Carrie Fisher: You're not really famous until you're a Pez dispenser.
Harrison Ford: I think George likes people, I think George is a warm-hearted person, but... he's a little impatient with the process of acting, of finding something. He thinks that something's there. "It's right there, I wrote it down. Do that". You know, sometimes you can't just "do that" and make it work.
Carrie Fisher: [about the scene of Luke and Leia swinging across the chasm via rope] That was really early on in the shoot when I was still worried about my weight, and I thought that we were going to miss and I'd hit the wall and they would say, "Nah, still too tubby. Let's bring in Jodie Foster".
Mark Hamill: The things that stick in my mind and make me laugh were, like, memos worried about whether or not the Wookie should have pants. They're looking at this thing and saying, "Couldn't he have some lederhosen?" This is great. Of all the things to worry about, the Wookie has no pants.
Carrie Fisher: We signed away our likeness so when I look in the mirror, I have to pay George a couple of bucks.
Mark Hamill: [Archive footage; reading a line] Fear is their greatest defense. I doubt if the actual security there is much greater than on Aquila or Sullust and what there is is most likely directed towards a large scale assault.
Mark Hamill: [the present] And I read that line and I thought, "Who talks like that?"
Gareth Wigan: George was enormously farsighted. The studio wasn't. They didn't know that the world was changing. George did know the world was changing. I mean, he changed it.
George Lucas: [about Yoda] That was like a real leap. Because if that puppet had not worked, the whole film would have been down the tubes. It would've been a disaster. A silly little Muppet... It would've been Kermit running around in that movie. The whole movie would've collapsed under the weight of it.
Anthony Daniels: I was there for a while and then I thought, well nearly time to go. And then, kind of over George's shoulder, I saw a painting. And the most extraordinary thing happened. It just struck me because I kind of looked at this face, and the face looked back at me. We had the most extraordinary eye contact you know, he's looking right out of the picture. And he seemed to be saying, "Come. Come. Be with me", and the vulnerability in his face made me want to help him. Isn't that weird? He just looks utterly vulnerable. That painting completely changed my attitude to the whole project. Years later, I was able to go to Ralph McQuarrie and say, "You realize this is all your fault?".
Harrison Ford: There's a princess with weird buns in her hair, a giant in a monkey suit or something, it was weird. It was very, very weird.
Narrator: For the part of Chewbacca, Han Solo's towering Wookie co-pilot, Lucas and Kurtz had to look outside normal casting channels. But at 7'3" tall, it was no stretch for Peter Mayhew, who had been working as an orderly at a Yorkshire hospital.
Peter Mayhew: I sat down on one of the sofas, waiting for George. Door opened, and George walked in with Gary behind him. So, naturally, what did I do? I'm raised in England. Soon as someone comes in through the door, I stand up. George goes "Hmm...", virtually turned to Gary, and said "I think we've found him."
James Earl Jones: George had hired David Prowse, but he said he wanted a so-called "darker" voice. Not in terms of ethnic, but in terms of timbre. And the rumor is that he thought of Orson Welles. But he probably thought that Orson might be too recognizable, so what he ends up doing is picking a voice that was born in Mississippi, raised in Michigan, and was a stutterer. And that happened to be my voice.
George Lucas: I think we were, like, two weeks over schedule. At that point, the board of directors at Fox started to panic, and tell Allen Ladd Jr. that he had to shut that film down, regardless. And so he came to me and said "Listen, you've got to finish in the next week, 'cause I've got another board meeting, and I can't go in there and say we're still shooting."
Paul Hirsch - Film Editor: I wound up winning an Academy Award for "Star Wars" before I'd even started thinking about winning Academy Awards.
George Lucas: I spent, you know, probably six or seven months casting "Star Wars." And that's a long process to sit in a little room and interview people. And I interviewed *thousands* of people.
Bill Moyers: Timing is everything in art. You bring out Star Wars too early and it's Buck Rogers. You bring it out too late and it doesn't fit our imaginations. You bring it out just as the war in Vietnam is ending and America feels uncertain of itself, and the old stories have died, and you bring it out at that time and suddenly, it's a new game. Plus it's alot of fun. It's a lot of fun to watch Star Wars.
Narrator: Fearing that Star Wars would get crushed by other summer movies, like Smokey and The Bandit, Fox moved its release to the Wedseday before Memorial Day, but fewer than 40 theaters agreed to show it. Nobody wanted to book it.
Narrator: Just one day into filming, the Sahara was pelted with its first major rainfall in fifty years.
Robert Watts: We were going out there to shoot. I came out in the morning and the rain was going horizontally down the street this way. I thought, "My God!" I just called a rest day on the crew and told them to go back to bed, because there was no way we were going to shoot on that.
Peter Mayhew: [as Chewbacca] That old man's mad.
Harrison Ford: You said it, Chewie. Boy, where'd you dig up that old fossil?
Carrie Fisher: I had one outfit for the first movie and as George taught me, there is no underwear in space. Instead of that, there's gaffer tape. So I was taped down. And I used to say we should just make up a contest on the call sheet to see who's going to rip it off. But we didn't do that.
Harrison Ford: [on the success of Star Wars] I was like this -
[rubs his palms together]
Harrison Ford: Great. Terrific. Now I can go to work. I have an opportunity to take advantage of the success of this film and go to work.
Frank Oz: [about Stuart Freeborn] He was under the gun and it was very tense. Very tense. He had to get this thing done. We've got to start shooting with Yoda. And so while we were talking to him, I just had Yoda's head and I was just playing with it then I dropped it and it cracked. Then Stuart said, "I need a drink". So it was terrible, because here we're pressing so much and I'm the one that screwed it up.
Harrison Ford: It's what the idea was of the character relationships. Mark was the callow youth and I was the smart ass and we each had a clear section of turf to explore.
Mark Hamill: That to him was really inappropriate humor at the time, because I'm sure he's in the zone and he's seeing what he wants to do, and we're just, like, actors trying to stave off boredom because, you know, we've been in the trash compactor all morning.
David Prowse: [as Darth Vader] Start tearing this ship apart piece by piece until you've found those tapes. Find the passengers in this vessel. I want them alive!
Ken Ralston: I can still hear David Prowse's accent in the Darth Vader mask, muffled, because he would do the real dialogue, trying to curse Carrie Fisher or something. It was hilarious and terrifying at the same time, because we didn't know what Darth sounded like. That was the first time we heard him. We're like, "Is that it? Is he gonna be some Scottish guy? What is this?"
Mark Hamill: I lit up when I found out that they were going to make my face a mask on a box of cereal. With little dots where to cut my eyes out. The idea of me being on bubble gum cards, I thought you had to have athletic ability to be a bubble gum card so, I enjoyed the merchandising aspect of it.
Gary Kurtz - Producer: I kept going on their phone, to the production department, 'this is insane, if we put on a second crew to do this, it costs us more than to go for an extra week. And they said, it doesn't matter, the studio's opinion is that the day deadline is more important than the money you spend.
Narrator: The final scenes were filmed at breakneck speed, with Lucas frantically bicycling from one soundstage to another.
Robert Watts: We did go over at the end, and we split into three units, right at the end, and Gary directed the second unit, and I have the distinction of directing the third unit of Star Wars. My things were like closeups of R2D2's third foot going down. Nothing too dramatic, but that's how we finished it.
Narrator: Already anxious about meeting his deadline, Lucas was shocked after seeing the first assembly of his edited film that spring. The first cut of Star Wars was an unmitigated disaster.
Narrator: With no chance of being ready by Christmas, a new release date was set for summer 1977. Some doubted that the film would ever reach theaters. But as bad as things had been with the editing, the situation at ILM was even worse. The company had been trying to create effects that had never been done before. They knew what they wanted to accomplish, but they had yet to create anything usable for the film.
George Lucas: [about ILM's troubles] They had spent half of their budget, and ultimately I had about four shots, none of which I would accept. They were just not good. That was just pretty much of a low point. I had no special effects, and I didn't even know if we were going to get the ships to work. So it was a pretty desperate time, and we had spent half the budget, you know, building the motion control cameras and setting the shop up, and it was a disaster, to say the least.
Narrator: When word of the various post production problems reached the Fox board of directors, they decided they'd had enough of George Lucas and "that science movie".
Alan Ladd Jr. - Former Studio Chief, 20th Century Fox: We released in 37 theaters, I think, initially, and broke 36 house records.
Narrator: With pre-production gaining momentum, Lucas next began the process of casting his galactic opus. He shared the audition stage with his friend, Brian De Palma, who was seeking actors for the Stephen King shocker "Carrie".
Narrator: In casting the male leads, Luke Starkiller and Han Solo, Lucas looked for individual screen presence as well as chemistry between performers.
Narrator: For the pivotal role of Luke, Lucas needed an actor who could project both intelligence and integrity.
[archive footage of various screen tests]
Narrator: Twenty-four year old Mark Hamill was a familiar face on television. A newcomer to films, his wholesome, easygoing manner fit the part perfectly.
Narrator: The role of Han Solo needed someone older with a more cynical edge. Harrison Ford had worked with Lucas on "American Graffiti". But because the director initially only wanted new faces, he was not allowed to audition. Instead, he was brought in to feed lines to the other actors.
Harrison Ford: I was given sides and asked if I would help read the other actors. It became my task to explain to the other actors who were coming along just what it was that this... these sides, uh... uh, were meant to be about.
Narrator: Lucas may have been relucant to use Ford at first, but the actor won him over by giving Han a mix of mercenary swagger and world-weariness.
Narrator: Virtually every young actress in Hollywood tried out for the part of Princess Leia. Although the character was the same age as Luke, as a leader of the Rebellion, Leia needed to project a confidence beyond her years. One actress in particular seemed tailor-made to play a princess. As the daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, Carrie Fisher *was* the product of Hollywood royalty. She had no trouble conveying the self-assurance needed for Leia Organa.
Carrie Fisher: I met with Brian De Palma and George, and Brian did all the talking, because George didn't talk then. There were incredible actresses that were my age that were being considered for this role, so I didn't think I would get it.
Narrator: Lucas' decision to hire unknowns went against the advice of his friend Francis Ford Coppola, who had cast "The Godfather" with stage and screen stars. 20th Century Fox was also concerned about Lucas' choice of actors.
Alan Ladd Jr. - Former Studio Chief, 20th Century Fox: He came and said "These are the three unknown people I want to go with." I figured we've gone down this far in the road, he knows what he's doing. I'd be lying if I said "Oh, my god. Harrison's perfect, Carrie is perfect, and Mark is fantastic." No, I was very nervous about the cast.
Narrator: For the important role of aged Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, Lucas recognized that he needed an established star. Sir Alec Guinness was a veteran of over forty films and had won an Oscar in 1958 for his performance in "The Bridge on the River Kwai". The knighted actor had the pedigree and the persona.
Gary Kurtz - Producer: The Alec Guinness role required a certain stability and gravitas as a character, which meant we needed a very, very strong character actor to play that part.
Narrator: Signing Guinness was a major coup. But more casting would be done in London, where "Star Wars" would be principally produced. Unlike Lucas' home base of Northern California, London provided access to the kind of massive soundstages needed for "Star Wars"'s ambitious sets. The location also gave Lucas access to Britain's top production talents.
Narrator: The character of Darth Vader demanded someone of commanding physical stature. To fill Vader's boots, Lucas cast champion bodybuilder David Prowse, whose résumé included roles like Frankenstein's creature in Hammer's popular horror movies. As Vader's evil accomplice Governor Tarkin, another Hammer alumnus was cast: 63-year old Peter Cushing. Best known as the methodical Professor Van Helsing in "Dracula", Cushing was the perfect choice to portray the Death Star's icy chief administrator.
Narrator: With temperatures topping 100 degrees by midmorning, Tunisia was anything but fun in the sun. Baking for hours in heavy costume, even the film's stunt coordinator, Peter Diamond, found the conditions physically exhausting.
Himself - Stunt Coordinator: I was the only stunt person on the picture in Tunisia. I became a Tusken Raider, or a Sand Person. I'm not a sun merchant. I don't like the sun. I just burn. So I just died with the heat of it. I couldn't stand it anymore, it was so hot. But there were so many problems. It just was not a good location.
Narrator: As the actors and crew began to grumble about the adverse conditions, it was Sir Alec Guinness who served as a role model of professionalism.
Harrison Ford: It was, for me, fascinating to watch Alec Guinness. He was always prepared, always professional, always very kind to the other actors. He had a very clear head about how to serve the story.
Mark Hamill: He was the person who sort of brought it some legitimacy. And I asked him why he wanted to do it. And he loved the idea of playing a mentor or a wizard in a morality play where good and evil are so clearly defined.
Narrator: Lucas, meanwhile, was up to his neck in malfunctioning props, electronic breakdowns, and other production woes. "Star Wars" was already struggling to stay on schedule. The only silver lining was that after Tunisia, the production would be moving to a more controlled environment: Elstree Studios outside London. The stages at Elstree were among the largest in the world, and the sets, now finished after months of construction, were just as impressive. And for the first time, the entire "Star Wars" cast was together.
Mark Hamill: That was almost like a whole separate movie. It was like getting a whole, fresh start. And it was all new, really.
Carrie Fisher: We were all very different ages. I was nineteen, Harrison was thirty-three. And he was sort of the big man on campus. And meeting him, you sort of felt "Well, he'll be a movie star."
Narrator: But working at Elstree Studios didn't mean the production was free from problems, or strict British union regulations.
George Lucas: At 5:30 we had to stop, unless we were in the middle of a shot. Uh, I could ask the crew for an extra fifteen minutes, but they always voted me down.
Anthony Daniels: I'm not putting down the British crew, but there was an attitude of "What is this?".
Narrator: It didn't help that most of the crew thought "Star Wars" was just a children's film. At times, even the actors were hard-pressed to take the work seriously.
Gary Kurtz - Producer: George didn't really like being in London, I suppose, is the best way to say it. He doesn't like being away from home. He's not the most gregarious person in the world. He had some clashes with the cameraman. Gil Taylor was a very old-school cameraman; very crotchety. George, coming out of low-budget filmmaking, was used to, um, doing a lot of things himself. So George would say things like "Well, put a light here." And Gil took offense at that kind of thing. He says "That's not your job, son. You tell me what you want to see and I'll do it the way I think is best to create what you want to see." It was a clash of style of working.
Narrator: Lucas also became frustrated that the costumes, sets, and other production elements weren't living up to his vision for "Star Wars". The compromises required due to the film's budget plagued him on an almost daily basis.
Carrie Fisher: George never talked. We sort of... we felt he wanted us to hit our marks and magically accommodate our dialogue. And he lost his voice at one point. We didn't know that for days. And we wanted to get him a little board where it said, um... "Faster and more intense." That was his main direction. He just wanted us to speed through it.
Anthony Daniels: George is notorious for saying, after a take, you know, "Do it again. Faster, more intensity." He certainly said to me was, you know, "Terrific, Tony. Can you do it again faster?". But I didn't get "more intensity." I don't think Threepio with more intensity would be bearable. Do you?
Mark Hamill: We all had to fill in a lot of the blanks. It was more a matter of if we did something he didn't like, he'd tell us, rather than telling us what to do.