The idea of a new Star Wars film (many films, according to Disney sources) has got my nerd blood pumping to parts of my brain I didn’t even know existed. The knowledge that they aren’t written or directed by George Lucas serves to deepen the sting of my excitement a hundred-fold. With that in mind, I decided to do some research – did I really know as much about Star Wars as I thought I did?
Turns out, nope, not even a little. There are nubbits of Star Wars trivia most people know – Luke Skywalker was originally called “Luke Starkiller,” Princess Leia’s boobs were strapped down with gaff tape, Darth Vader’s body-actor didn’t know he was saying “No, I Am Your Father” and presumably thought Mark Hamill was just a horrible over-actor. Those are child’s play. Let’s dive head first into the real stuff – allow me to be your guide. Believe me, almost everyone of these factoidinals was absolutely new to me.
Han Solo Was Going to Be Black: Many people have heard that George Lucas’ original idea for Han Solo was some kind of noseless green lizard monster, which might have lowered his cache with the ladies, somewhat. However, most people don’t know that Lucas’ next choice was to have Han Solo be a dashing black man, ala Lando “Smooth Malt Liquor” Calrissian. They even auditioned a grip of black actors for the role, including Billy Dee, and had settled on TV character actor Glynn Turman as the dashing vest-clad smuggler. There are no reports as to why Lucas’ changed his mind at the last minute, but it was the ’70s, and I’d guess that the studio freaked the hell out about having a main black character who wasn’t a drug dealer. Just, you know, a drug smuggler.
Wedge Antilles is Obi-Wan’s Uncle: Ewan MacGregor played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the prequel flicks, and served as possibly the only likable character in that trilogy. Little did we know, his real life uncle, Denis Lawson, played Wedge Antilles in “A New Hope” and “Return of the Jedi.” Wedge Antilles is the only other fighter pilot to survive the trench run in “A New Hope,” and he’s the pilot who gets the killing shot at the second Death Star in “Return.”
Anakin Skywalker Was Almost Not Terrible: George Lucas eventually chose half-mahogany actor Hayden Christensen as the role of unlikable-whiner-turned-bad-mutherfucker Anakin Skywalker because he quote “Looked good standing next to Natalie Portman.” No seriously, that’s really why. However, there was some actual actors up for the role, including the late, great, and furious actor Paul Walker, as well as “SeaQuest:DSV’s” Jonathan Brandis and “Orange County’s” Colin Hanks. So close.
John Wayne Is In “A New Hope:” Remember the weird long-nosed alien who follows Luke, Han, and gang back to the Millenium Falcon in Mos Eisley and rats them out to the Empire? Voice kind of sounded like a frog getting run over by clown car? That’s been confirmed as the heavily edited, heavily distorted voice of the Duke himself. Here’s the proof, if you’re into facts or whatever.
The Emperor Was a Monkey-Woman: No, I’m not playing mad-libs in front of your eyes. I am instead asking you to peer back through the mists of time to remember the original theatrical cut of “The Empire Strikes Back.” Do you recall (whenthebrawlbecameatotalfreeforall) the scene where Vader speaks to the giant hologram head of the Emperor, technically Old Cowly’s first appearance in the flicks? Well, before the Special Edition version, Ian McDiarmid hadn’t been cast as the Emperor yet, and the giant head was instead voiced by Clive Revill. However, the appearance of the Emperor was an uncredited female actress with monkey eyes rotoscoped over her regular eyes. Because, well, shit, why not.
Qui Gon Jinn’s Commlink in “The Phantom Menace” Was a Lady’s Razor: Qui Gon Jinn’s commlink in “The Phantom Menace” was a lady’s razor.
No Wookiee Nudity: Apparently the executives at Fox were extremely concerned about Wookiee boners – the thought of Chewbacca hanging hog in front of half the galaxy kept them awake at night. They feared ladies in the audience might turn into primal sex beasts at the sheer site of Chewie’s cockpit, and so kept insisting that Lucas rethink his costume. More than once, the executives suggested rather firmly that shorts be added to Chewie’s costume. Why they thought a 7+ foot hairy dude running around in dolphin shorts would be less sexual is anyone’s guess.
The Moff’s New Shoes: Grand Moff Tarkin in “A New Hope” was played by legendary British actor Peter Cushing – you may remember him as the tall skinny dude bossing Vader around, blowing up planets, and rocking a crisp voice that could cut steel cable. Apparently the boots the costumers provided him were way too tight, and the Cush Man (that’s what I call him) couldn’t stand comfortably, much less do his blocking. The solution? Keep the camera above foot level so that Cushing could wear fuzzy slippers unnoticed. And they did, and he did, and now every scene of him smacking down Vader just got that much more badass.
Leia’s Wonky Accent: As many people have noticed, Princess Leia has a sassy British accent when she’s being interrogated by the Cush Man (see above) in the middle of the movie, but doesn’t have it before or after. According to Carrie Fisher, the scene with Peter “Slippers” Cushing was the first scene she filmed in the entire movie. She mimicked Cushing’s accent because he was the first actor she played against, so I can only assume she figured that the Brits had conquered space and that was that. Imagine how weird the movie would have been if she’d spoken with Chewbacca first.
Mace Windu Was The Hero: When Samuel Jackson was but a wee lad (actually, 27), George Lucas conceived of a story called “The Journal of the Whills: The Star Wars: Space Trial in Space: No More Heroes: The Final Countdown” or, the first two, anyway. The main characters of the story were 60-year-old general named “Mace Windy,” and his sidekick “C.2. Thorpe,” and it told a story about the pair of Jedi-bendu battling Darth Vader. No, really. Aren’t you happy that 2nd and 3rd drafts exist?
Luke Skywalker Was a Midget: Again, I really have to stress that I’m not mad-libbing you. When Lucas ditched the Mace Windy idea and settled on the more well-known story of “Star Wars,” his next idea was to have Luke “Starkiller,” his uncle Owen, and his Aunt Beru all played by midgets/dwarves/little people. Lucas would later go on to recycle this idea for “Willow.” Also, presumably, Vader wouldn’t have been Luke’s father. Or at least, he would have been fucking adorable.
Darth Vader Wasn’t Luke’s Father, and Leia Wasn’t His Sister (Spoiler Alert): Proving once again that George Lucas’ claims of “having it all planned” weren’t worth the air they were farted on, the original draft of “Empire Strikes Back” didn’t have that famous twist in it. In fact, Anakin Skywalker’s Force ghost showed up on Dagobah to help train Luke in the ways of the Jedi, and would then go on to tell Luke that he had a sister named “Nellith Skywalker” who was out and about in the galaxy, being all Force-y and stuff.
Anakin Turned to the Dark Side For Boobs Reasons: Back in 1985, 2 years after the release of “Return of the Jedi” and the end of the trilogy, Lucas had already begun to talk about the idea of a prequel trilogy chronicling the rise of Darth Vader and the husk-shuffling of Anakin Skywalker. A key component would have been Anakin being seduced, sexually and spiritually, to the dark side by an evil witch. Actress Sybil Danning was even vaguely linked to the role. Not only would this have made the prequel trilogy watchable, but that means we might have gotten Natalie Portman as a wicked sexy sex witch who could shoot lightning. God, the ’80s were a better decade.
Half of George’s Ideas Come From the Same Dog: That’s right, not only did Lucas’ faithful Alaskan malamute give us the name of “Indiana Jones,” but it also inspired the creation of Chewbacca the Wookiee. George Lucas saw his wife driving away with Indiana in the passenger seat, and immediately loved the idea of a big hairy copilot. That was also the day George’s wife stole his car and his dog. Kidding. Maybe, I don’t know.
The Other Half Came from His Wife: Well, not half, but some key elements of Star Wars were created or saved by his ex-wife Marcia Griffin Lucas. In “A New Hope,” George was stuck on how to write Obi-Wan Kenobi after the Leia rescue. He realized that there wasn’t much for the Jedi Master to do in the final reel – he could either climb into a starfighter and upstage Luke, stay on the Death Star and be ineffective, or just hang out with Leia and C3PO in the war room and look tense. Marcia Lucas, a professional editor in her own right, suggested that he kill Obi-Wan Kenobi as a way to solve the problem and to give Luke (and the movie) more pathos.
Marcia Lucas also preserved a classic moment – the moment when Leia kisses Luke “for luck” just before swinging across a patented Star Wars universe death chasm. George Lucas couldn’t understand why the test audience laughed when the kiss happened (because he’s a robot), and decided to cut it from the movie. His wife Marcia insisted he keep it, and that the laughter was a good thing. This aversion to naturalistic dialogue and character moments is pretty much your explanation for the prequel trilogies, if you needed one.
George Lucas Hates “Empire:” Perhaps unsurprisingly, George Lucas hates “Empire Strikes Back,” which is widely considered to be the best films in either trilogy, and is definitely considered by this writer to be one of the best movies of all time. During an interview, Lucas was quoted as saying “. . . the Empire Strikes back is always written about as the best of the films, when it actually was the worst one.” I didn’t mean for this trivia article to turn into an anti-Lucas hatchet job, but Man-Jesus he’s not making it easy.
Bitches Love Sanskrit: Lucas loves using other languages to name his characters. Yoda is a very close sound-alike to the sanskrit word for “warrior,” Chewbacca is derived from “sobaka” which means “dog” in Russian, and the Jedi are named after “Jidai Geki,” a Japanese period drama genre.
Dismember the Alamo: Kids, don’t play with lightsabers. Every movie in both Star Wars trilogies (except “The Phantom Menace”) feature someone’s arm or hand being hacked off with a lightsaber. “Empire” has two – the Wampa’s arm, and Luke’s hand.
The First Movie Was Weird: Here are some words that were NEVER spoken in “Star Wars: A New Hope” – Tattooine, X-Wing, Y-Wing, or TIE Fighter. Also, the first movie is the only movie that never plays a version of “The Imperial March,” one of the most iconic songs not only in Star Wars, but on the Earf. Thirdly, it’s the only one of the flicks where a character uses the word “robot” instead of droid.
Everything You Know is From Toys: Here are some words that are never spoken IN THE ENTIRE TRILOGY: Ewok, Sith, Palpatine or Coruscant (the Imperial Homeworld). Also, Boba Fett the bad ass bounty hunter who tracks down Han Solo and stands around looking bitchin’ is never named in the movie that introduces him. In “Empire Strikes Back,” characters refer to him as “the Bounty Hunter” only.
That’s it, folks! Hope you enjoyed the read, or, at the very least, manage to see a small bump in your Star Wars “QuizUp” score.