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Star Wars is a global phenomenon, the likes of which simply haven’t been seen before. But little did George Lucas know in May 1977, upon the release of his first Star Wars feature, that he had just given birth to one of the biggest film franchises of all time.
Like many crazes that came after (J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter perhaps being the most notable comparison), box office records were instantly smashed, and in many ways spawned the modern-day blockbuster. And even if you’re not the biggest fan of the galaxy, you’ll likely be aware of the various spin-offs, TV series, video games, comics, action figures, and various other paraphernalia that has made Lucas one of the wealthiest men in Hollywood.
So to celebrate the sci-fi behemoth, we’ve compiled a ton of interesting Star Wars facts that even Star Wars boffins may be aware of.
1. Alec Guinness Thought Star Wars Was “Fairy-Tale Rubbish”
While Obi-Wan Kenobi is a pretty chilled out dude, the actor who played him, the late Alec Guinness, didn’t exactly spread good vibes to everyone working on the films when he criticized the premise of the films as “fairy-tale rubbish”.
However, when he scored a deal that would earn him 2% of the gross for the movies he appeared in, Guinness’s shrewd move would net him a cool $95 million. Not a bad return on something that was “rubbish”.
2. Steven Spielberg Made A Famous Star Wars Bet With George Lucas
While it is common knowledge that Lucas was on the verge of a breakdown following the disastrous production of Star Wars, Spielberg was more than happy to make a bet with a then-hopeless Lucas about the future success of the film when he visited Spielberg on the Alabama set of Close Encounters of The Third Kind.
“George came back from Star Wars a nervous wreck,” the famed director revealed. “He didn’t feel Star Wars came up to the vision he initially had. He felt he had just made this little kids’ movie. He came to Mobile, Alabama where I was shooting Close Encounters on this humongous set and hung out with me for a couple of days. He said, ‘Oh my God, your movie is going to be so much more successful than Star Wars. This is gonna be the biggest hit of all time’.”
Upon hearing this self-loathing, Spielberg was then invited by Lucas to trade a share of future profits of his movie in exchange for a 2.5% stake in all future Star Wars’ box office receipts. “He said, ‘You want to trade some points? I’ll give you two and a half per cent of Star Wars if you give me two and a half per cent of Close Encounters.’ I said, ‘Sure, I’ll gamble with that, great.'”
The greatest gamble in history? Probably, as Spielberg admits to seeing windfalls from that bet each day. “Star Wars was a phenomenon, and I was the happy beneficiary of a couple of points from that movie which I am still seeing money on today,” he added.
3. Many Buildings Constructed For The Planet Tatooine Remain In Tunisia
Several of the buildings constructed for the fictional planet of Tatooine remain in Tunisia, so much so that locals still use some of them to this day!
However, Star Wars isn’t as loved in Tunisia as it is in the Western world, so you can pretty much explore most of these sites in peace. Many are located in the desert areas of Mos Espa and Chott El Jerid.
4. Tupac Shakur Auditioned For The Role of Mace Windu
One of the most successful rappers of all time, Tupac Shakur, auditioned for a role in the Star Wars movies. During his rapid rise to hip-hop superstardom, Tupac failed in an audition for the role of Mace Windu. Despite his unsuccessful foray into acting, he remains an icon in the music world.
His “All Eyez on Me” double disc album remains one of the best-selling hip hop albums. Following a much-publicized gang rivalry with a string of East Coast rappers, Tupac found himself on the receiving end of a fatal wound administered during a driveby. He had just turned 25.
5. A Family Affair
While nepotism isn’t something George Lucas has exercised despite his immense power in the industry, he did, in a small degree, bring his family onboard the Star Wars gravy train. His daughter Katie Lucas was cast as a Twi’lek dancer in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones while sister Amanda appeared as a background extra.
Not to be left out, brother Jett played a young Padawan in the Jedi archives.
6. Carrie Fisher Had To Stand On A Box For Scenes With Harrison Ford
The late Carrie Fisher may have left a tall legacy, but her actual height of 5’1″ was no match for co-star Harrison Ford’s towering 6’1″ frame. Because of the noticeable height irregularities, Fisher often had to stand on a box, not so she could appear as tall, but so she could simply be in the shot!
Ever heard of invisible heels, guys?!
7. Jabba The Hut Was Supposed To Be In Star Wars: A New Hope
Jabba The Hutt is argubally Star Wars’ most infamous villian, and certainly its most standout character owing to its colossal weight, so it’s little surprise that Lucas wanted this extreme and vile monster to be in the original movie. However, the scene was cut because the special effects in the 70s didn’t make Jabba’s appearance all that realistic.
Another fun fact: the size of Jabba’s puppet was so big seven crew members were required to operate it when it was used on set.
8. James Earl Jones Was Embarrassed By The First Movie
James Earl Jones famously voiced Darth Vader’s deep and menacing voice, but his iconic role was doubted by the man himself who refused to have his name on the end credits.
But Jones’s decision proved to be in vain as the film would go on to be one of the highest grossing movies of all time.
9. Tupac Wasn’t The Only famous Name To Have Auditioned, A Trio Of Famous names Unsuccessfully Auditioned For Star Wars
Such was the undiscovered talent in 1970s Hollywood, many famous names who weren’t famous in the 70s auditioned for the then-little-known sci-fi movie.
Sylvester Stallone was rejected after he auditioned for the role of Han Solo whilst Cindy Williams and Jodi Foster tried out for Princess Leia to no avail either.
10. George Lucas Missed the 1977 Star Wars Premiere… Not Because He Was Ashamed Of The End Product But Because He Was On Holiday!
We earlier revealed that Lucas confined in Spielberg after the crazy production dramas to admit his doubts about the upcoming first Star Wars movie, but that wasn’t the reason he bailed on the premiere.
In fact, he was with Spielberg himself in the verdant tropics of Hawaii! Following the worldwide success of the first movie, Lucas never missed another premiere.
11. Yoda Was Almost Played By A Monkey
First appearing in The Empire Strikes Back, the iconic green Jedi master who lived in a swamp and taught Luke the ways of the force was the world’s first animatronic puppet and was created by Jim Henson, the man behind The Muppets and Sesame Street , but before he was enlisted, the original idea was to get a trained monkey to walk around with a mask on and cane in hand.
It was only abandoned when someone pointed out a monkey would take off its mask at every opportunity although they had got as far as training it to hold the cane. In later films, Yoda is a CGI creation.
12. The Word ‘Ewok’ Is Never Mentioned In The Original Trilogy
Everyone knows what the Ewoks are right? Cute, cuddly bear creatures that live a primitive lifestyle and have a talent for bringing down a vastly superior and far more tech-savvy Empire. But how do we know they’re called Ewoks?
The word was never spoken on-screen during the original three films and only crops up in the script and closing credits. It was mostly the endless toys and commercials that made people aware of what the fuzzy fighters were called.
13. Bobba Fett’s Face Can Be Seen In The Original Trilogy
So the helmeted character has long been a fan favorite despite not doing very much in the original trilogy (although we do see a bit more about his origin in the prequels).
Part of his mysterious allure was that you never actually saw his face but the actor who played him, Jeremy Bulloch, stood in as an Imperial Officer at the last minute because the original actor was unavailable.
14. “I Have A Bad Feeling About This…”
The now famous phrase “I have a bad feeling about this…” was uttered twice in the very first Star Wars film and since then appears in every single Star Wars movie and video game made by Lucas Film or Lucas Arts as a sort of in-joke.
Other projects that include the line, or variations of it, are Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and the Monkey Island series of LucasArts games.
15. Return of The Jedi Almost Had A Shock Ending
George Lucas originally had the idea of having Luke take Vader’s helmet from him after he dies and proclaim that he is now Vader.
Probably a wise decision since it would have gone against everything else we’d seen in the film so far as Luke trains to become a Jedi.
16. N Sync Nearly Appeared In Attack of The Clones
One of the biggest boy bands around at the time nearly had cameo appearances in Attack of The Clones but the reasons behind it still seem a bit murky. Scenes were apparently shot with the band in to appease a request from one of Lucas’ daughters but Lucas denied this and a producer later claimed he was approached by the band about possible cameos.
Scenes were shot but eventually cut.
17. No One Knows What Yoda Is
Despite film guides and fan theories on almost every aspect of the Star Wars universe, Yoda has no known species.
George Lucas wanted it kept this way to make him seem more mysterious and all-powerful.
18. Yoda Is No Muppet
Despite being created by Jim Henson and voiced by Frank Oz, both instrumental in creating The Muppets, the Yoda puppet was built by a member of the LucasArts team and so belongs to them and not Henson’s house of furry friends.
So don’t expect to see a crossover with him and Kermit anytime soon.
19. Yoda Changes How Many Toes He Has
Depending on what film you are watching, Yoda has a different amount of toes although always has three fingers.
In The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith, he has four but has three in The Phantom Menace.
20. There Are No Female Fighter Pilots In The Original Trilogy
Although several women were cast and some had lines, all were cut and didn’t make it into the film until the Blu-ray release.
No one seems to be quite sure why but we’re glad the Star Wars universe has become a bit more progressive over time.
21. Star Wars And 2001: A Space Odyssey Have Almost Exactly The Same Crew
George Lucas was such a massive fan of fellow director Stanley Kubrick, especially his epic space drama 2001: A Space Odyssey, that he set about getting as many people as he could from that film to work on his.
The films themselves have many references to its predecessor as well as sharing props.
22. There Are No Physical Clone Troopers
In the Star Wars prequels, all of the suits of armor for the clone troopers are CGI and a physical suit was never built despite their predecessors being a master class in practical effects.
Damn old CGI… In my day!
23. Qui-Gon Jinn Used A Razor As His Communicator
The communicator that Qui-Gon Jinn speaks into in The Phantom Menace is made from the handle of a Gillette Ladies Sensor Excell Razor!
It was spray painted silver and with solder lugs and matrix pins attached.
24. E.T. Exists In The Star Wars Universe
Legendary director and friend of George Lucas, Steven Spielberg pushed the boundaries of sci-fi when he made his story of a lost alien called E.T. and Lucas was a fan of the film as was Spielberg of Star Wars. In E.T., the titular alien spots a child in a Yoda costume for Halloween and approaches him as if knowing who he is.
Lucas returned the nod when he made The Phantom Menace by including a group of aliens who look just like E.T. in the Imperial Senate.
25. Ewoks Speak Tibetan
Key phrases of the Ewok language are actually Tibetan and Nepalese although the overall language is fictional.
Likewise, the Jawas in the original trilogy speak a sped up version of Zulu and Lando Calrissian’s pilot Nien Nunb spoke Haya, a Tanzanian dialect.
26. David Lynch Was Asked To Direct Return of The Jedi
Legendary director David Lynch is known for making weird, wonderful and slightly off-beat films and television such as Dune and Twin Peaks, but he was approached by George Lucas to direct the third in his original trilogy.
However, perhaps thinking Star Wars was too commercial for someone of his more indie tastes, Lynch passed on the idea.
27. Darth Vader Cannot Attend Star Wars Events
David Prowse played Darth Vader in physical form and James Earl Jones’ voice was dubbed over his. Prowse has a somewhat tumultuous relationship with George Lucas who apparently found him irritating and accused him of leaking Darth Vader’s identity before the release of the film. Whether this is true or not, Prowse had been promised to be both seen and heard at the end of the trilogy when Vader’s mask is removed but Lucas went with a different actor which upset him.
In any case, Prowse has been banned from any LucasFilm associated events and this includes conventions. There is no word as of yet if Disney will rescind this ban since they now own LucasFilm.
28. TIE Fighters Are Elephants
The Sound of the TIE fighters is an elephant’s bellow mixed with the sound of a car driving on wet pavement.
Like the lightsaber sounds, these sound engineers didn’t have much in the way of computer technology so had to make the most of the natural sounds around them.
29. Chewbacca’s Voice Is Of Many Animals
The sound of Chewbacca’s iconic growl comes from many different animals. Lucas suggested that bears might be a good sound and so sound designer Burtt collected the grunts and roars of bears, along with the sounds of walruses, lions, and many other animals.
By associating what sounds the animals made through stress, fear, and anger, he then created Chewbacca’s voice.
30. Lightsabres Are TVs
The noise of a lightsaber is actually a combination of the hum of an old television’s picture tube and the buzz of a film projector’s motor.
Not exactly inventive but still pretty cool for the time.
31. Collectible Star Wars Coins Are Legal Tender In Niue
The tiny island of Niue accepts limited edition Star Wars collectible coins as currency but since their actual value is much higher than their face value, it seems unlikely you’d ever want to spend them.
Still, where else in the world can you trade fictional currency? Well, aside from Bitcoin… And the bad joke of the year award goes to….
32. Liam Neeson Was Too Tall For The Doorways
Liam Neeson is a big man at 6″ 4′ but the set designers didn’t take this into account when they first made them for The Phantom Menace.
It was a costly mistake as well as it took another $150,000 to make it right.
33. There Are Enough Fan Videos To Make A Shot For Shot Remake Of The First Two Films
So vast is the Star Wars fandom that enough fan videos have been uploaded to the internet to recreate the first two films of the original trilogy shot for shot out of this footage.
Incidentally, someone has done just that with the first film which you can watch here.
34. Jabba The Hut Was Supposed To Be Furry
Original designs of Jabba made him out to be furry and whiskered until they settled on the slug-like creature he eventually became.
Some of these designs made it into comic books before the film was released.
35. George Lucas Left The Directors Guild Because of Star Wars
In the directors guild, strict rules determine how to go about opening a film but Lucas did not adhere to the traditional opening credit scene and thus resigned. The guild insisted that credits appear at the beginning of the film but Lucas held them until the end.
Initially not bothered by this because they thought the first film would fail anyway, they pressed home the point when the second in the original trilogy was released. They tried to fine Lucas but were unsuccessful so turned their attention to director Irvin Kershner. Lucas went ahead and paid the whole fine himself, amounting to about $250,000 and then dropped his membership from both guilds and the Motion Picture Association of America.
36. The Opening Crawl Was Filmed Manually
Without the digital technology at hand, the opening writing that pans up out of shot was actually filmed manually with the words printed out on a glossy plate and a camera moving over it.
Of course, in later editions, it did become a digital crawl.
37. Harrison Ford Wasn’t First Choice To Be Han Solo
Front runners for the smuggler were Burt Reynolds, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson and Christopher Walken but for one reason or another, Lucas picked the young actor who he’d worked with previously on American Graffiti.
And the rest, as the saying goes, is history, with Ford now worth a reported $230m.
38. Empire Strikes Back Uses The Most Stop-Motion Animation Of All Star Wars Films
The AT-AT walkers in the battle of Hoth are all stop motion and so the film uses the most in all Star Wars films to date.
Nowadays every Star Wars movie is littered with special effects and various other forms of animated technology. It’s little wonder Empire is often considered the best Star Wars movie of all time.
39. John Ratzenberger Makes A Cameo Appearance In The Empire Strikes Back
The man whose voice is in every Pixar film and played Calvin Clavin in iconic 80s sitcom Cheers has a cameo where he says to Han Solo not to go out into the cold.
Now that’s pretty cool!
40. Han Solo Was Almost Killed Off In The Original Trilogy
The original ending to George Lucas’ trilogy was much darker with the rebels defeated, Luke disappearing into the wilderness and Han Solo being killed off.
Lucas decided that this might affect toy sales however so changed it to a much brighter one.