For three straight years, Star Wars fans have received a new narrative in George Lucas’s galaxy far, far away. That hot streak is set to continue for at least a decade to come. While The Force Awakens and Rogue One enriched the epic mythology, The Last Jedi seems primed to break new ground.
The new cast of characters will come into their own as the veterans fade into the limelight. With the recent confirmation that Rian Johnson will be spearheading a new, Skywalker-independent saga, it’s clear that the old school Star Wars days may be coming to an end.
As Disney and their creative leader hurtle through blockbuster hyperspace, it’s time to slow down the clocks and look back upon simpler times. Times when even the cast and crew of A New Hope thought the movie was utterly insane. To guys like Harrison Ford, “Alderaan” sounded less like a new planet and more like the prison where hapless nerds are banished.
Sandwiched between unbridled creativity and total brazenness, the original Star Wars trilogy was a true shot in the dark. One part Kurosawa and another George Lucas, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi are bonafide miracles of moviemaking.
In lieu of Instagram, here are the 15 Original Trilogy Behind-The-Scenes Star Wars Pictures Every Fan Needs To See:
Let’s be real. This bloke is not what anyone anticipated the maligned Mandalorian to look like.
To be fair, Boba Fett is perhaps the most legendary and enigmatic character in the entire Star Wars roster. When it comes to the zealous bounty hunter, expectations are high.
People expect a tough, grizzled guy, but hey, the movies are all about smoke and mirrors. While the actor actually looks a bit like Frank Oz, the man is actually named Don Bies, one of two lucky Industrial Light & Magic employees that George Lucas put into the Boba Fett rotation.
This particular still comes from behind-the-scenes of Lucas’s special edition cut for Return of the Jedi. Lucas may have jammed the revised movie with unnecessary CGI, but major props to Mr. Bies. There’s absolutely no way that mustache can be faked.
This would have gotten a million likes on Instagram. The legendary Alec Guinness balling out in a desert wasteland with the oversized Prada sunglasses? Talk about style on fleek.
To set the stage for Luke Skywalker’s emergence on the planet Tatooine, the Star Wars crew filmed for months in the sweltering heat of North Africa. Unfortunately, Mr. Guinness didn’t particularly seem to enjoy his time on A New Hope.
According to his close friend, Anne Kaufman, he sent her a note that stated, “I must off to studio and work with a dwarf (very sweet - and he has to wash in a bidet) and our fellow countrymen Mark Hamill and Tennyson…they make me feel ninety - and treat me as if I was 206. Oh, Harrison Ford, ever heard of him?”
In that same letter, he wrote of the one saving grace from his apparently arduous time on set: “I just think, thankfully, of the lovely bread, which will help me keep going until next April.”
So yes, he was probably dreaming about Tunisian wheat under those stunna shades.
Throughout the film, C-3PO has a rough life. He gets his head put on backward, he gets disassembled, and most recently, he even loses an arm.
In real life, actor Anthony Daniels is confined to a restrictive, sun-absorbing metallic suit that looks about as comfortable as a slim-fit suit of armor.
Daniels was so melded to the metal that he was forced to sip from an elongated straw to keep him from dehydrating in the deserts of Tunisia. To wear that costume is to spit in the face of claustrophobia.
In any case, the umbrella pictured above was no on-set joke. It was Daniels’ refuge from the sun. In between takes, he would hightail to the lone umbrella, remove his mask, and give himself a pep talk. Could he put his arms down and relax? Of course not.
The “who shot first?” debate may never end, but this exceedingly human picture may soften the contentiousness. Greedo has one ugly mug (especially after taking a hit from Han’s blaster), but this behind-the-scenes still makes the man beneath the mask a bit more tolerable.
Take away the satellite ears and green skin, and you’re left with what looks like a screenshot from a time-travel western. Instead, the infamous barroom brawler is just a fairly normal guy who looked pretty thrilled to be on-set. Who can blame him? He got to pull a blaster on the cockiest rapscallion in the galaxy.
While actor Paul Blake played Greedo in the two-shot frame, Maria De Aragon wore the Rodian's mask for his closeups towards the end of principal photography.
“Alas, poor Jabba!” It’s no secret that Mark Hamill is a jack of all trades. The actor is widely celebrated for both his iconic roles and his indelible voice. Whether reading Trump tweets as the Joker or doing an explosive cameo in Kingsman: The Secret Service, Hamill aways finds a way to slap his signature on the project at hand.
This still from the gladiatorial pit under Jabba’s derriere looks straight out of Shakespeare. The black garb, the prison-bar background, the aged skull are all on point. While finding Luke Skywalker with his back against the wall from the carnivorous Rancor, Hamill summons the monologist spirit of Hamlet himself.
In-between takes from one of the most memorable scenes from Return of the Jedi, Hamill finds time to wax poetical to the remains of the Ranco'r last victim and give a nod to the Bard’s most seminal play.
Swordplay and stage combat are classic prerequisites for trained actors of the stage and screen. In Star Wars, sword fighting became the language of twisted love between Darth Vader and his long-lost son.
Of course, James Earl Jones wasn’t actually the voice of Vader on set, and the lightsabers that sizzled through the air were mere graphite shafts.
Esteemed swordsman and British Olympic fencer, Bob Anderson, is seen here (in full Vader regalia) rehearsing fight choreography with Mark Hamill. Looking as commanding as the Sith Lord himself, Anderson earned his place as Darth Vader’s stunt double on both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
It’s no wonder, then, that Mark Hamill was the first member of the Star Wars family to credit Anderson with his work. As Hamill revealed, “"Bob worked so bloody hard that he deserves some recognition. It's ridiculous to preserve the myth that it's all done by one man.”
“This is no cave…it’s a hand puppet!” Han Solo was half right.
This epic moment from The Empire Strikes Back happened fast and left no room for questions. Thanks to the speedy maneuvers of the Millennium Falcon, Han, Leia, and Chewie narrowly escaped certain death. Angry at their escape, the space slug (otherwise known as the Exogorth), lurched out of its cave and chomped at the invaders.
To completely gut the moment of all seriousness, behind-the-scenes photos reveal the Exogorth to be nothing more than a routine hand puppet. In the movie, it looks like hell itself. 40 years on, the villain looks like a rejected Moby Dick puppet from Sesame Street.
Either way, the joke’s on us. George Lucas kept his special effects practical and every one of us in his narrative grip.
Friendships are fickle on film sets. Some co-stars hit it off (see: Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher), while others find themselves at loggerheads.
Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and Kenny Baker (the man inside R2-D2) famously fought throughout their decades-long working relationship. Not unlike their cantankerous conversations in Return of the Jedi, the actors behind C-3PO and R2-D2 found their lives imitating their art.
The same cannot be said about Kenny Baker and Peter Mayhew, who were close friends until Baker passed away last year. Nearly 4 feet of height may have separated them, but Mayhew and Baker always saw eye to eye.
As Mayhew eulogized, “Although people liked to contrast the difference in our heights, we found we shared many of the same struggles, from finding clothes, driving cars, and fitting in airplane seats to health issues and the ever constant stares of strangers; we understood each other on a level that few others can.”
We have a few questions. For starters, there’s the truck itself. Though branded with the sequel’s title, The Empire Strikes Back-mobile looks more like an ice cream truck than on-set transportation. We'll blame that one on the '70s.
Assuming it is the designated Star Wars vehicle, why is Harrison Ford forced to drive himself while fully dressed as Han Solo? Could he be frustrated about something? The Leia/Luke kiss? Is he escaping the Tauntaun stench? Whatever drives him, Harrison looks totally zeroed in on his destination and oblivious to outsiders.
Which begs the final question: who took the photo? George Lucas staged his take on the planet Hoth deep in the subzero tundra of Norway. Set photographers are common, but you’d think they’d be too busy trying to keep warm rather than catching a candid shot of an actor fleeing the set.
Both in Star Wars and beyond it, Warwick Davis has enjoyed a remarkable career. Since making his big-screen debut at the age of 13, the actor has enjoyed parts in major franchises including Harry Potter.
Playing the role of “Wicket” in Return of the Jedi, Warwick’s lovable Ewok made him a fixture of Star Wars canon. While revisiting the character in The Ewok Adventure and The Battle for Endor, he next appeared in The Phantom Menace, and later, in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
Age 13 typifies the beginning of adolescence and young adulthood. While most of us were embarking on high school, Warwick was playing in the vast sandbox of Hollywood’s most seminal sci-fi production. Carrie Fisher, in particular, seemed to become his on-set mom, as precious photos like this indicate.
As Don Draper sagaciously said in Mad Men, “When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him.”
The sentiment applies to Frank Oz, the puppeteer that helped bring Jim Henson’s Muppets to life. As the man behind Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Cookie Monster, Grover, and Bert, there was a 0% chance that Frank would miss the opportunity to unite his puppet pals with Yoda on set.
To be clear, Yoda is not a muppet; he is a Jedi Master. While Stuart Freeborn designed Yoda, Jim Henson actually did consult on his development. When the day of reckoning finally came, and Miss Piggy and Kermit joined Yoda in the swamps of Dagobah, the photo opportunities were priceless. Again, it would have guaranteed at least a million likes on Instagram.
While it’s great to see Hamill eating it up with the gang, this shot of a panicked Yoda is priceless.
Carrie Fisher was the life of the party. Her electric personality and wit permeates every one of her behind-the-scenes photos.
While she turned out solid performances in each film, it’s clear Carrie didn’t remain in character between takes.
She was a goofball in the fullest sense of the term. Whether teasing C-3PO, laughing it up with Stormtroopers, or flirting with the Wookie himself, Carrie seemed to make Star Wars the most fun place on earth. Even Peter Mayhew’s wife acknowledged their special relationship.
As Angie Mayhew revealed, “Carrie had a habit. She would walk over to Peter…crawl up in his lap, and they had a thing. It wasn’t unusual. It was normal for them.” Peter Mayhew also reflected on one of his favorite memories of Carrie, telling of the time she and Princess Leia ambushed the entire cast with squirt guns.
The award ceremony that closed out A New Hope was pretty grand, but this photo looks like good enough to be an alternate ending. At the risk of sound saccharine, it simply makes you smile.
There’s Carrie Fisher reaching for a chocolate with irrepressible joy, Mark Hamill having a belly laugh, and Harrison Ford with what appears to be the slightest hint of a grin. He didn’t pick up a chocolate; he jabbed one with his finger. Pro move.
The triumvirate has been the heart of Star Wars for forty years. They rehearsed, filmed, and promoted the movies for most of their adult lives. Not many people can say that.
As Forest Gump might say, life is like a box of chocolates, and Harrison, Carrie, and Mark all seem pretty happy with what they got.
"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" In this case, that’s asking a bit much. Frank Oz is a master craftsman, but in this photo, his ardor makes for tremendous accidental comedy.
It’s one of those photos that can't help but change your perception of the scene. In the heart of The Empire Strikes Back, we find Luke and Yoda in the throes of training, waxing philosophical about The Force, training to move rocks, do flips, you name it. Over time, Yoda gets ominous, Luke loses his temper, and the gnarly bog of Dagobah extends its reach.
Thanks to this picture, however, we’ll always picture the bespectacled Oz standing uncomfortably close to Luke with his hand right on the Jedi teacher himself. The truth may hurt, but it’s honestly impressive how seamless it all looks in the movie.
It’s impossible to overstate Harrison Ford’s effect on Star Wars. Thanks to his inimitable nonchalance, the actor made the arcane galaxy approachable. By bringing an irreverence to the role, he instilled it with humor, charm, and a quality that simply cannot be faked.
Put another way, Harrison Ford kept it real. To him, the written lines were disposable chicken scratch, and the planet names were a little weird. Han Solo wasn’t a science fiction character; he was a character that happened to exist in a science fiction story.
Throughout his four appearances as the character, Ford rarely broke his nerf herder composure. That’s what makes this behind-the-scenes shot so cool. Lounging in the bowels of the Millennium Falcon, Ford lets out a laugh that seems to say: “it’s just too easy.”