Star Wars, the epic space opera about how, a long time ago, one family’s squabbles nearly ruined a galaxy far, far away. With nine films to be released in the main saga and a number of anthology films such as Rogue One and an upcoming Han Solo film, the franchise has earned over $7.5 billion and made international superstars out Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and… we guess Mark Hamill.
Here are a few things you might not know about a film so popular that it spawned its own religion: Star Wars.
The famous line in which Darth Vader reveals Luke’s parentage is often misquoted as, “Luke, I am your father.” The actual line is “No, I am your father,” but in order to contextualize it, people added Luke’s name similar to how everyone misquotes it as “Beam me up, Scotty,” despite Kirk having never said that line.
59. To his Credit
George Lucas paid a fine and resigned from the Directors’ Guild because they insisted on a traditional credit sequence for A New Hope and he wanted to start it with the now-iconic opening crawl.
58. Camera Tricks
Those opening credits were actually filmed by creating a six-foot long glossy printed plate of the text and then having the camera slowly pan down. While decidedly unsophisticated, it worked wonderfully. Although not wonderfully enough to avoid getting a CGI makeover for the Special Edition rereleases.
57. Ornithological Evolution
The Blockade Runner, Princess Leia’s ship at the beginning of A New Hope, was the original design of the Millennium Falcon.
56. Loves Bananas He Does
George Lucas originally had plans for Yoda to be played by a monkey who would wear a mask and use a cane.
55. Harrison Shot First
Among the top contenders to play Han Solo were Burt Reynolds, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, and Christopher Walken.
54. Nailed It
Famously, Harrison Ford was working as a carpenter on various sets while Lucas was auditioning prospective actors, and he was one Han short. Ford was brought in to read lines with other actors who were vying for the roles of Luke and Leia. Because his line readings were consistently better than all the other Hans who were actually auditioning, Lucas chose Ford to play Han Solo, and the rest is history. Interesting how all these chosen ones start out as carpenters.
53. Genuine Class
Alec Guinness, who played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original trilogy, managed to negotiate a deal for 2% of the gross box office receipts, earning himself over $95 million. Not bad coin for a series of films he referred to as “fairy-tale rubbish.”
52. A Healthy Raise
In contrast, Harrison Ford was paid $10,000 for his role in A New Hope. Of course, Ford later made $34 million for his role in The Force Awakens. Considering he was an international superstar who had to be dragged back to the set kicking and screaming and had his leg broken when he got there, that sounds like a pretty good deal.
51. Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys
Of course, the one who made the most money off of Star Wars was creator George Lucas who brilliantly negotiated to reduce his director’s fee of $500,000 to $150,000 in exchange for 100% of the rights to all merchandise and future sequels. The Star Wars franchise has since gone on to earn $27 billion worldwide, so that was an inspired bit of thinking. Pretty crazy to think that stroke of genius came from the same mind that brought us Jar-Jar.
During a particularly tumultuous time during the production of A New Hope, a despondent Lucas visited his pal Steven Spielberg on the set of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Seeing how well things were going on Spielberg’s set, Lucas suggested a bet where he and Spielberg traded points on the box office receipts of their respective movies. To help bolster his friend’s flagging confidence, Spielberg took the bet. While Close Encounters made a very respectable $300 million, it was nothing compared to the $500 million Star Wars had made by the end of 1978, which based on the terms of the bet, earned Spielberg a cool $12.5 million.
49. Follow the Money
Gary Kurtz, one of the producers on Return of the Jedi, said that in an early story outline, Han Solo dies and Luke disappears into the wilderness. However, George Lucas felt that killing off main characters might be bad for toy sales, so he wisely reversed course.
There were still a few close calls, of course.
48. I Liked the Book Better
The first officially sanctioned expanded universe work was a 1978 novel written by Alan Dean Foster called Splinter of the Mind’s Eye in which Luke, Leia, and Vader clash on the misty jungle planet of Mimban to find the Kaiburr crystal, a device that allows its user to vastly increase their power over the Force. The book was commissioned as a potential sequel to Star Wars, but after the first movie became wildly popular, Lucas decided to go in a different direction.
47. Designated Survivor
Wedge Antilles, the famed X-Wing pilot, was the only background character who got to survive Yavin, Hoth, and Endor – the three major battles in the original trilogy.
Denis Lawson, the actor who played Antilles, is Ewan McGregor’s uncle. So Wedge is Obi-Wan Kenobi’s uncle. Looks like the Force runs in the family.
45. You Can’t Avoid the Droid
C3P0, and by extension, Anthony Daniels, the actor who played him, is the only character to have appeared in every Star Wars film including Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and the Clone Wars.
44. The Perfect Christmas Gift
Boba Fett’s first appearance in the Star Wars universe was not in Empire Strikes Back, but in the widely and deservedly panned Star Wars Holiday Special in which Han and Chewbacca escape the clutches of The Empire so they can celebrate the Wookie version of Christmas. Yeah. That really happened.
43. Once Brothers
George Lucas briefly considered revealing that Darth Vader and Boba Fett were brothers in the prequels, but decided that it’d be “too hokey.” But dancing bears are okay?
The actor who plays Boba Fett, Jeremy Bulloch, also played Imperial Lieutenant Sheckil in Empire Strikes Back when the original actor cast in that role couldn’t make it in for the shoot. Sheckil is the Imperial officer who grabs Princess Leia during her attempted escape on Bespin. Since the actor who played Boba Fett played both characters, Sheckil’s character was retconned to be Boba Fett’s twin brother.
41. Slug it Out
Jabba the Hutt was originally played by Irish character actor Declan Mulholland and portrayed as a rotund human with a shaggy fur coat. Lucas said he always wanted Jabba to be an alien creature but that special effects technology wasn’t up to the task in 1977. He cut the Irish version of Jabba from the film and re-introduced him in Return of the Jedi when he could be the space slug he was always meant to be.
In Return of the Jedi, Oola, the dancing Twi’lek girl in Jabba’s palace, has a bit of a wardrobe malfunction during one of her dance sequences when her breast slips out of her shirt. We never noticed. And we certainly never wore out the freeze-frame button on our VHS players.
39. Painted into a Corner
The Ewoks were actually meant to be Wookies and, instead of Endor, the climactic battle in the original trilogy was meant to be on the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk. However, throughout the trilogy, Chewbacca could be seen piloting and fixing the Millenium Falcon as well as demonstrate his proficiency with laser guns, and Lucas realized that they’d accidentally made Wookies too technologically advanced, so he had to invent Ewoks instead.
38. They Who Must Not Be Named
Although everyone knows the primitive Care Bears who assist in the rebellion in Return of The Jedi were called Ewoks, the word “Ewoks” is actually never uttered by any character in the entirety of the trilogy.
37. Panda Bears
The Ewok language was a combination of Tibetan and Nepalese so the Ewoks were… Asian?
36. Racial Profiling
Nien Nunb, Lando Calrissian’s co-pilot during the Battle of Endor, spoke Haya, which is a dialect of Tanzanian, and his dialogue was recorded by a Tanzanian exchange student. His official race was Sullustan and not, contrary to popular belief, Mexican.
35. The Sound and the Fury
The sound of a TIE Fighter was created by mixing an elephant bellowing with a car screeching on wet pavement.
34. Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!
Chewbacca’s voice was a combination of bears, walruses, lions, badgers, and other dying animals.
33. Saber Rattling
The sound of a lightsaber was created by mixing the hum of an old television set and the buzz of a film projector motor, which is way more professional than the way we did it by waving around a broomstick and just saying “vrumummm, vruummm.”
Speaking of which, Ewan McGregor reportedly kept channeling his inner child and made lightsaber sounds with his mouth when he filmed his fight scenes. The sounds had to be removed in post-production.
31. Purple Please
Mace Windu is the only character in the entire Star Wars universe with a purple lightsaber. His lightsaber is purple because Samuel L. Jackson wanted it to be purple and, well, that’s pretty much the only reason.
The ending of the original trilogy almost had Luke removing Darth Vader’s helmet, putting it on his own hand, proclaiming, “Now I am Vader,” before turning to the dark side. Can’t say we blame him. At the end of the day, everyone wants to be a cool evil guy.
29. Imperial Marching Orders
David Prowse, the actor who played Darth Vader, has been banned from all Lucasfilm-associated events, including conventions, reportedly for annoying George Lucas.
28. Spice World
Dune director David Lynch was originally asked by George Lucas to direct Return of the Jedi. Unfortunately, Lynch turned Lucas down and denied the world what would have likely been the most epic David Bowie cameo.
27. Bye Bye Bye
Speaking of cameos, boy band N’Sync made an appearance in Attack of the Clones at the request of Lucas’ granddaughter. Unfortunately (or not, depending on your age), they ended up on the cutting room floor.
26. A Star is Unborn
Luke Skywalker’s original surname was Starkiller. Luckily, by the time Lucas decided to change it, it hadn’t been mentioned on screen yet. However, had Lucas kept the name it could have lent itself to some pretty sweet trash talk: “Oh yeah Darth? You kill planets?! I KILL STARS!”
25. That Sweet Sweet Music
In the Star Wars universe, the official name for the genre of upbeat swinging music performed by the band in the cantina scene is… wait for it… Jizz. Yup.
24. The Death Star was a Giant Disco Ball
There was a disco version of the Star Wars theme that became a number one hit in 1977 and held onto the top spot for two weeks. We assume it was there ironically.
23. Hoth: Where Everybody Knows Your Name
John Ratzenberger, who played mailman Cliff Clavin on the 80s sitcom Cheers, makes an appearance in Empire Strikes Back as the guy who suggests that Han maybe not go out into the deadly cold to look for Luke. We’ll see you in hell, Cliff. We’ll see you in hell.
22. His Stan Lee Moment
George Lucas himself makes a cameo in Revenge of the Sith. He is dressed as Pantoran senator, Baron Notluwiski Papnoida and was all but unrecognizable in his blue body paint.
21. Fatherly Love
Lucas’ son Jett appears as Zett Jukassa, a Padawan Jedi that is killed by stormtroopers and allowed Lucas to live out the fantasy of every father who has ever been tired of their son’s crap.
The phrase, “I have a bad feeling about this,” became a running gag in the series, and is uttered in every Star Wars movie.
19. It’s Not Easy Being Green
Although he was voiced by Muppeteer Frank Oz and his creation was overseen by the legendary Jim Henson, Yoda was built by a member of Lucasfilm, so he is not a Muppet and he resents the implication that he ever was.
18. Shoes the Fourth
Although Yoda has three toes in The Phantom Menace, in Revenge of the Sith, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, he magically gains a toe, bringing the number up to four. Good thing he never wears shoes or that extra toe could have been a real problem.
17. Collectibles of the Jedi
Return of the Jedi was originally called Revenge of the Jedi until Lucas came to the realization that Jedi were too spiritually evolved to seek revenge and changed the name. Unfortunately, Lucas didn’t figure this out until after quite a few promotional posters were printed. Nowadays, an original Revenge of the Jedi poster can fetch hundreds to thousands of dollars from eager collectors with more money than sense.
16. Walking Carpet
Chewbacca, Han Solo’s faithful sidekick, was inspired by Lucas’ dog, an Alaskan Malamute.
15. I Bent my Wookie
The word “Wookie” was first uttered in Lucas’ previous film THX 1138, in which an actor improvised the line, “I think I just ran over a Wookie.” In turn, that utterance was inspired by that actor’s friend from Texas, the appropriately named Ralph Wookie.
14. Numbers Game
In A New Hope, Leia is kept prisoner by Grand Moff Tarkin on the Death Star in cell number 2187. This is the year in which THX 1138 was set.
13. Clipped Wings
Even though female fighter pilots were written into the original screenplay, they were removed from the final cut of the film. Hard to make it all the way into outer space when you can’t even get past the glass ceiling.
12. The Class of 2001
George Lucas was such a huge fan of Stanley Kubrick that he hired many of the same crew who worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Now there’s a crossover we’d all love to see.
11. Oh the Horror
Lucas almost didn’t direct Star Wars as he was originally in line to direct the Vietnam war movie Apocalypse Now. In 1981, Lucas hinted that, had he done the film that was eventually directed by his pal Francis Ford Coppola, he might have scratched his war movie itch and skipped Star Wars altogether. If you can listen carefully, you can hear a million nerds suddenly crying out in terror.
Speaking of Coppola, his daughter Sofia, who later became an Oscar-winning director in her own right, played one of Queen Amidala’s handmaidens along with a young Keira Knightley. At least someone involved in The Phantom Menace won an Oscar for directing.
9. Girl Talk
The personal communicator used by Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) in The Phantom Menace was actually a cast of a Gillette Ladies Sensor Excel Razor. Too bad the dialogue wasn’t quite as sharp.
8. Tall Order
When building the sets for The Phantom Menace, the designers did not take into account Liam Neeson’s 6’4” frame. As a result, they had to rebuild all the doors to accommodate the actor at an additional cost of $150,000.
7. Cheap Eats
The cheapest set in Empire Strikes Back was the interior of the asteroid-dwelling space slug (AKA the Exogorth). It was nothing more than black Visqueen plastic laid down on the floor of the studio with black curtains behind the Millennium falcon and a dry ice machine.
6. Greedo of the Commonwealth
Greedo was played by two actors, depending on where the scene was shot. In the UK, the actor was Paul Blake while in all the US scenes, Greedo was played by Canadian actress Maria de Aragon. Either way, Greedo was a terrible assassin.
5. E.T. Was a Senator
The alien race introduced in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial appears in The Phantom Menace as a delegation from the planet Brodo Asogi in the Grand Convocation Chamber, officially connecting Lucas and Spielberg’s sci-fi universes. We wonder if these aliens used a ladies’ razor to phone home.
4. Tender Loving
Star Wars collectible coins are considered legal tender on the South Pacific island of Niue. Although, collectors are unlikely to spend them as the face value is worth less than the value of the metal content. Except the Jar Jar ones. Nobody wants those.
3. So Tricksy
“It’s a trap!” is one of most famous lines in the trilogy. It was originally written in the script as “It’s a trick!”
2. Cooler than Cool
While everyone is familiar with the famously ad-libbed line in Empire Strikes Back where Han Solo responds to Princess Leia’s “I love you” with the perfectly delivered “I know,” not many people know that the line was actually supposed to be “Just remember that, ‘cause I’ll be back.” Han could have beaten Arnie to the punch.
1. An Affair to Remember
In The Princess Diarist, the last book she wrote before her untimely death, Carrie Fisher revealed that she and Harrison Ford had an affair during the filming of A New Hope, which, given their chemistry, surprised absolutely nobody. What was surprising was that Ford was 33-years old, married, and had two children while Fisher was 19.
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