10 Surprising Facts About Star Wars
Which Star Wars character was genderswapped, which one was almost a monkey, and a close-kept secret
1 LUKE SKYWALKER WAS ALMOST A GIRL
A long time ago (January 1975, to be exact) a f ledgling screenwriter named George Lucas was working on the second draft of an epic sci-fi space opera.
Of the many, many problems with this clunky script that would eventually become Star Wars: A New Hope, one that seemed easily fixed to Lucas was the serious lack of female characters. So, Lucas did something radical: he rewrote his story’s main character, Luke Starkiller, as an 18-year-old girl. But a few months later, with Lucas’s next draft, Starkiller was a boy again.
2 NOTABLE NOISES
The sound of Darth Vader’s breathing was recorded by put t ing a microphone inside a scuba diving regulator; Chewbacca’s signature Wookie gargle is a combination of bear, walrus, lion and badger sounds. The sound of Vader’s pod door closing in Empire is reportedly the sound of a whole block of Alcatraz cell doors slamming shut.
3 THE OPENING TEXT CRAWL TOOK 3 HOURS TO SHOOT
The famous floating text that opens Star Wars: A New Hope may have been one of the greatest special effects achievements in the film. As Mental Floss points out, the text was filmed practically “by carefully placing 2-foot-wide die-cut yellow letters over a 6-foot-long black paper background with a camera making a slow pass over them to mimic the crawl.”
4 THE GARBAGE IN THE DEATH STAR COMPACTOR SCENE WAS REAL
“Into the garbage chute, flyboy!” orders Princess Leia. Apparently, the smell was so bad that Mark Hamill burst a blood vessel trying to hold his breath, and the camera angle had to be adjusted for the rest of the scene so as not to show his injury. As for Peter Mayhew’s yak-hair Chewbacca suit? It reeked for the rest of production.
5 IT TOOK FOUR MEN TO PORTRAY ONE VADER
How do you capture a presence as big as Darth Vader? Cast four men. The on-screen body of Vader is bodybuilder David Prowse; his stunt double for action scenes is professional fencer Bob Anderson; the voice of Vader is the great James Earl Jones; and the dehelmeted face of Vader in Return of the Jedi is Sebastian Shaw.
6 YODA WAS ALMOST A MONKEY IN A MASK
The spiritual centre of the Jedi order was almost a real-life monkey in a green mask carrying a cane.
Luckily, a monkey expert on set threw a banana peel in this plan’s tracks by pointing out, “Look, the monkey’s just going to pull off the mask over and over again. It’s never going to work.” The team called on puppeteer Frank Oz to bring Yoda to life.
7 BEST-KEPT SECRET IN FILM
Lucas kept the twist ending of The Empire Strikes Back so wel l guarded, he even wrote fake text in the script to throw the actors of f. During f ilming, David Prowse yelled to Mark Hamill: “Obi-Wan killed your father!” The cast and crew thought this was the real line – only Hamill, who had been told the truth about Vader moments before filming the scene, knew otherwise.
8 IT TOOK SEVEN MEN TO PORTRAY JABBA THE HUTT
“Three puppeteers were inside: one controlled the right arm and jaw, another handled the left hand and jaw, tongue and head movements, and both of them moved the body; a third person was in the tail. Outside, there were one or two people on radio controllers for the eyes, someone under the stage to blow cigar smoke up a tube and another working bellows for the lungs,” according to Mental Floss.
9 R2D2 AND AN EWOK
Kenny Baker, the man destined to live inside R2D2, also played Paploo – the enterprising Ewok who steals an imperial speeder bike.
May the Force be with you.
10 LOST AN ENDING
The original ending of Return
of the Jedi has Han Solo dying in a raid on the Death Star. Harrison Ford probably would have been fine with this. Ford was famously snippy about Lucas’s script (“George, you can type this ****, but you can’t say it”) and in a 2010 interview he waved off his character as “Ham Yoyo”, stating he was officially “done with him”. Time makes fools of us all.