When 33-year-old director George Lucas gave the world Star Wars he could not have envisioned how many nerdy and geeky boys he would inspire for generations to come.
Both Universal and United Artists had turned down the opportunity to produce the film.
Twentieth Century Fox finally accepted, giving Lucas complete control during the four years of preparation and a relatively modest budget of $11 million – half of which went towards sets and special effects.
Shot in Guatemala, Tunisia and Death Valley, with interiors at Elstree Studios in England, the resulting film was so spectacular that it looks like it cost three times as much!
Obviously influenced by the old Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials, as well as tales of knights of old, the story tells how farm-boy Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), given a sword by his mentor Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness), and assisted by space pilot Han Solo (Harrison Ford), rescues Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) from the evil clutches of Darth Vader.
With the help of Kenobi, Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, R2D2 and C-3PO, he’s able to save the day and destroy the Empire’s dreaded Death Star in a classic story of good versus evil.
Darth Vader is the epitome of screen villainy with his gas-mask face, Nazi storm trooper-like helmet and intimidating height – Vader became the image most associated with Star Wars.
With an Oscar in his pocket for Jaws (1975), John Williams was already going full tilt down the mountain of fame when Lucas asked him to score what turned out to be the biggest film of the decade.
He wisely opted for a classical backdrop to the antics of the Skywalker boy rather than a more futuristic soundtrack. The results will be forever synonymous with intergalactic heroism and evil. Unlike, say, Dune (1984).
George Lucas originally wanted to change Anthony Daniels’ British accent for C3PO and hired veteran voice-over artist and comedian Stan Freeburg to re-dub all his dialogue. He changed his mind when he finally realised the complexity of the job.
Princess Leia was originally intended to be played by Amy Irving (not Carrie Fisher) and the part of Han Solo was to be played by Nick Nolte (not Harrison Ford). Ford practically begged Lucas to have his character killed off in Return Of The Jedi (1983) feeling this would ‘complete’ the character.
George Lucas derived the word “Jedi” from the Japanese word Jidai Geki which means ‘period drama’ – commonly used as a TV soap opera. He also originally had Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader as one character.
The idea of forest-dwelling primitives defeating the hi-tech Empire was a big part of Star Wars post-Vietnam origins but was scrapped when Lucas felt that the Wookies were not primitive enough. So they were made smaller and the name was shrunk and reversed to become Ewoks.
Endlessly imitated but never rivalled. This first instalment of George Lucas’s Space Opera dresses up the timeless tale of good versus evil with ground-breaking special effects and a dazzling array of intergalactic characters.
As more films were released in the franchise, Star Wars was renamed Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.
Princess Leia Organa
Darth Vader (voice)
James Earl Jones
Uncle Owen Lars
Aunt Beru Lars
Red Two (Wedge)
Red Three (Biggs)
Red Four (John `D’)
Red Six (Porkins)
Richard Le Parmentier