The filming of the special effects sequences at ILM's studio was interrupted at one point by a visit by representatives from the local camera operators union who were insisting that ILM hire union camera operators. Someone then programmed the newly-developed Dykstraflex motion-controlled camera to perform a complex series of moves that ended with the camera being pointed at the faces of the union reps. At this point the union reps were told, "Send us someone who can operate *that*." The union reps left and were not heard from again.
The skeleton that C-3PO passes belongs to a Tatooine creature called a Greater Krayt Dragon. This artificial skeleton was left in the Tunisian desert after filming and still lies there. During filming of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002), the site was visited by the crew once more and the skeleton was still there.
The scene of Darth Vader's TIE Fighter spinning out of control was added late in the film at the insistence of George Lucas. Other members of the film crew were opposed to including this shot, feeling that it set up a sequel (at the time sequels were generally regarded as inferior cash-in movies), but Lucas insisted upon its inclusion nonetheless.
Prior to the film's release, George Lucas showed an early cut of the film to a group of his film director friends. Most, including Lucas himself, felt the film would be a flop; Brian De Palma reportedly called it the 'worst movie ever'. The only dissenter was Steven Spielberg who correctly predicted the film would make millions of dollars.
The actors found George Lucas to be very uncommunicative towards them, with his only directions generally being either "faster" or "more intense". At one point, when he temporarily lost his voice, the crew provided him with a board with just those three words written on it.
While George Lucas was filming on location in Tunisia, the Libyan government became worried about a massive military vehicle parked near the Libyan border. Consequently, the Tunisian government, receiving threats of military mobilization, politely asked Lucas to move his Jawa sandcrawler farther away from the border.
According to Harrison Ford, during the making of the film, he and Mark Hamill would usually fool around and not commit to their work whenever Alec Guinness was not on set. When Guinness was on set, they behaved much more professionally.
George Lucas' decision to accept a lower salary on the film in exchange for full merchandising rights was considered a fool's gamble on his part. Toys based on movies had never been major money-earners (though some movie-toy combinations had done moderate retail returns) because of the long gap between when a movie would go through its theatrical run and when any products based on it would be available. Star Wars, however,was such a phenomenon that it reached the holiday 1977 sales period in full swing, and changed the way movies were merchandised forever.
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 Lucas, complaining about how insulting it was for her daughter to be flying coach. Fisher was in the room with Lucas when he took the call, and after a few minutes asked if she could talk to her mother. When Lucas handed her the phone she simply said, "Mother, I want to fly coach, will you f**k off?!" and hung up.
James Earl Jones supplied the voice of Darth Vader, but specifically requested that he not be credited. At the time, the reason he cited was that he felt he had not done enough work to get the billing, but he later admitted that he didn't want his name associated with the film because he was still an up-and-coming actor, and didn't want to be typecast. Jones does receive billing in the subsequent sequels and the 1997 "Special Edition".
When 20th Century Fox attempted to distribute the film in the U.S., fewer than 40 theaters agreed to show it. As a solution, Fox threatened that any cinema that refused to show Star Wars would not be given the rights to screen the potential blockbuster The Other Side of Midnight (1977) (which ended up grossing less than 10% of what Star Wars did).
The planet Tatooine is never referred to by name throughout the entire showing of "A New Hope". It doesn't appear on the scroll at the beginning of the movie. When C-3PO says he doesn't know what planet they're on, Luke responds by saying "If there's a Bright Center to the Universe, you're on the planet that it's farthest from". In the original trilogy, The planet's name isn't mentioned until Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980). It is referred to by name and visited in all subsequent movies and prequels.
Peter Cushing found the boots that came with his costume extremely uncomfortable to wear because they were too small for his feet. Thus he only wore them in the few shots in which Tarkin's feet could be seen. In all other shots, Peter Cushing wore a pair of fuzzy slippers.
When the storm troopers enter the room where C-3PO and R2-D2 are hiding, one of the actors accidentally bumps his head on the doorway due to his limited visibility. When the Special Edition came out in 1997, a sound effect had been added to the scene to accompany the head bump.
Peter Mayhew worked as an orderly in a Yorkshire hospital prior to being cast in the movie. He won his role ten seconds after meeting George Lucas for the first time; all the 7'2" Mayhew had to do was stand up.
Peter Mayhew and David Prowse were both given a choice as to which giant character they wanted to play, Chewbacca or Darth Vader. Mayhew wanted to play a good guy and Prowse wanted to play a bad guy, so they ended up playing the matching characters.
The shootout between Han Solo and Greedo inside the Cantina was the subject for a lot of controversy and debate among Star Wars fans as to who shot first. Many fans debated that Greedo actually shot first a split second before Solo did, but with careful examination of the scene, it was obvious that Greedo never fired his shot at all. For the 1997 Special Edition release of this movie, George Lucas had edited the scene to include Greedo shooting first at Solo at point blank range, with Solo moving his head slightly to the right to dodge the shot before firing back at Greedo. This caused perhaps the worst backlash of all the alterations made to the original trilogy from outraged fans. The shooting scene was therefore edited for a third time for the 2004 DVD release, so that both Greedo and Han Solo fired their guns more or less at the same time.
The accounts on how Alec Guinness regarded the movie and his work on it vary greatly. He frequently recalled the experience of making the movie as a bad one, and consistently claimed that it was his idea to have his character killed off in the first film, so as to limit his involvement and make sure he "wouldn't have to carry on saying these rubbish lines". He later mentioned to 'shrivel up' each time someone mentioned the movie, and claimed to throw away all Star Wars related fan mail without even opening it (a logical paradox, making it likely that this is not true, as his journals report what some of this mail said in detail), because he hated the fact that he would be most remembered as Obi -Wan Kenobi despite other roles which he held in much higher regard. Contrary to all this, George Lucas has said he made the decision to kill off Kenobi, since the character had no part to play in the movie's finale, and deserved a memorable exit. According to Lucas, Guinness was "less than happy" that his character was dying earlier than expected, and even appeared to enjoy his time on set. Lucas, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher have always stated how patient and helpful Guinness was on the set, and praised his professionalism and respectfulness to all cast and crew members. While Guinness made no secret that he disliked the dialogue in George Lucas' script, he claimed that he accepted the role for two reasons: 1). He was an admirer of Lucas' previous film American Graffiti (1973) and 2). The narrative compelled him to read the whole script through to the end, in spite of not liking the dialogue and not being a fan of science fiction. Of the final film, he remarked that he found it 'staggering as spectacle and technically brilliant, exciting, very noisy and warmhearted. The battle scenes at the end go on for five minutes too long, and some of the dialogue is excruciating and much of it is lost in noise, but it remains a vivid experience.'
The bantha seen being mounted by tusken raiders after they spot Luke Skywalker's speeder, was actually an Asian elephant dressed in a costume of fur and fake horns. Filming the scene proved difficult, because the elephant was not accustomed to the extreme heat of Death Valley, and kept removing the costume.
Most of the Stormtroopers are left-handed. That is because of how the weapons are constructed. Their weapons are based on a real weapon, where the magazine is on left side of the weapons. This construction caused it to hit the troopers in the chest. Therefore they have to switch grip of the weapon, which made them look left-handed.
George Lucas waived the normal writer/director fee and asked for a mere $175,000 plus 40% of the merchandising rights. After the failure of Doctor Dolittle (1967), when its massive merchandising push proved an equally costly debacle, studio executives saw little if any profit from such matters and agreed. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) related merchandise has since generated many millions of dollars in sales, allowing Lucas to make movies completely independent of the studio system he decried. Merchandising rights are now a major part of any film contract.
George Lucas's script evolved into a mammoth 200 page screenplay. Having spent a full year writing it, he was reluctant to condense it so instead he chose to concentrate on the first third, with a view to expanding the remaining two thirds into two additional films.
When Obi-Wan is giving a short history of the Jedi Order and Luke's father in his hut on Tatooine, a patch can be seen on the right shoulder of his robe. It is explained in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) how this robe got burnt.
George Lucas had not originally intended to use Anthony Daniels's voice for the voice of C-3PO. He only changed his mind after a suggestion by Stan Freberg, one of the actors considered as Daniels' replacement Daniels' voice was altered in post-production. His character was supposed to be like a "used-car salesman". Ultimately, though, George Lucas was won over by the charisma of Daniels' reading of the part as a "snooty British butler" and so Daniels has done the voice for C-3PO ever since.
The original name of the main character in this film was Luke Starkiller, and that was the character's name when filming began in Tunisia. Later, when filming moved to Elstree Studios in London, George Lucas had second thoughts and changed the name to Skywalker. This did not cause a problem, as Luke's last name had not been used in the scenes already shot. The name 'Starkiller' would later be used as the name of the Sith apprentice in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (2008). In honour of Lucas, J.J. Abrams named The First Order base, seen in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015), "Starkiller Base".
A great deal of the film was shot by vintage 1950s VistaVision cameras, because they were of higher quality than any others available. After the film was released, the prices of these cameras skyrocketed..
During production, George Lucas referred to the film as a "Disney movie," trying to capture the whimsy of classic 1950s Disney family films, one of Lucas's favorites being Swiss Family Robinson (1960). Ironically, more than 30 years after the release of the film, the Walt Disney Company would acquire LucasFilm, Lucas' production company, including all rights to the "Star Wars" stories and characters for $4 billion; thus the film actually became a Disney movie.
David Prowse, the actor in the Darth Vader suit, was still disgruntled more than 20 years after the film's release about the fact that his voice was replaced by James Earl Jones. In an interview with the Canadian press, Prowse claimed that he was a victim of "reverse racism" as there were no black members in the cast, the studio was worried that they would lose a significant size audience. However, Jones wasn't even credited in the original film and it was initially unknown that Vader was being voiced by a black actor. George Lucas opted to dub Vader's dialogue with another actor because Prowse has a strong Bristol accent which was not in keeping with the character. The cast and crew's nickname for Prowse was Darth Farmer, because of his heavy Bristol accent.
The word "Jedi" is derived from the Japanese words "Jidai Geki" which translate as "period adventure drama." A period adventure drama is a Japanese TV soap opera program set in the samurai days. George Lucas mentioned in an interview that he saw a "Jidai Geki" program on TV while in Japan a year or so before the movie was made and liked the word.
George Lucas came up with the name R2-D2 during post-production of American Graffiti (1973). One of the sound crew wanted Lucas to retrieve Reel #2 of the Second Dialogue track. In post-production parlance, this came out as "could you get R2-D2 for me?". Lucas liked the sound of that and noted it down for future use.
The famous Darth Vader suit was designed by production designer Ralph McQuarrie, who was concerned about the character being able to breathe while he was traveling from his spaceship to Princess Leia's spaceship. It was not explained why Darth Vader wears the suit at all times until Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980). The look of the Darth Vader suit was based on robes worn by Bedouin Warriors.
During production, Anthony Daniels and all other actors playing "C-3PO"-type droids had to lean against a board to rest, as his costume was not flexible enough to allow them to sit. In scenes where C-3PO is required to sit, Daniels' costume had to be partially disassembled to allow him to sit down. This was hidden by using camera angles, and by having C-3PO sit behind things. This inflexible costume problem was also experienced by actor Jack Haley who played the Tin Woodsman in The Wizard of Oz (1939).
Alan Ladd Jr. was very anxious when he attended the premiere in Japan, only to be met by total silence at the end. What Ladd didn't realize was that Japanese moviegoers typically wait for a film's end titles to finish before speaking or leaving the theater.
George Lucas planned to score the film with existing classical music like Stanley Kubrick had done on 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) before Steven Spielberg introduced him to composer John Williams. Lucas and Williams agreed on a classical 19th-century Romantic music style with liberal use of leitmotif for the score. Since the movie would show worlds never seen before, the music had to serve as an "emotional anchor" for the audience to relate.
The language spoken by the Jawas was created by recording speakers of the African Zulu language and electronically speeding it up. Greedo's language is the Peruvian Indian language Quechua, played backwards. (George Lucas would later feature Peruvian Indians again in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)).
The hilt of the lightsaber given to Luke Skywalker is a Graflex 3 Cell Camera flash tube with some rubber grips and a loop attached to the base, these flash tubes can still be bought today but cost around the same as an official replica hilt.
The "TIE" in TIE Fighter is an acronym. It stands for "Twin Ion Engines". Modelmaker Joe Johnston came up with this acronym. In 'The Making of Star Wars' book he mentions another possibility had been 'Third Intergalactic Empire'.
In an earlier version of the script, the Millennium Falcon lands on not the Death Star but at a Cloud City that floats above the gaseous surface of the planet Alderaan. The rescue of Princess Leia and Obi-Wan Kenobi's duel with Darth Vader take place at this base, not on the Death Star. A cut in the budget for the movie forced George Lucas to bring in the Death Star early, and in the finished film the scenes that would have take place in the Cloud City take place there, instead. The Cloud City, of course, was later used in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) . Since Alderaan was destroyed in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), however, it obviously couldn't be the location of the Cloud City. So a new planet was created to house the Cloud City: Bespin.
While filming, a fierce sandstorm destroyed several of the Tatooine sets in the desert outside Tozeur, Tunisia, and filming resumed two days later. The same thing would happen to George Lucas 22 years later while filming Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
When first released in 1977, this movie was simply titled "Star Wars", as it was intended to be a stand-alone movie. Sequels were not considered until after it became wildly successful. The name of this movie was changed to "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" in 1981 to fit in better with the names of the other films. The later print was the first one to be released on mass market video (an earlier Betamax release did not have the subtitle), and all video, laserdisc or DVD releases have featured the subtitles. The theatrical cut DVDs, released in September 2006, were the first time that the original opening crawl, without subtitle, has been released on home video. The reason George Lucas created the title card "Episode IV" in the first film was as a homage to 1940's Saturday afternoon "cliffhanger" serials, like the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. He also used the "text crawl" the same way each of those series opened up new chapters. He did not at the time have Episodes I, II, and III already planned. In fact, at one point, 20th Century Fox wanted the "Episode IV" title removed so as not to confuse moviegoers. There are some prints of the film that do not have that title card.
Interested in creating a modest line of colorful space toys, Kenner Toys signed on for the merchandising shortly before Star Wars opened, although they did not believe the movie would be a hit. When Star Wars became a hit, they were unprepared to handle the demand and produce enough Star Wars toys to handle the demand for Christmas. Instead, they sold boxed vouchers for various toys. The toys sold in the "Empty Box" campaign during December were not delivered until the following March.
The first draft was twice as long as the finished film, and contained a lot of elements that would be recycled in later movies - for example, the last act would take place on the jungle planet Yavin, which would be the home planet of the Wookiees (originally envisioned as smaller, with heads like that of "giant bushbabies", and not technologically capable), who would end up fighting the Empire alongside our heroes. The second draft was a substantial rewrite which cut all this out, but Lucas still wanted a Wookiee in the movie: so he created Chewbacca, a Wookiee co-pilot who was familiar with technology. For Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983), Lucas brought back his idea of a low technology race fighting the Empire - but in place of the Wookiees, he invented the Ewoks (by effectively shrinking them down half the size and inverting the two syllables in their species name). A giant battle with Wookiees on their home planet Kashyyyk finally made it to screen in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005).
When Darth Vader crushes the neck of Captain Antilles, the actual sound you hear is of walnut shells being crushed. The same sound effect is used in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983), when Han Solo is freed from the carbonite.
Obi-Wan never says "May the Force be with you"; he always says a close variation of the line. The line is spoken by both Han Solo (to Luke) and General Dodonna (while addressing the assembled rebel pilots), neither of whom has Force powers.
The chess scene on the Millennium Falcon was done using stop-motion creatures. The crew considered doing it with costumed actors, but opted for the stop-motion technique, as they wanted to avoid comparisons and similarities to the film Westworld.
During the scene on the Death Star right after Ben leaves to shut down the tractor beam, Chewbacca barks something to Luke to which Han says "Boy, you said it Chewie". Backstage footage reveals that what Chewie says is "The old man's gone mad".
This is the only Star Wars series film in which neither Yoda nor Palpatine make an appearance. Yoda is not mentioned, as the character had not yet been created. Palpatine (whose name is never uttered in the classic trilogy) is mentioned, but referred to only as "the Emperor".
George Lucas and the production team apparently had a series of running battles with the studio cleaning service, which would continually clean and buff the floors on set, even though Lucas had requested that they leave them scuffed and dull - part of his idea that the world the characters inhabit should look "lived in". After the sets were constructed, George Lucas went through them and had every single one of them "dirtied up". The R2-D2s were all rolled in the dirt, nicked with a saw, and kicked around a bit. George Lucas popularized the concept of giving sets/props/etc. a "dirtied up" appearance, to create the illusion that they were old and worn. However, he was not the first person to use this strategy. Over a decade prior, Gerry Anderson had extensively used this process in his Supermarionation series, most notably Thunderbirds (1965).
Luke went through several changes. Lucas toyed with the idea of changing him into a woman after cutting Princess Leia from the script. He also entertained the notion of casting the principal characters as a dwarf. In an early screenplay, Skywalker was a 60 year-old general. In the shooting script, he was called Luke Starkiller but this was changed to Luke Skywalker during production.
Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) spent most of the production period in chaos, attempting to create special effects that had never been created before. They blew half their budget on four shots which George Lucas rejected. Ultimately, around $5,000,000 of the $8,000,000 budget was spent by ILM.
This is the only film in the series where David Prowse did the lightsaber fighting on his own; he was doubled in the sequels because he kept breaking the poles that stood in for the blades. This switch might explain why Vader pivots on his feet in this film, but not in the others.
20th Century Fox was so sure Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) was going to be a disaster that they came within a matter of days of selling off their stake in the film as a tax shelter. Positive feedback from an advanced screening made them change their minds, and the profits from the film ended up saving the studio from bankruptcy.
In 2010, George Lucas sent Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, the executive producers of TV's Lost (2004), a letter congratulating them on the show's end and letting them in on some (possibly facetious) secrets about his development of the Star Wars movie series: "Don't tell anyone ... but when 'Star Wars' first came out, I didn't know where it was going either. The trick is to pretend you've planned the whole thing out in advance. Throw in some father issues and references to other stories - let's call them homages - and you've got a series."
The Tatooine scenes were filmed in Tunisia. There is a town in Tunisia's rural south named Tataouine (Berber for "eyes"), and George Lucas liked the name so much he adopted it for Luke Skywalker's home world. Some of the interiors and the courtyard of Luke's house were filmed in a hotel in Matmata, Tunisia. One can visit this two-star hotel and see some pictures and the painted ceiling of what was used for the Skywalker dining room. When Luke goes out of the farm, he appears in a flat deserted area, while the reality when you get out of the hotel show a lot of other houses, small stone hills and a lot of prickly peartrees (a variety of cactus very common in Tunisia).
While speaking at London's National Film Theatre in 2009, Ben Burtt disclosed that the alien gibberish sprouted by the Mos Eisley spy Garindan/Long Snoot was actually the processed voice of John Wayne.
According to Ben Burtt, the sounds Chewbacca makes have been made from a compilation of large mammals, mostly bears (he said one particular zoo-kept Grizzly Bear was an invaluable source of Chewbacca sounds). R2-D2's sounds are various people (mostly Burtt) making baby-like sounds or sometimes actually recordings of babies electronically manipulated to sound mechanic.
Unlike the other films in the series, this film features Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) as the ranking Imperial villain, instead of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Both of their names are references to the Roman Republic/Empire. The Tarquins were kings of Rome in the days before the Roman Republic. Palatine Hill was a major location in the city of Rome.
Darth Vader's breathing was originally meant to be much more labored and raspy. The sound of this labored, raspy breathing would be used later on in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) during that movie's climax.
The actors playing the stormtroopers in the scene where they investigate the escape pod were paid 8500 Tunisian Dinar, which back then was the equivalent of only US$6.50 in 1976 dollars, which adjusted for inflation would be US$24.76 in 2010 dollars.
In the novelization of the film, the book begins with a short prologue which tells the story of the fall of the "Old Republic", the rise of the Empire, and the rise of the Rebel Alliance. This would be part of the basis for Episodes 1-3 of the "Prequel Trilogy".
During a holiday break for Christmas in 1976, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher spent a few days in New York City together. One evening they saw a movie together, and a trailer for Star Wars happened to be showed prior to the feature. Hamill recalls that upon the ending of the trailer a heckler shouting "Coming soon to the Late Show!"
20th Century Fox green lit the film despite marketing surveys indicating little or no interest among potential movie goers in a science fiction movie. A related survey also resulted in a strong dislike of the film's title as the word "Wars" held negative connotations for much of the general public during the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War.
A small pair of metal dice can be seen hanging in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon as Chewbacca makes preparations to depart from Mos Eisley. Set designer Roger Christian claims he added the pair of dice hanging in the Millennium Falcon cockpit (briefly seen when Chewbacca bumps his head on them as he first enters) because there were dice hanging in Harrison Ford's car in American Graffiti (1973). However, Ford's character had a skull hanging from his rear-view mirror. Ron Howard had the fluffy dice. They don't appear in subsequent scenes, because they were stolen from the set and not replaced.
Harrison Ford was originally not allowed to audition, as he had starred in American Graffiti (1973), also directed by George Lucas. George Lucas originally intended to use only new faces for Star Wars, but after using Harrison Ford to read lines with actors auditioning for the other roles, he realized Ford was the best actor for the part of Han Solo.
This is the opening sentence for a 13-page treatment George Lucas wrote in 1972: "...the story of Mace Windu, a revered Jedi-bendu of Opuchi who was related to Usby C.J. Thape, a Padawaan learner to the famed Jedi..." George Lucas spent nearly three years rewriting before he completed the script for Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). Although most of that early script was ultimately unused, the character of Mace Windu and the term padawaan (with the spelling changed to padawan), both appear in the prequel trilogy. Mace Windu, of course, is one of the Jedi Council members, played by Samuel L. Jackson. And the term padawan is used to refer to Jedi apprentices.
Was originally scheduled for a Christmas 1976 release, but was pushed back five months as post-production (especially special effects) took longer than expected. Studio executives were concerned that the new 25th May 1977 release date would put the film's box office chances at risk as Smokey and the Bandit (1977) would come out that same week. However, by the end of its initial theatrical run in the U.S., Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) had grossed over twice as much as Smokey and the Bandit (1977).
Anthony Daniels initially had no interest in the movie, and only agreed to meet George Lucas to be polite. Almost immediately into their initial meeting, Daniels became intrigued by Ralph McQuarrie's conceptual art of C3-P0, and Daniels became drawn to playing the character. Daniels also believes a major reason why he was selected was because unlike most others who met with Lucas for the part, didn't try to impress him with any unasked for stiff robot movements during the interview process.
Following principal photography, new scenes had to be filmed for the Cantina scene, to give it more diversity and add more aliens to the scene. However, the reshoot set was very small. If you look at the close-up scenes of most of the aliens when Luke and company enter, you can see the same window in the background.
George Lucas had ILM watch archival footage of World War II dogfights as reference material for the final battle over the Death Star. This method would evolve into pre-visualization "animatics" in common use today. (Former fighter pilots were also employed as technical advisors, and audio recordings of radio communications made during dogfights were studied, to help with the dialogue.)
In the original draft, Luke made a failed Death Star Trench bombing attempt before making his shot that ultimately destroyed the station. While all footage of the first trench run was eliminated from the final movie, one line that referenced the first run remained - "They're coming much faster THIS TIME."
George Lucas originally prepared a 14-page story treatment for his space opera. The major studios all rejected it because they viewed it as science fiction which was very difficult to market at the time. Lucas did find one sympathetic ear - Alan Ladd Jr., the then new head of 20th Century Fox, who had been impressed with Lucas's efforts on American Graffiti (1973). It was Ladd who eventually greenlit the movie, to the tune of an $8,000,000 budget.
The first feature film to be screened in Dolby Stereo. Previously, films like The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Mr. Billion (1977) had made use of the sound system with disastrous results. However, technical minded George Lucas knew exactly how he wanted to incorporate the system and made it work for his picture.
Jabba the Hutt was originally supposed to appear in the film, dropped in optically on top of stand-in actor Declan Mulholland. However, the effect was not acceptable and the scene was cut until CGI allowed it to be completed for the 1997 'Special Edition'.
The first two drafts of the screenplay apparently ripped off Flash Gordon and Frank Herbert's Dune, respectively. George Lucas had to rework the draft several times when the rights holders (King Features and Herbert) balked. Even then, Herbert tried to sue because they're still similar, but he relented when the film became a hit in its own right.
May 4th has come to be designated as Intergalactic Star Wars Day. The date May the Fourth was seen as a play on the movie's catch phrase "May The Force Be With You." In addition, May is the anniversary month of the release of each Star Wars film until Episode VII.
The movie opened in May 1977 and by November had dethroned Jaws (1975) as the all-time domestic (U.S.) box-office champ. It then was beaten by E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), but was back on top when it was re-released in 1997. It held that position until Titanic (1997).
The origin of R2-D2 can be found in the "drones" Huey, Dewey, and Louie from the film Silent Running (1972). Upon meeting Douglas Trumbull, director and special effects chief on "Silent Running", George Lucas commented on how much he liked the designs of Trumbull's two-footed robots in the film (which were operated by bilateral amputees). Four years later, a functionally similar design appeared as R2-D2 in "Star Wars". Universal Studios, the distributor of "Silent Running" noted the similarity between the robots (and the similarity of "Star Wars" to the Buck Rogers (1939) serials of the '30s), and promptly sued 20th Century Fox for infringement. The lawsuit was eventually settled when Fox counter-sued over Battlestar Galactica (1978), which bore a striking resemblance to "Star Wars".
Upon receiving the script prior to her audition, Carrie Fisher read it aloud with her friend, actor Miguel Ferrer. Struck by how unique the story was, Fisher decided to lobby hard for the role of Princess Leia - a decision which paid off.
When writing the script, George Lucas had terrible trouble remembering how to spell all the odd names he had invented for his universe. This explains why there is such inconsistency over the way Wookiee is spelled.
At the time of his casting for the movie, Mark Hamill was under contract to co-star in the TV series Eight Is Enough (1977) . Hamill tried to get out of his contract for Eight Is Enough as between shooting schedules and filming locations there was no way he could do both. After filming the pilot for the TV series, he was involved in an auto accident damaging his face. This resulted in the TV producers deciding to let him out of his contract for the series enabling him to take the part of Luke.
20th Century Fox didn't like the title "Star Wars" and wanted to rename the movie. In a 2013 "Nerdist" podcast, Mark Hamill said that one of their concerns was that they thought that potential female audiences (already a group they thought would be unlikely to enjoy science fiction) would be turned off by the word "wars" in the title. Hamill also said that another reason they wanted to change the title was that a rather large percentage of the Fox focus group members who heard the title (Hamill said 30%) thought that he movie must be a "behind-the-scenes look at the Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton marriage."
Out of all six live-action Star Wars films, this is the only one to feature profanity more than once. "Hell" and "damn" are used a few times, and R2-D2 "swears" in droid language, but he only chirps and beeps.
Ironically, while it was originally planned that C-3PO'S voice would be dubbed with a different actor, Anthony Daniels has gone on to voice the part in nearly every other incarnation of the character, including the radio dramatization and several animated series.
According to the commentary on the Blu-ray Disc version of the movie, the scene where Tarkin blows up Alderaan was the first scene Carrie Fisher filmed with Leia. She admits to being influenced by Peter Cushing, and admits she may have based some of her performance on his own style of acting.
In Italy, R2-D2 was renamed C1-P8 while Darth Vader became Lord Fener, the reason being that "Vader" in Italian sounds too close to the common noun for the toilet bowl (the "water", clearly from the English "water closet"). The "clones" mentioned by Obi-Wan Kenobi became "quotes" (Italian: "cloni"/"quoti").
David Prowse was not the only on-screen actor to have his voice overdubbed by another. In the early rough-cut of the Cantina sequence, Wuher, the barkeeper is speaking in a very pronounced Cockney accent, one that was overdubbed by an American actor before the film's release. The same also happens with the character of Dr. Evazan ("I have the death sentence in 12 systems!") for much the same reason. Sheelagh Fraser who plays Luke's Aunt Beru was also dubbed, as George Lucas felt she sounded a little too English for the character.
It was stunt coordinator Peter Diamond's decision to arm Sand People with Gaffi sticks, getting a choice of weapons from various studio props - he felt the stick was a good choice, having served in the British Army, using bayonets and similar weaponry and being familiar with what they were capable of. Diamond played the Sand Person that attacks Luke, being the only stunt person on hand for the Tunisian portion of filming - he initially did not plan on playing the part.
George Lucas wanted TIE Fighters to move by very fast in the Death Star Escape sequence. His crew thought this meant a ship moving by the ship's window in 3-4 seconds, Lucas wanted them to go past in about half a second. This led to the film crew moving the backgrounds in additions to the TIEs themselves to create a greater illusion of speed.
The weapons the stormtroopers used were essentially the Sterling L2A3 9mm SMG (sub-machine gun) a military weapon developed in the late 1940s in the UK and adopted by the British and Canadian Armies in the 1950s. The curved left entry side mounted magazine was removed. And that was as much as it was modified for the film. The longer sandtrooper weapon was the MG-34 machine gun from Germany.
The only Star Wars film in which Darth Vader is not seen unmasked. In the next film Vader is seen having his mask put back on exposing his scalp. In VI Luke takes off Vader's mask and in III Vader is seen having his armor put on for the first time.
R2-D2's vocal patterns largely contain sound designer Ben Burtt's own voice. In trying to create the beeping, whistling noises of the droid, Burtt found that he was vocalizing a lot of what he was trying to achieve, so he recorded his voice - mainly making baby noises - and then fed it through a synthesizer.
There is a rumor that Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) was having trouble timing his conversations with R2-D2, as R2-D2's dialogue was to be dubbed in later. Supposedly, Daniels asked George Lucas to make some kind of noise to help him, but when Lucas forgot, the matter was dropped.
The cantina creature later to be known as 'Dice Ibegon' was really nothing more than a hand puppet known as the 'Drooling arm'. This was because it was fashioned to have a red, oozy liquid drip from it's mouth. When they tried this on film however, the liquid spurted all over the place and the shot was judged to be too disgusting for a PG movie.
Among the first promotional licenses granted was to Marvel Comics, who published a Star Wars comic book series which ran for 107 issues from 1977-86. The first six issues were an adaption of the film, which included some deleted scenes from the film. The adaptation was also published in a tabloid sized Collector's Edition format.
George Lucas said in an interview with Leonard Maltin that the Ewoks in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) were originally supposed to be Wookiees. However since he had established Chewbacca as a fairly sophisticated character who was able to fly spaceships, he opted to make the Ewoks more primitive so as to contrast with the Imperials and their technology.
Most of the planets/moons/etc. seen in the films were just balls that were painted. However, unlike the planets and the like, an actual model was built of the Death Star, because there were constant shots of vehicles approaching it.
During the scene where Han Solo and the others emerge from the Millennium Falcon's secret compartments, John Williams wrote a 3-note motif for the accompanied soundtrack. This 3-note motif is a cue from Psycho (1960). As a friend and colleague of Bernard Herrmann, who wrote the music for Psycho (1960), John Williams included this particular cue as an homage to Bernard Herrmann. SOURCE: 'The Making of Psycho' documentary which can be found in the Bonus Materials section on the 'Psycho (1960) Collector's Edition' DVD. The 1:16 mark of the documentary reveals this information.
Several scenes were filmed of Luke with his friends on Tatooine in an effort to introduce the main character earlier in the film. First Luke watches Princess Leia's ship battle with the Imperial cruiser in the sky overhead through his binoculars, and later he meets his best friend Biggs Darklighter in Anchorhead, who has left the Imperial Academy and plans to join the Rebel Alliance. Also present in the Anchorhead scenes were Anthony Forrest as Fixer and Koo Stark as Fixer's girlfriend Cammie. All these scenes were later cut, leaving Luke's mention of Biggs to his aunt and uncle as the sole reference to his character early on. The scenes have never officially appeared in any release of the movie, but stills were included in "The Story of Star Wars" (a book-and-record set), and the scenes also appeared in the comic book and novel adaptations. This has led several people to believe they actually saw the scenes on the silver screen. All of the scenes were included on the CD-Rom "Star Wars: Behind the Magic" in 1998. A reunion scene between Luke and Biggs at the Rebel base was included in the Special Edition re-release of the movie. However, a line by Red Leader about having once met Luke's father was cut from this exchange.
Han Solo and Obi-Wan Kenobi are ranked #14 and #37 respectively on the "Heroes" section of AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains, making Star Wars the only film to have more than one character on the list.
The reason the scene transitions using a wipe upwards when Ben and Luke carry C-3P0 to repair him after the Sand People attack (around the 33rd minute mark) is that 'Anthony Daniels (I)' was only wearing black tights below the waist. It was done this way to hide them.
George Lucas shot the opening sequence of the Storm Troopers bursting through the blockade runner door, and the ensuing battle against rebel troops, in two takes. While the action on set was over very quickly, Lucas used six cameras to capture it, thereby extending the length of the scene on screen. Since some cameras were in very tight and others wide, it is difficult to tell the various actions that were duplicated.
Ben Burtt created the sound of Darth Vader's breathing by placing a small microphone in the second stage (mouthpiece) of a scuba regulator, and then recording the sound made by his breathing through the regulator.
The terms "X-wing" and "Y-wing" and "TIE fighter" were used by ILM effects guys to distinguish the fighters. These terms are not used in this film, though they were incorporated into the sequels. They also became popular with the public after the toys and the Making of special aired on tv. In addition, ILM's special effects staff nicknamed the Millennium Falcon "The Porkburger" but this never caught on.
The character name Obi-Wan Kenobi appears to allude to the following definitions. OBI - a form of belief involving sorcery, practiced in parts of the West Indies, South America, the southern U.S., and Africa. And a charm used in this belief system. WAN - Archaically meaning dark or gloomy; also pale in color or hue, meaning decline in ability (referring to dotage of the aging Jedi). KEN - knowledge, understanding, or cognizance; mental perception. range of sight or vision.
In previous drafts of the screenplay, the young hero was known as Annikin (sic) Starkiller, and Luke Skywalker was the name of a grizzled veteran (essentially the character who would become Obi Wan Kenobi). George Lucas played around with different variations on these names, and in the shooting script the young hero was called Luke Starkiller. During filming Lucas decided that "Starkiller" suggested a Charles Manson-like cult leader and changed Luke's surname to Skywalker. Since the name Starkiller hadn't been spoken in filming, no footage had to be reshot or dubbed.
German audiences usually laugh at the scene where R2-D2 is being stunned by the Jawa. This is due to the sounds that the Jawa utters afterwards. They resemble "Gute Idee!" which is German for "Good idea!"
Portions of the sound effects for the Millennium Falcon's engines were recorded at an air show at the Experimental Aircraft Association's annual convention in Oshkosh, WI. In a gesture of thanks, Lucasfilm donated a model of the Falcon to the EAA Air Museum. Coincidentally, Harrison Ford served as the chairman of the Young Eagles program at the museum.
The name Luke derives from the Greek word for light, which fits into the film's allegorical themes of light and darkness. The Biblical Apostle Luke was an early convert to Christianity, much like Luke Skywalker converting to the ways of a Jedi. In addition, the name Luke is also a derivative of the name Lucas as in George Lucas.
Initial research from 20th Century Fox using the title and a brief synopsis came back with the results that only males under 25 were interested in seeing the film. Fox then deliberately marketed the film with a view to attracting older and female cinemagoers by pushing images of humans (including Princess Leia) centerstage and referring to the film in more mythic tones, rather than science fiction.
In the Blockade Runner scenes at the beginning of the film, with the shootout in the white hallways, only a single white hallway was built. It was filmed from multiple angles to give the impression that the "ship" was bigger than it really was, and so that the best parts of the battle footage could be used more than once.
While the shot where the escape pod leaves Leia's ship was the first ever completed by ILM, the first shot actually approved by George Lucas for the movie was a shot of the laser cannons in the Death Star trench.
The day before he began filming as C-3PO, Anthony Daniels tried on his costume for the first time. Within two steps, the left leg shattered down into the plastic of the left foot, beginning to stab the actor every time he took a step.
In some Spanish subtitled releases, R2-D2 name appears subtitled as "Arturito" or "little Arthur" in Spanish, since the pronunciation is very closed resembled, this is also the case with C3-PO whose name is subtitled as "Citripio", but that does not resembles anything in Spanish.
Along with Beru Lars and Mon Mothma, Leia is only one of three female characters to star in the Original Trilogy while in this film she and Beru are the only two female characters to appear, although non-speaking female extras are seen in Mos Eisley.
The sounds of the lasers were made by striking a metal wrench up the steel re-enforcement cables of a high-voltage electricity pylon - those long lines of power pylons that criss-cross most countries. The Millennium Falcon "shutdown" engine noise was sourced from an external air-conditioning unit on its last legs.
Although the Anchorhead scenes featuring Anthony Forrest as Fixer and Koo Stark as Cammie were deleted, Forrest still appears in the finished film. He played the Stormtrooper who stops Luke and Obi-Wan in Mos Eisley and is then deluded by Obi-Wan's use of the Force.
The very first treatment of the film was originally titled "The Journal of the Whills". It centered around a Jedi-bendu by the name of Mace Windy (who would become the Mace Windu character in the prequel trilogy) and his apprentice, C. 2. Thorpe. George Lucas brought the thing to his agent, Jeff Berg, who was quickly confused by the massive amounts of jargon used in the treatment, and recommended he start simpler.
Normally 20th Century-Fox released about 20 films per year, but the long-running success of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) resulted in the studio issuing only seven new films in the entire year of 1978.
Luke Skywalker was originally written to be a much older character. He was General Luke Skywalker, a Jedi Master described as being about 60 years old with a grey beard, and mentor to Annikin Starkiller. This version makes Luke's character much more like that of Obi-Wan Kenobi. This is very similar to how Luke appears in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015).
The 2003 book Alec Guinness: The Authorised Biography reprints several letters that Guinness wrote to his longtime friend and correspondent Anne Kaufman in which he expressed his displeasure with and dubiousness about the quality of Star Wars as it was in production. Before filming started, he wrote: "I have been offered a movie (20th Cent. Fox) which I may accept, if they come up with proper money. London and N. Africa, starting in mid-March. Science fiction - which gives me pause - but is to be directed by Paul [sic] Lucas who did American Graffiti (1973), which makes me feel I should. Big part. Fairy-tale rubbish but could be interesting perhaps." Then, after filming started, he wrote to Kaufman again to complain about the dialogue and describe his costars: "new rubbish dialogue reaches me every other day on wadges of pink paper - and none of it makes my character clear or even bearable. I just think, thankfully, of the lovely bread, which will help me keep going until next April ... I must off to studio and work with a dwarf (very sweet - and he has to wash in a bidet) and your fellow countrymen Mark Hamill and Tennyson (that can't be right) Ford. Ellison (? - No!) - well, a rangy, languid young man who is probably intelligent and amusing. But Oh, God, God, they make me feel ninety - and treat me as if I was 106. - Oh, [the actor's name is] Harrison Ford - ever heard of him?"
Apart from the soap opera influences from Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and Frank Herbert's Dune, George Lucas was inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings' fantasy novels, as well as many Japanese samurai movies when he wrote the story. Especially Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress (1958) , which also deals with a famous warrior and a princess who need to be moved safely to allied territory while being pursued by hostiles, served as an inspiration; as an homage, Lucas has admiral Motti refer in the film to the Rebel's secret base as their 'hidden fortress' although the last word is muffled when his throat is grabbed by Vader's psychic attack.
For the special edition version, in the Cantina the close-up shot of the wolfman was removed. He was replaced with a close-up shot of a CGI dinosaur-type man. However in additional frames, you can still see the wolfman in the background.
Some fans took offense to the fact that Chewbacca did not receive a medal in the closing scene. MTV remedied this twenty years later when they gave the character a Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by none other than Carrie Fisher.
The term "Moff", used to describe some Imperial characters (such as Tarkin) is used to mean a regional governor of a specific sector of space. Military officers can also be Moffs - Tarkin, for example, is listed in the script as an Admiral in the Imperial fleet.
In earlier drafts, including the ones that were used for audition readings, the planet Alderaan was known as Organa Major. Although the name was changed, the "Organa" was retained and became Leia's adoptive family name.
In some scenes that were filmed but never used, the filmmakers had to use multiple models of R2-D2, since he had a hard time keeping up with the other characters. When one could no longer keep up, a second one hidden behind a corner or wall would "sneak" back into the main group. As this charade wasn't very convincing, none of these scenes made the final cut.
Joe Maddalena of Profiles in History acquired the Panavision camera that filmed Star Wars A New Hope. On his television show, the short lived series Hollywood Treasure (2010), the camera was featured at the Profiles in History private auction and was sold for an astounding $520,000. Making it the most valuable piece of Star Wars memorabilia in the world.
In 2013, anthologized 2014, the original 1973 draft of The Star Wars, with the old General Luke Skywalker and his young pupil the Starkiller, was adapted to comic book form by Jonathan Rinzler, Mike Mayhew, and Nick Runge, published by Dark Horse.
One of the major changes in the Special Edition version of the film is Luke meeting his old friend Biggs Darklighter at Yavin. This scene was originally filmed for the 1977 original release but didn't make it to the final cut. Earlier scenes involving Luke and Biggs on Tattooine early in the film remain cut from the finished film.
As an executive at 20th Century Fox, Gareth Wigan saw an early screening of the film. When he got home, he gathered his family around the kitchen table and said, "I want you to remember this day because I just had one of the greatest experiences in my life."
When Luke is attacked by a Tusken Raider, the moment where the raider (Peter Diamond waves his weapon over his head with both hands in an up-and-down motion was actually created from a shot of him thrusting his weapon up once, run backwards and forward several times.
The Millennium Falcon was originally modeled after a hamburger with an olive next to it. Because the name of the ship had not been finalized at this time, storyboards refer to as the pirate ship. Some boards indicate for the first version of the pirate ship (which became the Blockade Runner) to be changed into the 'Hamburger Boogie' version.
Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, old film-school friends of George Lucas, did uncredited rewrites on the screenplay. 20th Century Fox refused to pay them a fee, insisting that Lucas pay them out of his own salary. He eventually gave them some of his own profit points as a reward. The rebel General who talks to Princess Leia on her arrival at Yavin IV is named 'Willard' after Huyck.
The original editor for the film was John Jympson. Richard Chew was Lucas' first choice of the editor but budgetary reasons did not allow him to do so. After the first assembly, which was absolutely disastrous, Lucas fired Jympson, asked his then wife Marcia (while editing New York, New York (1977)) who in turn brought in Chew and Paul Hirsch to finish. Both men gave the movie a tighter focus and much-needed faster pace, which paid off when they received an Academy Award for their work.
In earlier versions of the script, the line "There will be no escape for the Princess this time" was "There will be no escape for the Captain this time." (A reference to Captain Antilles, who Vader later strangles to death.)
George Lucas asked costume designer John Mollo to create simple, nondescript costumes without any buttons. The only exception to this last rule were some of the green rebel uniforms worn by extras during the Throne room sequence, as Mollo had to find a lot of spare uniforms at the last minute.
The Jawa language was based on the Zulu language. The recordings of Jawa voices you hear in the final film are a mixture of studio recordings, as well as recordings done in places like canyons to get an ambient echo effect of sorts, spliced together.
Dan O'Bannon and John C. Wash animated the Death Star schematics seen on the computer screen as R2D2 searches the Death Star's computer memory. They were influenced by similar sequences they produced for the film Dark Star (1974).
The model used for the rebel blockade runner (the first ship seen in the first scene of the film) has a tiny Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) movie poster and a tiny Playboy centerfold in its cockpit. These aren't visible on screen, though.
Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing have both appeared in productions of Hamlet. One of Guinness's first roles, at the age of 19, was playing Osric in John Gielgud's production in 1933, which is considered to be one of the best theatrical productions of the twentieth century. Cushing played the same part in Laurence Olivier's film version of Hamlet (1948), which marked his first collaboration with future Star Wars cast member Christopher Lee.
Interested in creating a modest line of colorful space toys, Kenner Toys signed on for the merchandising shortly before Star Wars opened, although they did not believe the movie would be a hit. When Star Wars became a hit, they were unprepared to handle the demand and produce enough Star Wars toys to handle the demand for Christmas. Instead, they sold boxed vouchers for various toys. The toys sold in the 'Empty Box' campaign during December were not delivered until March.
George Lucas's original choice for cinematographer was Geoffrey Unsworth, but Unsworth was committed to A Bridge Too Far (1977). Gilbert Taylor was hired instead, but hated working on the project. Producer Gary Kurtz became concerned that Taylor was slowing production down and attempted to replace him with Harry Waxman, but the camera crew made it clear they would not work under Waxman, and Lucas told Kurtz that replacing Taylor would probably delay the film even further.
As Luke, Han, Chewbacca and Obi Wan are walking into docking bay 94 a cube can be seen in the background which bears a striking resemblance to those found in Valve's Portal game series. This occurs at 54:30.
In the early mono mix of the film, a few lines are slightly different, or completely different vocal takes. For instance, a different actress dubbed Aunt Beru's lines in the earlier mono mix. Likewise, Luke's line "Blast it Biggs, where are you" in the Death Star battle was "Blast it Wedge, where are you" in the mono version. Although the mono mix is less common, the version of the latter line in it may seem to make more sense, since Wedge was the one who did eventually save Luke in that point of the battle. However, in the chaos of such a large-scale dogfight, either version would be acceptable, since Luke might not have known that Biggs was otherwise occupied and Wedge was free to come to his aid.
The scene between Luke and Obi-Wan in Obi-Wan's home was originally written and edited to have the dialogue in a different order. It originally began with Obi-Wan listening to the message in R2-D2. Leia's mention of the Clone Wars is what leads Luke to ask Ben about his service in them, which is what leads to discussing Luke's father, his lightsaber, and the Force. It was changed when George Lucas and his editors decided that there was no urgency to Leia's message if Luke and Obi-Wan are able to have other casual conversations after listening to it. As it is edited now, they listen to Leia's message much later in the scene, and immediately afterwards Obi-Wan begins talking about going to Alderaan.
When George Lucas screened the film for Fox executives, the reaction was surprisingly positive. Alan Ladd Jr. and the other studio executives loved the film and Gareth Wigan told Lucas: "This is the greatest film I've ever seen" and cried during the screening. Lucas found the experience shocking and rewarding, having never gained any approval from studio executives before.
After visiting the set of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), George Lucas was sure Close Encounters would outperform the yet-to-be-released Star Wars at the box office. Steven Spielberg disagreed, and felt Lucas's Star Wars would be the bigger hit. Lucas proposed they trade 2.5% of the profit on each other's films; Spielberg took the trade, and still receives 2.5% of the profits from Star Wars.
For the film's opening crawl, George Lucas originally wrote a composition consisting of six paragraphs with four sentences each. He said, "The crawl is such a hard thing because you have to be careful that you're not using too many words that people don't understand. It's like a poem." Lucas showed his draft to his friends. Brian De Palma, who was there, described it: "The crawl at the beginning looks like it was written on a driveway. It goes on forever. It's gibberish." Lucas recounted what De Palma said the first time he saw it: "George, you're out of your mind! Let me sit down and write this for you." De Palma helped to edit the text into the form used in the film.
Perry King screen-tested for the role of Han Solo. Though he lost the part to Harrison Ford for the film, he got to play Solo in the National Public Radio adaptations of the original "Star Wars" trilogy.
Although their respective characters obviously despise each other, Carrie Fisher found Peter Cushing to be very charming, polite and humorous on set. They got along so well, in fact, that Fisher found it a real challenge to act as if she hated him.
While reading for the film, Mark Hamill found the dialogue to be extremely odd because of its universe-embedded concepts. He chose to simply read it sincerely, and he was selected instead of William Katt, who was subsequently cast in Carrie (1976) (George Lucas shared a joint casting session with Brian De Palma, a long-time friend of his)
While George Lucas was filming in London, where additional casting took place, Kenny Baker, performing a musical comedy act with his acting partner Jack Purvis, learned that the film crew was looking for a small person to fit inside a robot suit and maneuver it; Baker, who is 3 feet 8 inches (1.12 m) tall, was cast immediately after meeting George Lucas. He said, "He saw me come in and said 'He'll do' because I was the smallest guy they'd seen up until then." He initially turned down the role three times, hesitant to appear in a film where his face would not be shown and hoping to continue the success of his comedy act, which had recently started to be televised.
Darth Vader was originally a rather minor character, and early drafts actually have him spending most of the movie without his iconic suit. He was even going to be killed off during the trench run at the end.
Originally, George Lucas envisioned Tatooine as a jungle planet. Gary Kurtz travelled to the Philippines to scout locations; however, because of the idea of spending months filming in the jungle would make Lucas "itchy", the director refined his vision and made Tatooine a desert planet instead. Kurtz then researched all American, North African, and Middle Eastern deserts, and found Tunisia, near the Sahara desert, as the ideal location.
The moon Yavin 4, which acted as the rebel base in the film, was filmed in the Mayan temples at Tikal, Guatemala. George Lucas selected the location as a potential filming site after seeing a poster of it hanging at a travel agency while he was filming in England. This inspired him to send a film crew to Guatemala in March 1977 to shoot scenes. While filming in Tikal, the crew paid locals with a six pack of beer to watch over the camera equipment for several days.
According to Roger Christian, the Millennium Falcon set was the most difficult item to build. Christian wanted the interior of the Falcon to look like that of a submarine. He found scrap airplane metal "that no one wanted in those days and bought them". He began his creation process by breaking down jet engines into scrap pieces, giving him the chance to "stick it in the sets in specific ways". It took him several weeks to finish the chess set (which he described as "the most encrusted set") in the hold of the Falcon.
Gilbert Taylor said that George Lucas, who was consumed by the details of the complicated production, "avoided all meetings and contact with me from day one, so I read the extra-long script many times and made my own decisions as to how I would shoot the picture." He also "took it upon myself to experiment with photographing the lightsabers and other things onstage before we moved on to our two weeks of location work in Tunisia."
During production, George Lucas and Gilbert Taylor-whom Gary Kurtz called "old-school" and "crotchety"-had disputes over filming. With a background in independent filmmaking, Lucas was accustomed to creating most of the elements of the film himself. His lighting suggestions were rejected by an offended Taylor, who felt that Lucas was overstepping his boundaries by giving specific instructions, sometimes even moving lights and cameras himself. Taylor refused to use the soft-focus lenses and gauze Lucas wanted after Fox executives complained about the look. Kurtz stated that "In a couple of scenes [...] rather than saying, 'It looks a bit over lit, can you fix that?', [Lucas would] say, 'turn off this light, and turn off that light.' And Gil would say, 'No, I won't do that, I've lit it the way I think it should be-tell me what's the effect that you want, and I'll make a judgment about what to do with my lights.'"
Filming in Tunisia was highly problematic. George Lucas fell behind schedule in the first week of shooting due to malfunctioning props and electronic breakdowns. Moreover, a rare Tunisian rainstorm struck the country, which further disrupted filming. Gilbert Taylor said, "you couldn't really see where the land ended and the sky began. It was all a gray mess, and the robots were just a blur." Given this situation, Lucas requested for heavy filtration, which confused Taylor, who said: "I thought the look of the film should be absolutely clean ... But George saw it differently, so we tried using nets and other diffusion. He asked to set up one shot on the robots with a 300mm, and the sand and sky just mushed together. I told him it wouldn't work, but he said that was the way he wanted to do the entire film, all diffused." This difference was later settled by 20th Century Fox executives, who backed Taylor's suggestion.
Gilbert Taylor found filming in Elstree highly problematic. The sets John Barry made "were like a coal mine", as the cinematographer described. He said that "they were all black and gray, with really no opportunities for lighting at all." To resolve the problem, he worked the lighting into the sets by chopping in its walls, ceiling and floors. This would result in "a 'cut-out' system of panel lighting", with quartz lamps that could be placed in the holes in the walls, ceiling and floors. His idea was supported by the Fox studio, which agreed that "we couldn't have this 'black hole of Calcutta'". The lighting approach Taylor devised "allowed George to shoot in almost any direction without extensive relighting, which gave him more freedom."
George Lucas rarely spoke to the actors, who felt that he expected too much of them while providing little direction. His directions to the actors usually consisted of the words "faster" and "more intense". Gary Kurtz stated that "it happened a lot where he would just say, 'Let's try it again a little bit faster.' That was about the only instruction he'd give anybody. A lot of actors don't mind-they don't care, they just get on with it. But some actors really need a lot of pampering and a lot of feedback, and if they don't get it, they get paranoid that they might not be doing a good job." Kurtz has said that Lucas "wasn't gregarious, he's very much a loner and very shy, so he didn't like large groups of people, he didn't like working with a large crew, he didn't like working with a lot of actors."
Alan Ladd Jr. offered George Lucas some of the only support from the studio; he dealt with scrutiny from board members over the rising budget and complex screenplay drafts. Initially, Fox approved $8 million for the project; Gary Kurtz said: "we proceeded to pick a production plan and do a more final budget with a British art department and look for locations in North Africa, and kind of pulled together some things. Then, it was obvious that 8 million wasn't going to do it-they had approved 8 million." After requests from the team that "it had to be more", the executives "got a bit scared". For two weeks, Lucas and his crew "didn't really do anything except kind of pull together new budget figures". At the same time, after production fell behind schedule, Ladd told Lucas he had to finish production within a week or he would be forced to shut down production. Kurtz said that "it came out to be like 9.8 or .9 or something like that, and in the end they just said, 'Yes, that's okay, we'll go ahead.'" The crew split into three units, with those units led by Lucas, Kurtz, and production supervisor 'Robert Watts'. Under the new system, the project met the studio's deadline.
Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher were all taken aback out by George Lucas's decided lack of good dialogue skills. They stood up to him-and Lucas, chastened, allowed the actors to basically improvise their own wording for the basic points of the screenplay's dialogue.
Obi Wan was originally going to survive the film, until George Lucas realised that there wasn't anything more for him to do in the story. However, Alec Guinness claimed that he suggested that his character be killed off, because "I just didn't have the heart to go on saying these lines".
Lucasfilm hired Charles Lippincott as marketing director for the film. As 20th Century Fox gave little support for marketing beyond licensing T-shirts and posters, Lippincott was forced to look elsewhere. He secured deals with Marvel Comics for a comic book adaptation, and with Del Rey Books for a novelization. A fan of science fiction, he used his contacts to promote the film at the San Diego Comic-Con and elsewhere within science fiction fandom.
Worried that Star Wars would be beaten out by other summer films, such as Smokey and the Bandit (1977), 20th Century Fox moved the release date to May 25, the Wednesday before Memorial Day. However, fewer than 40 theaters ordered the film to be shown. In response, 20th Century Fox demanded that theaters order Star Wars if they wanted an eagerly anticipated film based on the best-selling novel The Other Side of Midnight.
Tatooine is similar to Arrakis from Frank Herbert's Dune series. Arrakis is the only known source of a longevity spice called Melange. References to "spice", various illegal stimulant drugs, occur throughout the last three films of the Star Wars saga. In the original film, Han Solo is a spice smuggler who has been through the spice mines of Kessel. In the conversation at Obi-Wan Kenobi's home, between Obi-Wan and Luke, Luke expresses a belief that his father was a navigator on a spice freighter. Other similarities include those between Princess Leia and Princess Alia, and between Jedi mind tricks and "The Voice", a controlling ability used by Bene Gesserit. In passing, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru are "moisture farmers"; in Dune, dew collectors are used by Fremen to "... provide a small but reliable source of water." Herbert reported that "David Lynch, [director of Dune (1984)] had trouble with the fact that Star Wars used up so much of Dune." The pair found "... sixteen points of identity ..." and they calculated that, "... the odds against coincidence produced a number larger than the number of stars in the universe."
Kenny Baker later confessed that he thought the film would be a failure. Harrison Ford found it strange that "there's a princess with weird buns in her hair", and he called Chewbacca a "giant in a monkey suit".
John Williams's score features cues inspired by several classical works. The music in the scene where the Millenium Falcon is pulled into the Death Star resembles "Mars, The Bringer Of War" by Gustav Holst. Parts of the Tatooine music resembles selections from Igor Stravinsky's Sacre Du Printemps.
The reunion scene between Luke and Biggs that was added to the Special Edition is slightly cut. In the uncut version which was never edited into any version of the film, Red leader asks Luke if he can handle the X-Wing and realizes that he knew Luke's father, and tells Luke that his father was one of the best pilots he's known. This line was cut by having a new extra walking past the screen to serve as a wipe.