Samuel L Jedi
When Samuel L Jackson was cast as Mace Windu in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, he bemoaned the fact all he did was sit on his Jedi throne and didn't see any action. All that changed in Attack Of The Clones when Windu stepped up to active duty. Jackson demanded a purple lightsaber to distinguish him from other Jedi (all other sabers are red, blue or green) and also for rude reasons (use your imagination). Jackson even claims his lightsaber hilt had the words "bad motherf***er" enscribed on it after his Pulp Fiction character, but no one has got that close to it and lived to confirm the story.
Yoda has a first name
The most mysterious figure in the galaxy, he is, but Yoda loses a lot of his allure when you learn that George Lucas originally gave him a first name and that first name was... Minch. Minch Yoda. Jedi Master Minch Yoda. "Minchy" to his friends. In a rare case of lucidity, George Lucas saw sense and stripped Yoda of his first name to maintain his badass, single-name appeal. There was, however, another Minch in the Star Wars galaxy; he was a Jedi Master of Yoda's species from a 2003 Star Wars comic book.
Hang on... What even is Yoda?
Ever wondered why the Star Wars universe has Twi'leks and Jawas and Tusken Raiders and Banthas and Wookiees and Ewoks and Mandalorians and Toydarians but you never hear of anyone mentioning what species Yoda is? That's because technically he doesn't have one: in the Star Wars universe, Yoda's species is lost knowledge. There are only five noted 'Yodas' (for want of the actual term) across Star Wars lore, including a lady Yoda named Yaddle – surely he must have tried it on with her at some point.
Return of the Millennium Falcon
You don't win any prizes for spotting that Han's prized ship, the Millennium Falcon, makes a triumphant return in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but you do get extra credit if you noticed that the radar dish that was destroyed during the assault on the Death Star in Return Of The Jedi has been replaced with a new model. The newly refurbished Falcon also has a surprise on its underside: there's an exact model replica of the Tumbler Batmobile beneath one of its nooks and crannies.
Mark Hamill's scar
The difference between A New Hope's fresh-faced farm boy Luke Skywalker and Empire's beleaguered Jedi-in-training Luke Skywalker is physical as well as emotional. In 1977 Mark Hamill was in a near-fatal car crash in which he noticeably scarred his face. To explain away the difference in his appearance, George Lucas specifically wrote the scene whereby Luke is attacked and abducted by the Wampa on Ice planet Hoth (a location that required him to have his face covered). So now you know.
The sounds of Star Wars
Star Wars is just as famous for its sound effects as it is for its imagery, and you have one man to thank for that: LucasFilm Sound Designer Ben Burtt. Burtt created the most iconic effects in the franchise by mixing electronic noises with 'found sounds'. For example, the lightsaber effect is a projector hum combined with TV feedback; the blaster sound is the result of hitting a guy wire on a radio tower with a hammer; the scream of the TIE Fighter is actually a mixture of an elephant call and the sound of a car driving on a wet pavement. Bonus fact: Darth Vader's heavy breathing is actually Burtt huffing into an old scuba regulator.
C3P0's silver leg
Depending on how observant you are, this factoid may or may not have passed you by. Did you know that faithful protocol droid C3P0, famously resplendent from top to toe in gold, actually has one silver leg? Literally for the entire original trilogy? Go back and look at any still or promotional shot of any of the first three Star Wars movies. I'll wait. I know, right? Mind = blown! There's even a comic-book backstory for how Threepio came to own one odd leg: according to the Star Wars: Droids: Rebellion series, a bad guy replaced his leg with one carrying a bomb. So now it all makes perfect sense.
Threepio's perfect record
Come the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there will have been eight theatrically released Star Wars movies in the UK spanning almost 40 years - that's if you count the 2008 animated movie Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Only one cast member has a 100% attendance record: Anthony Daniels is the only man who can legitimately say he has played a part in every Star Wars movie. He was there for Episodes IV through VI, then he returned for Episodes I through III, even when the character's inclusion made zero sense, then he was the only long-serving cast member to provide a voiceover for The Clone Wars - and yes, he's back for The Force Awakens too. R2's lack of voice unit means he's lagging behind with only seven movie credits to Kenny Baker's name. Pfft, part-timer..
The Star Wars franchise has played host to some suitably spaced out cameos in its time. Pixar good luck charm and Cheers barfly John Ratzenberger played the small role of Major Derlin in The Empire Strikes Back; Keira Knightley played the decoy Queen Amidala in The Phantom Menace before she went on to find fame of her own; director Sofia Coppola and Bridesmaids star Rose Byrne both played Padme's hand-maidens; comedienne Celia Imrie somehow managed to get a job as a Naboo fighter pilot in Episode I and was presumably hired by the same firm that got The Wire star Dominic West a gig as a Naboo palace guard.
When Peter Cushing makes a request, you do everything you can to accommodate it. So when the esteemed actor of stage and screen, then playing some bloke with the silly name Grand Moff Tarkin, said his feet were sore while wearing shoes, George Lucas didn't hesitate to say "Yeah dude, it's totally cool if you want to wear some slippers - you played Van Helsing, for frick's sake!" (or something to that effect). And so it was: Cushing was shot from the knee up: pan down and you'd have seen Grand Moff Tarkin rocking a pair of fluffy slippers.
The large, round, Death-Starry thing in the poster for The Force Awakens has been revealed: Starkiller Base is named presumably in honour of its ability to, um, kill stars, bumping the Death Star's kill factor up a few notches and then some. You don't name a space station 'Starkiller Base' if you don't plan on neutralising some twinklies. But did you know that 'Starkiller' was the original surname of Jedi saviour Luke? George Lucas changed it to 'Skywalker' from the original script after 'Starkiller' was deemed to be "too violent" for a kids' film.
Revenge of the Jedi
While we're talking about changes from the original scripts, there was one rather large wholesale alteration made by George Lucas when it came to releasing Return Of The Jedi – no biggie, nothing major, just the TITLE. Until the very last minute, the final part of the Star Wars trilogy was called 'Revenge Of The Jedi' - there were even trailers released using the original title, and posters were printed, which are now incredibly rare. Lucas realised late in the game that the usually zen-like Jedi weren't big on concepts like revenge or anger so downgraded their comeback to a Return.
Ice cream on Cloud City
One of the brilliant things about Star Wars fandom is how the smallest details can be spotted, elaborated on and then added into canon (see the Stormtrooper who bonks his head for proof: that's one beloved blunder that was actually remastered for the Special Edition). There's a guy running around in the background of a scene in Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back clutching some sort of odd device that looked exactly like an ice cream maker. The character became known as Ice Cream Maker Guy, but through his underground popularity, actual info on the character was made available. His name is Willrow Hood, apparently, and it's not an ice cream maker he's clutching but a computer's memory core. It's not known whether he likes, or maybe even loves, ice cream.
Tupac Shakur auditioned for Mace Windu
Though it's hard to reconcile the thought of the All Eyez On Me rapper playing a major role in the kid-friendly Star Wars saga, it is apparently true that Tupac Shakur auditioned for the role of Mace Windu in The Phantom Menace. According to Death Row Records engineer Rick Clifford, his friend Tupac was due to meet George Lucas before the rapper's untimely death in 1996. "He was telling me that he was supposed to read for George Lucas," said Clifford. "They wanted him to be a Jedi. I'm serious. Samuel L. [Jackson] got Tupac's part. [Tupac] said [to me], 'Old man, keep your fingers crossed.'" You won't find a weirder casting rumour than that... Or will you?
Michael Jackson was due to play Jar Jar Binks
If you thought the media frenzy surrounding Star Wars: Episode I was exhausting, imagine throwing Jacko into the mix. It sounds crazy, and it is, but George Lucas had originally asked King of Pop Michael Jackson to provide the voice and movement of nobody's favourite Gungan. Jar Jar actor Ahmed Best recalls how Lucas introduced him to Jackson at a concert only for the singer to appear put out when he learned he didn't get the part of Binks himself. "Michael wanted to do the part, but he wanted to do it in prosthetics and makeup like Thriller," said Best. Honestly... Could it have been any worse than what we got?
The Matrix connection
There's a neat connection between Star Wars: Episode II and The Matrix, the sci-fi that ended up stealing Episode I's thunder in 1999. One scene in the Coruscant bar sees a man attempt to sell death sticks to Obi-Wan Kenobi before falling foul of his Jedi mind tricks. That man was played by Matt Doran, who also played Mouse in The Matrix, creator of some of the software used for Neo's training. One such program was The Woman In The Red Dress, an alluring blonde played by Fiona Johnson designed to distract Neo. Seconds after Doran makes his exit, Johnson appears in the club, giving Anakin an alluring look, attempting to distract him from his Jedi training. Whoah.
How to spot a blockbuster in the making
Ever since Star Wars went from being a break-out hit to a full-on phenomenon, studios have been working hard to keep their Star Wars secrets... well, secret. And in order to deter set sneaks and prying eyes, fake production names are given to Star Wars movies as they shoot – because nothing amasses a crowd quicker than a sign that says "MOVE ALONG, NOTHING TO SEE HERE, STAR WARS MOVIE BEING FILMED."
Return Of The Jedi was the first Star Wars movie to go under an assumed name in production, tagged as 'Blue Harvest' (a reference to Red Harvest, a Dashiell Hammett book); Episode I was nicknamed 'The Doll House' (a reference to the toy lines it would birth); Episode II was labelled 'Cue Ball' (a reference to Samuel L Jackson, maybe?); Episode III went by the name 'The Bridge' (for obvious reasons). And Episode VII? It's known internally at Lucasfilm as 'Avco', after the cinema where JJ Abrams first saw A New Hope.
George Lucas wasn't shy about offering cameos to any celeb who'd ask: N*SYNC, the pop band most famous for gestating Justin Timberlake, filmed cameos for Episode II: Attack Of The Clones. However, you can scour all the crowd scenes on Coruscant that you want – you won't find them. Cameos for Justin, Lance, JC, Chris and the other one were all cut from the movie, and a thousand teenage girl voices cried out in terror. As one internet wags puts it: "Thank god N*SYNC didn't appear in Attack Of The Clones. Otherwise that movie would have really sucked."
Cantina music is called "jizz"
You want proof of the insane level of detail inherent in the Star Wars universe? That song played in the Cantina bar in A New Hope – you know, the insanely catchy theme tune which your brain is currently do-do-do-do-doing back to you right now – has a name: 'Mad About Me'. The band that sing it also have a name: Figrin D'an And The Modal Nodes (look for them on Spotify). Hell, even the genre of music has a name: "Jizz" (do not search for this online).
E.T. is in The Phantom Menace
The little long-necked dude from Steven Spielberg's Extra Terrestrial movie makes a fleeting but fascinating appearance in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. During one of the lengthier political debates at the Senate Chamber, one quick shot shows a delegation of E.T.s, which technically makes the Star Wars universe and our own universe one and the same, which technically means it's still possible we might one day get to own a real lightsaber.
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