A long time ago, in a lunch­room ...

Photo can­didly cap­tures young “Star Wars” stars

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Daniel Petty Daniel Petty: 303-954-1081, dpetty@den­ver­post.com or @danielpetty

The photo is strik­ing for so many rea­sons, but per­haps most of all for the stars’ ca­sual and re­laxed de­meanor.

Car­rie Fisher sits be­tween Mark Hamill and Har­ri­son Ford. Her knees are folded against a ta­ble, and she’s hold­ing a lit cig­a­rette near an ash­tray. Be­hind them, a wall lined with vend­ing ma­chines. Hamill — wear­ing a T-shirt from a movie he was in called “Fire Sale,” re­leased at the same time as “Star Wars” — leans in, talk­ing to an in­ter­viewer off-cam­era. Ford eyes the same per­son, with a look of wari­ness, dressed in a sport coat and col­lared shirt, hold­ing a cup, per­haps filled with Welchade Fruit Punch, a can of which rests near him.

The photo was widely pub­lished again on Tues­day, when Fisher died at the age of 60, days af­ter suf­fer­ing a car­diac event on a flight from Lon­don to Los Angeles. The orig­i­nal cap­tion on the photo of­fers few clues about the place and mo­ment (many peo­ple mis­take it for be­ing a be­hindthe-scenes mo­ment off­set).

A deeper dive into The Den­ver Post’s ar­chives re­veals more. It was taken by 32-year-old Post pho­tog­ra­pher Steve Lar­son in the El­bow Room, The Post’s old lunch­room on the fifth floor at 15th and Cal­i­for­nia streets in Den­ver on June 14, 1977, just af­ter “Star Wars: A New Hope” was re­leased on May 25 of that year. That build­ing is long gone, and the space is now oc­cu­pied by the Hy­att Re­gency Ho­tel near the Colorado Con­ven­tion Cen­ter.

Hamill, Fisher and Ford vis­ited The Post as part of a national me­dia tour to pro­mote the movie. For­mer Post movie ed­i­tor Rena An­drews in­ter­viewed them in the room, and she was joined by for­mer Post ed­i­tor Dick Kreck.

“It wasn’t a huge deal,” Lar­son, now 72, said in an in­ter­view Thurs­day. “No­body knew what ‘Star Wars’ was go­ing to turn into.”

On that day, Lar­son was work­ing in­side the news­room. All the other pho­tog­ra­phers were out on as­sign­ment, he re­called, so an ed­i­tor told him to run up­stairs to the El­bow Room to grab a photo of the three as Kreck and An­drews in­ter­viewed them.

“It was kind of a dump. There were cups all around. It wasn’t any­thing posh,” said Lar­son, who now runs a small news­pa­per in Den­ver’s Sta­ple­ton neigh­bor­hood called The Front Porch. “I think we bought them a soft drink, and we were just sit­ting there talk­ing.

“It was the nor­malcy of these kids that got me. She (Fisher) dis­played a lot of hu­mor, and Har­ri­son Ford didn’t talk as much as the other two.”

Kreck said they spoke for about 45 min­utes.

“They were so young and so en­thu­si­as­tic and thrilled to be asked to go on a national tour for a movie,” Kreck said. “They were just kids. I think for most of them, it was their first big movie. They were very nice, we laughed and had a good time. Mark Hamill was nice, kinda quiet. She (Fisher) was the pep­pi­est of the bunch and much more will­ing to talk. I got the im­pres­sion that he (Ford) was go­ing through the mo­tions.”

The trio ad­dressed sub­jects rang­ing from their fi­nan­cial stake in the film, to a scan­dalous story in­volved Fisher, pub­lished in Peo­ple mag­a­zine, to how they got their roles. And they came hun­gry, ac­cord­ing to the story An­drews wrote about the in­ter­view, which ran June 15, 1977.

“Vow­ing ‘We like junk food,’ the three pro­ceeded to de­vour ev­ery­thing fist­fuls of sil­ver could ex­tract from the sand­wich ma­chines at The Den­ver Post cof­fee shop — from vend­ing-ma­chine pan­cakes, to so­das and to a packet of two hard-boiled eggs and crack­ers,” An­drews wrote. Fisher ap­par­ently slipped one of those eggs into her bag be­cause, as An­drews wrote, “when you are out pro­mot­ing a film on a mul­ti­c­ity itin­er­ary, you never know where your next meal is com­ing from.”

It was un­usual for movie stars or other prom­i­nent fig­ures to visit at The Post. Lar­son re­calls that if peo­ple came for press tours, most ended up at the his­toric Brown Palace Ho­tel a few blocks away. Kreck said re­porters ei­ther in­ter­viewed stars in the ho­tel rooms or over the phone.

“Look­ing back at it, I think the photo con­veyed the in­for­mal­ity of the sit­u­a­tion. It wasn’t a big pro­duc­tion,” Lar­son said.

“Just kids com­ing to talk about what they were do­ing.”

Mark Hamill, left, Car­rie Fisher and Har­ri­son Ford of “Star Wars” give an in­ter­view in the lunch­room at The Den­ver Post in 1977. Den­ver Post file

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