AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
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Star Wars
Alternate Title: Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
Director: George Lucas (Dir)
Release Date:   25 May 1977
Premiere Information:   New York and Los Angeles openings: 25 May 1977
Production Date:   began Mar 1976
Duration (in mins):   119, 121 or 123
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Cast: Starring Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker)  
  Starring Harrison Ford (Han Solo)  
  Starring Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa)  
  Starring Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin)  
  And Alec Guinness (Ben "Obi-Wan" Kenobi)  
  With Anthony Daniels (See Threepio "C-3PO")  
  With Kenny Baker (Artoo-Detoo "R2-D2")  
  With Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca)  
  With David Prowse (Darth Vader)  
  With Jack Purvis (Chief Jawa)  
  With Eddie Byrne (General Willard)  
  With James Earl Jones (The voice of Darth Vader) as
    Phil Brown (Uncle Owen)  
    Shelagh Fraser (Aunt Beru)  
    Alex McCrindle (General Dodonna)  
    Drewe Hemley (Red Leader)  
    Dennis Lawson (Red Two "Wedge")  
    Garrick Hagon (Red Three "Biggs")  
    Jack Klaff (Red Four "John 'D'")  
    William Hootkins (Red Six (Porkins))  
    Angus McInnis (Gold Leader)  
    Jeremy Sniden (Gold Two)  
    Graham Ashley (Gold Five)  
    Don Henderson (General Taggi)  
    Richard Le Parmentier (General Motti)  
    Leslie Schofield (Commander #1)  

Summary: During an interstellar civil war, rebels battle against an evil empire, led by Darth Vader and a villainous governor named Grand Moff Tarkin. The imperial stronghold is a planet-sized, armored space station called the Death Star, and insurgent Princess Leia Organa leads a mission to seize the battleship’s blueprints, hoping to reveal its vulnerability. During the ensuing battle, Darth Vader and his military force of stormtroopers capture Leia’s spaceship, but she secretly hides the Death Star plans in a robot “droid” named R2-D2, who flees the spaceship with his companion, C-3PO. Unable to recover the plans, Darth Vader discovers that an escape pod was launched during the attack, and orders the droids detained. Meanwhile, R2-D2 and C-3PO crash land on the desert planet Tatooine. Ornery C-3PO is displeased by his companion’s claim that they are on an important mission, and the two droids part ways. However, they are captured by cloaked scavengers called Jawas and sold to young Luke Skywalker and his Uncle Owen. As the boy refurbishes the droids, he complains that Uncle Owen has thwarted his dream of becoming a pilot and following in the footsteps of his deceased father. Fiddling with R2-D2, Luke unwittingly activates a three dimensional projection of Princess Leia, uttering the plea: “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” Smitten and intrigued, Luke wonders if the message is addressed to a hermit known as “Ben” Kenobi. At dinner, Luke tells Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru about Leia’s message, but Owen orders the boy to erase R2-D2’s memory, and insists that Obi-Wan died alongside Luke’s father. Storming away, Luke discovers that R2-D2 has escaped. The next morning, Luke and C-3PO recover the wayward droid, but are attacked by the hostile, nomadic Sand People. However, “Ben” Kenobi comes to the rescue, and admits that “Obi-Wan” is his real name. Seeking shelter at Obi-Wan’s home, Luke learns that his father was a Jedi knight during the Clone Wars, and was known as the galaxy’s best starfighter. Obi-Wan explains that he mentored Luke’s father and makes good on an old promise, giving Luke his father’s lightsaber. Since Jedis were guided by “the Force,” a mystical energy that unites all living creatures in peace, the neon light sword once upheld universal justice. However, Luke’s father was killed by a colleague, Darth Vader, who used his knowledge of “the Force” to betray the Jedis. As Obi-Wan activates R2-D2’s message from Leia, she explains that she was on a mission to bring Obi-Wan back to her home planet of Alderaan, and adds that vital information has been hidden in R2-D2’s memory system. The only person equipped to retrieve the data is her Jedi father, so the droid must be escorted to Alderaan immediately. Obi-Wan announces he will teach Luke to use “the Force,” so he can be of service on the mission, but Luke insists on returning home. Meanwhile, on the Death Star, Grand Moff Tarkin announces that the galaxy’s government council has been dissolved, and the Empire is one step closer to ultimate power. Back on Tatooine, Luke discovers his family murdered by stormtroopers and vows to become a Jedi. He joins Obi-Wan and the droids in their search for a pilot at the spaceport town of Mos Eisley. In a seamy tavern, they hire rugged outlaw smuggler Han Solo and his first mate, a tall, hairy Wookie named Chewbacca. The men narrowly escape a stormtrooper attack in Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon. Meanwhile, Vader tortures Leia to discover the whereabouts of the rebel base, but she remains resolute. Tarkin navigates the Death Star toward Alderaan, then orders Leia’s execution and threatens to destroy her home planet unless she confesses. Although Leia claims the rebel base is on planet Dantoonine, Tarkin incinerates Alderaan. At the same moment, on the Millennium Falcon, Obi-Wan feels pain in his heart. He acknowledges a terrible tragedy, but continues Luke’s lightsaber training, teaching the boy to trust his instincts and to use “the Force.” When the Millennium Falcon reaches Alderaan, the planet is gone and the ship is forcibly sucked into the Death Star by its “tractor beam.” Darth Vader learns that the Millennium Falcon began its journey in Tatooine and realizes it is transporting the coveted Death Star plans. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan uses “the Force” to ensure that no humans or droids are detected aboard the spaceship, but Darth Vader perceives the presence of his former Jedi master. Upon their arrival aboard the Death Star, Han Solo and Luke kill several stormtroopers, don their armor, and capture a nearby outpost. There, R2-D2 plugs into the Death Star’s computer network and discovers seven locations that secure the battleship’s “tractor beam.” Once the locks are disabled, the Millennium Falcon can escape. Obi-Wan declares that he alone must immobilize the locks and leaves after promising Luke, “the Force will be with you… always.” Just then, R2-D2 locates Princess Leia and reports that her execution is pending. Luke convinces Han Solo to join him on a rescue mission with assurances of a bountiful reward. As they release the princess, a gunfight ensues, and Leia orders her rescuers into a garbage chute to escape. There, Luke is pulled underwater by a tentacled monster, but the creature suddenly disappears when the dump walls begin to compact. Radioing C-3PO for help, Luke orders R2-D2 to shut down the “garbage mashers,” and the comrades are saved. As they return to the Millennium Falcon and battle stormtroopers, Obi-Wan disables the “tractor beam” and reunites with Darth Vader, who is intent on killing his former Jedi master. However, Obi-Wan warns that the prospect for peace will become infinitely more powerful if Darth Vader succeeds. When Obi-Wan is confident that Luke can see him, and that Leia has safely boarded the Millennium Falcon, he permits Darth Vader to strike him dead, but his voice remains fixed in Luke’s consciousness. The friends escape a firefight, and Leia warns that the Millennium Falcon has been fitted with a tracking device. The Death Star follows as they proceed to the rebel base on the planet Yavin. There, R2-D2’s data is analyzed and soldiers are briefed that the Death Star’s weak point can only be accessed by a one-man fighter jet. The pilots must navigate down a narrow trench and fire into a two-meter-wide thermal exhaust port, causing a chain reaction. As Luke mans his ship, with R2-D2 as his navigator, Han Solo ducks away with his reward money, claiming the battle is a suicide mission. Meanwhile, the Death Star comes within firing range of Yavin and the Imperial leaders anticipate their decisive victory. Rebels race toward the battleship and attempt to dodge their pursuers, including Darth Vader, who pilots a deadly imperial fighter. With many of Luke’s senior comrades defeated, the boy is ordered to the front, but his rear guard is killed. The Death Star takes aim at Yavin just as Luke speeds toward its vulnerable portal. Although he uses a device to guide him, he subconsciously hears Obi-Wan’s refrain, “use the Force,” and turns off the computer to follow his instinct. Just then, Darth Vader directs his guns on Luke’s starfighter and prepares to fire, but Han Solo suddenly appears in the Millenium Falcon and interferes, sending the villain spiraling into space. Luke’s missiles successfully destroy the Death Star an instant before the battle station fires at Yavin, and peace is finally restored to the universe. 

Production Company: Lucasfilm, Ltd.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: George Lucas (Dir)
  Bruce Sharman (Prod mgr)
  David Lester (2d unit prod mgr)
  Peter Herald (2d unit prod mgr)
  Pepi Lenzi (2d unit prod mgr)
  Tony Waye (Asst dir)
  Gerry Gavigan (Asst dir)
  Terry Madden (Asst dir)
Producer: Gary Kurtz (Prod)
  George Lucas (Exec prod)
Writer: George Lucas (Wrt)
Photography: Gilbert Taylor (Dir of photog)
  Carroll Ballard (2d unit photog)
  Rick Clemente (2d unit photog)
  Robert Dalva (2d unit photog)
  Tak Fujimoto (2d unit photog)
  Ronnie Taylor (Cam op)
  Geoff Glover (Cam op)
  Ron Tabera (Gaffer)
  John Jay (Still photog)
Art Direction: John Barry (Prod des)
  Alan Roderick-Jones (Asst to prod des)
  Ralph McQuarrie (Prod illustration)
  Norman Reynolds (Art dir)
  Leslie Dilley (Art dir)
  Leon Erickson (2d unit art dir)
  Al Locatelli (2d unit art dir)
Film Editor: Paul Hirsch (Film ed)
  Marcia Lucas (Film ed)
  Richard Chew (Film ed)
  Todd Boekelheide (Asst film ed)
  Jay Miracle (Asst film ed)
  Colin Kitchens (Asst film ed)
  Bonnie Koehler (Asst film ed)
  John Jympson (Ed)
Set Decoration: Roger Christian (Set dec)
  Frank Bruton (Prop master)
Costumes: John Mollo (Cost des)
  Ron Beck (Ward supv)
Music: John Williams (Mus)
  The London Symphony Orchestra (Performed by)
  Fox Fanfare Music, Inc. (Orig mus copyright 1977 © by)
  Kenneth Wannberg (Supv mus ed)
  Herbert W. Spencer (Orch)
  Eric Tomlinson (Mus scoring mixer)
  Anvil Recording Studios Denham, England (Mus rec at)
Sound: Derek Ball (Prod sd mixer)
  Sam Shaw (Supv sd ed)
  Ben Burtt (Spec dial and sd eff)
  Robert R. Rutledge (Sd ed)
  Gordon Davidson (Sd ed)
  Gene Corso (Sd ed)
  Roxanne Jones (Asst sd ed)
  Karen Sharp (Asst sd ed)
  Don MacDougall (Re-rec mixer)
  Bob Minkler (Re-rec mixer)
  Ray West (Re-rec mixer)
  Robert Litt (Re-rec mixer)
  Mike Minkler (Re-rec mixer)
  Lester Fresholtz (Re-rec mixer)
  Richard Portman (Re-rec mixer)
  Stephen Katz (Dolby sd consultant)
  Samuel Goldwyn Studios Los Angeles, California (Rerec at)
Special Effects: John Dykstra (Spec photog eff supv)
  John Stears (Spec prod and mechanical eff supv)
  Richard Edlund (1st cam, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Dennis Muren (2d cam, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Douglas Smith (Asst cam, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Kenneth Ralston (Asst cam, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  David Robman (Asst cam, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Bruce Logan (2d unit photog, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Robert Blalack (Praxis) (Composite opt photog, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Paul Roth (Opt photog coord, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  David Berry (Opt printer op, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  David McCue (Opt printer op, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Richard Pecorella (Opt printer op, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Eldon Rickman (Opt printer op, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  James Van Trees, Jr. (Opt printer op, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Caleb Aschkynazo (Opt cam asst, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  John C. Moulds (Opt cam asst, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Bruce Nicholson (Opt cam asst, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Gary Smith (Opt cam asst, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Bert Terreri (Opt cam asst, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Donna Tracy (Opt cam asst, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Jim Wells (Opt cam asst, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Vicky Witt (Opt cam asst, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  George E. Mather (Prod supv, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  P. S. Ellenshaw (Matte artist, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Ralph McQuarrie (Planet and satellite artist, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Joseph Johnston (Eff illustration and des, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Colin Cantwell (Addl spacecraft des, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Grant McCune (Chief model maker, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  David Beasley (Model builder, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Jon Erland (Model builder, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Lorne Peterson (Model builder, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Steve Gawley (Model builder, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Paul Huston (Model builder, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  David Jones (Model builder, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Adam Beckett (Anim and rotoscope des, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Michael Ross (Anim, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Peter Kuran (Anim, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Jonathan Seay (Anim, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Chris Casady (Anim, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Lyn Gerry (Anim, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Diana Wilson (Anim, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Jon Berg (Stop motion anim, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Philip Tippett (Stop motion anim, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Joe Viskocil (Miniature explosions, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Greg Auer (Miniature explosions, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Dan O`Bannon (Computer anim and graphic displays, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Larry Cuba (Computer anim and graphic displays, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  John Wash (Computer anim and graphic displays, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Jay Teitzell (Computer anim and graphic displays, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Image West (Computer anim and graphic displays, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Mary M. Lind (Film control coord, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Cindy Isman (Film librarian, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Connie McCrum (Film librarian, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Pamela Malouf (Film librarian, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Alvah J. Miller (Elec des, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  James Shourt (Spec components, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Masaaki Norihoro (Asst, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Eleanor Porter (Asst, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Don Trumbull (Cam and mechanical des, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Richard Alexander (Cam and mechanical des, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  William Shourt (Cam and mechanical des, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Jerry Greenwood (Spec mechanical equip, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Douglas Barnett (Spec mechanical equip, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Stuart Ziff (Spec mechanical equip, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  David Scott (Spec mechanical equip, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Bob Shepherd (Prod mgr, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Lon Tinney (Prod mgr, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Patricia Rose Duignan (Prod staff, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Mark Kline (Prod staff, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Rhonda Peck (Prod staff, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Ron Nathan (Prod staff, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Bruce Michael Green (Asst ed (Opticals), Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Van Der Veer Photo Effects (Addl opt eff, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Ray Mercer & Company (Addl opt eff, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Modern Film Effects (Addl opt eff, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Master Film Effects (Addl opt eff, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  De Patie-Freleng Enterprises Inc. (Addl opt eff, Miniature and opt eff unit)
  Dan Perri (Titles)
Make Up: Stuart Freeborn (Make-up supv)
  Rick Baker (2d unit make-up)
  Douglas Beswick (2d unit make-up)
  Pat McDermott (Hairdresser)
Production Misc: Robert Watts (Prod supv)
  Irene Lamb (Casting)
  Diane Crittenden (Casting)
  Vic Ramos (Casting)
  Arnold Ross (Loc mgr)
  Bunny Alsup (Asst to prod)
  Lucy Autrey Wilson (Asst to dir)
  Pat Carr (Prod asst)
  Miki Herman (Prod asst)
  Ann Skinner (Continuity)
  Brian Gibbs (Prod controller)
  Ralph M. Leo (Loc auditor)
  Steve Cullip (Asst auditor)
  Penny McCarthy (Asst auditor)
  Kim Falkinburg (Asst auditor)
  Charles Lippincott (Advertising/Pub supv)
  Brian Doyle (Unit pub)
  American Zoetrope San Francisco, California (Post prod completed at)
Stand In: Peter Diamond (Stunt coord)
MPAA Rating: PG
Country: Great Britain and United States
Language: English
Series: Star Wars

Music:
Songs:
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. 5/6/1978 dd/mm/yyyy LP47760

PCA NO: 24925
Physical Properties: Sd: Dolby® noise reduction - high fidelity
  col: Deluxe®
  Prints: Technicolor®
  Widescreen/ratio: Panavision®

 
Genre: Adventure
  Science fiction
 
Subjects (Major): Civil war
  Dictators
  Insurgency
  Search and rescue operations
  Space warfare
  Spaceships
  War
 
Subjects (Minor): Adolescents
  Air pilots
  Aliens, Extraterrestrial
  Battles
  Courtship
  Duels
  Faith
  Fights
  Firearms
  Friendship
  Government agents
  Government officials
  Gunfights
  Hermits
  Heroes
  Heroism
  Imperialism
  Military bases
  Military government
  Military occupation
  Monsters
  Orphans
  Partnership
  Political corruption
  Princesses
  Robots
  Romance
  Secret plans
  Space travel
  Sword fights
  Swords
  Teachers

Note: End credits include the following acknowledgements: “Photographed in Tunisia, Tikal National Park, Guatemala, Death Valley National Monument, California and at EMI Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, England"; and, "The producers wish to thank the government of Tunisia, the Institute of Anthropology and History of Guatemala, and the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior for their cooperation.”
       The film’s title card is preceded by the statement: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....” Afterward, a prologue reads: “It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet. Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy…. ” The DVD viewed for this record includes the prologue heading “Episode IV: A New Hope,” but the title was added after the film’s trilogy of prequels were released, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999, see entry), Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002, see entry), and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005, see entry).
       As noted in a 12 Aug 1973 LAT article, filmmaker George Lucas was first noticed by motion picture industry insiders with the production of an award-winning, seventeen-minute student film at the University of Southern California (USC), THX-1138 4EB, which was later developed into a feature by Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope Productions and Warner Bros., Inc., as THX 1138 (1971, see entry). In turn, Lucas was offered studio contracts, first at United Artists, which was announced in a 6 Aug 1971 Var brief, and later at Universal Pictures. Universal agreed to finance Lucas’ next project, American Graffiti (1973, see entry), on condition that Coppola signed on as executive producer. In a 25 Aug 1977 Rolling Stone article, Lucas stated that Universal paid him $20,000 for his work on American Graffiti and wanted to limit his wages to $25,000 for his second project at the studio, Star Wars, which Lucas had been developing with producer Gary Kurtz since 1971. When Lucas asked for additional funds, Universal decided the picture was too expensive and ended the contract. Around that time, producer Alan Ladd, Jr., then a project officer at Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., was impressed by American Graffiti and decided to option Star Wars for approximately $10,000, despite hesitations from other Twentieth Century-Fox executives, who remained unconvinced that Lucas’ picture would be a success.
       On 12 Aug 1973, LAT announced that Lucas was preparing his move from Universal to Twentieth Century-Fox while writing the Star Wars script, which he described as “a combination of 2001, the Bond films and Lawrence of Arabia” (see entries). Rolling Stone added that Lucas worked on four separate drafts simultaneously, trying to create “a whole new genre,” but also tapping into themes addressed in THX 1138 and American Graffiti, such as “accepting responsibility for your actions.” One script included a “Wookie” planet, where “Luke Skywalker” gained the respect of the alien creatures and enlisted them as fellow rebels; in this scenario, the Wookies were ultimately the warriors who attacked the evil imperial Death Star, not the human rebels.
       When the final shooting script was complete, Lucas created an initial budget of $16 million. However, he realized the project cost would intimidate Twentieth Century-Fox, and reduced the expense to $8.5 million by eliminating plans to design “new equipment” and by projecting “a lot of fast filmmaking.” Lucas told Rolling Stone that he ultimately presented an $8 million budget, but the studio refused to pay more than $7 million, despite Lucas’ warning that the picture could not be made for that amount.
       Although a 30 Jun 1975 DV news item reported that production was scheduled to begin principal photography Jan 1976 in anticipation of a Christmas 1976 release, the project remained in limbo over the next year. DV also added the script was adapted from an original story written by Lucas titled “The Adventures of Luke Skywalker,” but the literary source is not credited onscreen. On 24 Apr 1976, LAT announced that Mark Hamill had been cast in his feature film debut, although he previously provided a vocal performance, credited as Mark “Hamil,” in Ralph Bakshi’s animated film Wizards (1977, see entry). As noted in a 7 May 1977 LAT article, Hamill had been working on television movies and series, such as The Texas Wheelers (ABC, 13 Sep 1974—24 Jul 1975), in an effort to launch his film career. Hamill’s agent at the time, Nancy Hutson, was so confident he was right for the role of “Luke Skywalker” that she offered to reimburse Lucas for the screen test, if Hamill was not hired. LAT also noted that Lucas needed Coppola’s approval before casting Hamill, because the young actor was being considered at that time for a role in Apolcalypse Now (1979, see entry).
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, principal photography began Mar 1976 in Tozeur, Tunisia, and the nearby salt lake Chott el Djerid, to film scenes from the planet “Tatooine.” Additional Tunisian desert locations were situated around the town of Nafta, and the troglodyte-inhabited village of Matama. There, the trench-constructed architecture of Hotel Sidi Driss provided interior locations for Luke Skywalker’s home.
       A 19 May 1976 LAT article reported that Star Wars was “now being filmed” in London, England, and that Carrie Fisher had recently been cast in her second feature film role as “Princess Leia Organa.” Harrison Ford, who had previously worked with Lucas on American Graffiti, as well as on Coppola’s The Conversation (1974, see entry), was cast for the first time in a starring role as “Han Solo.” Ford also had a small role in Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, with the character name “Colonel Lucas” in honor of his Star Wars director.
       On 20 Jun 1976, LAT announced that filming was currently taking place on closed and “mystery-shrouded” sets at each of EMI Elstree Studios’ eight soundstages, located just northwest of London, in Hertfordshire and Borehamwood, and at nearby Shepperton Studios, which housed the “largest movie stage in all of Western Europe.” The Apr 1977 edition of American Film stated the production took over a total of eleven soundstages and forty-five sets. Lucas designed Star Wars under the pretense that previous futuristic films lacked credibility because their environments always appeared “new and clean and shiny.” Lucas was reportedly dedicated to portraying a lived-in, “used future,” a science fiction world that audiences could relate to, and find plausible.
       By late Jun 1976, special effects work was already underway at the newly-established Industrial Light & Magic warehouse in Van Nuys, CA, at an estimated cost of $1.5 million of the film’s $7 million budget, according to the 20 Jun 1976 LAT. The special effects team, guided by John Dykstra, were innovating new technologies while cutting expenses by recycling remnants of used sets, filming on “partial constructions,” and using forced perspectives. The prop weapons were actual British Sterling submachine guns, modified and cut down to appear both futuristic and realistic. LAT stated that Lucas’ working production notes contained a quote from the preface to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel The Lost World, which stated, “I have wrought my simple plan if I give one hour of joy to the boy who’s half a man, or the man who’s half a boy,” reflecting Lucas’ intension of marketing the picture to “14- and 15-year-olds.” Declaring, “I doubt I’ll ever do anything his big again,” Lucas told LAT that he was considering retirement from commercial filmmaking after the completion of Star Wars, to expand his New York City comic book gallery, or to develop low-budget “experimental films.”
       Rolling Stone explained that although Lucas reportedly earned a salary of $100,000 for Star Wars, the time he invested in the picture resulted, in his words, to “practically working for free.” In addition, the transition from small, low-budget pictures to Star Wars, that had “over 950” crewmembers, was “unpleasant” for Lucas, who likened the experience to “running the corporation” instead of being a filmmaker. Lucas noted that when principal photography was completed in England, he returned to CA displeased by the film’s overall lighting, and dissatisfied with the operations of the robots, which “never worked.” For example, the remote controlled “Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2)” robot consistently motored into walls, but when actor Kenny Barker, a little person, wore the R2-D2 costume, it was too heavy for him to move effectively. Since Barker was physically unable to cross the expanse of a set, Lucas edited the footage with a juxtaposition of close-ups and long shots in different locations, giving viewers the impression that R2-D2 had travelled great distances.
       Explaining that Star Wars characters were inspired by his desire to produce a sequel to THX 1138, Lucas noted that the “Jawas” were recreations of THX’s “shell dwellers,” and the term “Wookies” had been invented by Bay Area disc jockey Terry McGovern, who was an uncredited voice-over performer in THX, as well as a credited actor in American Graffiti. In addition to his initial plans to give “Wookies” a more influential role in Star Wars, Lucas had also scheduled production time to include a “Jawa” village sequence, to be filmed at an actual, primitive “hobbit” village in Tunisia, but the shoot was deemed too expensive.
       Lucas also told Rolling Stone about the genesis of the robot character noises, created by special dialogue and sound effects artist Ben Burtt, which were acknowledged by AMPAS with a “Special Achievement” Academy Award. Burtt was hired based on a recommendation from Lucas’ former USC professor, and he worked for two years to develop the sound effects using Arp, a Moog synthesizer, and recordings of his own voice, which were intermittently sped up, slowed down, and overdubbed. Since Lucas had written much of the robot dialogue in terms of “beeps” and “boops” in the script, Burtt translated the lines into literal English expressions, then interpreted them as mechanical sounds. Lucas revealed that “Wookie” utterances were a combination of a bear, a walrus, and “about five or six other animal sound effects.” The “Jawa” language was derived from various recorded African dialects, spoken by Burtt and his associates, that were played back at a higher than average speed. Burtt worked with a University of California Berkeley graduate student in Linguistics to invent “Greedo,” which was written phonetically in the script for actors to recite, and the sound tracks were later processed electronically to create a sense of “phrasing.”
       Lucas considered “looping” the voice of British actor Anthony Daniels, who performed the role of robot droid “See Threepio (C-3PO).” The character was initially intended to be a “con man,” “slightly more used-car dealerish, a little more oily” than Daniels’ upper-crust English accent conveyed. However, Lucas kept Daniels’ speaking voice because the actor “really got into the role” and therefore transformed the character to match his identity, turning C-3PO into what Lucas described as a “sort of fussy British robot butler.” However, the speaking voice of weightlifter David Prowse, who performed “Darth Vader,” was over-dubbed by actor James Earl Jones to give the character a more “commanding” presence. According to Lucas, Burtt experimented with approximately eighteen “different kinds of breathing, through aqualungs and through tubes” to match the rhythmical tone of Vader’s iron lung, which was explained in a subplot eventually eliminated from the final film. One of Lucas’ original Star Wars screenplay drafts included the back story of Vader’s heavy breathing, and his black facial breathing mask: When Vader and “Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi” were young Jedi knights, a confrontation between the two caused Vader to fall into a “volcanic pit,” where he was nearly burned to death. Vader was disfigured, and forced to breathe through a machine.
       In the original script, Obi-Wan was not killed in his battle with Vader, as is depicted in the film. Instead, Obi-Wan was intended to escape through a door, which in turn closed on Vader’s face. However, Lucas feared that the climactic fight scene mid-way through the picture was not dramatic enough, and that he had failed to establish the imminent threat posed by Vader and his Death Star operation. Based on the suggestion of Lucas’ then wife, film editor Marcia Lucas, the script was rewritten to include Obi-Wan’s death, although Twentieth Century-Fox objected to the change. In addition, Lucas was reticent about announcing the plan to actor Alec Guinness, who had been anticipating a much larger role in the film. However, Guinness was accommodating, and worked with Lucas to develop a purpose for the Obi-Wan character past his death, in voice-over narration as “the Force.” According to Lucas, all of the principal actors signed agreements for sequels, with the exception of Guinness.
       The “cantina” scene, which was moved ahead one week in the shooting schedule, experienced a setback when make-up supervisor Stuart Freeborn, who had been creating the scene’s “monsters” while the production crew was still in Tunisia, was hospitalized. As a result, Lucas was unable to include all of the monster characters he initially called for, and wanted to add footage with a second unit once he returned to CA. However, Twentieth Century-Fox was unwilling to finance the reshoots, as Lucas had already exceeded the budget by nearly $1 million. A 5 Jun 1977 LAT article listed the final budget as $9.5 million. Alan Ladd, Jr., who had recently become the studio’s president, eventually agreed to support the second unit with $20,000, but Lucas remained dissatisfied with the scene, and included additional creatures in the 1997 Special Edition reissue.
       According to Lucas, the monster in the trash compactor sequence, which was called “Dia-noga” in the script, was intended to be “a giant, sort of filmy, clear, transparent jellyfish… that comes shooting out of the water.” Due to complications with the special effects crew, who proposed an alternative giant “brown turd that was bigger than the set,” the filmmakers compromised on the one tentacle seen in the picture. The shot of the creature’s eyeball was added during post-production in CA, filmed in Lucas’ backyard.
       Rolling Stone reported that the entire production lasted seventy days, ending late summer 1976. However, the 5 Jun 1977 LAT stated that filming took eighteen months, including location work in Guatemala and Death Valley, CA. Each working day was confined to an eight-hour shift, as England’s labor laws prohibited work past 5:30 p.m. In addition, Lucas was tasked with completing the picture in time for summer release. He was expecting half of the special effects to be finished by the time he returned to CA, but discovered that only “about three shots” were complete and “not up to… the standards of the film.” According to Lucas, Industrial Light and Magic had spent $1 million and the first part of 1976 “building cameras and developing electronic computer systems and stuff” for effects, but had failed to focus on “actually making shots.” Although special Moviolas, optical cameras, and a system based on VistaVision were constructed from scratch by special photographic effects supervisor John Dykstra and his crew, Lucas remained dissatisfied with their productivity, and noted that special effects technicians worked on a slower time-table than production teams, with “a tendency to think that if they get one shot a day, they are really quite pleased.”
       According to Lucas, the final “dogfight” sequence was the most challenging to edit, and Marcia Lucas required approximately eight weeks to cut the footage. They had previously intercut storyboards from “old movies,” and black and white footage from WWII pictures, with images of pilot dialogue, so they could “edit the whole sequence in real time.”
       John Williams’ extensive ninety-minute score was modeled after Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter And The Wolf” and the soundtracks of classic film composer Max Steiner, with a distinct theme for each character. Lucas feared that he and Williams would be criticized for the score’s dramatics and romanticism, and was surprised by the acclaim it received. In addition, Lucas predicted a negative response to the picture’s “slightly corny dialogue” and “very simplistic” plot, but explained that Star Wars was essentially a children’s story, not “camp,” and that he didn’t want it to “make fun of itself.”
       On 7 Apr 1977, LAT announced that a Star Wars coming attractions trailer would be featured at the Science-Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy Convention in Los Angeles, CA, the weekend of 8 Apr 1977.
       The picture was released domestically on 25 May 1977 at forty-three theaters in thirty-one cities to great fanfare and critical acclaim. A 1 Jun 1977 LAT news item announced that box-office records were broken in each of the forty-three theaters in which the film opened, and Twentieth Century-Fox subsequently experienced “heavy trading” of its shares on the New York Stock Exchange, with stock prices doubling. The picture reportedly grossed $2,556,418 in its opening week. Audience members lined up, often starting early in the morning, and many screenings sold out, as noted in the 4 Jun 1977 LAT. At that time, toy companies were vying for licensing rights, and the soundtrack album sold 10 million copies in three days, in the Los Angeles area, alone. As noted in Rolling Stone, Lucas intentionally developed the film for marketing toys, games, and other merchandise, as he aimed to sell the products in his New York City comic gallery, and use the income for financing additional stores and film projects. In the 5 Jun 1977 LAT, Lucas explained that he invested in a toy company for this purpose, and stated, “I’m not making much for directing this movie. If I make money, it will be from the toys.”
       Just over one month after the film’s opening, Star Wars characters R2-D2, C-3PO, and Darth Vader were honored with a footprint ceremony at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, CA, on 3 Aug 1977. According to a 3 Jun 1987 Var Star Wars Chronology,” the film’s novelization was reprinted at the rate of 100,000 copies per week during summer 1977, and sold up to six million copies in the ten years following its release. A 20 Sep 1977 LAT article noted that Kenner Products, which acquired the “galaxy-wide” licensing rights to Star Wars toys, did not have enough time to produce inventory for the Christmas 1977 season, and instead issued I.O.U. “Early Bird Certificates” to retailers, with promises of merchandise by Jan 1978. Despite the inherent disadvantage of not having toys to market for the holidays, salesmen reported selling out of the $16 certificates.
       By the beginning of Dec 1977, Star Wars had surpassed Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975, see entry) to become the highest grossing film in motion picture history, earning $190 million domestically, according to a 2 Dec 1977 LAT news item. On 8 Feb 1978, Var announced that 1977 marked the best year in Twentieth Century-Fox’s sixty-three-year history, with profits increasing 374% thanks to Star Wars. The film was re-released for the first time on 21 Jul 1978, just a little over a year after its opening, and was subsequently reissued repeatedly, with the earliest dates starting 15 Aug 1979, 10 Apr 1981, and 13 Aug 1982. The 29 Aug 1979 Var reported a box-office gross of $14,770,252 in the first week of the film’s second reissue, adding to the total earnings of nearly $350 million listed in the 22 Aug 1979 Var. The 1997 debut of Star Wars: The Special Edition grossed approximately $36.2 million its opening weekend, according to the 3 Feb 1997 HR. On 14 Feb 1997, DV announced that Star Wars became the first motion picture to earn over $400 million.
       In late 1985, Lucas sought to legally disassociate Star Wars from President Ronald Reagan’s proposed space missile defense system; the phrase was initially attached to Reagan’s military program in a television advertisement sponsored by the Coalition for the Strategic Defense Initiative. On 14 Nov 1985, Daily News and N.Y. Post announced that Lucas lost his battle to bar the commercial, but a final decision was delayed until 25 Nov 1985. A 2 Dec 1985 DV news item reported that the court ruled against Lucas, finding that the term “Star Wars” was “derived from fiction and not a trademark.”
       Star Wars was adapted into television specials, radio shows, concert performances, video games, and various spin-offs. It was followed by two sequels, The Empire Strikes Back (1980, see entry) and Return of the Jedi (1983, see entry), as well as a trilogy of prequels, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999, see entry), Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002, see entry), and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005, see entry). In addition, Star Wars: The Clone Wars was released in 2008, and as of Dec 2013, the Walt Disney Company was in pre-production for Star Wars: Episode VII with the three stars of Star Wars, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford cast in their original roles. J. J. Abrams was set to direct the picture for a projected release date in 2015.
       Star Wars received six Academy Awards in the categories: Art Direction, Costume Design, Film Editing, Music (Original Score), Sound, and Visual Effects. In addition, Ben Burtt, who was credited for “Special Dialogue and Sound Effects,” won a Special Achievement Award “for the creation of the alien, creature and robot voices featured in Star Wars.” The picture was also nominated for four Academy Awards in the categories: Actor in a Supporting Role (Alec Guinness), Directing, Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen—based on factual material or on story material not previously published or produced), and Best Picture. Star Wars was recognized seven times in AFI Top 100 lists, ranking #13 on AFI’s 10th Anniversay Edition of “100 Years…100 Movies,” as well as #1 on “100 Years of Film Scores,” #8 on “100 Years…100 Movie Quotes,” #14 on “100 Years…100 Heroes & Villians,” #27 on “100 Years…100 Thrills,” and #39 on “100 Years…100 Cheers.” George Lucas was honored with an AFI Life Achievement Award in 2005.
 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
American Film   Apr 1977.   
American Film   8 Jun 1977   pp. 1-2.
Daily News   14 Nov 1985.   
Daily Variety   30 Jun 1975.   
Daily Variety   20 May 1977   p. 3, 7.
Daily Variety   2 Dec 1985.   
Daily Variety   14 Feb 1997   p. 1, 44.
Filmfacts   1977   pp. 97-101.
Films & Filming   30 Dec 1977   pp. 29-30.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Apr 1976.   
Hollywood Reporter   25 May 1977   p. 3, 27.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Dec 1977.   
Hollywood Reporter   3 Feb 1997   p. 1, 25.
Los Angeles Times   12 Aug 1973   Section N, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times   24 Apr 1976   Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times   19 May 1976   Section F, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times   20 Jun 1976   Section K, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times   7 Apr 1977   Section F, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times   7 May 1977   Section B, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times   22 May 1977   Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times   1 Jun 1977   Section E, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times   4 Jun 1977   Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times   5 Jun 1977   Section R, p. 1, 43.
Los Angeles Times   20 Sep 1977.   
Los Angeles Times   2 Dec 1977.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   8 Jun 1977   p. 1.
New York   20 Jun 1977   pp. 71-73.
N. Y. Post   14 Nov 1985.   
New York Times   26 May 1977   Section III, p. 18.
New York Times   5 Jun 1977   Section II, p. 15.
New Yorker   13 Jun 1977   pp. 69-70.
Newsweek   30 May 1977   pp. 60-61.
Newsweek   13 Jun 1977   p. 81.
People   18 Jul 1977.   
Rolling Stone   25 Aug 1977   pp. 40-48.
Saturday Review   9 Jul 1977   p. 40.
Time   30 May 1977   pp. 54-56.
Time   27 Jun 1977   pp. 54-56.
Variety   6 Aug 1971.   
Variety   25 May 1977   p. 20.
Variety   8 Feb 1978   p. 3, 32.
Variety   22 Aug 1979.   
Variety   29 Aug 1979.   
Variety   3 Jun 1987   p. 37.
Village Voice   13 Jun 1977   pp. 40-41.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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