'Star Wars'! 40 Surprising Facts from a Galaxy Far, Far Away

By Jasmin Malik Chua, Space.com Contributor | May 25, 2017 07:46am ET
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Credit: Lucasfilm Surprising Facts
On May 25, 1977, a director named George Lucas gave the world its first glimpse of a galaxy far, far away. Who knew that a space opera about a farm boy who befriends a wizard and a smuggler pirate, frees a princess and liberates a galaxy would spawn a multibillion-dollar franchise and cultural touchstone? Not 20th Century Fox, and certainly not Lucas, who was convinced it would flop.
"Star Wars" would end up making $1.5 million on its opening weekend and more than $220 million during its first run - a veritable fortune at the time.
Forty years and eight films later, Lucas' depiction of the battle between good and evil remains as relevant today as it was then. In honor of the 40th anniversary of "Star Wars: A New Hope," here are 40 surprising facts about the movie that started it all.
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Credit: Lucasfilm John Williams
John Williams, the Oscar-winning composer who scored the music for almost every "Star Wars" movie (excluding "The Clone Wars" and "Rogue One"), told the Mirror he has never sat all the way through any of the "Star Wars" movies.
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Credit: While playing Chewbacca, Peter Mayhew spoke his lines in English. The dialogue was later dubbed into Wookie - a combination of bear, walrus, lion and badger sounds - during postproducti Chewbacca
While playing Chewbacca, Peter Mayhew spoke his lines in English. The dialogue was later dubbed into Wookie - a combination of bear, walrus, lion and badger sounds - during postproduction.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Princess Leia
Because Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa) was a foot shorter than Ford, she had to stand on a box for most of their scenes together.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Inspiration
Lucas' Alaskan malamute inspired the character of Chewbacca. "A very sweet dog, she would always sit next to me when I was writing," he said. "And when I'd drive around, she'd sit in the front seat. A malamute is a very large dog - like a 130 pounds and bigger than a human being, and very long- haired."
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Credit: Everett Collection Competition
When Lucas visited Steven Spielberg on the set of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," he was convinced his friend's movie would eclipse his own. "George came back from 'Star Wars' a nervous wreck," Spielberg recounted. "He didn't feel 'Star Wars' came up to the vision he initially had. He felt he had just made this little kids' movie." Lucas proposed a trade: 2.5 percent of the profits from "Star Wars" in exchange for 2.5 percent of "Close Encounters." Spielberg took the gamble, and receives royalties from the film to this day.
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Credit: Gerardo Mora/Getty Han Solo
Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo, wasn't a fan of Lucas' script. In fact, he once groused to the director "George, you can type this s---, but you can't say it!"
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Credit: Lucasfilm/Zuma R2-D2
In Lucas's original treatment, R2-D2 could speak. A 1974 draft of the movie gave him such lines as, "The structure has exceeded the normal stress quotient by point four, although there appears to be no immediate danger."
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Credit: Lucasfilm Danger
While filming the trash compactor scene, Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) held his breath so long he popped a blood vessel. As a result, many of the shots show only one side of his face.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Love
Fisher and Ford had an "intense" three-month affair while filming "Star Wars: A New Hope," according to Fisher. Ford was a married father of two at the time.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Obi-Wan Kenobi
In a letter to a friend, Alec Guinness, who played Obi-Wan Kenobi, dismissed "Star Wars" as "fairy-tale rubbish." He also later claimed it was his idea to have his character killed off so he "wouldn't have to carry on saying these rubbish lines."
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Credit: Shutterstock Rights
By agreeing to waive $500,000 in directing fees, Lucas persuaded 20th Century Fox to let him maintain licensing and merchandising rights. Consequently, the studio missed out on billions in profits.
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Credit: Central Press/Getty Darth Vader
Lucas originally wanted the iconic film director Orson Welles to voice Darth Vader, but feared that his intonations would be "too recognizable." Besides his many films, Welles is famous for his radio adaptation of H. G. Wells' novel "The War of the Worlds," which caused terrified some listeners when broadcast in 1938.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Weapons
Sound designer Ben Burtt created the lightsaber's signature buzz by combining the hum of an old film projector's motors with the interference caused by a TV on a shieldless microphone.
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Credit: Julien's Auctions/Rex/Zuma Brothers
"Star Wars" was originally titled "Adventures of the Starkiller, Episode One: The Star Wars." It featured two brothers: Deak and Luke Skywalker.
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Credit: Steve Wood/Express/Getty Choices
Al Pacino, best known for his roles in "The Godfather" and "Scarface," turned down the part of Han Solo because he found the script too confusing.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Grand Moff Tarkin
Peter Cushing's riding boots pinched his feet so much that Lucas let him wear slippers on the set. That's why you only see Grand Moff Tarkin from the knees up or strategically positioned behind a desk.
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Credit: MGM Crew
Lucas admired Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" so much he hired most of its production crew. The alums were dubbed the "Class of 2001" on the set, CBS News reports.
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Credit: Lucasfilm The Can
When the cast and crew broke for lunch, they would frequently forget that Kenny Baker was still in the R2-D2 "can" and leave him behind, according to IMDB.
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Credit: Shutterstock Tatooine
Tatooine got its name from the Tunisian city of Tatouine, although no shooting was conducted there. Various locations in southern Tunisia stood in for the desert planet, and many of the wood-and-fiberglass structures from the movie are still in use today, mostly as tourist attractions.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Wedge Antilles
Denis Lawson, who played the starfighter pilot Wedge Antilles, is the uncle of Ewan McGregor, who portrayed a younger Obi-Wan Kenobi in the prequels.
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Credit: Sotheby's/Rex/Zuma Toys
The success of the first "Star Wars" film took many people by surprise - especially the toy company Kenner, which knew it wouldn't be able to produce enough "Star Wars" toys in time for Christmas. The company ended up selling an "Early Bird Certificate Package": an empty box with a mail-in certificate that could be redeemed for figurines of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, R2-D2 and Chewbacca several months later.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Late Additions
The original film debuted in theaters in 1977 with the title "Star Wars." The subtitles "Episode IV" and "A New Hope" appeared in the opening crawl only in releases after 1981 following the second film, "Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back." Several theories exist about why Lucas numbered the first two movies as he did, but the true reason remains a mystery.
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Credit: Everett Collection Creating Demand
Theaters weren't exactly eager to screen "Star Wars" back in 1977. To guarantee showings, 20th Century Fox insisted that if theaters wanted a print of "The Other Side of Midnight," a film expected to be the hit of the summer, they had to book "Star Wars" as well.
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Credit: Universal Paying Honor
The opening crawl was an homage to the "Flash Gordon" serials of the 1930s and 1940s, one of the primary influences on the "Star Wars" movies.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Technical Specifics
Also known as the roll-up, the crawl was filmed by moving the camera longitudinally along a physical model about 2 feet (0.6 meters) wide and 6 feet (1.8 meters) long.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Wardrobe
Lucas told Fisher that she couldn't wear a bra under her costume because "there's no underwear in space." To preserve her modesty, she was given gaffer's tape, instead.
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Credit: Universal Profits
"Star Wars" was the highest-grossing movie of all time until "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" clinched the title in 1983.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Illusions
Your memory may tell you otherwise, but the "The Imperial March" that accompanies Darth Vader's appearance isn't heard until "The Empire Strikes Back," which came out in 1980.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Training
To convincingly wield her blaster, Fisher took gun lessons from the "same guys who taught Robert De Niro for 'Taxi Driver,'" she told Interview Magazine.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Languages
Utini! The Jawa language is based on Zulu (a South African language) and sped up in postproduction.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Concept Art
According to some of Ralph McQuarrie's concept art, an early version of Luke Skywalker's character was a 16-year-old girl.
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Credit: Everett Collection Casting
Lucas originally hired Ford, whom he worked with in the 1973 film "American Graffiti," to play off actors auditioning for roles. His line readings were so convincing, Lucas decided to cast him as Han Solo.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Script Changes
Before he was a roguish Corellian pirate, Han Solo was written as a green- skinned monster with gills.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Jedi
An earlier draft of the screenplay for "Star Wars" referred to the Jedi as "Dai Nogas."
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Credit: Toho Influences
Lucas has cited the work of acclaimed Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa - particularly the 1958 adventure film "The Hidden Fortress" - as a defining influence. The Jedi likely owe their name to jidaigeki, the period- drama genre to which "The Hidden Fortress" belongs.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Voices
The voice of Garindan (aka Long Snoot and the "greatest spy in Mos Eisley spaceport") is that of John Wayne, distorted in postproduction.
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Credit: Everett Collection Muse
For the character of Han Solo, Lucas channeled the personality of fellow director Francis Ford Coppola, who impressed Lucas with his smooth-talking charm.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Reaching New Audiences
In 2013, "Star Wars: A New Hope" became the first picture to be dubbed in a Native American language - Navajo.
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Credit: AP Breaking Barriers
"Star Wars: A New Hope" became the first sci-fi movie to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1978. (The winner was Woody Allen's "Annie Hall.")
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Credit: Lucasfilm Costume Malfunctions
The Darth Vader mask was too big for David Prowse's face, so the costume department padded it with foam and stuck Velcro at its base. Prowse claimed that it still wobbled, however, when the wind machines were at full blast.
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Credit: Lucasfilm Your Turn
How many of these "Star Wars" facts did you know? If you know any more fun "Star Wars" trivia, share them in the comments below!
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