15 Wild Details Behind The Making Of The Star Wars Original Trilogy

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Summary

  • Yoda almost had a monkey playing him in The Empire Strikes Back, but thankfully the iconic puppet was created instead.
  • Darth Vader was played by four different actors, including Hayden Christensen for the DVD release.
  • Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford had an affair during the filming of Star Wars, which Fisher recalled fondly in her memoir.

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The Star Wars original trilogy is brimming with incredible details that make the films even better, but there are many wild facts about the making of the movies. The first Star Wars movie had an unbelievably hectic production, forcing Lucas and his team to be innovative and push the boundaries of filmmaking technology. Against all odds, Star Wars was a smash hit that spawned an enormous franchise that continues to expand with upcoming Star Wars movies and TV shows.

Star Wars actors, writers, and directors have also shared fascinating behind-the-scenes stories that paint the movies in a new light. These revelations demand a re-watch and can enhance audience appreciation for how much work went into creating one of the greatest sagas of all time. 15 details about the making of the original trilogy stand out the most for the memorability and impact on the Star Wars franchise.

15 A Monkey Almost played Yoda

Monkey In a Mask Was Almost Yoda- 12 Facts You Didnt Know About Yoda

Several options were considered for bringing Yoda to life in The Empire Strikes Back, including having a monkey play the Jedi master. The monkey would have worn a Yoda mask and had a cane, with a monkey trainer being brought on set. Thankfully, Lucas and the crew realized how wildly impractical this was, leading to the now iconic Yoda puppet operated by Frank Oz.

14 Four Different Actors Played Darth Vader (From A Certain Point Of View)

Sebastian Shaw as Darth Vader, Hayden Christansen as Anakin Skywalker, and David Prowse as Darth Vader.

Darth Vader viewed himself and Anakin Skywalker as two separate people, but the Sith Lord was brought to life by four different actors. David Prowse was inside the Vader suit for most of the original trilogy, James Earl Jones provided the iconic voice, and Sebastian Shaw played Anakin in Return of the Jedi when Vader was unmasked. For the 2004 DVD release, Shaw was replaced by Hayden Christensen as Anakin’s Force Ghost, keeping the originals in line with the prequel trilogy.

Related: How To Watch Star Wars Movies In Order

13 Carrie Fisher & Harrison Ford Had An Affair

Leia Organa and Han Solo’s romantic chemistry was palpable throughout the original trilogy, but not many knew how real these feelings were. In her 2016 memoir The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher revealed that she and Harrison Ford had an affair while filming Star Wars in 1976, calling it “Han and Leia during the week, and Carrie and Harrison during the weekend.” Although Fisher was 19 while Ford was 33 and a married father of two, Fischer recalled how she “trusted something about him” and how “he was kind,” reflecting on their time together fondly.

12 Carrie Fisher Struggled With Drug Use

Princess Leia on Endor in Return of the Jedi

Fisher opened up about her struggle with drug use throughout her life, including her time working on Star Wars. She admitted to taking drugs on the set of The Empire Strikes Back, which continued during Return of the Jedi. Cocaine use in Hollywood was an especially rampant problem at the time, making Fisher one of many to struggle with drug use on set.

11 George Lucas Nearly Died From The Stress Of Making Star Wars

Young George Lucas Star Wars Original Trilogy

Many artists suffer for their work, but Lucas’ stress became fatal while working on the first Star Wars movie. Lucas began feeling severe pain in his chest, checking himself into a hospital for fear that it was a heart attack. While it turned out to be hypertension caused by stress, it could have gotten worse had he pushed himself too hard. It’s admirable that Lucas committed to seeing the film through to completion despite the enormous pressure that could have cost him his life.

10 The Ending Was Almost Completely Different

Star-Wars-Empire-Strikes-Back-Luke-Skywalker-Vader-Helmet

It may be hard to believe because of Return of the Jedi‘s happy ending, but the original trilogy almost concluded differently. An early script had Luke kill Vader and take his mask, putting it on and proclaiming, “Now I am Vader,” becoming the new ruler of the universe. While it sounds like a bold ending, Lucas was right that Luke’s turn would have devastated kids who looked up to him as a hero.

9 Everyone Hated The First Cut Of Star Wars (Except Steven Spielberg)

Steven Spielberg leaning against a camera with George Lucas standing beside him on the cover of Indiana Jones bonus material DVD

The final version of Star Wars may have been a cinematic masterpiece, but most who saw the first cut agreed that it was terrible, leading Lucas to believe it would be a flop. Steven Spielberg, meanwhile, saw the potential and knew his friend would deliver a successful blockbuster. Everyone thought he was crazy at the time, but when Spielberg and Lucas returned from their vacation in Hawaii, they discovered that Star Wars had changed movies forever.

8 Peter Cushing Wore Slippers For Tarkin’s Scenes

George Lucas Peter Cushing Grand Moff Tarkin Carrie Fisher Leia Star Wars

Peter Cushing was magnificent as the intimidating Grand Moff Tarkin, but only if the camera didn’t show his feet. The boots on Tarkin’s costume were so uncomfortable that Cushing asked to wear slippers when his legs weren’t in view. It’s hilarious how audiences may have perceived Tarkin had they seen the character in fuzzy slippers.

7 The Crew Didn’t Know The Empire Strikes Back’s Big Twist

Luke I am your father scene in Empire Strikes Back

The reveal that Darth Vader was Luke’s father was one of the most shocking twists in film history, and Lucas was adamant about keeping it that way. Only three people knew the twist: Lucas, director Irvin Kershner, and Luke’s actor Mark Hamill, who said a different line when the scene was filmed. This means no one on set could spoil the twist, meaning they were just as surprised as everyone else when the movie came out.

6 Jeremy Bulloch Played Boba Fett Simply Because The Armor Fit

Jeremy Bulloch as Boba Fett.

Sometimes success is about being in the right place at the right time, as actor Jeremy Bulloch found out when he landed the role of Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back. Bulloch’s half-brother, Robert Watts, needed to find someone who could fit in the suit and encouraged his brother to try out for the role. When the wardrobe crew realized he wore the suit perfectly, he became Boba’s physical performer throughout the trilogy.

5 Lucas Was Already Planning Decades Of Sequels

Young George Lucas in front of all 12 Star Wars movie posters.

Before knowing how the first film would perform, Lucas was already drawing up ideas for decades of Star Wars movies. Lucas’s original 12-movie Star Wars plan consisted of three trilogies and three other films that would bridge the gaps in the story. Hamill was asked if he would be interested in returning to play Luke around 2011, saying it would “just be like a cameo. You’ll be like Obi-Wan handing the lightsaber down to the next new hope.” While Lucas abandoned most of these plans, 12 Star Wars films have been produced thanks to Disney, and many of Lucas’ ideas carried over to the sequel trilogy.

4 Legend Has It That One Of The Asteroids In Empire Is A Potato (And another Is A Shoe)

The Millennium Falcon flies through an asteroid field in The Empire Strikes Back.

One of the greatest mysteries of The Empire Strikes Back is whether potatoes and shoes were used to make the asteroids. Though it’s hard to tell which one, it’s generally accepted that the special effects team threw in a potato as the Millennium Falcon flew. However, the tennis shoe appears to be a myth originating from one appearing in the final space battle of Return of the Jedi. Either way, it’s fascinating that VFX artists could sneak in these details without anyone noticing.

3 Everybody Wanted Han Solo To Die (Except Lucas)

Han Solo in Return of the Jedi.

Han got his happy ending with Leia at the end of Return of the Jedi, and Lucas was seemingly the only one who preferred this outcome. Co-writer Lawrence Kasdan and even Harrison Ford thought Han should die to give the story emotional weight, but Lucas eventually rejected the idea. Ford may have gotten his wish 32 years later when Han died in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but there’s no telling how the franchise would have been impacted by it happening in the originals.

2 David Prowse Spoiled The Vader Twist In 1978

Star Wars David Prowse Darth Vader

Despite Lucas’ efforts to keep the Vader twist a secret, David Prowse had spoiled it two years earlier. In an interview with the San Francisco Examiner, Prowse revealed, “Luke learns that Darth is, in fact, his long-lost father.” Although this was likely speculation on his part, Prowse was right about The Empire Strikes Back, so it’s fortunate that the internet wasn’t around to spread the news.

1 Empire’s Opening Scenes Addressed Mark Hamill’s Car Crash

Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back.

Luke’s face looks slightly different in The Empire Strikes Back than in the first movie because of Mark Hamill’s 1977 car accident a few months before Star Wars premiered. He had surgery for his injuries and worried that he would have to give up acting, but thankfully, that wasn’t the case. It’s believed that Luke being attacked by a Wampa on Hoth was meant to provide an in-universe explanation for why the character’s face looked different. If so, it’s insane attention to detail on the part of the crew, just one of many wild facts about the making of the original Star Wars trilogy.