STAR WARS—10 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets

Richard Edlund and Gilbert Taylor shooting a Death Star explosion on a miniature set behind the scenes of Star Wars (1977)

With the conclusion of the latest saga in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker set to come to Regal on December 20th, we wanted to pay homage to the iconic movies that have shaped the lives of fans and the movie industry as we know it. As we kick off this series of Regal Reel’s Behind-the-Scenes Secrets, we stumbled across some surprising behind-the-scenes facts about the production of the Star Wars movies. Here are the top ten that we found:


1. Harrison Ford wasn’t supposed to play Han Solo 

Star Wars-Harrison Ford
Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in Star Wars (1977)

During the casting call for Han Solo, George Lucas was looking for new faces that he had never worked with previously—this included a young Kurt Russell. He had initially brought in Harrison Ford to read in lines to the auditioners but really liked Ford’s delivery, so he ended up offering him the part.


2. The cast couldn't help making sound effects during fight scenes

Star Wars-Dath Maul fight
(left to right) Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), Darth Maul (Ray Park) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

During the filming of The Last Jedi (2017), actor Laura Dern (Admiral Holdo) couldn’t help but say “pew pew” when she was shooting scenes firing her stun blaster. If you look closely, during her scene where she shoots at C’ai Threnalli, you can see her mouth forming the sound. Comedically enough, George Lucas had a similar problem during the filming of the prequels when Ewan McGregor and the rest of the Jedi would compulsively make buzzing sounds during lightsaber combat. 


3. The sound of a TIE fighter is actually an elephant 

Star Wars-TIE fighter

To create the sound of a TIE Fighter engine, the production crew created the sound effect by combining a recording of an elephant bellow and a car driving over wet pavement. Makes them sound a little less threatening when you look back at them now, doesn’t it?  


4. Yoda was almost played by a monkey

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Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

According to the book The Making of Star Wars by J.W. Rinzler, George Lucas had initially planned for Yoda to be played by a monkey—yes, really. He had hired a handler to bring in his Capuchin monkey who was trained to wear a Yoda mask and carry a cane. It was later noted that “the monkey’s just going to pull off the mask over and over again.” So the character was quickly turned into a puppet which was voiced by Frank Oz. 


5. “I know” was ad-libbed

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Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

In the final exchange between Princess Leia and Han Solo before he is lowered into the freezing carbonite, Leia says, “I love you,” leaving Solo to deliver his iconic reply, “I know.” But the original script did not contain that line—rather a simple, “I love you, too.” After reviewing the take, both director Irvin Kershner and Ford agreed that the sweet sentiment didn’t suit the crassness of the character. 


6. Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey used the same production crew

Star Wars-BTS-Tatooine
(left to right) George Lucas, Richard Edlund, Mark Hamill, and Alec Guinness (and more) behind-the-scenes of Star Wars (1977)

Well, not the ENTIRE production crew. George Lucas really admired Stanley Kubrick, and was a huge fan of his deep space psychological voyage, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). When Lucas made plans to begin production of Star Wars, he hired so many of the same crew members from Space Odyssey, that the group received the on-set name "The Class of 2001."


7. Space battles were created using real-life war footage

Star Wars-X-Wings

Back in the 1970’s, special effects weren’t nearly as easy to pull off as they are today. So, to achieve these hyper-realistic space battles, Lucas turned to some real-world influence. To inspire his effects team to capture the high-intensity of space battle, Lucas cut together old newsreels of WWII dogfights, which the team eventually used frame-by-frame layering in X-wings, TIE fighters, and even the Millennium Falcon. 


8. Ewoks speak Tibetan 

Star Wars-Ewok

Ewok’s, the adorably aggressive species of furry natives to the forest moon of Endor, actually speak a language that is a combination of Tibetan and Nepalese. The language was created by Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) sound designer Ben Burtt. 


9. James Earl Jones only worked on set for a few hours

Star Wars-Darth Vader
(left to right) Daine Jir (Al Lampert), Darth Vader (David Prowse) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) in Star Wars (1977)

As some may know, the actor behind the iconic mask is actually David Prowse, while the unmistakable voice of Darth Vader was done by none other than James Earl Jones. Lucas chose Jones to be the voice of Vader due to the actor’s unmistakable baritone. Jones was paid a mere $7500 for his voice acting and completed all of his lines within 3 hours.


10. The original saga almost ended VERY differently

Star Wars-Father Scene
Darth Vader (David Prowse) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in Star Wars (1977)

During the early script adaptation of Return of the Jedi, Lucas had initially pitched a drastically alternate ending to the fateful lightsaber battle between Luke and Vader. As we all know, Vader sacrifices himself to kill the Emperor and save Luke as he finally sees his father’s face for the first time. In the early proposal, Lucas suggested that Luke would then pick up the mask and put it on proclaiming, “Now I am Vader.” The idea was promptly thrown out because the team agreed they wanted a more happy ending.