The Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope transported viewers into an outer space bar filled with aliens, creatures, and humans from across the galaxy. Despite lasting less than seven minutes, this iconic scene has become a favorite of Star Wars fans everywhere. Even film critic Roger Ebert found the scene fascinating, as stated in his 1977 review of the movie: “As that incredible collection of extraterrestrial alcoholics and bug-eyed martini drinkers lined up at the bar, and as Lucas so slyly let them exhibit characteristics that were universally human, I found myself feeling a combination of admiration and delight.”
However, the real charm of this scene can be found in its behind-the-scene moments, newly expanded history, and influence beyond the Star Wars universe. From the backstory of the cantina owner to the picture of Greedo in high heels, here are the 15 Things You Didn't Know About The Mos Eisley Cantina.
The planning for Star Wars began back in 1971 when George Lucas signed a contract with Universal Studios. In this deal, he was obligated to make both Star Wars and American Graffiti. Once American Graffiti had been completed in 1973, Lucas began working on the script for the space opera. After running into issues developing his initial story, he started over with The Star Wars in April 1973. Though Lucas did not have the full plot developed, the Mos Eisley Cantina was not far from his mind.
Lucas created a 13-page treatment for his movie for The Star Wars. Included in these initial ideas included an epic space battle and a cantina scene. According to a Yahoo Movies article about the making of the cantina scene, the scene’s initial plans were shared in an interview in J.W. Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars. In this 1973 interview, it is stated that, “Lucas described a ‘lazer sword’ confrontation that occurred in ‘a shabby cantina’ a ‘murky little den… filled with a startling array of weird and exotic Aliens laughing and drinking at the bar.’” From that point on, the cantina remained an integral part of the script and the Star Wars universe.
The cantina scene has become iconic for Star Wars fans. The sight of the various aliens, humans, and other creatures was a peek into the movie's vast universe. Sadly, this “pirate city” hotspot was not featured again in the rest of the film or the other films of the franchise. In fact, the entire scene lasted under seven minutes. It is remarkable how memorable this scene has been to fans and yet it was over so quickly.
The cantina was revisited onscreen in another Star Wars series. In the 3D CGI animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Che Amanwe, daughter of the Chairman of Pantora, was kidnapped by Greedo. As her father and her brother, Ion, tracked down the kidnapper, they are led to Tatooine and back to our favorite cantina. And, of course, a fight ensued.
Though these two appearances are considered canon in the Star Wars universe, the cantina has been featured in a certain noncanonical holiday special that many fans would like to forget. During the 1978 musical The Star Wars Holiday Special, the cantina appeared in one of the many segments of the film. We won’t go into more details other than to say it involved a singing bartender played by Golden Girls actress Bea Arthur. Yeah…
After its release on May 27, 1977, Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope) became an instant international success and made stars of all of the cast members and even the crew. Fans were instantly drawn to the Mos Eisley Cantina scene for its various creatures and dangerous allure.
It was not long until Star Wars became a pop culture phenomenon and companies jumped at the chance to profit from its popularity. Two such instances featured the cantina in all its glory: The Richard Pryor Show and a 1979 drunk-driving PSA.
On Richard Pryor’s show, he played a bartender in a seedy bar similar to the Mos Eisley Cantina called the Star Wars Bar. He is surrounded by familiar faces from the film including the cantina’s frequent customer, Greedo. The famous Star Wars theme song is even used to introduce the comedy sketch.
In the 30-second drunk driving PSA, viewers are transported back to the cantina with the famous Cantina Band playing its favorite song as its patrons chat and drink. One particular customer, a drunk Talz, is helped out of the bar by his friend, a Durosian. The voiceover actor reminded the audience that “Even in galaxies far, far away… friends don’t let friends drive drunk,” as the commercial ended with the Millennium Falcon speeding away into space.
No real history for the cantina has been revealed in any of the Star Wars franchise movies and shows. However, with the introduction of more themed comics, novels, and guides, the backstory of Tatooine’s grimy tavern started to take shape. Famously known as the Mos Eisley Cantina, the establishment’s alternate name is Chalmun’s Cantina-- named for its Wookiee owner.
Chalmun was first introduced in the 1993 Star Wars Legend book, Galaxy Guide 7: Mos Eisley. This beige-and-grey-haired Wookiee’s previous occupation was as a street thug and swindler that tricked tourists out of their money in the Ord Mantell casinos. Once he saved enough money, he purchased the cantina and made it his own.
In fact, Chalmun was the owner of the cantina during the Galactic Civil War, meaning he was still the owner when the cantina was featured in the A New Hope. It was not until 2014 that he was depicted in the picture book The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight, and officially added to Star Wars canon.
As more details expand the backstories of the franchise, the Mos Eisley Cantina has been written into a fully developed establishment with employees and even beverage menus. Other than owner Chalmun, the cantina’s staff included Wuher, bartender extraordinaire (as seen in A New Hope) and Tork, one of the bouncers that happily ejected the drunk and disorderly from the establishment.
For the patrons of the cantina, the beverage menu included several specialty drinks from across the galaxy. According to Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know, customers sipped on the infamous blue milk (seen throughout the Star Wars movies), Jawa Juice (or Ardees, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s go-to beverage in Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones), the fruity Tatooine Sunset, Yatooni Boska (made from fermented dewback sweat… ew), and two Hutt specialties, Tatooni Junko and Hutt’s Delight.
Customers were also expected to follow the posted house rules:
"Leave your droids outside. You don't want Wuher on your case. Keep your blaster holstered! Why ask for trouble? Find an empty table or barstool. Crowding other customers will only end in tears. Be friendly. Buy a drink for your neighbor at the bar. Applaud the band—even if they're way off-key!"
Speaking of house rules, the “No Droids” rule was not just bartender Wuher personally being prejudiced against C-3PO and R2-D2. It was an established rule of the bar for a reason. And while some fans contest that Wuher’s particular line, “We don’t serve your kind,” was added to reflect real world prejudice, others speculate that the droid ban was created based on sound financial reasoning.
The theory is that the bar rule was set in place to ensure the establishment stayed profitable. If customers brought in their droids, they would take up space from other patrons. Also, since they are droids, they have no need to drink alcohol and, therefore, wouldn’t be paying customers. So you would have additional space taken away from well-paying, (soon-to-be) drunk customers. From a business standpoint, it makes a lot of sense.
Mos Eisley’s in-house cantina band is synonymous with the cantina itself. Usually included in the background of any description or depiction of the cantina, these performers provided lively entertainment for the many bounty hunters, pilots, and smugglers that visited the bar. Though the band was not given a name in the movies, we later learned that the band’s official name is Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes.
Comprised of seven Bith musicians from the planet Clak'dor VII, the band became popular during the Clone Wars, but the public lost interest in them over time. The band members, according to StarWars.com, also have names and specific instruments: “The Modal Nodes’ leader, “Fiery” Figrin D’an, played the Kloo horn, though some patrons preferred his work on the Gasan string drum. Other members of the Modal Nodes were Nalan Cheel (Bandfill), Doikk Na’ts (Dorenian Beshniquel), Tedn Dahai (Fanfar), Tech M’or (Ommni box), Ickabel G’ont (Double Jocimer) and Sun’il Ei’de (drums).”
There is an additional eighth member, but he chose to sit out of the band’s performance in A New Hope instead. He can be seen sitting in a nearby booth.
So we have covered the house rules, beverage options, and the cantina band. However, no visit to Mos Eisley Cantina is complete without hearing Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes’s signature number. Usually referred to as “Cantina Band,” the real title of the catchy melody is "Mad About Me."
Composed by famed Star Wars composer John Williams, this lively tune was the result of George Lucas’s suggestion to Williams to “imagine several creatures in a future century finding some 1930s Benny Goodman swing band music in a time capsule or under a rock someplace… how they might attempt to interpret it?”
The song had not been completed yet when filming commenced for A New Hope. To ensure the band was moving to the right beat, they played the Benny Goodman jazz hit from the1930s, “Sing, Sing, Sing,” out loud for the actors. Today, “Mad About Me” is still one of the most famous songs from the Star Wars soundtrack.
The soundtrack for Star Wars, which included the song “Mad About Me”, went platinum in the United States and gold in the United Kingdom. However, the Mos Eisley Cantina song truly stood out to music producer Meco (whose real name is Domenico Monard). After viewing the movie four times in the first two days of its release, he became fascinated with the song and pitched the idea of a disco cover to Casablanca Records. Meco went on to create the album “Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk” in 1977. The album included a disco infused mash-up of The Star Wars Theme and “Mad About Me”.
His album managed to outsell the Star Wars soundtrack and reached the Billboard Hot 100. However, his song "Star Wars Theme and Cantina Band" gained popularity worldwide and eventually landed a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “best-selling single of instrumental music”. The song still holds that record to this day.
Three set locations were used to bring George Lucas’s vision of the Mos Eisley Cantina to life. Exterior shots of Mos Eisley and its cantina took place in Ajim, Tunisia. However, it required two different interior shoots to capture the lively, yet short-lived cantina scene.
Shoots initially started in London, England at the Elstree Studios. A team of seven special-effects-makeup artists was tasked with creating the alien masks for the shoot in only ten weeks. Lucas had a specific plan for the creation of the various masks and accompanying costumes. All of the characters seen up to this point in the movie were relatively ordinary so “these elements were designed to jolt audience members out of their familiar reality and fully into the world of Star Wars”, according to a Yahoo Movies article. With 42 extras dedicated to this one scene, the shooting took place over several days in April 1976.
However, during filming, head artist Stuart Freeborn was hospitalized and could not finish some of the aliens for the scene. To fully develop his vision for the scene, production restarted a year later in Los Angeles.
After principal photography for the movie had concluded, re-shoots for the Mos Eisley Cantina scene started in Los Angeles in January 1977. By this point, the special effects of the movie had pushed the production over budget, so they only had $20,000 to create new aliens and costumes in six weeks. Twenty new creatures were created for this shoot, including the costumes for Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes.
With limited resources and only a couple days to reshoot, Lucas used many Lucasfilm staff members to fill in as extras in the scene. Though some makeup artists were employed in the reshoots, many of the extras were office employees. According to a Yahoo Movies article, “There was a cattle call; they had secretaries and people from accounting.”
The crew shot one section of the scene, then quickly switched masks and filmed the next one immediately after. Lucas had finally finished the cantina scene he had planned since the early days of writing Star Wars.
The Mos Eisley Cantina scene stood out in the movie because of the various creatures and aliens that were created. The creative teams behind both shoots designed masks and special-effects-makeup that were unlike any other sci-fi movie or TV show out during that time. Once the film was released, many of these artists became quite famous, leading to careers in some of today’s popular shows and movies.
Rick Baker, for example, was a creature designer on the Los Angeles shoot. Baker further developed his career over the years and eventually landed the role of makeup effects designer on Michael Jackson’s epic music video Thriller. Phil Tippett, a member of Baker’s LA cantina team, went on to become the dinosaur supervisor on Steven Spielberg’s massive hit Jurassic Park. Tippett, also known for helping in creating other iconic Star Wars creatures including Jabba the Hutt, even returned to the set of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens to assist with its special effects.
As stated by Yahoo Movies, other soon-to-be famous team members included, “artists Jon Berg (who would work on Ghostbusters and Gremlins), Laine Liska (Alien 3, Flight of the Navigator), Doug Beswick (The Terminator, Aliens), and future The Howling and Fight Club makeup artist Rob Bottin.”
Between the London and LA shoots, one creature in particular got the special treatment in the Mos Eisley Cantina scene. Bounty hunter Greedo had to be reshot in LA because George Lucas wanted to change his close-ups. Though originally played by English actor Paul Blake, the LA set called on Canadian actress Maria De Aragon to complete the reshoots. Pictures have circulated on the internet of the actress in full Greedo costume except for her feet. She can be seen wearing a pair of pumps. Nice fashion choice, Greedo.
Besides a change of personnel, Greedo also gained the ability to speak. His dialect was based on an ancient Incan language with the final lines manipulated to sound more alien-like. Mechanical issues with creating a moving mask resulted in De Argon having to use a clothespin in her mouth to make Greedo’s mouth move. Quite a bit of work was put into this character only to have him killed off by Han Solo.
If the thought of only experiencing the Mos Eisley Cantina at the movies is not enough, you are in luck. If you are willing to take a trip to Hollywood, you can enjoy the dining experience in-person. The Scum and Villainy Cantina is a pop-up bar based on the famous hangout. Opened in 2016, the temporary hotspot is available from 11 pm – 2 am but does take reservations for earlier hours.
If you are lucky enough to snag a reservation, you will receive, “two cleverly named drinks, a souvenir pint glass and a Scum and Villainy challenge coin”, according to an A.V. Club article. To make a reservation, you must purchase a ticket ahead of time at the cost of $50 plus a $3.99 NightOut service fee. Alternatively, for $15 more, you can also receive a collectible shirt and hat.
According to their website, tickets are already sold out for their re-launch in April of this year. However, you can still keep trying for other dates later in the year.
If a pop-up bar still isn’t enough, you may be able to take your friends and loved ones to the new Star Wars themed lands coming to Disney parks in 2019. Star Wars Land has begun construction at both Disneyland park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. According to DisneyParks.com, visitors of the themed lands “will be transported to a never-before-seen planet – a remote trading port and one of the last stops before wild space – where Star Wars characters and their stories come to life.”
Mock-ups include a Millennium Falcon ride and an on-site cantina experience. Now, we know that this is not going to an exact replica of the Mos Eisley Cantina, but we have to hope that elements of the original make it into these parks. At least give us Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes “on tour” playing “Mad About Me.” Details are limited for now, but we can still hope that our favorite galaxy tavern will make an appearance in some form.
Do you have any facts to share about the Mos Eisley Cantina from Star Wars? Let us know in the comments!