Ever since the first film debuted to critical acclaim and unprecedented box office success in 1977, Star Wars has been a staple of pop culture. The franchise has proven to be so popular and omnipresent in the zeitgeist that even those who are unfamiliar with the films still know all about Han Solo, Darth Vader, and the Force. And with the series set to make a major return in the form of this year's The Force Awakens, even more people will become acclimated to the galaxy far, far away.
Liam Neeson's Poor Judgment
It's no secret that the Star Wars prequels are considered big disappointments; there's no real point in harping on that fact. However poorly-received they might have been, certain aspects of the films still stood out. In the Phantom Menace, most moviegoers enjoyed Liam Neeson's turn as Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, as they actor gave the film an authoritative presence and gravitas it desperately needed. But if Neeson had used better judgment during the pre-production phase, we may not have even gotten that.
Yoda Speaks the Truth
The Empire Strikes Back boasts one of the most famous twists in cinematic history, when Darth Vader (spoiler?) reveals to Luke that he is the young Jedi's father (and did not kill Anakin, as Obi-Wan had said). The confession rocks Luke's world, and it was such a surprise that even James Earl Jones didn't believe Vader was telling the truth when he recorded the famous line. Since Vader was a villain, deception was very much in play, so Lucas had to clear the air in Return of the Jedi.
Spielberg Can't Direct
In one of the more tantalizing "what ifs" in Hollywood history, we almost got a Star Wars movie helmed by none other than Steven Spielberg in his prime. When planning out Return of the Jedi, Lucas first offered the gig to his longtime friend, who was coming off of the blockbuster smashes Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial. Unfortunately, Spielberg had to decline the job, as Lucas had left the Director's Guild following a heated controversy over the famous opening text crawl (The Guild had fined Lucas and Irvin Kershner for having all of The Empire Strikes Back's credits at the end). Spielberg was still a member and could not participate.
Ford Takes Two
When Star Wars became a massive hit, stars Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher were quick to sign on for two sequels. Their colleague, Harrison Ford, did not. Believing that Han Solo's story had been told in full, the actor was unwilling to commit to future appearances following Empire Strikes Back. This was one of the influencing factors in freezing Han in carbonite, since nobody knew if the actor would be returning to the franchise.
Lando's a Clone?
After hearing a tease of it in 1977, audiences had to wait until 2002 to see what the famed Clone Wars were all about, learning that it involved an army of clones of bounty hunter Jango Fett squaring off against Republic separatists. Lucas had a lot of time to iron all the details out, and the conflict went through a great deal of revisions before he settled on what was showcased in the prequels. Case in point: Han's old buddy Lando Calrissian was originally conceived as a clone who fought in the War, and led a legion of them to a planetary settlement.
Luke Becomes Vader
Return of the Jedi has one of the more emotionally poignant moments of the trilogy, when Luke and Anakin share one touching moment as father and son before the elder Skywalker passes away. It's a truly beautiful scene and serves up an extremely satisfying payoff for what the three movies had been building towards. So it seems odd that Lucas toyed with a couple of other endings, including one that would have infuriated fans to no end.
Star Wars: Flop of the Century
It's funny to think about this now, but there was a time when Star Wars was considered a huge risk. Even though he got his dream project made, Lucas was one of the ones convinced the film would be a disaster. He didn't exactly get a confidence boost from his director friends, who mostly agreed with him after seeing a first cut. Brian de Palma went as far as to call it the "worst movie ever made" and nobody was particularly hopeful in its potential quality.
A Disturbance in the Force
Lucas deserves a lot of the credit for creating Star Wars, but he was not alone in making the classic trilogy what it was. The cast and crew saw producer Gary Kurtz as an equally important piece of the puzzle, as he developed strong working relationships with the actors and kept everything on track. After collaborating with Lucas on Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, many were heartbroken to learn that Kurtz was leaving the franchise when he and Lucas had disagreements over the direction for Return of the Jedi.