15 Mar the making of STAR WARS
hope this first week of daylight savings time hasn’t been too rough on you. it’s always cause for a few blinky-eye’d mornings on my end. nothing a strong cup of coffee and some chocolate can’t take the edge off of though.
this week I wanted to chat a little bit about a book that I recently finished reading, “The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film.” that’s a pretty long title… but it’s also a pretty long book. several years ago I was given the book as a Christmas present from my Mom/Dad/Sister (sorry I don’t remember exactly which of you!) but hadn’t read through it (sorry again!). then this year I got several more books and I said to myself, “self, you have to read your last round of present books before starting on the new ones!”
it’s not that I didn’t want to read the book, or didn’t find the subject matter interesting, it was just SO dense, and the type was SO tiny… it was hard to get any momentum. I decided to give myself a “30 minute a day” reading quota on the STAR WARS book. and after about 2 and 1/2 months I had completed it. but enough about reading the book!
the story of how STAR WARS came to be is fascinating. it’s easy to look at finished films and not see the struggles, sacrifices, and concessions that were necessarily to get them made. there were many problems that STAR WARS had to overcome… most of which I was previously unaware of.
here are a few things I learned from the book.
• George Lucas invested nearly $500,000 of his own money before it was officially a “go” picture from FOX. that means, if the deal had fallen through, he would have been out that money. (apparently he had made a LOT on AMERICAN GRAFFITI, but even so – that’s a huge personal investment in 1976.)
• the script changed dramatically in the 4-ish drafts. the original story is barely recognizable in the finished piece. the overall themes are there, but almost everything else changed.
• George cut together an 8 minute montage of WWII fighter plane duels as reference for the space ship battles. this footage was cut into the ACTUAL movie as placeholders while the editors were waiting for the “real” VFX shots. I would **LOVE** to see that original montage.
• originally, the Princess is rescued from Alderaan… and a “floating city.” but this had to be scrapped because of the budget. the location was changed to the Death Star. an example of how a limitation helped improve the story. (this location became Cloud City in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK)
• at the beginning of shooting, Obi Wan didn’t die. he lived all the way through the film! needless to say, Alec Guinness was a little perturbed when he learned that George had decided to kill him off.
• the scene where “Han shoots first” was a reshoot. yup. they thought about it and went BACK to do it. this was partially due to the fact that the confrontation with Jabba (seen in the Special Editions) wasn’t going to be achievable and they needed a scene to communicate exposition about Han’s “financial situation.”
• the starship models used in the opening shot were dramatically different in size. the model of the Rebel Blockade Runner (1st ship) is actually several times larger than the Imperial Star Destroyer (2nd ship). it was so big because the Blockade Runner was the original “pirate ship” – what Han Solo was going to fly. but when another project was released with a similar looking starship, the change was made to the Millenium Falcon.
• the film that premiered wasn’t finished. they were still sound mixing and even recorded new lines of ADR w/ Mark Hamill. the “mono” mix that went out in general release was a more complete version.
• George was seriously unhappy with the film. he had trouble seeing past the things that didn’t go right. he wanted to do better.
• George gave away “points,” i.e. his profit sharing percentage to many cast & crew members. the people that helped make his vision a reality shared in the rewards!
all in all it was a battle start to finish, but they kept going and in the process made something incredible. it’s a lesson in perseverance and commitment to vision that we all should remember.
so what have been your biggest battles? have limitations placed upon you helped make the end product stronger?
p.s. it’s worth noting that the book has a TON of amazing pictures, clippings, sketches, and drawings from the development and production of the film. a few can be seen here.