The combined price for Disney’s Marvel acquisition and Lucafilm purchase totals over $8 billion. Studio executives face a similar hefty payout, assuming they move forward with (for now, rumored) plans to absorb Hasbro next. Obviously, these decisions are motivated by a desire for more profit – be it in terms of actual movie ticket sales or merchandising tie-ins – but why, exactly, is Disney gobbling up such properties as The Avengers and Star Wars in particular?
Well, the company aims to better appeal to the young male demographic – seeing how it has no problem targeting young girls, thanks to its Princess movie and toy line – and thus, is busy amassing boy-friendly comic book and/or sci-fi franchises to accomplish that end. Star Wars is, after all, an essential part of our pop culture heritage, but there’s no denying: in terms of the films’ casting, it’s a bit of a boys-only club.
Case in point: rarely-seen photos from Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi have emerged online, revealing what would’ve been the first three female fighter pilots in the franchise’s history. Instead, that honor eventually went to Celia Imrie, who appeared as ‘Fighter Pilot Bravo 5′ during the space battle climax of Episode I – The Phantom Menace - assuming you choose to not count the green-clad female pilot (featured in the galleries above and below), whose voice was dubbed over with a man’s during post-production.
Meanwhile, the other fighters pictured in our galleries (including, French actress Vivienne Chandler) either ended up on the cutting room floor or never made it past the pre-viz stage; that’s despite Chandler’s X-Wing pilot having over a substantial amount of dialogue (supposedly over a page in a certain script draft). It has been speculated they were abandoned over concerns that audiences wouldn’t take well to watching women in serious peril or being blown to smithereens (back in 1983, that is).
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Of course, over the three decade that’ve passed since then, female characters are becoming more and more commonplace in the sci-fi “workplace” – be it in terms of cult television series (Battlestar Galactica, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Firefly), film franchises (Resident Evil) or mainstream blockbusters (The Hunger Games). Hence, it’s a great time for Episode VII screenwriter Michael Arndt - and the person who walks away with the Episode VII directing job – to create some kick-ass female pilots and warriors alike for a new generation of Star Wars fans to enjoy (and older ones too).
It also makes sense from a business perspective, in terms of reaching out more to young women who aren’t Star Wars fans; not to mention, holding onto many who already adore George Lucas’ fantastical sci-fi universe. That’s all the more difficult to pull off, when you keep on giving just one female character significant screen time per trilogy (ie. Padme in Episodes I-III, Leia in Episodes IV-VI).
You can find out more about the lost female fighter pilots in Return of the Jedi by checking out the Star Wars ‘Original Trilogy’ Blu-ray.
Meanwhile, Star Wars: Episode VII is arriving Summer 2015.