Star Wars Facts That Were Kept a Secret for Years
In December of 2019, the Skywalker Saga came to a complete and total end (or so the studio said, at least). Spanning nine films, two spinoffs and multiple cartoons spread out over multiple decades, Star Wars has remained a cultural phenomenon since the premiere of the first film in 1977. Being such a significant pop culture staple, it’s surprising that the cast and crew were able to keep certain production secrets for so long — but we finally learned some of the most interesting.
According to Harrison Ford, he and Mark Hamill — being the unprofessional and up-and-coming actors that they were in the mid-to-late ’70s — were two total goofballs on set whenever the professionals weren’t around. This really speaks to the freewheeling energy of the first film.
However, whenever serious and respected actors like Sir Alec Guinness were on set, Ford and Hamill were able to put on their game faces and act like big boys. With decades between then and now, one wonders if Daisy Ridley or John Boyega feel the same about the two originals.
Star Wars: A Real Mouthful
In the early stages of development, a movie’s title is just as up in the air as the cast or the shooting locations. This is the time to figure all these things out — when the script isn’t finalized and the budget isn’t set, there’s plenty of wiggle room for these details.
In Mark Hamill’s words, one of the biggest discrepancies from the early script to the final product is the title itself. It was initially The Adventures of Luke Starkiller As Taken From the Journal of the Whills Saga Number One: The Star Wars.
R2-D2’s Shocking Vocab
Like the title of the original film going through multiple changes from page to screen, the actual lines of dialogue within the screenplay were altered quite a bit from beginning to end. While it wasn’t divulged until well after the original trilogy was complete, R2-D2’s lines went through one of the biggest changes.
Allegedly, R2-D2 could originally speak perfect English and had quite the filthy mouth. While his lines were changed to beeps and boops and “weeeee!”s, C-3PO’s shocked reactions to his dirty words were all kept intact.
Scorsese’s Scathing Review
Contrary to what many Marvel fans have claimed in response to legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese’s comments on the MCU, Scorsese was not a fan of the space opera upon first viewing (despite his long-standing friendship with Star Wars mastermind George Lucas and Lucas’ then-spouse Marcia, who edited some of Scorsese’s early films).
Along with filmmaker Brian De Palma, Scorsese ripped into Lucas’ first cut so hard that it actually made Lucas cry. Lucas later claimed that the only one in his corner was the then-up-and-coming director Steven Spielberg.
Don’t Hold Your Breath, Kid
During a key scene in Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope, our trio of heroes finds themselves stuck inside a trash compactor with no clear way out. Seemingly bested, the three have to think quickly in order to make it out alive.
As Hamill would later divulge, he was thinking so quickly that he actually forgot to keep breathing throughout the scene’s shoot. He held his breath for so long that a blood vessel burst in his face, resulting in most of the scene being shot from the side.
Turning Green From Blue Milk
When Luke Skywalker and his “parents” drank nice, tall glasses of blue milk in A New Hope, fans almost immediately became transfixed with the concept. The strange drink is also seen again and again throughout the series, appearing recently (as green) in Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi.
According to Mark Hamill, the drink was made from blue food coloring and long-life milk (a type of milk used by campers and soldiers because it requires no refrigeration). Hamill said it almost made him puke.
Are You D2?
Thanks to the utilization of CGI and advancements in robotics since 1977, many younger Star Wars fans aren’t likely to know that R2-D2 was once operated by a person. Actor Kenny Baker was one of the very few people who were able to fit inside the costume.
Unfortunately, whether it was because Baker was so good at his job or simply because he was out of sight (and therefore out of mind), the actor said that the cast and crew would often accidentally leave him behind whenever everyone went to lunch.
Chewbacca’s Fur Coat
Mark Hamill has been incredibly open about the shooting process of the original trilogy throughout recent years thanks to the comfort and convenience of social media. During a question-and-answer session, Hamill once revealed something odd about the studio’s initial reaction to Chewbacca.
Uncomfortable with Chewbacca’s…nakedness (despite being nonhuman), the executives attempted to convince George Lucas to clothe the furry sidekick. Like Patrick Star or a reverse Donald Duck, the studio hoped that Lucas and the costume designers would put a pair of shorts on Chewie.
Beating the Heat
Even though Chewbacca didn’t opt for a pair of shorts during production, many of the actors playing X-wing pilots did. Those starfighters proved to be pretty hot, similarly to the way a NASCAR driver’s cabin could reach astronomically high temperatures during races.
In order to manage the warmth of the studio lights and the heat of stale air within the model ships, any X-wing pilot you see on-screen is likely wearing shorts underneath that dashboard above their lap. It’s smart, just like wearing no pants while on a professional video conference.
The Original Gender-swapped Leads
As with the film’s title and many of the little details within the screenplay, there are plenty of changes that producers and directors implement before the final day of shooting wraps. In fact, they even make changes after the movie wraps in post-production using computers and voiceover dialogue.
This is one change that would’ve derailed the entire film: In the earliest version of what would eventually become Star Wars, Lucas envisioned Han as an alien, Luke as a woman, Wookies as Jawas and C-3PO and R2-D2 as droids named C-3 and A-2.
Say That Again, You Must
This might sound kind of shocking, but The Empire Strikes Back‘s wise old Yoda isn’t actually a real creature — meaning someone living isn’t inside a costume playing him. For the first four films, the green Jedi master is just a puppet (just like The Mandalorian‘s breakout star The Child). That means that there’s a puppeteer just off-screen at all times.
In order to hear what the puppeteer was saying — the man in question, Frank Oz, is a Muppets legend — Mark Hamill had to use an earpiece. Thanks to archaic technology, the earpiece often picked up radio signals.
Secret Secrets Are No Fun
Some people claim that it’s actually because Lucas had no idea where the story was going himself, but the rumor is that Lucas withheld the Luke/Vader reveal and the Luke/Leia reveal from the scripts because he didn’t want any spoilers to get out before filming wrapped.
Taking the urgent secrecy a step further, the original line in Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back was actually “Obi-Wan killed your father” instead of “No, I am your father.” (That’s quite the big difference, is it not?)
Dreams Come True
You know that really terrifying and nightmarish vision that Luke has in Episode V? The one in which he decapitates Darth Vader, watches his head roll a bit and then sees his own face in the broken mask instead of his father’s? That’s really Mark Hamill in there. It’s not a prop.
According to Hamill and the prop masters, the decoy of Mark’s head just didn’t look right. They felt it looked more like a wooden replica than the real thing. Movie magic let Mark use his real head for the stunt.
Finding Famous Friends
While shooting The Empire Strikes Back in the United Kingdom in the late ’70s, Carrie Fisher found it easier to rent a place to live instead of staying in a hotel. (No matter how fancy the room, there’s no place like home — even if it’s just a temporary one.)
As it turns out, she rented Monty Python legend Eric Idle’s house. The original trio and Idle often hung out, resulting in plenty of late-night laugh sessions. Hamill later claimed that he has never seen Harrison Ford laugh quite so hard.
The Empire Strikes Back is considered by many to be the absolute pinnacle of the Star Wars series — to them, it just doesn’t get any better than the lavish sets, the emotional reveals and the exciting action. Despite the valid praise, there’s some crazy movie magic to thank.
In one of the most famous opening sequences in a film, the Star Wars gang is fighting on a snowy planet. The shooting took place in Norway, where the snow was so bad that many sequences were simply shot right outside the cast and crew’s hotel rooms.
A Carbonite Casket
They would never have revealed this at the time, but the distance between now and the release of The Empire Strikes Back means that lips can be a lot looser than they had to be back then. As it turns out, Harrison Ford wasn’t really sure if he wanted to make more Star Wars films.
When Han is frozen in carbonite after the Cloud City ambush, the move was made so that Ford could either leave or come back, depending on how he felt. Luckily for us all, he did return.
The Empire Strikes Gold
Unlike with the prequel trilogy, George Lucas had no interest in directing all three movies of the original Star Wars trilogy. Finding the amount of stress and work on the first film to be unbearable and borderline killer, Lucas gave Episode V to friend Irvin Kershner.
The problem was that Kershner, an indie director, had no interest in special effects-heavy films. Later on, he revealed that he spent months reworking the entire script to avoid as many special effects sequences as he could. He managed to create a masterpiece.
There’s no denying that Star Wars, in all its strangeness and glory, is a product of one man and one man only: Mr. George Lucas. For better or worse, the man is responsible for each and every movie even if he’s not directly involved anymore. There was another time when his involvement was almost nothing, though.
The mastermind undoubtedly regretted giving Kershner the reins to Episode V when the director essentially booted Lucas from any creative decisionmaking. In fact, in private for many years after, Lucas considered it the worst.
A Not-So-Shocking Reveal
Much to-do has been made over the secrecy surrounding the big reveal in The Empire Strikes Back. Regardless of whether Lucas planned it from the start (which he probably didn’t, based on the facts), the amount of care that went into keeping the Luke/Vader reveal a secret is commendable.
That’s why it’s so strange that the movie novelization, released an entire month before the movie even hit theaters, made no effort to hide the fact that Darth Vader was Luke’s father. Can you imagine the backlash today?
Boba Fett’s Bothered
Even though The Empire Strikes Back hit theaters in the summer of 1980, the voice of Boba Fett wasn’t confirmed until 2000. While it was long-rumored that he played the role, voice actor Jason Wingreen (who originally auditioned for Yoda) revealed he was behind the character two decades later.
The reason for this reluctance to out himself as Boba Fett came because of the fact that Wingreen wasn’t offered any residuals for his 10 minutes of recording, even though his voice has been used in perpetuity on repeat TV screenings and in countless toys and games.
Salacious Crumb-induced Panic
Early on in Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi, our main trio of heroes and their loyal droid and robot are all being held captive by the dastardly (and disgusting) villain Jabba the Hutt. While Luke, Han and Leia are busy trying to escape from his clutches, C-3PO and R2-D2 are left to their own devices.
Anthony Daniels — the actor who played C-3PO — was required to lie down while Salacious Crumb attacked him. He’s heard screaming “Get me up!” which he later revealed was part of a panic attack.
Boba Fett’s Frivolous Fate
Despite only speaking a handful of lines in The Empire Strikes Back, armor-clad bounty hunter Boba Fett became the true breakout star of the film. With toys flying off the shelves in between Episode V and Episode VI, Lucas had no idea what to do about the character’s fate.
While he had originally planned — and defended his decision — to kill off the character by casting him into the Sarlacc pit, Lucas briefly considered re-cutting the film in 2004 to include a shot of Boba Fett escaping.
A Redundant (but Well-researched) Retelling
George Lucas has always been open about the fact that scriptwriting is not his favorite thing in the world. Throughout the original trilogy, this was the hardest part for him, and it often resulted in him passing the torch to other writers to help ease the frustration.
Still, at least one scene in Episode VI was entirely his creation from the get-go. Yoda reassures Luke that Darth Vader is his father because Lucas had consulted with psychologists who insisted that audiences needed the news to come from a more trustworthy source.
Questioning the Ideas of the Filmmaker
Mark Hamill has never been one to shy away from how he really feels about any given Star Wars movie. From the first film to the most recent productions, Hamill has spoken his mind without fear.
This simple truth even got in the way of his relationship with Lucas back on the set of Episode VI. Frustrated with the Luke/Leia reveal, Hamill took Lucas to task and accused him of coming up with the idea on the fly. It wasn’t discussed until years later, but the two really disagreed.
We’re Not on Endor Anymore
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who isn’t at least vaguely familiar with Star Wars composer John Williams’ iconic score for the films. Just as responsible for the tone and feel of the films as any writer or director, Williams created the sound of the galaxy far, far away.
Surprisingly, Williams’ son is also an icon — he’s the lead singer of Toto, the band responsible for the cult classic song “Africa” and the score for David Lynch’s Dune. Thanks to the family connection, Toto also wrote the Ewoks’ songs.
Return of the Director
Despite Welsh director Richard Marquand’s name being the only one attached to the film, the truth is that George Lucas essentially played the role of co-director. Unlike with The Empire Strikes Back, Marquand was a relatively fresh face in film and could not muster the courage to boot Lucas off the set like Kershner.
The result is a film that feels more like Star Wars than Empire (for better or worse). With Lucas constantly there to give commands, Marquand’s lack of control wasn’t a secret for very long.
At the beginning of George Lucas’ career, back when he was still in film school, he earned the opportunity to visit the set of a director’s film to get experience. He ended up with famed The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, who was impressed by Lucas and mentored him after.
The two worked on a script about the Vietnam War titled Apocalypse Now, but Lucas lost the rights to direct to Coppola. Years after Episode VI, Lucas said that the Ewok battle was akin to his vision for Apocalypse Now‘s climax.
A Very Different Sequel Trilogy
When Yoda tells Obi-Wan’s ghost that “there is another” in Episode V, many speculated about what in the world this was referencing. While in the wake of Episode VI the popular belief was that the “other” was Leia, the original answer was something else entirely.
Kept under wraps for decades but coming to light when Lucasfilm was sold to Disney, Lucas had intended for this “other” to be a second Skywalker sister named Nellith. The original plan for the sequel trilogy was for Luke to find her.
Desperate Search for Directors
As was the case with Episode V, George Lucas wanted to give Episode VI‘s directing gig to someone else so that he wouldn’t have to stress over it (even though he ended up essentially directing the film by himself anyway).
Many years later, it was revealed that some of these choices included RoboCop and Total Recall director Paul Verhoeven, Dune director David Lynch, Videodrome director David Cronenberg and even Lucas’ most famous friend, Mr. Steven Spielberg himself. (Spielberg went on to do work on Episode III).
The Nail in Darth Vader’s Coffin
Much like the way Lucas was told that audiences would not believe Vader was Luke’s father unless a trustworthy source told them, Lucas realized long after production on Episode VI was complete that audiences would likely question the finality of Darth Vader’s death. He thought it should be emphasized similarly.
So, many months after the film was considered completed, Lucas shot and edited in the sequence with Vader’s funeral pyre. This way, with audiences being shown that Vader really was gone for good, there would be no doubt over his fate.