Star Wars IV A New Hope (1977) - Illustrated Reference
Star Wars was directed by George Lucas and premiered on May 25th, 1977. Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse and James Earl Jones. Screenplay by George Lucas. Music by John Williams. 121mins.
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, a farm boy, an old warrior and a smuggler set off to rescue a princess from the clutches of the evil Galactic Empire.
George Lucas (1944-) was born in Modesto, California and was interested in cars and car racing from a young age. After a near fatal car crash he decided not to be a car racer and instead joined the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts (USC), a school devoted to film.
THX 1138 (1971) was the first feature film directed by Lucas, based on a student film he made in 1967. The film is set in a dystopian future and stars Robert Duvall. It had good reviews and grossed $2.4m at the US box office.
His next film was American Graffiti (1973), a nostalgic portrait of teenage life in the early sixties, the film was filled with classic songs and starred Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard and Harrison Ford.
American Graffiti cost $750,000 to make and went on to gross an amazing $140m worldwide making it one of the most profitable films ever made. His next film would quadruple that box office take.
Leia: Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?
Luke: Huh? Oh the uniform. I'm Luke Skywalker. I'm here to rescue you.
Leia: You're who?
Mark Hamill (1951-) / Luke Skywalker
Born in Concord, California, Mark Hamill’s films include – The Big Red One (1980), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), Slipstream (1989), The Guyver (1991), Sleepwalkers (1992), Village of the Damned (1995), Wing Commander (1999) and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)
Han: Han Solo. I'm captain of the Millennium Falcon. Chewie here tells me you're lookin' for passage to the Alderaan system?
Obi-Wan: Yes indeed, if it's a fast ship.
Han: Fast ship? You've never heard of the Millennium Falcon?
Obi-Wan: Should I have?
Han: It's the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. I've outrun Imperial starships. Not the local bulk cruisers mind you, I'm talking about the big Corellian ships now. She's fast enough for you old man.
Harrison Ford (1942-) / Han Solo
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Harrison Ford was Oscar nominated Best Actor for Witness (1985).
His films include - American Graffiti (1973), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981 as Indiana Jones), Blade Runner (1982 as Rick Deckard), Return of the Jedi (1983), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Witness (1985), Working Girl (1988), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Patriot Games (1992 as Jack Ryan), The Fugitive (1993 as Dr. Richard Kimble), Clear and Present Danger (1994), Air Force One (1997), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) and Cowboys & Aliens (2011).
Leia: You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought.
Carrie Fisher (1956-) / Princess Leia Organa
Born in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Carrie Fisher’s films include – Shampoo (1975), The Blues Brothers (1980), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), The Burbs (1989), When Harry Met Sally (1989), Drop Dead Fred (1991), Scream 3 (2000), Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2000), Charlie’s Angel’s Full Throttle (2003) and Sorority Row (2009).
Tarkin: I grow tired of asking this so it will be the last time: Where is the rebel base?
Leia: ...Dantooine. They're on Dantooine.
Tarkin: There. You see, Lord Vader, she can be reasonable. Continue with the operation; you may fire when ready.
Tarkin: You're far too trusting. Dantooine is too remote to make an effective demonstration - but don't worry; we will deal with your rebel friends soon enough.
Peter Cushing (1913-1994) / Grand Moff Tarkin
Born in Surrey, England, Hammer horror legend Peter Cushing’s films include – A Chump at Oxford (1940), Hamlet (1948), The Black Knight (1954), Alexander the Great (1956), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957 as Baron Frankenstein), Dracula aka Horror of Dracula (1958 as Van Helsing), The Mummy (1959), The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959 as Sherlock Holmes), Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), The Skull (1965), Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965 as Dr. Who), Twins of Evil (1971), Horror Express (1972), At the Earth’s Core (1976), Top Secret (1984) and Biggles (1986).
Obi-Wan: Mos Eisley spaceport: You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.
Alec Guinness (1914-2000) / Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi
Born in London, England, one of Britain’s greatest actors, Alec Guinness won a Best Actor Oscar for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957 as Colonel Nicholson), he was also nominated for The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Horses Mouth (1958), Star Wars (1977) and Little Dorrit (1988).
C-3PO: Help! I think I'm melting! This is all your fault!
Anthony Daniels (1946-) / C-3P0
Born in Wiltshire, England, Anthony Daniels films include – The Lord of the Rings (1978 voice of Legolas), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005).
Kenny Baker (1934-) / R2-D2
Born in Birmingham, England, Kenny Baker’s films include – The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Time Bandits (1981), Return of the Jedi (1983), Labyrinth (1986), Willow (1988), The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005).
Peter Mayhew (1944-) / Chewbacca
Born in Barnes, England, Peter Mayhew’s films include – Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977 as Minoton), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983) and Revenge of the Sith (2005).
Darth Vader: I've been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.
Obi-Wan: Only a master of evil, Darth.
David Prowse (1935-) / Darth Vader
Born in Bristol, England, David Prowse’s films include – The Horror of Frankenstein (1970 as the Monster), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Vampire Circus (1972), Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974 as the Monster), People That Time Forgot (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983)
James Earl Jones (1931-) / Voice of Darth Vader
Born in Arkabutla, Mississippi, James Earl Jones was Oscar nominated Best Actor for The Great White Hope (1970).
His films include – Dr. Strangelove (1964), Swashbuckler (1976), The Greatest (1977 as Malcolm X), Exorcist II The Heretic (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Conan the Barbarian (1982 as Thulsa Doom), Return of the Jedi (1983), Coming to America (1988), Field of Dreams (1989), The Hunt for Red October (1990 as Admiral Greer), Patriot Games (1992), Sneakers (1992), The Lion King (1994 voice of Mufasa), Clear and Present Danger (1996) and Revenge of the Sith (2005).
"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..."
- Episode IV - opening title roll -
In the early seventies Lucas wanted to remake Flash Gordon but couldn’t afford the rights, in 1973 he started writing his own sci-fi adventure, a war movie set in space. In 1976 he had completed the final draft of the screenplay titled - The Adventures of Luke Starkiller.
The Adventures of Luke Starkiller was changed to ‘The Star Wars’ when filming started and would eventually be retitled ‘Star Wars’. Luke Starkiller became Luke Skywalker. For the 1981 re-release of Star Wars a chapter title was added, it was now Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope.
Two studios turned down Star Wars, Universal and United Artists. Alan Ladd Jr was head of 20th Century Fox at the time, he thought George Lucas had talent and a deal was made for Lucas to be paid $150,000 to write and direct his space film and the studio approved a budget of $8,250,000 for the film.
Lucas hired concept artist Ralph McQuarrie (1929-2012) to create paintings of scenes from the script, they would be valuable in creating the look of Star Wars.
Actors screen tested for the role of Han Solo included – Kurt Russell, Sylvester Stallone, Nick Nolte and Christopher Walken. Lucas was reluctant at first to use Harrison Ford because he had already appeared in American Graffiti but eventually decided he was Han Solo.
For Luke and Leia it was decided to cast fresh new faces, Mark Hamill had one previous film role Corvette Summer and Carrie Fisher, the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, had a small part in the Warren Beatty film Shampoo.
Darth Vader: Your powers are weak, old man.
Obi-Wan: You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.
Alec Guinness wasn't overly fond of Star Wars and hated speaking those "awful mumbo jumbo lines" but he became very rich after receiving a percentage of the total box office gross and was happy to appear in the sequels.
Harrison Ford wasn’t pleased with his lines either and one day told Lucas “George you can type this sh!t but you sure as hell can’t say it.”
Peter Cushing (Tarkin) and David Prowse (Darth Vader) had appeared together in the Hammer Horror Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974) Cushing as Frankenstein and Prowse, the monster.
Lucas wanted Star Wars to have state of the art visual effects, he approached Douglas Trumbull the effects genius who worked on Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Trumbull declined the offer but suggested he hire John Dykstra.
Dykstra brought along friends, artists and engineers to work on the film, the leading members of the effects unit were Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston, Phil Tippett and Joe Johnson, they called their team Industrial Light & Magic (ILM).
Dykstra and his team developed the Dykstraflex motion-controlled camera for the film which was responsible for the impressive visual effects, particularly the space battles.
Sound designer Ben Burtt created an entire library of never before heard sounds. The sound of laser blasts was actually a big steel cable being wacked and the light saber hum was feedback from an old broken television set.
Orson Welles was considered for the voice of Darth Vader but Lucas thought it was too recognisable.
Akira Kurosawa’s film The Hidden Fortress (1958) was an influence on Star Wars, the film was about a general played by Toshiro Mifune who is secretly escorting a princess and her gold through enemy territory to a secret destination so she can rebuild her kingdom, they are joined by two bickering cowardly peasants.
Obi-Wan: That's no moon. It's a space station!
War movies Battle of Britain (1969), 633 Squadron (1964) and The Dam Busters (1955) were among the films used as visual references for the space battles and assault on the Death Star.
The film has one of the most memorable opening shots ever, a massive star destroyer flying over head chasing after a smaller ship. ILM deservedly won an Oscar for their groundbreaking visual effects.
Steven Spielberg recommended music maestro John Williams (1932-) to Lucas, Williams had already won 2 Oscars before taking on Star Wars, for Fiddler on the Roof (1971) and Jaws (1975). He would go on to win 3 more Oscars – Star Wars (1977), ET The Extraterrestrial (1982) and Schindler’s List (1993).
John Williams magnificent score to Star Wars is still the best selling 'music-only' soundtrack of all time. Williams has been Oscar nominated more times than any other living person, 47 nominations, only Walt Disney has had more nominations, with 59.
Shooting took place in Tunisia, which represented the desert world of Tatooine, and Elstree Studios near London for the interior of the Millennium Falcon and Death Star.
Filming of Star Wars began on 22 March 1976 and ended 16 July 1976 with some reshoots in January 1977.
Obi-Wan: For over a thousand generations, the Jedi knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the old Republic... before the dark times... before the empire.
Luke: How did my father die?
Obi-Wan: A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi knights. He betrayed and murdered your father. Now the Jedi are all but extinct. Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force.
Luke: The Force?
Obi-Wan: The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.
George Lucas Star Wars screenplay was ranked #68 on the 101 Greatest Screenplays of all time list voted by the Writers Guild of America, ranked above the likes of Raging Bull, Rear Window and The Lion in Winter.
Star Wars is #13 on the American Film Institutes 100 Greatest Films List, #27 on the AFI’s 100 Greatest Thrillers list, #1 on the 100 Greatest Film Score list, #39 on the 100 Most Inspiring Films list.
Han Solo is #14 and Obi-Wan Kenobi #37 on the AFI’s 50 Greatest Heroes List. Star Wars is #2 on the AFI’s 10 Greatest Science Fiction films list (no.1 is 2001: A Space Odyssey). The line “May the Force be with you” is #8 on the AFI’s 100 Greatest Quote’s list.
Chosen for preservation by the National Film Registry in 1989 for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important".
Star Wars was nominated for 11 Oscars and won 7. Winning for Best Music (John Williams), Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects and Best Visual Effects. It was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Alec Guinness).
Production delays and getting the special effects finished in time upped the budget from $8m to $11m.
The previous top grossing sci-fi film was 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) which grossed $56m in the US. Lucas hoped Star Wars would fare better than Logan's Run (1976) which cost about the same as Star Wars but only grossed $25m at the box office.
Star Wars opened on a limited amount of screens on May 25 1977 and by the time it went into wide release it had already started breaking box office records, with lines forming right around theatres all over the U.S. a few months later it overtook Jaws becoming the biggest grossing movie of all time and it had yet to open overseas.
Europe had to wait till October-December 1977 for Star Wars. By the summer of 1978 Star Wars had grossed an astonishing $410m which is pretty impressive for 1978. Various re-runs and the successful release of the Special Edition in theatres in 1997 brought the worldwide total to $775m.
In 1997 Lucas released Special Editions of the original Star Wars trilogy to cinemas all over the world, there were some new scenes added including such redundant pace-killing scenes as Han talking to Jabba the Hutt on Tatooine and many of the old visual effects were replaced with new computer generated effects.
After seeing Star Wars for the first time, James Cameron quit his job as a truck driver and started working in the film industry. Currently the most successful movie of all time (in unadjusted dollars) is Cameron's Avatar, with a worldwide gross of $2.7billion.
Counting tickets instead of dollars, Star Wars (1977) is the second biggest movie ever, only Gone With the Wind (1939) has had more tickets sold.
Star Wars (1977) was a milestone movie and hugely influential, it's colossal success ushered in the era of the summer blockbuster, the waters first tested by the success of Jaws in 1975. It was the first science fiction movie to break the stigma that SF only appealed to bespectacled young men, everyone went to see Star Wars. It ensured that science fiction cinema would rule the box office for decades to come.
The Critics Wrote –
"Star Wars" is a magnificent film. George Lucas set out to make the biggest possible adventure fantasy out of his memories of serials and older action epics, and he succeeded brilliantly. Lucas' first feature, "THX-1138," was also futuristic in tone, but there the story emphasis was on machines controlling man.
In "Star Wars" the people remain the masters of the hardware, thereby striking a more resonant note of empathy and hope. This is the kind of film in which an audience, first entertained, can later walk out feeling good all over." (Variety)
"Star Wars will undoubtedly emerge as one of the true classics in the genre of science fiction/fantasy films. In any event, it will be thrilling audiences of all ages for a long time to come." (Hollywood Reporter)
“A mind-blowing spectacle that sends the audience off into the wondrously strange world of fantasy and satisfies just about everyone's adolescent craving for a corny old-fashioned adventure movie.” (New York Times )
“There's no breather in the picture, no lyricism; the only attempt at beauty is in the double sunset. It's enjoyable on its own terms, but it's exhausting too; like taking a pack of kids to the circus.
An hour into it, children say that they're ready to see it all over again; that's because it's an assemblage of spare parts - it has no emotional grip... Even if you've been entertained, you may feel cheated of some dimension - a sense of wonder, perhaps.” (Pauline Kael)
“This film is visually astonishing, exciting - and most of all - enormous fun. If it's escapism you're after, it's like Christmas cake with a file and rope ladder in it.” (Daily Express)
"Star Wars unashamedly restores all those qualities which film-makers and audiences have almost forgotten in their chase after illusory sophistication.” (The Times)
More by this Author
A visual tour of the third Star Trek movie with facts, reviews, posters and photos.
A look back at the classic 50's sci-fi movie with facts, photos and posters.
A visual history of the Devil in cinema.