Decades after its inception, Star Wars still has us in its force-grip. The movies are tightly woven into popular culture, with some of them considered the best movies of all time. Star Wars may not always fly in the realm of science-fact, but man is it a 10-out-of-10 example of science-fiction.
And, as with any long-running franchise, it has tons of seldom-known facts. So, let us delve into a history as complex and contorted as the Sarlaac’s stomach. Look no further – these are the 10 Star Wars facts you’re looking for…
10) Marcia Lucas is the Unsung Hero of Star Wars
It turns out some heroes don’t wear capes. In fact, sometimes, they’re not even on-screen for all to see. This can surely be said of George Lucas’s ex-wife, Marcia, whose behind-the-scenes editing and storytelling skills helped save the franchise on a few occasions. However, her most notable contribution comes from Han’s surprise appearance in the Death Star Battle in A New Hope.
As chronicled in The Secret History of Star Wars, the Death Star trench run was originally scripted differently, with Luke attempting to Photon Torpedo the exhaust port twice. This is because “Marcia had re-ordered the shots almost from the ground up, trying to build tension lacking in the original scripted sequence”. She says, “If the audience doesn’t cheer when Han Solo comes in at the last second in the Millennium Falcon to help Luke when Darth Vader is chasing him, the picture doesn’t work.”
9) The Prequels Slowed Natalie Portman’s Career Trajectory
To some degree or another, the actors of the prequels carry some misgiving towards the prequels. Whether that be Lucas’s limited Directing abilities or the trilogy’s quality, the actors had similar opinions to the fans. In Natalie Portman’s case, who portrays Padme Amidala, it was the effect they had on her career.
“Star Wars had come out around the time of Seagull, and everyone thought I was a horrible actress,” says Portman in a 2014 New York Mag interview, I was in the biggest-grossing movie of the decade, and no director wanted to work with me. Mike [Nichols, movie Director] wrote a letter to Anthony Minghella and said, “Put her in Cold Mountain, I vouch for her.” Since then, Portman has slowly risen into a recognizable star with films like Black Swan and this year’s Thor: Love and Thunder.
8) A New Hope Was Gonna be a Flash Gordon movie
Star Wars shares a few key similarities with the 1940s serial Flash Gordon. From its opening crawls, episodic nature, kid-friendly stories, and its sci-fi stylings, the franchise is a love letter to the serials of George Lucas’s childhood. The inclusion of such elements is no accident – since Star Wars was going to be a Flash Gordon movie remake.
Unfortunately, Lucas couldn’t obtain the rights. “[George] was very depressed because he had just come back and they wouldn’t sell him Flash Gordon,” recounts friend and fellow filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola in A Long Time Ago: The Story of Star Wars, “And he says, ‘Well, I’ll just invent my own.” Indeed, it’s perhaps fitting that Lucas did fail to get the rights. Otherwise, Star Wars, as we know it, probably wouldn’t exist.
7) Irvin Kershner Came up with Han’s “I Know” Line
According to Irvin Kershner in a Variety interview, the Director Lucas hired for The Empire Strikes Back, he and George only had one big disagreement. As it turns out, this concerns one of Han Solo’s most recognizable lines. When Solo is about to descend into Carbonite, Leia emotionally calls out, “I love you!” To which the smuggler responds, “I know.”
The line seems like a natural fit for Han Solo. And yet, it wasn’t in the final shooting script. Originally, Solo would reply with the predictable, “I love you, too.” Upon hearing “I know,” Lucas derided the line, thinking audiences would laugh. So, he got Kershner to reshoot the scene with the original ‘I love you, too.’ They showed both takes to the test audience and found they reacted more favorably towards Han’s ‘I know.’ And thus, history was made.
6) Obi-Wan Was Going to Survive A New Hope
Obi-Wan fading into thin air is a significant part of A New Hope. And yet, strange as it seems, the wise old Jedi wasn’t always destined to die so soon. In fact, Lucas only killed old Ben off when his wife and film editor, Marcia Lucas, pointed out that Guinness’s character had little to do with the movie’s last act.
As per Lucas’s college friend Walter Murch in the documentary Creating an Empire:
Marcia was very opinionated, and had very good opinions about things, and would not put up if she thought George was going off in the wrong direction. She would tell George ‘No, you have to do this, you have to do that’. So there were heated creative arguments between them—for the good.
While hesitant to ditch arguably his most prolific actor, Lucas relented – and Guinness spends the trilogy’s remainder advising Luke as a spirit. Needless to say, the decision helped establish ‘Force Ghosts’ in Star Wars mythology.
5) Han Solo Was Meant to Die in ROTJ
Return of the Jedi, while by no means a terrible film, is nonetheless considered the weakest of the original trilogy. Many attribute this to the Ewoks – which most of the cast and crew hated – but Lucas collaborator Gary Kurtz has another reason, one that many fans agree with. The ending is far too euphoric and happy – and the entire main heroic cast comes away virtually unscathed. However, according to Kurtz, it wasn’t always going to be this way.
“We had an outline and George changed everything in it,” Kurtz said to the LA Times. “Instead of bittersweet and poignant he wanted a euphoric ending with everybody happy. The original idea was that they would recover [the kidnapped] Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base.” It’s common knowledge that Harrison Ford also wanted Solo to die because it would be poignant for his story. Alas, he wouldn’t get his wish until The Force Awakens 31 years later.
4) Terrance Stamp Hated Phantom Menace
General Zod had a problem kneeling before Phantom Menace Director George Lucas. Mainly because, in Stamp’s words, he didn’t “feel [Lucas] was a director of actors, he was more interested in stuff and effects.” Indeed, it sounds spot-on to anyone who’s read about Lucas’s directing limitations.
Stamp took the job because he apparently had a crush on Natalie Portman, who plays Queen Amidala. Now, that’s a bit creepy since the actor was 60 at the time of shooting – and Portman was only just turning 18. Perhaps fortunately for Portman, she was absent on the day of shooting their scene together, so Stamp had to talk to a piece of cardboard instead. “It was just pretty boring,” Stamp recalls. Wow, it sure sounds like it.
3) Sir Alec Guinness Hated Star Wars
There are a few examples of Star Wars actors unsatisfied with their time in the franchise. However, none is more powerful than that of Sir Alec Guinness. The Oscar-winning actor already expressed dissatisfaction during filming, with his character’s fate only decided at the last minute. However, he began to despise Star Wars long after production ended.
Although initially somewhat favorable of the franchise, Guinness would later state that “obsessed” fan reactions would drain his positivity altogether. As stated in his 2003 autobiography, Guinness writes:
A refurbished Star Wars is on somewhere or everywhere, I have no intention of revisiting any galaxy. I shrivel inside each time it is mentioned. Twenty years ago, when the film was first shown, it had a freshness, also a sense of moral good and fun. Then I began to be uneasy at the influence it might be having.
He continues by mentioning he gave an autograph to a fan as long as he promised never to see A New Hope ever again. While it’s uncertain whether the fan kept that promise (surely unlikely), one thing can be said for certain. Guinness never ranked Star Wars among his top 10 films – but it’s a fact he enjoyed the money.
2) Boba Fett Was Going to Survive ROTJ
Star Wars, as a franchise, always has (and continues to have) a problem fulfilling the potential of its iconic characters. One of the most notable examples is that of badass Boba Fett – who was set up as a badass bounty hunter in Empire before being unceremoniously killed off at the start of Return of the Jedi.
Why was Boba killed off so soon? Well, during Empire, Lucas had plans to include the bounty hunter in other Star Wars movies. But when Lucas swept his plans under the rug (producing 12 more Star Wars movies), he simply sighed, “Throw him in the [Sarlaac Pit].” Thus, one of cinema’s most anticlimactic deaths was born – which held true until 2021.
1) George Lucas Kept Vader’s Identity A Secret From the Actors
“Luke, I am your father.” It’s one of cinema’s most iconic lines – and its biggest secret. You see, the twist wasn’t just a surprise for 1980’s audiences. It was, in fact, a secret to most of the cast and crew involved in The Empire Strikes Back.
“It wasn’t in any of the scripts. It wasn’t even in the story treatments,” says Lucas in a 2020 interview with StarWars.com. “I kept that aspect of it secret and I was the only one that knew about it. And it really wasn’t until the day we shot that we told Mark [Hamill] so he could react appropriately.” Until then, only Director Irvin Kershner and George Lucas knew about the twist. Ironically, the reveal (and associated line) is so iconic that you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone nowadays who doesn’t know Vader is Luke’s dad.
That being said, what Star Wars facts would make your top 10 list? Out of all the Star Wars movies, which is your favorite?