Death Star and his usefulness to the Rebel cause.
Sigourney Weaver and Meryl Streep almost played Princess Leia
Glenn Close, Kathleen Turner and Kim Basinger also auditioned for the role of the ultimate damsel in distress turned space heroine. Much like Solo, it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the part but just imagine if Meryl Streep played Leia? It’s a weird image and would probably have changed her entire career.
Then there’s Sigourney Weaver, who three years after auditioning for ‘Star Wars’ starred in ‘Alien’, finding major success in an altogether different kind of sci-fi. If she had been Leia it’s unlikely Ridley Scott would have hired her for ‘Alien’, and cinema history would have changed in many ways.
Steven Spielberg almost directed ‘Return Of The Jedi’
George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are famously best buddies, so it’s no surprise that the ‘Star Wars’ creator once wanted the then director of ‘Jaws’ and ‘E.T.’ to direct the final part of his trilogy.
According to the documentary ‘Empire Of Dreams’, which chronicled the making of the trilogy when it was re-released on DVD in 2004, Spielberg was once in line to direct. However it never came to be because Spielberg was part of the Director’s Guild, which Lucas had left after disagreements over ‘The Empire Strikes Back’.
Miss Piggy almost had a cameo on Dagobah
Okay so we’ll admit this one was never going to actually happen, but Miss Piggy did once act alongside Mark Hamill in an important scene. Upon meeting Frank Oz, who voiced Yoda, Hamill asked the puppet master to do his Miss Piggy voice in rehearsals as a practical joke on the crew.
However, this just gave Oz an even better idea. Whilst filming the scene in which Yoda tells Luke to follow his feelings, Skywalker replies that he had been following his feelings before Miss Piggy sprung up and said the following…
"Feelings? You want feelings? Get behind the couch and I'll show you feelings, punk. What is this hole? I've been booked into dumps before, but never like this. Get me my agent on the phone!"
Well, it certainly would have made for an unforgettable scene.