Director: George Lucas
Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
Plot: The Imperial Forces, under orders from cruel Darth Vader, hold Princess Leia hostage in their efforts to quell the rebellion against the Galactic Empire. Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, captain of the Millennium Falcon, work together with the companionable droid duo R2-D2 and C-3PO to rescue the beautiful princess, help the Rebel Alliance and restore freedom and justice to the Galaxy.
George Lucas was so sure the film would flop that instead of attending the premiere, he went on vacation to Hawaii with his good friend Steven Spielberg, where they came up with the idea for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
In early drafts of the script, R2-D2 could speak standard English, and he had a rather foul vocabulary. Although all of R2's English speech was removed, many of C-3PO's reactions to it were left in.
George Lucas' decision to accept a lower salary on the film in exchange for full merchandising rights was considered a fool's gamble on his part. Toys based on movies had never been major money-earners (though some movie-toy combinations had done moderate retail returns) because of the long gap between when a movie would go through its theatrical run and when any products based on it would be available. Star Wars, however, was such a phenomenon that it reached the holiday 1977 sales period in full swing, and changed the way movies were merchandised forever.
Prior to the film's release, George Lucas showed an early cut of the film to a group of his film director friends. Most, including Lucas himself, felt the film would be a flop; Brian De Palma reportedly called it the "worst movie ever." The only dissenter was Steven Spielberg, who correctly predicted the film would make millions of dollars. After visiting the set of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), George Lucas was sure Close Encounters would outperform the yet-to-be-released Star Wars at the box office. Steven Spielberg disagreed, and felt Lucas's Star Wars would be the bigger hit. Lucas proposed they trade 2.5% of the profit on each other's films; Spielberg took the trade, and still receives 2.5% of the profits from Star Wars.
Stunt doubles were not used for the scene where Luke and Leia swing to safety. Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill performed the stunt themselves, shooting it in just one take.
Carrie Fisher confirmed in her autobiography that she disliked the "bagel bun" hairstyle she wore as Princess Leia. However, prior to to filming, the studio had requested that she lose some weight first, which she hadn't. Out of fear of being fired for it, she was eager to comply with everything that director George Lucas suggested, which included the hairstyle.
Mark Hamill held his breath for so long during the trash compactor scene that he broke a blood vessel in his face. Subsequent shots are from one side only.
When 20th Century Fox attempted to distribute the film in the U.S., fewer than 40 theaters agreed to show it. As a solution, Fox threatened that any cinema that refused to show Star Wars would not be given the rights to screen the potential blockbuster The Other Side of Midnight (1977), which ended up grossing less than 10% of what Star Wars did.
When the Stormtroopers enter the room where C-3PO and R2-D2 are hiding, one of the actors accidentally bumps his head on the doorway due to his limited visibility. When the special edition came out in 1997, a sound effect had been added to the scene to accompany the head bump.
According to Mark Hamill, studio executives were unhappy that Chewbacca has no clothes and attempted to have the costume redesigned with shorts.
David Prowse, the actor in the Darth Vader suit, was still disgruntled more than 20 years after the film's release about the fact that his voice was replaced by James Earl Jones. In an interview with the Canadian press, Prowse claimed that he was a victim of "reverse racism" because the cast had no black members, and the studio was worried they would lose a significant slice of the audience. However, Jones wasn't credited in the original film, so no one knew a black actor voiced Vader. George Lucas said he dubbed Vader's dialogue because of Prowse's strong Bristol accent. The cast and crew's nickname for Prowse was Darth Farmer.
George Lucas originally wanted Orson Welles to do Darth Vader's voice, but decided against it, feeling that Welles' voice would be too recognizable.
Luke went through several changes. George Lucas toyed with the idea of changing him into a woman, after cutting Princess Leia from the script. He also entertained the notion of casting the principal characters as dwarves. In the shooting script, he was called "Luke Starkiller," but this was changed to Luke Skywalker during production. George Lucas changed Luke's name from Starkiller to Skywalker, because he feared that people would associate him with Charles Manson.
Luke's line "I can't see a thing in this helmet" was not scripted. Mark Hamill said this to Harrison Ford when he thought the cameras had stopped rolling. But, they decided to leave the line in.
Before casting Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi, George Lucas considered casting Japanese actor Toshirô Mifune. He also considered casting a Japanese actress for Princess Leia.
The film was initially budgeted at $8 million, but production problems forced the studio to contribute an additional $3 million.
The line "May the Force be with you" is ranked #8 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes.
Apart from influences from Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and Frank Herbert's Dune, George Lucas was inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" fantasy novels, as well as many Japanese samurai movies, when he wrote the Star Wars story. Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress (1958), which also deals with a famous warrior and a princess who need to be moved safely to allied territory while being pursued by hostiles, especially served as an inspiration; as an homage, Lucas has admiral Motti refer in the film to the Rebel's secret base as their "hidden fortress," although the last word is muffled when his throat is grabbed by Vader's psychic attack.
Darth Vader was originally a rather minor character, and early drafts actually have him spending most of the movie without his iconic suit. He was even going to be killed off during the trench run at the end.
The film was initially rated for adult audiences in Germany. This was largely due to depictions and terminology relating to the Empire's military and its leaders being perceived as parallels to those of Nazi Germany.