With “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” just days away from premiering in theaters, most diehard fans of the franchise are coming forward and expressing their love for the beloved sci-fi epic and the films that came before it. With director J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars” being the first direct followup to the story since 1983, many are likely having a look back at the original trilogy to prepare for the big release on Wednesday.
Perhaps no movie has been more widely digested and scrutinized by fans than the original “Star Wars” trilogy of “A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.” However, even some of the most hardcore fans may not know that the films’ productions were marred by several tweaks, behind-the-scenes fumbles and bold deal making before they ever became the hit movie trilogy that fans know and love today. To help get people excited for the next round of “Star Wars” movies, below is a brief list of just a few fun facts about the previous films.
Yoda’s Real Name
What do Dagobah and Sunnydale, California, have in common? They both became famous thanks to someone named Buffy. That’s right, although Joss Whedon eventually nabbed the name to create his stellar movie-turned-TV show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," about a young cheerleader destined to battle vampires, it turns out that Yoda almost had first dibs on the name. According to the franchise’s official website, George Lucas originally wanted the iconic Jedi master to be called Buffy. Fortunately, when screenwriter Leigh Brackett took another pass at the script, she changed the name to “Minch Yoda,” which eventually became Yoda.
You know that infamous Wookie call that your father tries to impersonate every chance he gets? He should stop, and not just because he can’t do it right. According to the official website, sound designer Ben Burtt was tasked with coming up with the Wookie language. Lucas wanted it to sound both animalistic and sophisticated. When speeding up and slowing down bear noises didn’t have the desired effect, the designer admitted to using the audio from sick animals to help round out the character’s cry. So, every time you’re trying to emulate Chewbacca’s famous call, you’re actually doing your best impression of a dying walrus or badger.
The Original Vader
Although Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader has been portrayed by a whopping six different actors (including voiceovers), Lucas never quite got the man he had in mind for the iconic voice of the original trilogy’s principal villain. Although people can quote the deep and measured speech patterns of James Earl Jones, the filmmaker originally intended for Orson Welles to be the voice of the character. According to Mental Floss, he eventually dropped the idea fearing that the “Citizen Cane” actor’s voice had become too iconic and would be distracting to the audience. Still, try and imagine that voice delivering the iconic “I am your father!” line and pretend it doesn’t take a lot of air out of the moment’s tires.
The Spielberg Bet
Why does Steven Spielberg, the famed director of films like “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List,” continue to get monstrous amounts of money from the “Star Wars” franchise despite having nothing to do with those movies? According to CelebrityNetWorth, the answer lies in a small wager the director made with Lucas when “Star Wars” was first filming in 1977. Lucas had become so depressed by the direction the movie was going that he was worried it would bomb completely. He paid his friend, Spielberg, a visit while he was filming “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Seeing how much better his friend’s production was going, he decided to make Spielberg an offer of two and a half percent of his “Star Wars” earnings in exchange for the same margins on the earnings of “Close Encounters.” The latter was a success in its own right, earning some $300 million. However, it doesn’t even hold a candle to what “Star Wars” became.
"'Close Encounters' made so much money and rescued Columbia from bankruptcy,” Spielberg once said. “It was the most money I ever made, but it was a meager success story. 'Star Wars' was a phenomenon and I was the happy beneficiary of a couple of points from that movie which I am still seeing money on today."
“I Know,” You Know
As previously reported, Harrison Ford previously lobbied for the producers to kill off Han Solo in “Return of the Jedi” as a stakes-raising measure for, what at the time was, the franchise’s conclusion. The actor thought that the character had done everything he could conceivably do for the story and thought that killing off a main character would make people fear for the safety of the others throughout the rest of the movie. However, Lucas wanted to make sure that when the characters had their victorious moment in the end of the movie, their triumph wasn’t marred by the previous loss of a friend.
Fortunately, Ford found a way to leave his mark on the franchise anyway thanks to the ad lib of his now famous response to Leia's (Carrie Fisher) confession of love for him in “The Empire Strikes Back:”
Luke Keeps Getting Hurt
While the films hung most of the plot on the protagonist Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the actor didn’t make it easy for Lucas to make him the star of the film. The actor kept getting injured, which made it very difficult to shoot him without explaining his cavalcade of facial marks. For example, according to Buzzfeed, he popped a blood vessel while holding his breath in the famous trash compactor scene from “A New Hope.”
Perhaps the biggest example of the actor’s difficult injuries happened when he was in a car accident just before filming “The Empire Strikes Back.” According to the outlet, the whole reason he got mauled in the early moments of the sequel was to explain why his face would be all cut up in subsequent scenes.