I’m working my way through J.W. Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film and it is HUGE. I was naively under the impression that the book would have more photos than text, so I didn’t expect to renew this book twice already from the library. I’m currently on my limit of how many times I can get it out, so I better finish it soon (not going to happen – I’m only a quarter of the way through it).
Though I’ve known this before, what amazes me all over again while reading the book, is how close Star Wars came to not being made. I mean, really, it barely got made. Lucas poured everything he had into this movie, not just his time and effort, but also monetarily. Most of the money he made from American Graffiti got put into Star Wars.
While reading through the book, I tried very hard to imagine as if I had never heard of Star Wars before. For me, that’s so hard to imagine, but I gave it a shot. Before Star Wars, the sci-fi movies were very…well…sci-fi. I’m not necessarily saying that they were all campy or anything, but most of the other movies had not felt, well, “real”. They had a distinct look about them and feel that was in your face. They practically screamed, I AM IN SPACE AND YOU KNOW THIS IS NOT NORMAL.
George kind of turned this on its head by saying he wanted people to feel that the characters and situations were relatable. He took the movie to a new level by assuming the audience was intelligent enough to figure out what was going on, even though they were following two robots for most of the beginning of the movie and the terminology was completely foreign.
And that was one of the reasons why 20th Century Fox were scratching their heads and putting off making the movie. There were all these strange words and spaceships, but no real explanation as to what was going on. Added on top of that, Lucas’ budget kept rising and there was no real market for sci-fi movies at the time.
I can’t imagine the frustration George must have felt as he kept putting in his own money and Fox kept holding back the contract to go-ahead with the film. What if Fox never signed the contract? Lucas would have put in all this money and not get anything out of it.
Being a very literal thinker, I can see why Fox was hesitant to go ahead with Star Wars. Everything Lucas was proposing and doing must have made them nervous. If it wasn’t for Alan Ladd, Jr. (President of Fox at the time), Star Wars would not exist. Ladd saw the potential in Star Wars and pushed to have it made, when the rest of the Board was behind throwing it in the trash.
The part of The Making of Star Wars that I have enjoyed the most thus far has been the countless number of interviews that Rinzler managed to unearth. So many of these interviews were done before Star Wars became famous and it gives you a glimpse into what most people thought would or could be a failed film, but regardless – they loved the director and believed in his vision. It’s great seeing their perspectives before the film came out and before Star Wars became a household title.
All these people had faith in Lucas as a director and faith in his dream. That astounds me. It goes to show that when everyone is telling you something won’t work, sometimes you just need to be true to yourself. I didn’t mean for this to get corny, but it’s getting there.
It’s easy to take these movies for granted and slam George Lucas for “ruining” the series with the Prequels. Dammit – it’s his creation! He can ruin or sell or do whatever he wants with them. When I read this book and see how much time he put into ANH…no, no, not just time. He put in money. Soul. Sweat. Sleepless nights. Did you know that he would wake at 3:00am to work on the latest draft of the script, go to casting sessions at 9am, and stay at casting sessions until 9 or 10:00pm? Did you know that the famous ILM was moving so slowly in the beginning that when George came back from filming in Africa he almost had a heart attack when he saw how little they had done? And as George was working towards finishing the film, Fox told Ladd, Jr. that they were going to terminate Star Wars, forcing Ladd to give George an ultimatum of “You need to be done with this movie in a few weeks”?
I think sometimes (or some of us don’t know this at all) we forget all the hard work that went behind making Star Wars. It’s not something that should be forgotten, but something we should try to remember as the years go by and Disney releases more and more Star Wars movies. Even if we get jaded or oversaturated with Star Wars, just remember what went into making this dream come alive.