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Beginning in 1977 with George Lucas’ low-budget space adventure film, the ‘Star Wars’ franchise exploded into popularity based on that first film’s massive success. More than four decades later the series has only grown in success, with twelve films and countless supplementary materials such as novels, comic books, video games, and television shows. The latest big-screen release, last year’s ‘Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker‘ acts as a grand finale for the eight major films that came before it. This nine-movie trilogy of trilogies, now known as the Skywalker Saga, focuses on the titular family and their role in an intergalactic war. Despite the seeming finality of this newest film, production company Lucasfilm and their parent company The Walt Disney Company certainly have plans for a long and fruitful future.
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While Star Wars has risen to become a cultural phenomenon over the last forty-three years, there are certain tidbits of behind-the-scenes information that are not common knowledge. So, whether you’re a fan of Star Wars or just interested in some Hollywood history, let’s take a look at some facts on the Star Wars Saga:
A New Hope
#1 Harrison Ford Was Not the First Choice – Star Wars Facts
Although the first Star Wars film launched actor Harrison Ford into stardom, he was not originally meant to be in the movie. George Lucas and Harrison Ford had previously worked together on the 1973 film American Graffiti, in which Ford played a minor role. So, while casting Star Wars, Lucas asked Ford to help him by delivering lines with other actors while they auditioned. However, Ford impressed Lucas during the auditions, and so he was hired to play the role of Han Solo.
#2 Star Wars was Not the Original Title
While Star Wars is a now-iconic and household name, it wasn’t always the film’s title. The second draft of the film’s script was actually titled Adventures of the Starkiller as Taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars. Eventually, the title was shortened to just Star Wars, which is what it released in theatres as in 1977. It wasn’t until a theatrical re-release in 1981 that the film’s title was retroactively changed to Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, to fit with its sequels’ titles.
#3 George Lucas Ex-Wife Suggested a Crucial Scene
A crucial scene in A New Hope was actually suggested by Lucas’ ex-wife, editor Marcia Griffin. Lucas was struggling with writer’s block while working on the script, so Griffin suggested that the droid C-3PO be killed to create an emotional moment in the film. However, Lucas wanted the film to begin and end with shots of the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO, so Griffin decided that Obi-Wan should die instead. This idea stuck, and so Griffin is responsible for Kenobi’s death at the end of the second act.
#4 Kenny Baker, a 3-and-a-half foot tall English actor and musician, played R2-D2 by controlling the droid from within.
According to Baker, the cast and crew of the first Star Wars film would occasionally forget about Baker and leave him inside the droid when they broke for lunch. Baker portrayed R2-D2 in the first six films, and then served as a consultant on Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. This would be his last film role, as Baker sadly passed away on August 13th, 2016.
The Empire Strikes Back
#5 The revelation that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back is one of the most famous twists in Hollywood history.
During filming this plot twist was known by only a handful of people, such as story writer George Lucas, director Irvin Kershner, and star Mark Hamill. Even film stars Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher were kept in the dark about this plot element. However, the secret was actually revealed to a fairly large group. The novelization of the film, written by Donald F. Glut, was released a month before the film’s release and contained the epic twist.
#6 Yoda Was First Offered to Muppets’ Creator Jim Henson
While esteemed actor and puppeteer Frank Oz famously voices Yoda, this wasn’t always the plan. Originally George Lucas wanted Muppets creator Jim Henson to play the iconic role. Henson turned down the role due to prior commitments, but he recommended that Lucas approach Frank Oz instead.
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#7 Many changes were made to the original Star Wars films, for both theatrical re-releases and special editions on home media.
While many of these changes are divisive for fans, one, in particular, is seen as a straight improvement. In the original version of The Empire Strikes Back, the scene in which Darth Vader converses with the Emperor included a much different version of the mysterious figure. This early design for the Emperor was portrayed by a woman with chimpanzee eyes and was voiced by Clive Revill. In re-released versions of the film, this depiction is replaced by a well-known Emperor actor, Ian McDiarmid.
#8 The Star Wars films are responsible for the creation of Industrial Light & Magic, a visual effects company that continues to work in Hollywood today.
ILM is a division of Lucasfilm and was founded while Lucas was working on the first Star Wars. They truly proved their talent in The Empire Strikes Back, creating a huge amount of special effects such as a full-size Millennium Falcon and a new stop-motion animation department for the Battle of Hoth. Today ILM works on a huge number of contemporary films, most recently No Time to Die and Black Widow.
Return of the Jedi
#9 The title of 1983’s Return of the Jedi was changed multiple times.
George Lucas’ first choice was Return of the Jedi, but co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and film studio 20th Century Fox thought the title was bland and decided to change it to Revenge of the Jedi. This title remained through production and into the early marketing of the movie. A teaser trailer and posters were even released with the Revenge of the Jedi name. However, George Lucas decided that the series’ Jedi would not seek revenge, so the title was changed back to Return of the Jedi before the movie opened. The subtitle “Revenge” was later used for 2005’s Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.
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#10 Lucas originally chose his friend Steven Spielberg to direct the third Star Wars film, but Spielberg declined because Lucas separated himself from the Directors Guild of America.
David Lynch was another choice to direct, having just finished the critically acclaimed film The Elephant Man, but unfortunately, Lynch was not impressed by Lucas’ vision when the two met. David Cronenberg was another choice, after directing the sci-fi horror film Scanners, but he turned Lucas down as well. Lucas eventually picked Welsh director Richard Marquand, after being impressed by his spy thriller Eye of the Needle.
Full Commentary on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
#11 Lucasfilm received many letters from fans speculating about how the original trilogy would end.
Rumors included Boba Fett being a woman, the Emperor being a clone of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the souls of Han Solo and Darth Vader being connected.
#12 When Darth Vader’s true face is revealed in Return of the Jedi, he is played by British actor and poet Sebastian Shaw.
However, George Lucas and Richard Marquand originally wanted a big-name star to portray the redeemed villain, such as Laurence Olivier or John Gielgud. They eventually decided that a Hollywood icon would distract from the somber and emotional scene, so they went with a lesser-known performer.
The Phantom Menace
#13 In the original release of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Yoda appeared on-screen as a physical puppet just like he did in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
However, this Yoda puppet looked distinctly different from the one used in those two films. Filmmakers were planning on creating a fully CGI Yoda for the film, but they were not able to accomplish this due to technological limitations in 1999. Yoda was first created with CGI in the following film, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, and the puppet Yoda in The Phantom Menace was replaced by the digital version in the 2011 Blu-ray release of the film.
#14 People from around the world, including celebrities, are fans of the Star Wars films.
These big-name fans included Michael Jackson, who reportedly sought a role in The Phantom Menace. The pop star apparently vied for the infamous role of Jar Jar Binks, who was eventually played by Ahmed Best. Jackson wanted to play Jar Jar using prosthetics and makeup, while Lucas wanted to use CGI. Apparently, legendary rapper Tupac Shakur also read for the role of Mace Windu, which eventually went to the equally legendary Samuel L. Jackson. Unfortunately, Shakur was killed in 1996, a year before filming began on the space epic.
#15 Actor Liam Neeson, who portrays Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace, cost the production a ton of money.
However, this isn’t due to his demand of a high salary. While filming the movie, physical sets were only built to the height of the actors’ heads, with anything above that made using CGI. However, the six-foot four-inch Neeson required the sets to be built much higher than planned, costing an extra $150,000 in construction.
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#16 The Phantom Menace was one of actress Keira Knightley’s very first film roles, with her character serving as a body double for Natalie Portman’s character Padme Amidala.
Knightley was apparently a huge fan of the franchise and auditioned for the film without her parents’ approval. When Portman and Knightley were both in-costume and wearing the character’s signature makeup, even Knightley’s mother couldn’t tell them apart.
Attack of the Clones
#17 When Jango Fett gets into his ship after his fight with Obi-Wan Kenobi in Attack of the Clones, he hits his head on the ship’s door frame. However, this was no accident.
It is actually a reference to a famous moment from A New Hope, where an Imperial stormtrooper bangs his head on a door. In that film, it really was an accident.
#18 Mace Windu is the only character in the Star Wars films who wields a purple lightsaber.
The character’s actor, Samuel L. Jackson, specifically asked creator George Lucas if he could have the distinct lightsaber because he wanted to stand out during the final battle on Geonosis. According to Jackson, the hilt of his Jedi weapon also has a certain phrase engraved on it, which is shared with the wallet of his character in Pulp Fiction.
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#19 The climactic final battle in Attack of the Clones, the Battle of Geonosis, is huge and somewhat hectic.
The film’s artists and designers used a number of visual clues to help audiences keep track of what’s happening during the fight. The heroic Republic Clone Troopers always move from screen right to screen left, while the villainous Separatist forces move from left to right. The sun is setting behind the clones, meaning that the sky is darker behind the antagonistic droids. Missile trails are also color-coded, with the Republic rockets leaving white trails and Separatist rockets leaving black smoke.
#20 The bar that Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker enter on Coruscant in Attack of the Clones features several actors and crew members from throughout the franchise.
Premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
#21 Despite the titular soldiers playing a central role in Attack of the Clones, no clone trooper suits were actually built during the production of the movie.
Every clone seen in the film is computer-generated, with motion capture performed by Industrial Light & Magic employees.
Revenge of the Sith
#22 Throughout the series, C-3PO is filmed practically, rather than created digitally, with actor Anthony Daniels donning a plastic and fiberglass suit.
However, this led to some problems, particularly on the set of Revenge of the Sith. Every shot of C-3PO reflected the surrounding greenscreen set, used to digitally add in the computer-generated background, due to his shiny gold material. This forced the effects artists to digitally repaint C-3PO’s armor frame by frame so that he didn’t reflect the greenscreen.
#23 A brief but memorable moment in Revenge of the Sith is the battle between Separatist droids and Wookie natives on the jungle planet of Kashyyyk.
The idea for this battle dates back to early scripts for A New Hope, where the Wookiees were supposed to help the Rebels conquer an Imperial bunker. The idea was then reused for Return of the Jedi, but George Lucas replaced the Wookies with smaller furry aliens called Ewoks. Revenge of the Sith finally shows off a Wookie army in all its glory.
The Force Awakens
#24 Luke Skywalker had a very large role in the original script for The Force Awakens, and even after rewrites, the iconic protagonist still had a big presence in the film’s third act.
Actor Mark Hamill lost 50 pounds and grew a beard to prepare for the role, which he expected to be considerably large. Hamill was understandably surprised when he learned that Luke’s role was reduced to a single scene in the final seconds of the film without any dialogue, though he did get to have a huge part in the sequel, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi.
#25 As the long-awaited continuation of a beloved series, casting the main characters of The Force Awakens was a long process.
The lead role of the adventurous Rey was eventually given to Daisy Ridley, but other choices included Chloë Grace Moretz, Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Olsen, Shailene Woodley, and Saoirse Ronan. Michael B. Jordan and Ray Fisher were considered for the role of Finn before John Boyega was able to make it his own. The villainous Kylo Ren, who eventually received a truly masterful portrayal by Adam Driver, also could have been played by Michael Fassbender, Lee Pace, or Eddie Redmayne.
#26 There are a ton of cameos throughout The Force Awakens. James Bond star Daniel Craig makes a cameo appearance as a masked stormtrooper, recognizable only by his voice.
Comedians Bill Hader and Ben Schwartz also both contributed to the sounds of BB-8. Several Game of Thrones actors also make minor appearances, such as Mark Stanley as a Knight of Ren and Jessica Henwick as an X-Wing pilot. Billie Lourd, the daughter of franchise staple Carrie Fisher, also appears as a lieutenant in the Resistance.
The Last Jedi
#27 Director Rian Johnson was inspired by three films and television shows in particular during the production of The Last Jedi.
Twelve O’Clock High’s aerial combat scenes inspired the space battles, Three Outlaw Samurai’s sword fights inspired the lightsaber duels, and To Catch A Thief acted as inspiration for the general grandeur of the film.
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#28 The Last Jedi nearly included some real-life royalty among its all-star cast.
Prince William and Prince Harry both filmed cameo appearances as First Order stormtroopers in the film, appearing alongside Benicio Del Toro’s character DJ. Unfortunately, the princes’ scene was ultimately cut from the film before release. Gareth Edwards, the director of the spin-off film Rogue One, does show up in the film during the battle of Crait. Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who worked with Rian Johnson on Looper, voices an alien in the film.
#29 Some variation of the iconic line, “I have a bad feeling about this,” appears in every Star Wars film.
It is said by both Luke Skywalker and Han Solo in A New Hope, by Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back, and by C-3PO and Han Solo in Return of the Jedi. It is Obi-Wan Kenobi’s very first line in The Phantom Menace and is said by Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the Clones and again by Kenobi in Revenge of the Sith. In the most recent sequel trilogy, it is once again said by Han Solo in The Force Awakens and by Lando Calrissian in The Rise of Skywalker. The Last Jedi is the only stand-out example because rather than having it said in a typical fashion the line is spoken in a fantasy droid language by the robotic BB-8.
The Rise of Skywalker
#30 Fans and co-stars were heartbroken when Star Wars staple and Hollywood icon Carrie Fisher passed away in 2016.
While many feared that her role in The Last Jedi would be changed, reduced, or cut completely, the filmmakers quickly confirmed that none of Fisher’s dialogue or scenes would be altered in any way due to her passing. Leia not only appears in The Last Jedi but goes on to have a large role in The Rise of Skywalker as well. This was accomplished by digitally placing Carrie Fisher’s face over that of a stand-in actress, who wore Prince Leia’s costumes and hairstyle. Fisher’s own daughter Billie Lourd served as a stand-in for certain scenes, particularly a flashback where Luke and Leia train together.
#31 At the end of The Rise of Skywalker, Rey is shown with a new lightsaber.
This new weapon was very deliberately designed to be symbolic of her character arc. The hilt of the lightsaber is made with a part of Rey’s staff, which represents her evolution from scavenger to Jedi. The unique yellow color of the blade is meant to symbolize optimism and the forging of a new future.
#32 Actor Ian McDiarmid first played Emperor Palpatine in 1983’s Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi when he was 37 years old.
Makeup and prosthetics were used to give him the appearance of the villainous and elderly Emperor. Due to the time gap between the original and prequel trilogies, McDiarmid was also able to play the character in the three prequel films, which began releasing sixteen years later, but take place before the events of the original three films. He was then able to reprise the role again in The Rise of Skywalker, released fourteen years after the prequels.
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Thomas McNulty believes in thorough research and ethical journalism with a keen awareness of Hollywood trends and news. Thomas likes to look at the bigger picture of where the industry is heading with all forms of entertainment, including movies, TV shows, books, video games and live entertainment that are forms of art and should be treated as such. By drawing connections between these various pieces of entertainment, we are able to come closer to understanding society as a whole. Thomas believes in writing for a publication that promotes ethics and morality and that is why he has chosen Hollywood Insider as the right platform to advocate for positive entertainment.