It’s the biggest phenomenon in Hollywood, and one of the most influential movies ever made. Here is the full making of story behind Star Wars, by way of a series of fascinating facts.
One of the biggest movies ever made, the influence and impact of Star Wars is difficult to overestimate and is still felt today. Back in the mid-70s though, it wasn’t all plain sailing for George Lucas to get the movie made and the production was plagued with issues. Via 32 fascinating facts, we’re bringing you that making of story behind the biggest blockbuster of them all.
1. Lucas struggled to get the film made
In 1973, George Lucas directed American Graffiti – a coming of age drama set in 1950s Americana – and it was very successful. On a budget of just $777,000, American Graffiti made $140 million. In terms of budget to gross ratio, it was more than twice as successful as Star Wars!
Following this success, United Artists asked Lucas if he had any more ideas, and he told them about, “a space opera that’s a bit like a western, a bit like James Bond.”
At this point, Lucas had a 14-page treatment called The Star Wars and UA passed on it. So did Universal. So did Disney. There was a division of Paramount called The Directors’ Company, that was owned by Francis Ford Coppola, William Friedkin and Peter Bogdanovich. Coppola gave the treatment to Friedkin, and Friedkin says about it: “Francis brought us the script and I said ‘what the hell is this shit? Who’s going to direct this? Francis said, ‘George’ and I said, ‘I don’t think so.’ I didn’t believe George could pull it off, and I was wrong.”
Lucas then pitched the idea to the Head of 20th Century Fox, Alan Ladd. On that pitch, Ladd says, “I had no idea what George was talking about, but I knew he was talented, so I invested in him” and he greenlit the film with an $8m budget.
2. The deal Lucas struck with the studio was pretty lucrative
Lucas agreed to get paid $150,000 by Fox for writing and directing the film (not a huge amount at the time) on two conditions:
- Lucas would get full rights over any sequels to Star Wars.
- 2He got rights to all Star Wars merchandise. (Toys, books, video games, clothes, etc).
Merchandise for movies was worth very little at the time so Fox agreed, and they were actually quite pleased with the deal. Since 1977, though that deal has made Lucas $6bn, making him the richest filmmaker of all time.
3. Another legendary filmmaker was a big influence
The opening shot to Star Wars – where a huge Star Destroyer attacks a rebel ship and rolls across the top of the frame – is one of the most iconic in history. Lucas actually took this idea of opening the film in the middle of an event in a strange world from Akira Kurosawa, the famous Japanese director (Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Run). Lucas said:
“Kurosawa would open up in the middle of 14th-century Japan, and not explain anything. He trusted his audience. I thought ‘not only does that work, but it works great!’ And that’s where it came from.”
Kurosawa also inspired the storytelling in Star Wars. In 1958, Kurosawa made a film called The Hidden Fortress. It’s a story about rescuing a princess, and is told from the point of view of two peasants who become embroiled in the narrative. Lucas changed peasants to droids, and decided to start the story in Star Wars from their perspective.
Not just that, but the famous transitional wipes that Star Wars uses to move between scenes was lifted straight from Kurosawa films as well.
4. Darth Vader could have been very different
Pat Roach auditioned to play Darth Vader, but it’s David Prowse in the famous suit, of course, with the famous booming voice providd by James Earl Jones. Originally, though, Lucas was thinking of Orson Welles to read Vader’s lines. feeling that Welles would’ve been too recognisable, Lucas opted for James Earl Jones, instead. This was much to Prowse’s disappointment, and he said:
“I was a victim of reverse racism. Because of the lack of black actors in the film, they were scared of losing a slice of their audience.”
You can find footage online of the scenes between Vader and Leia at the start before it’s been dubbed, so check this out:
5. The opening crawl was written by one of Lucas’ famous filmmaker pals
Before Star Wars came out, Lucas held a screening of the film to some of his filmmaker friends – one of whom was Brian DePalma.
This version of Star Wars that Lucas screened didn’t have an opening crawl, and dropped audiences into the middle of his alien world with no context. DePalma told Lucas he had no idea what was going on, and said that Lucas needed a prologue to set everything up. Lucas agreed and wrote six long paragraphs of exposition. He showed it to DePalma, and DePalma said:
“George, you are out of your mind. It’s gibberish and it goes on forever. It looks like it was written on a driveway. Let me write it for you.”
So DePalma took Lucas’ 6 paragraphs of gibberish (his words) and rewrote it. So what we now see as the opening crawl to Star Wars was written by Brian DePalma.
6. Before CGI effects, that opening crawl wasn’t straightforward to create
In more modern Star Wars films, the crawl is created with digital effects but, back in 1977, it was a physical creation. They had a huge, 6 foot long piece of black paper, with the yellow text placed on top. And they passed the camera over the paper, and filmed it, in such a way to make it look like the words are moving away.
7. Brian DePalma’s input didn’t end there
On casting the movie, Lucs said: “casting Star Wars was a year-long process, with auditions every 5 minutes”, and he held what he called a “cattle call” of screen tests. Brian DePalma was auditioning for Carrie (1976) at the time so they joined forces and held joint auditions.
8. R2 and 3PO did not get on
Lucas’ inspiration for the droids – R2-D2 and C-3PO – came from the 3 robots in Silent Running (1972), and it’s well known now that Kenny Baker (the man inside R2) and Anthony Daniels (3PO) didn’t get on at the time, or afterwards.
Daniels would reportedly call Baker, “little man” (Baker was 3ft 8 tall) and when, in the early ’80s, Baker was asked to go to a Star Wars convention as one of the guests of honour, he said:
“It depends. If his lordship is going – the one with the golden balls – count me out.”
9. Peter Cushing didn’t instantly get the script
Legendary Hammer Horror actor Peter Cushing plays the menacing Grand Moff Tarkin in the film but Lucas originally thought about Cushing as playing Obi Wan Kenobi. And, when Lucas offered him the role of Tarkin, Cushing said: “What’s a Grand Moff? Sounds like something that flew out of a cupboard.” Lucas said he hired Peter Cushing because: “I feel he will be fondly remembered for the next 350 years.”
Cushing did not find the Imperial uniform very comfortable to wear and, in scenes that featured him in mid-shot or close up, would wear fluffy slippers instead f the long black boots.
10. Lucas had to deal with problem after problem during the shoot
With all the issues during production that Lucas had to deal with, it’s a surprise that Star Wars came out at all, let alone was such a big hit. Some of the issues Lucas had to contend with:
- The Tatooine scenes in the first act of the movie were filmed in Tunisia. On the first day of filming, Tunisia experienced its first major rainstorm in fifty years, delaying things.
- There were major issues with some of the technology, mainly getting R2 to behave and move as required. This also delayed things.
- The later scenes were filmed at Elstree Studios in England. Elstree had strict working hours and wouldn’t let Lucas shoot past 5pm. Again, this delayed things.
- The film had been under-budgeted and they ran out of money. Production was stopped for 2 weeks until Fox approved another $3m.
- The whole situation made Lucas ill. He was diagnosed with hypertension and exhaustion, and told to reduce his stress levels.
At this pont, about 6 weeks remained in the production schedule but Alan Ladd, under pressure from the studio board, told Lucas had to finish production within 1 week. Lucas said that wasn’t possible, and Ladd said, “either you do it, or we shut down production.” So the crew was split into three units and it was a race to bring it in on time, which they did.
11. Lucas wasn’t exactly an actors’ director
Maybe because of the stress he was under, or perhaps because he calls himself an introvert, the main cast in Star Wars don’t exactly lavish Lucas with praise when they talk about working with him. Mark Hamill has said: “If there were a way to make movies without actors, George would do it.” And the general consensus from the actors was that they found Lucas to be very uncommunicative as a director. His direction would usually be one of two things: either “faster” or “more intense.”
At one point during production, Lucas lost his voice, and the crew gave him two boards as a present. One said, “faster” the other said, “more intense.”
12. Luke could’ve been played by Freddy Krueger
Lucas knew from the start that he wanted an unknown actor to play Luke, and there were some other names – unknown at the time – that auditioned.
William Katt (who Brian DePalma cast in Carrie) was a contender. And Lucas also considered Charles Martin Smith. They worked together on American Graffiti and Martin Smith is most well known for playing Oscar Wallace – the accountant in The Untouchables (1987).
Also, Robert Englund auditioned for the part of Luke. He became famous in the 80s for playing an iconic horror villain in Fredddy Krueger. After his audition, Englund had a moan to his pals about how badly he’d done but said to one of them, who was also an actor: “actually, I think you’d be a really good fit for it.” That pal was Mark Hamill. Hamill auditioned, and the rest, as they say, is history.
13. Lots of big names auditioned for Leia too
As was the case with Luke, there was a huge casting process to find Princess Leia. Thousands of actresses auditioned – many of who would go on to be famous:
Karen Allen, Nancy Allen, Kim Basinger, Bonnie Bedelia, Glenn Close, Geena Davis, Farrah Fawcett, Melanie Griffith, Barbara Hershey, Anjelica Huston, Margot Kidder, Jessica Lange, Jane Seymour, Cybill Shepherd, Sissy Spacek, Meryl Streep, Kathleen Turner, Sigourney Weaver, Dianne Wiest, Linda Blair and Debra Winger all auditioned for the role of Princess Leia.
And one other very famous actress turned the role down – Jodie Foster wanted to do it, but was already working on two other films.
When Carrie Fisher auditioned, Lucas said he liked her straight away, because when she walked in they asked her, “are you Debbie Reynolds’ daughter?” and she replied, “no, Debbie Reynolds is my mother.” (Debbie Reynolds was a Hollyood star in the 1950s, and appeared in Singin’ In The Rain in 1952).
14. Nobody had faith the movie would be a hit
Mark Hamill has said that he didn’t expect Star Wars to be a success. He tells a story about Christmas 1976, when he and Carrie Fisher spent a weekend together in New York. They went to see a film, and one of the trailers was for Star Wars. Nobody knew what it was at the time, and when the trailer finished, somebody shouted out: “Coming soon to CBS!”
15. Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford had an affair during production
Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, who was married at the time, had a 3 month affair while filming the movie – she was 19 and he was 33 with two kids.
Fisher’s thoughts on it were published years later in her memoirs, The Princess Diarist. There’s a poem in those memoirs that she wrote about Ford and the end of their relationship when she was 19. It says:
The compromise I made was not an easy thing to do
It was either you or me and I chose you
Although far from a joker you spoke in wry, wry riddles
I could have given you so much but you wanted so little
I thought you might supply some tenderness I lacked
But out of all the things I offered you took my breath away
And now I want it back
16. Fisher and Lucas had run-ins over Leia’s hair and outfit
Princes Leia has a very famous hairstyle but Carrie Fisher didn’t like it and used to tease Lucas on the set by calling her hair “The Buns of Navarone”. She said, “I’m not sure why, but George would hate it when I said that. Of course, that just made me say it all the more.”
Fisher also didn’t like her costume very much, because Lucas wouldn’t let her wear any underwear. (Which is a bit weird).
Fisher joked, “as we all know, there is no underwear in space,” and also said that Lucas explained this to her by saying: “In space you become weightless…. But then your body expands. But your bra doesn’t – so you get strangled by your own bra.”
Writing about this in her memoirs, Fisher said, “I want it reported in my obituary that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.” When she sadly passed away in 2016, some online publications reported on Carrie Fisher’s death by leading with this headline.
17. Han Solo could have been very different
Lucas said he based the personality of Han on his filmmaker pal Francis Ford Coppola, and his first plans for Han Solo were that he was going to be played by a black actor. Billy Dee Williams (who later played Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back) auditioned, and Lucas settled on Glynn Turman, who was most well known for appearing in Cooley High (1975). Lucas then changed his mind, and went after a white actor.
In these new auditions, there were again lots of names up for the part of Han:
Kurt Russell, Nick Nolte, Christopher Walken, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, Chevy Chase (!) and James Woods were all considered.
James Caan, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Burt Reynolds all turned down the role. Pacino said, “it was mine for the taking but I didn’t understand the script.”
Harrison Ford had worked with Lucas before, in American Graffiti, and the year after that he’d been in Coppola’s The Conversation (1974) but the roles had then dried up and Ford – with a young family – went into an honest job as a carpenter.
However, because of their previous ties, Lucas asked Ford to help out in the screen tests for Luke and Leia, and read the part of Han Solo. During these tests, Lucas realised Ford was perfect for Han Solo.
18. Inspiration for Chewie came from an unusal, but familiar, place
Han’s sidekick and co-pilot is the ever-faithful Wookie, Chewbacca. For how the character should look, Lucas took inspiration from his pet dog. His dog was called Indiana, which is also where the name for Indiana Jones came from.
When studio executives first saw the dailies, they were concerned that Chewie had no clothes on. They said to Lucas, “we’re not sure about him walking round naked all the time. Any chance he can wear bermuda shorts?”
Lucas put them off them by saying, “it’s alright. Chewie doesn’t have a penis,” which appeased the studio, bizarrely enough.
19. Alec Guinness wasn’t Lucas’ first choice for Obi Wan Kenobi
Lucas knew that Obi Wan had to bring a certain gravitas to the film, so always wanted a known actor to play him. Again inspired by Kurosawa, He thought about casting Toshiro Mifune (who appeared in 16 Kurosawa movies). According to Mifune’s daughter, Mifune turned the part down because, in her words:
“He was concerned about how the film would look and that it would cheapen the image of samurai… At the time, sci-fi movies still looked quite cheap as the effects were not advanced and he had a lot of samurai pride.”
Undeterred, Lucas turned to England – and the acclaimed Alec Guinness – to play Obi Wan. Before Star Wars, Guinness was an Oscar winner for The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957), and had been nominated for 4 more, as well as appearing in other classics like The Man In The White Suit (1951), The Ladykillers (1955), Lawrence Of Arabia (1962), and Doctor Zhivago (1965).
Guinness agreed to take the part of Obi Wan because of two factors:
1. He was a big fan of Lucas’ previous movie, American Graffiti.
2. He read the script and said that, even though he didn’t like the dialogue, he thought the story was brilliant, and he was compelled to read it to the end.
The respected thespian did have one condition, though – he wouldn’t do any publicity to promote the film. The studio agreed, on the proviso that they reduce Guiness’ salary slightly, and give him 2% of the film’s profits instead, to which he reluctantly agreed. On top of this, Lucas gave Guinness a further 0.25% by way of saying thanks for improving some of the film’s dialogue. That 2.25% ended up being worth $18 million.
20. It made him lots of money, but Alec Guinnes hated Star Wars!
Guinness was the ultimate professional on the set but, unknown to everybody else, during production, he was sending letters to a friend of his called Anne Kaufmann criticising the film and everything about it. Below is an excerpt:
“My dear Anne,
I’ve been offered a new movie. Science fiction, which gives me pause, but it is to be directed by Paul[sic] Lucas, who did American Graffiti, which makes me feel I should. Big part, fairytale rubbish, but could be interesting.”
Then, later, he wrote:
“New, rubbish dialogue reaches me every day, and none of it makes my character clear or even bearable. I just think of the lovely bread and that keeps me going. I must off to the studio now to work with a dwarf (who has to wash in a bidet) and your countrymen Mark Hamill and Tennyson Ford, a rangy, languid young man who is probably intelligent and amusing. God, they make me feel ninety.”
There’s another famous story Guinness told in his memoirs, where he said:
“In 1979, a sweet-faced boy of twelve told me he had seen Star Wars over a hundred times. Looking into the boy’s eyes I detected madness beginning to form, and said:
‘I would love you to do something for me,’
‘Anything, sir, anything!’ the boy said
‘Do you think you could promise me never to see Star Wars again?’
He burst into tears. His mother said. ‘What a dreadful thing to say to a child!’ and dragged the poor kid away. Maybe she was right but I just hope the lad, now in his thirties, is not living in a fantasy world of secondhand, childish banalities.”
21. Lucas was inspired by one of his favourite TV shows as a child
The original inspiration for Star Wars came from the Flash Gordon TV serials Lucas used to watch as a kid. In fact, he originally tried to buy the rights to Flash Gordon with Francis Ford Coppola to make a film. Lucas said:
“I especially loved the Flash Gordon serials … Of course I realized how crude and badly done they were, but loving them that much when they were so awful, I began to wonder what would happen if they were done really well” (I think we now know).
Also, for the look of the prologue (the yellow text scrolling up the screen and off into the distance) Lucas lifted that from the old Flash Gordon TV serials he used to watch, which started exactly the same way.
22. Lucas took inspiration from many other sources as well
Lucas and Coppola couldn’t afford the rights to Flash Gordon, so Lucas decided to invent his own version by taking influence from many fictional and real-life sources:
1. Real life history was an influence. The Empire came from the ancient Roman Empire.
2. The X-Wings and TIE Fighter battles are based on World War II movies like The Battle Of Britain (1969) and The Dam Busters (1955). The Imperial uniforms were based on Nazi SS uniforms.
3. Lucas took from real world religions. “May The Force Be With You” is from a Catholic saying, “May Peace Be With You.” When asked where the Force came from, Mark Hamill said, “it’s basically, Religion’s Greatest Hits.”
4. Lucas took from science fiction and fantasy novels. From Frank Herbert’s Dune, he took things like Moisture Farmers and Spice Mines. Frank Herbert said about it: “When David Lynch came to direct Dune, he had trouble with the fact that Star Wars had used so many of my ideas. We identified 16 lifts, and calculated the odds of this being a coincidence produced a larger number than the number of stars in the universe.”
5. Other science fiction movies. R2-D2 was inspired by the robots from Silent Running, and C-3PO was inspired by Maria, the robot from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). And the spaceships and how they were shot was inspired by Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
23. Lucas’ first drafts were very different to what ended up on-screen
There were some drastic changes from Lucas’ earliest drafts. Some of the major ones were:
1. Lucas’ first treatment wasn’t called Star Wars. It was called The Journal Of The Whills.
2.The first sentence of this treatment was: “The story of Mace Windu, a revered Jedi-bendu of Opuchi who was related to Usby C.J. Thape, a Padawaan learner to the famed Jedi.” The first person who read reatment this was Jeff Berg, Lucas’ agent. Berg gave just one note on the treatment: “I don’t know what this means.”
3. After being told it was too confusing, Lucas changed the title from The Journal Of The Whills to The Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars.
4. At one point, the main characters were all robots. At another point they were all dwarves.
5. Luke was originally called Luke Starkiller. At various stages he was a 60-year-old general, and a woman.
6. And Han Solo was originally not human, but a huge green-skinned monster with no nose and gills.
24. Lucas orginial plan for the music was to not use John Williams
Originally, Lucas had planned to follow what Stanley Kubrick had done with 2001, and not use an original score, but classical music to give the movie a grandiose feel.
Lucas mentioned this to Steven Spielberg, who said, “you’re making a very original film, you need original music to go with it.” Spielberg has just worked with John Williams on Jaws (where Williams won an Oscar) and introduced him to Lucas.
Williams proposed the idea of a 19th century classical romantic style with recurring use of leitmotif. (A leitmotif is having a recurring musical theme in the film). He also took inspiration from classical pieces. Gustav Holst and Stravinsky were two, but for the main Star Wars theme, Williams borrowed from a 1942 movie called King’s Row, composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Listen to it below and see if you can hear Star Wars:
Lucas also wanted the main theme music to run in perfectly from the 20th Centruy Fox fanfare, so Williams composed something that fit, and was in the same key.
25. It’s a good job he did, though!
For his work on Star Wars, John Williams won his third Oscar. And today, the AFI rank the Star Wars score as the greatest score in movie history, ahead of Gone With The Wind (1939), Lawrence Of Arabia, Psycho (1960), and The Godfather (1972). Williams is 6th on the list with Jaws as well.
Also, the score for Star Wars went into the Billboard Top 20 in the US. Something which had never happened before and, to this day it’s the highest-selling film score of all time.
George Lucas shimselof said about Williams’ music: “To hear Johnny play the music for the first time was a thrill beyond anything I can describe.”
26. Lucas did not get on with his DP
The Director of Photography on Star Wars was the experienced Gilbert Taylor, who had worked on A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (1964). They clashed over a lot of things, including:
1. Lucas would make suggestions on how to light a scene, which Taylor did not appreciate.
2. One of the reasons Lucas hired Taylor is because Lucas wanted Star Wars to have a documentary feel and, because of Dr Strangelove and A Hard Days’ Night, he thought Taylor could deliver that. Taylor didn’t like that idea.
3. Producer Gary Kurtz tried to replace Taylor midway through production with a cinematographer called Harry Waxman (The Wicker Man, 1973). However, the camera crew made it clear that if Taylor went, so did they.
4. 20th Century Fox settled the dispute by basically backing Taylor, not Lucas. So how Star Wars was shot is, in a lot of ways, down to Taylor.
Gilbert Taylor passed away in 2013, but said about his time on Star Wars:
“I hated almost every second of my time on the picture. George avoided all meetings and contact with me from day one, so I read the extra-long script many times and made my own decisions as to how it should be shot. I experimented with photographing the lightsabers and other things… and would say I was quite successful.”
As a little footnote, and to bring things full circle, Gilbert Taylor shot Flash Gordon – the movie Lucas originally wanted to make – in 1980.
27. George Lucas wife at the time “saved Star Wars”
Marcia Lucas was George Lucas’ wife at the time and, often called “the person who saved Star Wars,” she edited the film.
The original editor for Star Wars was John Jympson, who had edited Zulu (1964), A Hard Days’ Night, and Frenzy (1972). He had great experience, but his first edit of Star Wars was – in Lucas’ words – “an absolute disaster”.
In this original cut, the opening sequence dureing ther space battle constantly cuts to Luke with his friends on Tatooine. You can see some of that first cut online below and, as you’ll see, the pacing is not as swift as the final movie.
Lucas was devastated when he saw the cut. He knew it was bad, and didn’t know how to fix it. Marcia Lucas says about it: “George had his head in his hands and I said ‘yes, it’s a mess, but there’s a great film in there. It can be saved.”
So Lucas fired Jymspon and asked Marcia to do it. She brought in Richard Chew and Paul Hirsch to help her (they had recently edited The Conversation and Carrie). They removed all the unnecessary exposition (like those scenes with Luke) and re-edited so the pace was dictated by the cuts, rather than the actors. In Marcia’s words: “We sped it up, and made it tighter”.
Marcia and George divorced in 1982, and she is still pretty modest about how work on the movie:
“George knew it wasn’t right, and I told him how to fix it. That’s it in a nutshell. And when the movie came out, well, that was a whole lot of fun. I’m very, very proud to say I worked on Star Wars.”
28. The concept artist and sound designer played big roles too
Ralph McQuarrie was the concept artist o the movie and designed, among other things:
- Darth Vader.
- The Stormtroopers.
- The 2 droids – R2-D2 and C-3PO.
- The X-Wings, TIE Fighters, the Star Destroyers.
- The Death Star.
When Lucas first submitted the script for Star Wars to Alan Laddd at 20th Century Fox, he included Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art to help visualise the idea. Alan Ladd said, “without that art there was no way it would have got past the board.” So McQuarrie’s importance to Star Wars is huge.
The sound designer was Ben Burtt, and he created pretty much all of the now-iconic sound effects in Star Wars. So, this included:
- The blasters.
- Darth Vader’s breathing.
- R2’s beeps and whistles.
- Chewie’s growls.
- The lightsabers.
- The scream the TIE Fighters make when they fly past camera.
Burtt won his first of 4 Oscars on Star Wars. He also won for Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981), E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
29. Movie theaters didn’t want to show the movie (at first)
When 20th Century Fox tried to distribute the movie, only 32 theaters in the U.S agreed to show it. So Fox said that any cinema that refused to show Star Wars would not be given the rights to screen The Other Side of Midnight, a World War II love story they were due to release. The Other Side Of Midnight ended up taking about 5% of what Star Wars did.
And, by late summer, Star Wars was playing in 1,098 theaters across the U.S., which was an astronomical figure back then. To give some context, Jaws broke the record by a long way in 1975, and that was in 400 theatres.
30. It was a gargantuan hit (obviously)
On a budget of $11m, Star Wars grossed $530m on its initial release, toppling Jaws as the all time number 1 at the box office. And to date has taken $792m in total.
It is still the second-most attended movie of all time. Star Wars sold 178m tickets, second only to Gone With The Wind, which sold 202m tickets in 1939. To give an idea of how big that is, Avengers: Endgame (now the highest-grossing film ever) came out in 2019 and sold 93m tickets.
Around the time Star Wars was released, Francis Ford Coppola was in the Phillippine jungles looking for money to finish his war epic, Apocalypse Now (1979). He jokingly sent a telegram to Lucas’ hotel asking for funding.
31. The test screening gave a sign of what was to come
We mentioned earlier about the test screening of Star Wars where Lucas played it for some filmmaker friends and also 20th Century Fox executives.
Steven Spielberg knows a hit when he sees one, and told Lucas, “it’s going to be the biggest movie of all time”. Alan Ladd loved it and said to Lucas, “finally, I know what you’ve been talking about for 5 years”. And an executive at Fox called Gareth Wigan was so blown away by Star Wars that he cried during the screening and told Lucas, “this is the greatest movie I’ve ever seen.” When Wigan got home, he gathered his family around the kitchen table and said, “I want you to remember this day because I just had one of the greatest experiences in my life.”
32. Star Wars didn’t just change the movie industry
As we mentioned at the top Lucas cut a deal with Fox that gave him full rights over the merchandising of Star Wars. Movie merchandise at the time was small fry, but Star Wars changed all that, specifically around the Kenner action figure toy line that was released after the film. To give another stat, the Star Wars movies to date have grossed about $10bn at the box office. When you throw in all the merchandise, it’s made about $40bn.
Since Star Wars, blockbuster movies come with action figure toy lines and, in the wake of Star Wars, iconic toylines like Masters Of The Universe, Transformers, and Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtles, can all be traced back to Star Wars.
So, there you have it – the making of Star Wars by way of some monster facts. Leave a comment if you’d like to have a chat. Or, listen to our podcast on Star Wars, here.
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