A young, enthusiastic crew employs far-out technology to put a rollicking intergalactic fantasy onto the screen
Star Wars, produced by Gary Kurtz, stars Alec Guinness, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing. It is being released by Twentieth Century-Fox. It's a high-energy action movie, uniting the hardware of contemporary space adventure with the romantic fantasies of sword and sorcery, plus a dash of wish fulfillment. Lucas' goal has been to make an imaginative entertainment experience that would transport audiences out of the theater and into an unknown galaxy thousands of light years from earth.
As early as 1971, Lucas had wanted to film a space fantasy. "Originally, I wanted to make a 'Flash Gordon' movie, with all the trimmings, but I couldn't obtain the rights to the characters. So I began researching and went right back and found were Alex Raymond (who had done the original Flash Gordon comic strips in newspapers) had got his idea from. I discovered that he'd got his inspiration from the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs (author of Tarzan) and especially from his John Carter of Mars series books. I read through that series, then found that what had sparked Burroughs off was a science-fantasy called Gulliver on Mars, written by Edwin Arnold and published in 1905. That was the first story in this genre that I have been able to trace. Jules Verne had got pretty close, I suppose, but he never had a hero battling against space creatures or having adventures on another planet. A whole new genre developed from that idea.
"I had the Star Wars project in mind even before I started shooting my last picture, American Graffiti and as soon as I finished I began writing Star Wars in January, 1973eight hours a day, five days a week, from then until March, 1976, when we began shooting. Even then I was busy doing various rewrites in the evenings after the day's work. In fact, I wrote four entirely different screenplays for Star Wars, searching for just the right ingredients, characters and storyline. It's always been what you might call a good idea in search of a story.
"What finally emerged through the many drafts of the script has obviously been influenced by science-fiction and action-adventure I've read and seen. And I've seen a lot of it. I'm trying to make a classic sort of genre picture, a classic space fantasy in which all the influences are working together. There are certain traditional aspects of the genre I wanted to keep and help perpetuate in Star Wars.
Star Wars follows a young man, Luke Skywalker, through exotic worlds uniquely different from our own. Leaving the small arid planet of Tatooine, Luke plunges into an extraordinary intergalactic search for the kidnapped Rebel Princess Leia from the planet Alderaan. Luke is joined in this adventure by Ben Kenobi, the last of the Jedi Knights who were the guardians of peace and justice in the old days before the 'dark times' came to the galaxy; Han Solo, the dashing, cynical captain of the Millennium Falcon, a Corellian pirate ship, Chewbacca, a Wookiee, one of a race of tall anthropoids with quasi-monkey faces and large blue eyes; and the robots, See-Threepio (C-3PO) and Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2). This odd band of adventurers battle Grand Moff Tarkin, the evil Governor of the Imperial Outland regions, and Darth Vader, the malevolent Dark Lord of the Sith, who employs his extrasensory powers to aid Governor Tarkin in the destruction of the rebellion against the Galactic Empire. In the battle of Yavin, Luke engages in a terrifying climactic space battle over the huge man-made planet destroyer, Death Star.
Understandably, conceiving the visuals for such a film would be no small task. Lucas initially gathered around him the talents of Colin Canwell, who had worked on 2001, to design the initial spacecraft models; Alex Tavoularis to do preliminary storyboard sketches of early scripts; production illustrator Ralph McQuarrie to visualize the basic ideas for characters, costumes, props and scenery. Over a period of time Ralph went from simple sketches and line drawings to a handsome series of production paintings which set a visual tone for the production.