The origins of ‘Star Wars’ and its sequels ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Return of the Jedi’ are well documented, but there are some amazing facts that only truly devoted Jedis know.
Are you prepared to be schooled in the hidden ways of the Force?
‘Star Wars: Episode VI – A New Hope’
This is the dinosaur you’re looking for
When C3PO and R2-D2 land on Tattooine at the start of the film a huge skeleton can be seen on a dune in the distance. It’s a neat way of signposting “we’re not in Kansas any more”, but the origins of the bones – now known as the “Krayt Dragon skeleton” in Star Wars mythology – is much more mundane.
It’s simply a prop reused from the 1975 Disney comedy ‘One of our Dinosaurs is Missing’.
It’s an Academy Award-winning film
The Oscars favour drama over sci-fi – it always has, and it likely always will do – so it’s surprising to learn that the first ‘Star Wars’ film was actually nominated for 10 Oscars at the 1978 awards including one for Best Picture. It lost out to Woody Allen’s ‘Annie Hall’, but it did win six awards in total, including ones for Best Sound Mixing and Best Original Score.
Despite his protestations that the film was beneath him, Sir Alec Guinness got a nod for Best Supporting Actor, and the writer of the script that he reportedly hated? Yeah, even George Lucas was nominated for Best Screenplay.
James Earl Jones’ performance was uncredited
David Prowse, the West Country strongman inside the Darth Vader costume for the first three films, was originally offered the choice of playing the Sith Lord or Chewbacca. He chose Vader as he thought it would make him more memorable – after all, it was a proper speaking part.
However, George Lucas was not happy with his vocal performance (which was dubbed “Darth Farmer” on set by the crew), so he opted to re-record Vader’s lines with James Earl Jones, who was paid $7,000 for his role. However, Earl Jones was never credited for the part until ‘Return of the Jedi’.
Princess Leia and Obi Wan never meet
They may be two of the biggest characters in the series, and the plot of the film is driven by one searching for the other, but you may not have noticed that Carrie Fisher’s Leia and Alec Guinness’s Obi-Wan never actually meet on screen.
The closest they actually get to crossing paths is on the Death Star. Leia can see Obi-Wan from a distance as he battles Darth Vader in the hangar, but never the twain shall meet.
Most of the Stormtroopers are left-handed
Could this by why they’re such lousy shots? The design of the Stormtrooper blaster (it’s known as the E-11 in ‘Star Wars’ lore) was based on a real-life weapon – the Sterling L2A3 sub-machine gun – in fact, many of them were still fully operational weapons loaded with blanks, you even see expelled bullet cases in certain scenes.
Above: Image courtesy of Wikia
The design of the gun though featured a left-loading magazine which caused the actors in the costumes problems when holding them right-handed, so they switched to a cack-handed grip to stop the guns from banging on their armor.
Obi-Wan doesn’t say “May The Force Be With You”
It was named 8th most memorable movie quote of all time by the AFI (the American equivalent of the BFI), but did you know what Obi-Wan Kenobi never actually says it in the first film?
He opts for “The Force will be with you… Always”, while non-believer Han Solo actually uses the correct phrase to wish Luke luck before the final battle.
Brian De Palma rewrote the opening scrawl
The ‘Scarface’ director got to know George Lucas very well during the pre-production of ‘Star Wars’ as he was prepping his Stephen King adaptation ‘Carrie’ at the same time. The pair held join auditions for both films and, according to Carrie Fisher, De Palma would interview the actors in the auditions instead of Lucas.
After seeing a rough cut of ‘Star Wars’ ahead of its release, De Palma insisted Lucas cut down the 6 paragraph-long opening scrawl , and he helped to edit the text into the more succinct 3 paragraphs we know and love today.
‘Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back’
Han Solo – Jedi Knight?
In the opening sequence on Hoth, Han Solo has to rescue Luke after he is stranded out on the frozen planet surface. He eventually finds his pal as he succumbs to the cold, as does his steed, the grey-furred tauntaun.
To keep them warm, Han uses Luke’s lightsaber to split open the beast’s belly becoming the only non-Jedi or Sith character to ever wield the iconic weapon in the original trilogy. General Grevious takes that honour in the prequel trilogy in case you were wondering.
In ‘Episode I: The Phantom Menace’ it’s revealed that Anakin Skywalker (later to become Darth Vader – spoilers) actually built C3PO, the golden protocol droid, from spare parts as a youngster.
It’s a needless and confusing bit of detail if you ask us, but it also adds a weird frisson to this odd bit of trivia from ‘Empire Strikes Back’.
The only time C3PO and Darth Vader ever share the screen in the original trilogy comes in the “carbonite chamber” scene, however Vader doesn’t seem to recognise his creation – or is he just doing that thing where you pretend you don’t know someone to avoid the awkward chat?
In the original theatrical release of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, we get the first appearance of the Emperor via hologram, but he’s not played by Ian McDiarmid. For ‘Empire’ he was actually played by Elaine Baker, the wife of make-up designer Rick Baker, wearing prosthetics hidden under a hood.
The character was voiced by Clive Revill, but the weirdest part is that the characters eyes were actually the eyes of chimp which were superimposed over the image to create “a truly unsettling image”.
Before the filmmakers opted to animate the character of Yoda using state of the art puppetry, they toyed with the idea of using a trained monkey in a costume to play the part. Photos from pre-production show the monkey wearing an early design of the mask, and walking with his cane.
The idea was eventually ditched, thankfully, in favour of a green puppet. There are a few scenes in the film where small actor Deep Roy wears a Yoda costume, but the monkey never got his chance to shine on screen.
Jim Henson was originally offered the role of Yoda
It’s hard to imagine anyone else but Frank Oz doing the voice of Yoda, but it was very nearly a different case. Instead of a slight variation on the voice of Fozzy Bear, we could have had a more Kermit-like performance if Jim Henson had taken up George Lucas’s offer to operate Yoda. Instead, Henson suggested Oz should take the part and his puppet-making firm The Jim Henson Company helped make-up artist Stuart Freeborn to create the character .
Alec Guinness was only on set for half a day
When filming began on ‘Empire’ it was unclear whether the Obi-Wan actor would return as he had recently undergone eye surgery and was apparently unhappy with his part having been killed off in the first film. However, he relented and after arriving on set at 8:30am, he shot his brief cameo and was finished by 1pm. He was paid a quarter of one percent of the film’s gross, earning him millions for just four and half hours’ work.
David Prowse invented the spoiler
Film companies are so obsessed with actors leaking plot spoilers in the internet age, that many have to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) as part of their contracts.
This wasn’t always the case, as this local newspaper interview with David Prowse from 1978 shows. The actor inside the Darth Vader suit let slip that the Sith Lord was Luke’s father a full two years before the biggest twist in cinema history was revealed to shocked audiences. We’re sure George Lucas wouldn’t have been happy with the big lunk leaking script secrets, which is probably why he’s banned from all official ‘Star Wars’ public events.
‘Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi’
Revenge of the title
It’s a well-known fact that the third ‘Star Wars’ film was originally titled ‘Revenge of the Jedi’ with a limited number of posters (now extremely collectable) bearing the name produced for cinemas. Lucas switched the title to ‘Return’ after deciding that vengeance was very un-Jedi-like.
But did you know that the decision had an impact on another well-known sci-fi franchise? ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’, which was also in pre-production, changed its name from ‘The Revenge of Khan’ for fear of confusion with its sci-fi rival.
Wise words from Yoda
Luke’s Jedi trainer Yoda wasn’t due to return for ‘Return of the Jedi’, but Lucas changed his mind after consulting a child psychologist during the making of the film.
The expert told Lucas that children under 12 wouldn’t believe Darth Vader’s claim that he was Luke’s father at the end of ‘Empire’, and that the kids would just assume Vader was lying. So Lucas amended the script, bringing Yoda back to conclusively confirm that Vader really WAS Luke’s father for the benefit of the younger members of the audience.
This is more of a blooper than a bit of trivia, but it’s still a fun thing to watch out for in ‘Jedi’. When Princess Leia gets shot during the battle on Endor, watch Harrison Ford’s hands. He reaches down to grab Leia by the shoulders, which he does briefly, before moving his right hand onto Leia’s boob. Steady on Han, your lady is injured, she doesn’t want to feel the Force right now.
The original theatrical version of ‘Return of the Jedi’ ends with a party on Endor. Fireworks light up the sky, Luke is reunited with Han and Leia, and the Ewoks sing and dance to the Ewok Celebration song. The song, also known as “Yub Nub”, actually has lyrics which were written by composer John Williams’ son Joseph Williams. Joseph is best known nowadays, not for his nonsense lyrics, but for being the frontman of the soft rock band Toto.
David Lynch was offered the directing gig
After directing the first ‘Star Wars’ film, George Lucas decided he’d rather let someone else do all the hard work on the sequels. He hired journeyman director Irvin Kershner for ‘Empire Strikes Back’ and cast his net wide for someone to helm the third film. One of the names on his list was none other than the young up-and-coming director David Lynch, who was hot in Hollywood thanks to his first two films ‘Eraserhead’ and ‘The Elephant Man’. Lynch ultimately didn’t take the gig, opting to direct ‘Dune’ instead.
Erase an eyebrow
For the post-prequel 2004 DVD re-release of the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy, George Lucas decided to go back and “fix” some continuity errors that bothered him about the original three films. One of the more unusual amendments made to the ‘Return of the Jedi: Special Edition’ was the digital removal of Sebastian Shaw’s eyebrows. The veteran thespian played Darth Vader at the end of the film when his mask is removed, but Lucas decided that his eyebrows needed to go in order to match the injuries that Anakin Skywalker suffered at the end of ‘Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith’.
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Image credit: 20th Century Fox/Disney/PA/Wikia