Star Wars changed pop culture forever when it premiered in 1977. The original trilogy of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi created iconic stories and characters who have stood the test of time. Let's dive back into these old favorites.
Original Star Wars Trilogy Facts
1. Heavily Censored
R2-D2 spoke standard English in early drafts of the script, and used a lot of foul language in the process. All of his English lines were cut in the end, but C3PO’s shocked reactions stayed the same.
2. A Vote of No Confidence
George Lucas was certain that the first film would flop, so he went on vacation to Hawaii with Steven Spielberg instead of attending the premiere. During the trip, they came up with the idea for Raiders of the Lost Ark.
3. Tripping up
Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett, was rehearsing the carbonite freezing scene when he accidentally stepped on Vader’s cape, and both of them toppled to the ground. As Bullock said, “Two bad guys falling over? We can’t have that. I didn’t want to look an idiot. I don’t mind about Darth Vader.”
Bulloch could not see in Boba Fett’s mask, which he described as “sunglasses covering the whole of your face.” It made it difficult to walk and stop in the right place, so he had to remember how many steps to take to stop in front of Darth Vader and deliver his lines.
5. Combat Slippers
Grand Moff Tarkin’s boots were too small and uncomfortable for Peter Cushing, so he only wore them in shots where Tarkin’s shoes could be seen. During the rest of the scenes, he was wearing fuzzy slippers. Just picture that next time you host a re-watch!
6. Use the Force
Scenes where Luke Skywalker is retrieving his lightsaber with the Force were filmed by having Mark Hamill throw the lightsaber and then running the shot in reverse.
7. Do it Again, You Must
Hamill had to hit his head in Yoda’s hut in The Empire Strikes Back 16 times before the director was happy with it.
8. Realistic Hypothermia
When filming The Empire Strikes Back in Norway, an intense snowstorm hit the hotel the cast and crew were staying in. Director Irvin Kershner thought it would be the perfect chance to film Luke wandering into the snow from the Wampa cave. He sent Hamill out into the snowstorm while he and the production crew filmed, nice and cozy, from inside the hotel.
9. A Strong Female Lead… Almost
As Lucas was working on an early draft of Star Wars, he tried to fix multiple problems with it, including a lack of female characters. For a short time, Lucas rewrote Luke as an 18-year-old girl, but this was changed back after a few months.
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10. A Darker Ending
Lucas’ original script for Return of the Jedi ended with Luke assuming Darth Vader’s position on the dark side and Han Solo dying in the raid on the new Death Star.
Lucas said of the original ending, "Luke takes his [Vader's] mask off. The mask is the very last thing—and then Luke puts it on and says, 'Now I am Vader.'"
11. A Very Short Trilogy
Lucas’ first screenplay for Star Wars was almost twice the length of an average screenplay, leading studios to pass on the overly complicated story. Lucas decided to cut the final two acts and turn those acts into The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
12. The Accidental Perfect Casting
Lucas brought in Harrison Ford, who had worked in American Graffiti, only to feed lines to other actors during the auditions. Lucas saw many actors for the part of Han Solo, but ended up liking Ford’s delivery feeding Han’s lines to other actors, and cast him in the role.
13. Vader’s Voice
Lucas wanted Orson Welles to voice Darth Vader at first, but thought his voice would be too recognizable. When James Earl Jones was finally cast for the first movie, he completed all of his lines in two and a half hours and was paid $7,500 for his work.
14. Box Office Bargain
The studio was certain Star Wars would flop in a summer release, so they moved the premiere to before Memorial Day. Even then, fewer than 40 theaters agreed to show it. As it happened, Fox was also releasing a film adaption of a bestselling book, The Other Side of Midnight, at the same time, and they stipulated that any theater wanting to show that film had to agree to show Star Wars. As Star Wars became a hit, however, Fox then did the opposite, forcing theaters to show The Other Side of Midnight if they waned to show Star Wars. (This practice was actually illegal, and Fox was fined for it.)
15. A Formal Introduction
Yoda’s original name was Buffy. In later drafts, it was changed to Yoda, but he had the full name Minch Yoda. Eventually, it was shortened to just Yoda.
16. Very Profitable Rubbish
Sir Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi) dismissed the first Star Wars film as “fairy-tale rubbish,” and he did not want to return for the sequels. The filmmakers eventually persuaded him to appear again as Obi-Wan’s ghost, but only if his strict demands were met. Guinness would return only if it took a single day of filming that started at 8:30am and ended by 1pm, and he would receive 1/4 of 1% of the movie’s gross in return. The deal for his half day of work made him millions of dollars.
17. Improvised Romance
When Princess Leia told Han Solo “I love you,” the script had him respond “I love you, too.” Harrison Ford and Kershner agreed the line was wrong for the character. In the last few takes, Kershner spontaneously called “action,” forcing Ford to improvise at a moment’s notice. When Carrie Fisher said “I love you,” he naturally responded “I know.”
18. More Female Characters… Almost
The screenplay originally included female fighter pilots, but they were removed in the final cut of the movie.
19. The Tibetan Ewoks
Sound designer Ben Burtt was inspired by a documentary on the Tibetan, Nepali, and Kalmyk languages, and decided to use these languages as inspiration for the Ewoks’ speech.
In other instances, Lando Calrissian’s pilot speaks a Tanzanian dialect called Haya, and the Jawas spoke an altered version of the Zulu language. Greedo speaks the South American indigenous language Quechua.
20. Han the Green-Skinned Monster
Han Solo was not originally the roguish smuggler fans love. Lucas’ early script had him as a minor character who was an undercover operative with green skin and gills. Lucas explained, “[Han Solo] did start out as a monster or a strange alien character, but I finally settled on him being human so that there'd be more relationship between [Luke, Leia, and Han]. That's where Chewbacca came in as the kind of alien sidekick.”
21. Based on a True Story
When Hamill was injured in a car crash in 1977 and needed facial reconstruction, Lucas planned to include a scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Luke’s face is damaged to work with any effects of Hamill’s injury. They filmed a scene where Luke’s face is being treated by a droid, but it was cut from the final movie.
22. An Arduous Journey
Early script concepts had a much more difficult journey for Luke to become a Jedi. There would have been a crystal hidden in Luke’s lightsaber with coordinates to Yoda’s planet. Luke would also have been unable to use the Force to stop an ice monster attack on Hoth, humiliating him and leading Han to tell him, “You’re not a Jedi Knight, and you never will be.”
23. Monkey Business
Before deciding on Frank Oz’s puppetry to portray Yoda, the filmmakers considered having Yoda played by a child, a small person, or a monkey wearing a mask.
24. The Best-Kept Secret in the Galaxy
The reveal that Darth Vader is Luke’s father was a closely guarded secret on the set of The Empire Strikes Back. Only Lucas, the director, the producer, and Hamill knew about the reveal, and Hamill was told only moments before shooting. For everyone else, a false page was inserted where Vader said, “Obi-Wan killed your father,” and David Prowse (the man in the Vader suit) was working with that script. The real line was added later when James Earl Jones recorded Vader’s lines.
25. A Complicated Character
It took up to seven puppeteers to control Jabba the Hutt, including three puppeteers inside Jabba controlling his movements, one or two people radio-controlling his eyes, and two more creating smoke and operating bellows for the lungs.
26. “Endor” by Toto
The final victory song of the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi was composed by Joseph Williams, lead singer of the band Toto, famous for the song “Africa.” He is also composer John Williams’ son.
27. Getting Their Act Together
Ford says that he and Hamill would usually not commit to the work and fool around the set of A New Hope–unless Alec Guinness was there. When Guinness was on set, they behaved professionally.
28. Easiest Audition Ever
Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca, was cast in his role 10 seconds after meeting Lucas. Mayhew was 7’2”, and he was cast as soon as he stood up.
29. The Garbage Will Do
The Millennium Falcon was created from junk car and airplane parts taken from dumping grounds and similar sources.
30. Too Likeable
Carrie Fisher got along so well with Peter Cushing that she found it difficult to act like Leia hated Grand Moff Tarkin.
31. Not Fully Operational
In Return of the Jedi, the Emperor’s chair was supposed to be mechanized to rotate, but it never worked properly. Instead, Ian McDiarmid, who played the Emperor, had to move the chair himself by shuffling his feet. A piece of tape on the floor told him where to stop shuffling so it would not be visible on screen.
32. Dishonorable Death
Lucas had no idea how popular Boba Fett would be. He later said that if he had known, he would have given the character a more memorable death. He even considered adding a scene where Boba Fett escapes the Sarlacc pit for a DVD release, but decided against it.
33. The Most Vicious of All Animals
The sounds of the Rancor in the Jabba’s palace were made by a growling dachshund.
34. Starkiller Luke
When filming began on Star Wars, Luke’s name was Luke Starkiller. Lucas had second thoughts about the name, and changed it. As a homage, J.J. Abrams used the name for the First Order’s Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens.
35. Left to the Experts
The Echo Base troops in the Battle of Hoth were played by Norwegian mountain rescue skiers.
36. The Off-Screen Muppet Cameo
Hamill had difficulties filming the scenes on Dagobah with Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back. To help him get through it, Frank Oz brought in Miss Piggy, who he also voiced, to cheer him up.
37. That’s No Asteroid
In the original asteroid field scene, one of the asteroids is actually a shoe, and another is a potato. It was rumored that Lucas made the special effects crew redo the scene over and over again, and one of the crew got annoyed and threw in their shoe.
38. Totally Safe. Probably.
While attempting to leave Dagobah, Luke pulls a snake out of his ship. Kershner told Hamill the snake was harmless. The snake bit Hamill in one of the takes.
39. A Dramatic Entrance
There was a real blizzard at the location when the Hoth scenes were being filmed. The train routes were closed, and Ford could not get to the filming location by the normal means. He finally arrived at the location on a snow plow.
40. It’s a Backstory!
Admiral Ackbar has a backstory: he used to be Grand Moff Tarkin’s slave and personal pilot.
41. Return of the Dead Jedi
An early version of the script had Obi-Wan returning from the dead in Return of the Jedi rather than just appearing in ghost form.
42. Not the Imperial March, but…
The Jedi theme music plays once over a shot of Darth Vader: when he throws the Emperor down the shaft of the Death Star, signaling his turn away from the dark side.
43. The Second Best-Kept Secret in the Galaxy
Vader’s unmasking scene in Return of the Jedi was kept so secret that Vader’s actor for the unmasking, Sebastian Shaw, had no idea what he was doing when he showed up on set. His old friend Ian McDiarmid saw him on set (while McDiarmid was playing the Emperor) and asked Shaw what he was doing there. Shaw replied, "I don't know. They haven't told me anything about it except that it has something to do with science fiction."
44. No, That’s Not True, That’s Impossible!
James Earl Jones, who voiced the line, thought Darth Vader was lying about being Luke’s father.
45. A Long Carbonite Sleep
Ford did not want to play Han Solo anymore after The Empire Strikes Back, and wanted the character to be killed off. Lucas decided to freeze him in carbonite so he could be revived if Ford agreed to do the next movie.
46. Return of Lando?
In Return of the Jedi, the filmmakers distributed fake scripts to cast members they considered likely to leak details to the press. Some of these fake details did leak, including the fake plot point that Lando Calrissian was "the last hope" for the Jedi, as mentioned by Yoda and Obi-Wan in The Empire Strikes Back.
47. International Incident
While filming scenes from A New Hope in Tunisia near the Libyan border, a war nearly broke out when the Libyan government threatened military action after they noticed a large military vehicle near their territory. Thankfully, that vehicle turned out to be the Jawan sandcrawler, and the Tunisian government just had Lucas move it further from the border and crisis was averted.