In 1977, a quirky little science fiction film with the slightly vague name Star Wars was released. While it was only expected to gain moderate success among a population of niche followers, the film quickly garnered massive fame, leading it to become one of the most epic and beloved film franchises in the history of cinema.
In today’s age, Star Wars has practically created a separate genre of film just for itself, with spin-off television shows, books, video games, sequels, and prequels constantly in development. The total box office revenue of the combined films has reached over 7.5 billion dollars over the years.
Because of the vast number of media devoted to Star Wars, over the past few decades the universe has become incredibly dense with details and trivia. As a result, many surprising facts about the production of these films have been forgotten, or even buried to the public. Even die-hard fans aren't aware of some of the heartwarming, hilarious, and fascinating facts behind the scenes of this epic space opera.
15 Alec Guinness thought the movies were “rubbish”
Before Alec Guinness originated the role of Obi Wan in the first Star Wars, he was a classically trained actor known for films like Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai, for which he won an Oscar.
Because of his background rooted in Shakespearean theatre, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Guinness thought this sci-fi production, with its quirky alien characters, was beneath him. What is a little more surprising is knowing just how much he hated the film, because, boy, did Guinness reportedly hate these movies.
In Guiness’ 2003 biography, the author included several letters written by Guinness to a friend detailing his involvement with Star Wars, which he referred to as “fairy-tale rubbish.” In the letter, Guiness explained that he only took the part because of the offer of $150,000 plus two percent of producer’s profits, and because he knew Lucas had directed American Graffiti.
Guinness also wrote about how little he was enjoying filming, calling both Harrison Ford and George Lucas the wrong names, and describing his disgust with the “rubbish dialogue” and his unbearable character. Although the film ended up getting him another Oscar nomination, Guiness threw away any Star Wars-related fan mail without even opening it.
14 George Lucas almost ended Episode VI with Luke turning to the dark side
Although the ending of Return of the Jedi is an emotionally resonant conclusion to the original trilogy complete with clone helmet bongo drums, the original ideas for the ending of the film were not quite as uplifting. The film considered several alternate endings, with a particularly shocking one involving Luke turning to the dark side instead of fighting for the Rebels.
In this draft of the screenplay, after Vader sacrifices himself to save Luke and destroys Emperor Palpatine, Luke helps Vader take off his helmet and places it on his own head. In the exact words of the draft, “Luke takes off his mask. The mask is the very last thing – and then Luke puts it on and says, ‘Now I am Vader.’” Definitely not as much reason for an Ewok party.
13 *NSYNC almost played Jedi warriors in Attack of the Clones
There isn’t typically a big fan crossover between boy bands and science fiction films, but in 2001, the two genres of pop culture almost meshed in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. When the daughters of George Lucas and producer Rick McCallum pressured their fathers to have *NSYNC appear in Episode 2, the team extended the offer of a few small roles to the band.
Although Justin Timberlake and Lance Bass declined the opportunity, Joey Fatone and other members of the band accepted the parts of Jedi knights in the Geonosis battle and the background of a meeting between Yoda and Obi Wan.
The *NSYNC boys were given robes and Padawan braids with lightsabers and showed up on set to shoot the two scenes, but unfortunately for boy band lovers and fortunately for everyone else, these scenes did not make it into the final cut of the film, and the band’s chance to become Star Wars legends went “Bye Bye Bye”.
12 Luke Skywalker was originally called Luke Starkiller
Many die-hard Star Wars fans were shocked to find out recently through a Twitter Q&A with Mark Hamill that Luke Skywalker was not the first choice of names for this iconic character.
In fact, the cast and crew had been using the name “Luke Starkiller” months into production, filming with the name in Tunisia and London. Hamill even shot the film's memorable Princess Leia rescue scene, saying “I’m Luke Starkiller, here to rescue you.”
Luke’s surname was changed mainly due to the recent murder of actress Sharon Tate by Charles Manson, and Lucas didn’t want any connotations from “star killer” to be drawn by audiences. As a result the name was edited so there wouldn’t be any uneasy feelings about the film’s hero.
Years later, J.J. Abrams gave a nod to the name Starkiller in The Force Awakens by naming The First Order’s version of the Death Star the "Starkiller base."
11 Grand Moff Tarkin wore slippers during his scenes
With his chilling eyes and sharp features, Peter Cushing was known as a horror actor for much of his career, starring in films about Frankenstein, Dracula, mummies, ghouls, and werewolves before he took on the sinister Grand Moff Tarkin.
Because Tarkin has the power to coldly destroy worlds with the snap of his fingers, it is quite a charming twist to find out that Cushing was wearing carpet slippers for many of his scenes in Star Wars.
Because Cushing has large, size 12 feet, the costume department had a hard time finding the right high boots for him to wear on set and ended up giving him a pair of shoes which painfully squeezed his toes.
After struggling to remain menacing in these boots during shooting, Cushing asked Lucas if he could be filmed from the waist up for the rest of the scenes so his feet would be cut out of frame. Lucas agreed, so Cushing spent the rest of his time on set terrorizing Carrie Fisher and destroying the universe in comfort.
10 C-3PO's costume broke and stabbed Anthony Daniels
Although the concept art for C-3PO is an aesthetically interesting blend of the human form with metallic robotics, the experience of actually living inside C-3PO was a little less shiny for actor Anthony Daniels.
The costume consisted of a black body glove covered by restrictive, heavy aluminum, brass, and plastic, so filming for long hours inside this metallic coffin was not an overly pleasant task. Combining that with the sweltering temperatures of the Tunisian desert and you can begin to understand what Daniels went through on set.
According to Daniels, the heat was not the only difficult part of living inside C-3PO’s metallic skin. There were also a good deal of complications with the suit itself breaking constantly during shoots.
In one particularly painful malfunction, the left leg of the suit shattered, breaking through the encasing around Daniels foot and stabbing him. Luckily, Daniels didn’t have any major injuries from the incident and was able to continue filming.
9 Carrie Fisher only wore gaffer tape under her costume
The late, beloved Carrie Fisher was just 21 years old when she was cast as Princess Leia in Star Wars, a part that would quickly propel her to fame and become one of the most iconic female roles in American cinema.
Although the part afforded Fisher the chance to start her successful career as a film actress, the process wasn’t entirely glamorous. Not only was she told to lose 35 pounds before the project began shooting, but she would soon find out that she would be shooting her scenes in commando.
According to her book, Wishful Drinking, George Lucas approached Fisher on the first day of filming and informed her that she wouldn’t be able to wear a bra on set. According to him, “there is no underwear in space,” which he explained with an elaborate anecdote about space weightlessness resulted in a woman getting strangled by her own bra. For this reason, Fisher had to tape over her breasts with gaffer tape in the absence of real underwear.
8 Studio executives wanted Chewbacca to wear pants because his nakedness was too provocative
As the most famous Wookie in the galaxy, Chewbacca quickly became a Star Wars fan favorite, possibly only matched by R2-D2. Because Chewie isn’t quite a human and isn’t quite a dog, studio executives ran into a moral dilemma when it came to the question of the creature’s nudity.
With his only article of clothing being his signature bandelier around his chest, higher-ups at Fox were afraid that this small accessory might draw attention to the fact that Chewbacca was not wearing any clothing.
According to Mark Hamill, this created quite a stir, prompting concept art to be drawn up of Chewie wearing everything from lederhosen to skirts to cutoff shorts. Reportedly, Lucas was determined to keep Chewie naked, and after knowing the lengths he went to to make sure Carrie Fisher was not wearing underwear, apparently we shouldn’t be surprised.
7 Yoda was almost played by a monkey wearing a mask
At times an adorable senior citizen and at other times a fierce, fighting machine, Yoda holds a soft spot in the heart of any Star Wars fan. While Yoda has become a staple of pop culture with his pointy ears and mismatched speech patterns, his original character design was actually not a green puppet.
In fact, he wasn’t originally supposed to be maneuvered by a human at all. The original Yoda was a monkey in a mask. No, that is not a joke.
Lucas’ primary vision for Yoda was to hire a monkey and a trainer on set, and the monkey was even trained to hold Yoda’s cane. Eventually, the idea was scrapped when apparently the only reasonable person on the crew pointed out that the monkey was just going to keep pulling off his mask over and over again. This led to monkey-Yoda getting swapped for the iconic puppet we know and love today.
6 E.T.’s alien species appears in The Phantom Menace
If your eyes were understandably glazed over during one of the many dry, political debate scenes during The Phantom Menace, you might have missed a familiar looking group of aliens at the Galactic Senate-- the E.T. aliens.
This cameo occurred as a result of a deal between Stephen Spielberg, legendary director of E.T. and many other classics, and George Lucas. Because Spielberg included a cameo of Yoda among other Star Wars toys in a scene in E.T., Lucas returned the favor by giving the E.T. aliens a brief cameo in his following Star Wars film.
In Star Wars spinoff literature, this group of aliens was then given a name and an elaborate backstory. Called the Asogians, these creatures are said to be natives to the planet Brodo Asogi on the border of the Outer Rim. Their representative Senator is named Grebleips, which is Spielberg spelled backward.
5 Darth Vader’s body actor was banned from all Star Wars events and conventions
The character of Darth Vader has a tragic backstory of love, sacrifice, and manipulation, but the body actor who played Vader also has a pretty rough backstory within the Star Wars universe.
David Prowse was originally cast to play Darth Vader in Star Wars and spoke the dialogue throughout shooting the first film. However, when Lucas found Prowse’s voice to be too unintimidating due to his accent, his voice was overdubbed by James Earl Jones.
Another snub occurred when Prowse was told he would be seen and heard at the end of Return of the Jedi when Vader’s mask is pulled off by Luke, but instead ended up being replaced in this scene by actor Sebastian Shaw. Understandably, this has resulted in a tense relationship between Lucas and Prowse.
This rift deepened when Prowse agreed to appear in a documentary called The People vs. George Lucas, which provided harsh criticism toward Lucas as the Star Wars architect. Prowse also caught flack from Lucas and his team for spoiling the end of The Empire Strikes Back in a speech before its release.
In 2010, Prowse revealed that he had been banned from Star Wars-related conventions, which he believed was because Lucas found him annoying.
4 Mark Hamill burst a blood vessel in his eye during shooting, so the crew had to adjust shots
One of the most memorable scenes from A New Hope is the trash compacter scene, in which Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie fall down a garbage chute in an effort to escape a Stormtrooper crossfire.
During the scene, Luke is pulled underwater by a trash monster and strangled before escaping. While filming the scene, Mark Hamill, actor of Luke Skywalker, had an idea to make his face really red by forcing blood into his cheeks while he was underwater to make his strangulation attack look more authentic.
The tactic ended up being a little too authentic and Hamill burst a blood vessel in his eye, causing production to have to avoid one side of his face for the next few days of shooting. According to Hamill, George Lucas responded to the incident saying, “Why did you do that? It was really stupid,” while explaining that there are red camera filters to easily get the effect Hamill was attempting.
3 Jabba The Hut and Greedo don't actually speak an alien language
Although franchises like Star Trek and Lord of the Rings have incorporated fully-realized, comprehensive languages into their film universes, the creators of Star Wars opted to take influences from existing languages on earth to be used by aliens in the film.
The result of this practice is the Star Wars language of “Huttese,” which unsurprisingly is used by Jabba the Hutt and his evil counterparts. This includes Greedo, most notably of the “Han Shot First” fame. Huttese is based on Quechua, a Peruvian language native to the Andes region of South America.
In order to create this alien dialect, the sound designer for A New Hope had voice actor Larry Ward listen to recordings of people speaking Quechua so that he would be able to improvise a similar-sounding language for Greedo and Jabba to use in their scenes. The result is a hybrid of Quechua and gibberish.
2 Bounty hunter IG-88 was built from recycled props
Next to Boba Fett, IG-88 is widely known as one of the most ruthless bounty hunters in the Star Wars universe. As a droid with a towering slender figure that resembles the bones and joints of a skeleton, IG-88’s design in The Empire Strikes Back looks like he is essentially a collection of metals and robotic parts strung together-- and, for the most part, that is true.
While Ralph McQuarrie originally had a much sleeker, more modern concept art design for IG-88, the droid ended up being pieced together from recycled Star Wars parts. The focal piece of IG-88’s design, his head, is actually a part of a Rolls Royce jet engine.
This head actually appears in the franchise before the audience even meets IG-88, in the Mos Eisley cantina scene in A New Hope, where IG-88’s head served as a nifty drink dispenser.
1 Yoda’s number of toes changes between films
If you know anything about Star Wars, you know that Yoda is a bit of an enigma. Following only the film franchise, not much about Yoda’s past is immediately known, other than him being extremely old and probably the wisest and most powerful Jedi master. Possibly the only thing more difficult to discover than Yoda’s past is the true number of his toes.
It turns out that Yoda’s speech pattern is not the only thing that takes effort to decipher. Depending on which film you watch, the number of toes that Yoda possesses ranges from three to four and sometimes even five digits per hand.
In The Phantom Menace, he has three, while Revenge of the Sith, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi show four per hand. Some fans claim that the correct number of his toes in official Star Wars canon is four, while most fans don’t even care enough to notice at all.
Can you think of any other facts about Star Wars that even die-hard fans don't know? Let us know in the comment section!