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Star Wars Production Facts: A Geek's Guide

Posted By: Heather Prather on December 8, 2015

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …little known happenings, endless financial and creative struggles and seemingly impossible situations were endured by production and beyond while bringing the Star Wars franchise to life. Over the years, many of these behind-the-scenes stories and tidbits have remained relatively unknown to planet earth… until now.

So geek out friends, fans and hardcore Star Wars devotees as we reveal the magical chaos, surprising anecdotes and otherworldly creativity behind these legendary films.

Lucky …you are!

Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope

Humble beginnings and a FAT fine.
Directed by George Lucas, A New Hope was the first feature film to be screened in Dolby Stereo, but that was not impressive enough to help improve upon its rather dismal start of a pre-Memorial Day release in less than 40 theaters. So, since Fox’s The Other Side of Midnight was eagerly sought after by theaters at the same time, Fox illegally stipulated that any theater showing The Other Side of Midnight must also show Star Wars, resulting in Fox being fined $25,000. Oops!

Other Production Factoids:

  • The famous opening crawl for the original movie was created by placing two-foot wide, die-cut yellow letters onto a six-foot long, black paper background. The camera then passed over slowly to create the finished effect. The entire process took three hours to complete.

Star Wars Opening Crawl

Image via StarWars.wikia

  • To inspire VFX when it came time to create high-intensity sequences like the space battle in the Millennium Falcon between Han, Luke, and the TIE fighters, Lucas cut together footage of WWII dogfights and VFX matched many of the sequences frame by frame.

  • Ever wonder how the wondrous whooshing sound of the Lightsaber was created? Simply mix the hum of an idling 35mm movie projector with the feedback generated by passing a stripped microphone cable by a television.

  • Harrison Ford purposely refrained from memorizing his lines for the intercom conversation in the cell block, so it would sound spontaneous.

Han Solo

Image via Imgur

Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back

Credit trouble.
Writers and Directors Guilds to try to pull The Empire Strikes Back from theaters because of credit rules. Lucas demanded that the Star Wars logo remain with the opening crawl and that the full credits run at the end of the movie, which was not common practice at the time (all Star Wars movies credit directors, etc. at the end). As a result, DGA and WGA fined both Lucas and Kershner and though Lucas agreed to pay them in full, he promptly withdrew his membership from the DGA, WGA, and the Motion Picture Association and has yet to return.

Star Wars Opening Crawl

Image via Esquire

Lucas strikes back.
Directed by Irvin Kershner, The Empire Strikes Back was funded by George Lucas in an effort to maintain control after the success of Star Wars and the studio undermining him. This gave Lucas complete creative control, while still having a major movie studio on hand to distribute the film.

Ah, the best laid plans…

In the midst of filming, the budget ballooned to a whopping $10 million over the original estimate, resulting in cold feet for the entertainment branch of Bank of America, who subsequently pulled the loan out from under Lucas. Sadly, Lucas was then forced to turn back to 20th Century Fox for help, which they did, but they also forced him to give up certain rights on the movie.

They say, payback is a bitch and this definitely held true for Fox when Lucas chose to bring is new project, Raiders of the Lost Ark to rival studio, Paramount Pictures. BOOM!

Scenes served cold.
The icy planet of Hoth was shot on location at the Hardangerjøkulen glacier in Norway during the worst regional storm in 50 years hit the region. So what do you do with long shoot delays, negative 20-degree weather and impending white outs?  Kershner and crew set up insert shots like Luke fleeing the Wampa cave in the final film from the entrance of their hotel. Still, even with tons of snow at their disposal, detailed snowy landscapes were drawn for the backgrounds. When fake snow was needed, it was created from a mixture of flour and micro-balloon epoxy filler.


Image via Space: 1970

Who’s your daddy?
The jaw dropping secret that Darth Vader was Luke’s father was only known to Lucas and Kershner prior to shooting. Even Mark Hamill was left in the dark and only told moments before the first take. In the interim beforehand, all scripts with Vader’s dialogue stated that Obi-Wan killed Luke’s father. Even during preliminary takes, David Prowse, (actor in Darth Vader costume) was not in on the truth. Instead, his line was “Obi-Wan killed your father”, while Hamill played the scene with full knowledge of what would be dubbed in later when actor James Earl Jones voiced-over the final dialogue for Vader.

Leia <3 Solo
Iconic scene where Han Solo is frozen in carbonite, just before he's frozen, Leia says, “I love you,” to which Solo replies, “I know”. The response was originally the scripted “I love you, too”, but Kershner and Ford agreed that the line wasn’t working, so Kershner switched things up by spontaneously calling “action”! This forced Ford to think on his feet and his natural response was “I know”. (such a charmer, huh?)

I Love You, I Know

Image via Star Wars

Additional Factoids:

  • The space slug that attempted to consume the Falcon was actually a hand puppet shot at high speeds to give it scale.

  • When thee Millennium Falcon made its escape through the asteroid belt, the offending asteroids were in fact potatoes spray-painted and filmed in front of a blue screen to composite later.

Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi

Directed by Richard Marquand, Return of the Jedi was shot under the production title Blue Harvest. This was done to conceal the fact that it was yet another the Star Wars sequel. With the buzz that surrounded Star Wars, the cast and crew members as well as the public were wiling to leak any new information about the storyline they could. This working title also came in handy when for avoiding price-gouging while securing shooting locations. Taking the farce one step further, they even came up with a fake tagline: “Horror Beyond Imagination”.

Faster Luke, Faster!
Speeder bike chase (yep, we wanted one of those too – still do!) on Endor between Luke, Leia, and a group of Scout Troopers was filmed in the Redwood National and State Park in California. Steadicam operators walked a painfully slow, step-by-step path through the forest while shooting at three-fourths frame per second. A grueling process to be sure, but with a big payoff. When sped up to the standard 24 frames per second. Man, those things flew, didn’t they?

Star Wars Speeder Bike Chase

Image via Jalopnik

Star Wars: Episodes I-III

Fun Facts: Secrets and Lightsabers

  • Lucas directed all three of the prequels: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

  • To protect the first Star Wars film in 16 years from pirating, The Phantom Menace was shipped to theaters with the title, The Doll House.

  • In order to be able to distinguish between Padme and Queen Amidala vocally, Natalie Portman's voice was digitally enhanced.

  • Ewan McGregor made lightsaber noises as he dueled (don’t be too hard on Ewan, you know you would have to!), that had to be omitted during post production.

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Image via MovieWeb

Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens

Respecting a legacy.
Star Trek Director, J.J. Abrams directed the long awaited, The Force Awakens, with Rian Johnson set to direct Episode VIII. It was important to Abrams that he emulate Lucas' casting choices by casting unknown actors in key roles while also having the beloved original actors return for The Force Awakens: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), Tim Rose (Ackbar), and Mike Quinn (Nien Nunb).

Abrams, being a staunch advocate of film over digital, shot The Force Awakens in 35mm with anamorphic lenses. In addition, the production crew used real locations and miniature models as opposed to CGI and green screen to maintain a similar aesthetic to the original trilogy.

The Force Awakens Reading

Image via WTRV

Dropping a (not so) subtle hint…
When Kevin Smith and Benedict Cumberbatch visited The Force Awakens set J.J. Abrams posted WWII style propaganda posters noting “Loose Lips Sink Starships” on set as a reminder to Smith (and his infamously loose lips) not to reveal spoilers. He was also forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Wish. Granted.
When terminally ill fan Daniel Fleetwood made a wish to see The Force Awakens before his death, (which sparked the global #ForceForDaniel social media campaign) The Force answered. Daniel was treated to a screening of the film two months before it opened to the public and just one week before sadly passing away on Tuesday, November 10, 2015.


Image via TMZ

Additional Factoids:

  • Composer John Williams, who scored the previous six Star Wars films returns for The Force Awakens, making it the first Abrams film not scored by Michael Giachinno.

  • Future Star Wars films under Disney (Episode VII-IX) will not be released  every third year in May, like the previous six.

  • Netflix Canada has sole streaming rights to The Force Awakens due to Starz having the rights to all Disney films in the US released through the end of 2015.

Some Final Lucas-isms:

George Lucas

Image via Science Fiction

  • George Lucas came up with the name R2-D2 during post-production of American Graffiti. One of the sound crew wanted Lucas to retrieve reel #2 of the second dialogue track and asked him to grab the R2-D2. Lucas liked the sound of that, jotted it down and the rest is history!

  • George Lucas tends to be very uncommunicative toward the actors he worked with on the films. The direction they received was limited to three words: faster or more intense. When the director caught a case of laryngitis during filming, the crew provided him with a board noting these three words only.

We hope you’ve enjoyed these behind the scenes, Star Wars production facts and that you are as stoked as we are about the new movie. We’d love to hear what you thought of the film too, so hit us up with a review on Twitter or Facebook!


Image via Time

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