In July 1973, George Lucas was an unknown director working on a low budget 1960s nostalgia film called “American Graffiti”. He approached Universal studios to see if they were interested in a film called, “Star Wars”. Universal turned him down in one of the biggest mistakes ever made by a studio.
Due to the limited budget the American cast members and crew (including George Lucas) all decided to fly coach class to England, rather than first class. When Carrie Fisher’s mother Debbie Reynolds heard about this she called George Lucas, complaining about how insulting it was for her daughter to be flying coach. Carrie Fisher was in the room with George Lucas when he took the call, and after a few minutes asked if she could talk to her mother. When George Lucas handed her the phone she simply said, “Mother, I want to fly coach, will you fuck off?!” and hung up.
R2-D2 and C3P0
Both Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker, the actors that play Threepio and Artoo, respectively, had issues with the head in Tunisia. Although they piped in cool air and kept them hydrated, Daniels in particular frequently passed out from heat stroke in the outfit. Also, while both actors have come back to continue their roles, Baker is much more private and less comforatable with the fame, fan mania, etc. While, Daniels, has embraced more of the fandom, even appearing in a cameo, without the gold suit, in Ep. 2.
Lucas got the idea for Chewbacca one morning in the early ’70s while watching his wife, Marcia, drive off in her car. She had their Alaskan malamute, Indiana, (the name sake for Indiana Jones) with her. Lucas liked the way the large shaggy dog looked in the passenger seat so he decided to create a character in the film that was a cross between Indiana, a bear, and a monkey.
David Prowse, a weightlifter from Bristol, played the role on screen but the voice was that of James Earl Jones. He was so convinced the film would be a flop, he refused to allow his name in the original credits.
While unknowns were used for the leads, Lucas was able to get some of his faves and also heavier hitters/character actors in there in the roles of Obi-Wan (Guinness), and Tarkin (Peter Cushing). This continued in the new films with the always classically cheesy Christopher Lee, as Dooku.
Not only did they force Carried Fisher to strap down her boobs, poor thing, just look at her dress. Every inch of skin is covered, and they couldn’t have made her look more frumpy. However, she does get to show a bit of skin in the last sequence, which is the outfit used for the representation of Leia in the original poster – scoop neck, not turtleneck.
After the trilogy came out, and years before Parts 1-3, there was an allegedly accurate treatment for what the next film would be, floating around. It detailed how Vader became Vader, as well as the events leading up to “A New Hope”. One of the minor elements, was the “13 year old Correllian Cabin Boy” on Captain Antilles’ ship. This alluded to Han Solo being there before the events of “A New Hope”, which luckily did not get included in the new films, as it really wouldn’t have made sense. Too much coincidence – does everyone have to know everyone?
In addition to the name change from Luke Starkiller, in earlier drafts of the script, there are the characters of Biggs and Camie, Luke’s friends who have gone to the Academy. In the film, Biggs is one of the rebel pilots in the end sequence.
20th Century Fox
Not only was the studio unsure about the film, most of the cast was thrown by the strange dialogue and story, often leading to tension or awkwardness while filming. (Leia half-british, half-american accent!) No one had any inkling it would be such a smash hit.
John Dykstra and the FX team invented a great deal of technology including the now vastly used, motion-control camera to match motion of object to camera. Also used were traditional stop motion techniques, as well as rotoscoping (using mattes). In particular, if you have an old copy of the film on VHS, you can see the traveling mattes around the ships.
Lots of unknown actors were used for the younger characters. In addition to Carrie Fisher, Sissy Spacek and Cindy Williams also auditioned for Leia. The film, “Carrie” was also auditioning, and both Fisher and Spacek auditioned for both. Imagine that flip-flop, or having “Shirley” from Laverne and Shirley as Leia!
While Lucas was influenced by the huge number of “Buck Rogers” reruns he watched while developing Star Wars, a much bigger influence comes from work of Akira Kurosawa. Much influence comes from the film, Hidden Fortress, as well as many of the characters from Seven Samurai. Just about every character Toshiro Mifune plays is Han Solo, and check out the little Yoda-looking dude!