35 Fun facts about the Star Wars franchise.

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The highly anticipated release of the movie Star Wars: Episode VII is right around the corner, ready to hit theaters on December 18, 2015. Set 30 years after the epic Battle of Endor portrayed in Return of the Jedi, the film will include our favorite characters and actors from the original film: Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo, only 30 years older, as in real life.

The title “The Force Awakens” is actually quite fitting, as the Star Wars franchise seemed to be at the end of the road in 2005 after Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith completed the backstory trilogy and was meant to end the series, forever. But when Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4.05 billion, the movie company immediately announced that they were reviving the movie for at least another three films, starting with The Force Awakens.

Let’s look at 35 other little known facts about the Star Wars movies, now 37 years old!

1.         The first film in 1977, Star Wars episode IV, had a production budget of only $11 million. They brought in $1.5 million their first weekend at the box offices and went on to gross over $460 million with domestic box office sales and $870 million worldwide.

2.         In fact, “Attack of the Clones” was the only film in the Star Wars franchise not to be a top earner. It did bring in $302 million in domestic box office receipts, but was topped by Spider Man and Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

3.         In an early script version of Star Wars, the friendly robot R2-D2 spoke English and had a bad attitude.

4.         In 1977, a disco music version of Star Wars was released and reached #1 on the charts for two weeks.

5.         Alex Guines, the actor who played Obi-Wan Kenobi, described the movie as “fairy tale rubbish.” Despite his low opinion of the film, his deal granted him 2% of the gross box office receipts for all movies he appeared in, bringing him over $95 million to date.

6.         On the other end of the pay spectrum, Harrison Ford (Han Solo) got only $10,000 for his role in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.

7.         Speaking of Han, in the early story outline of Return of the Jedi, Han Solo actually died. But George Lucas was concerned with one of his main character’s death affecting toy sales so he had him rescued by the Ewoks instead.

8.         Harrison Ford wasn’t even close to the first choice to play Han Solo; those were Burt Reynolds, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, and Christopher Walken.

9.         Chewbaccas’s voice is a recorded mix of other animals; bears walruses, lions, badgers, and other dying animals.

10.       And the noise of the lightsaber is a combination of the noise an old film projector makes and the hum of an old television.

16.       Tupac Shakur auditioned for the role of Mace Windu.

17.       Actor David Prowse, who played Darth Vader, was outraged that his voice was dubbed over with Earl Jones’. His caused so many problems on set and pissed off George Lucas so much that he was banned from all ensuing Star Wars events.

18.       Luke’s village of Tatooine was constructed in Tunisia and many of the buildings still stand. In fact, a whole new brand of destination tourism has emerged around the movie, as fans travel to Tunisia, Finse (Hoth), Death Valley (Tatooine), and Smith River (Endor) to visit the settings where the movies were filmed.

19.       The languages belonging to various critters and creatures in the Star Wars films are not all gibberish. In fact, the Jawa language is a sped up version of Zulu. The language Greedo speaks is a South American idiom called Quechua. Ewoks speak a mixture of Tibetan and Nepalese, and other alien races speak Kenyan.

20.       Yoda had no identified species and depending on the movie you watch, he either has three or four toes.

11.       On the tiny island of Niu in the South Pacific, you can use limited edition Star Wars collectible coins as legal tender.

12.       Yoda was originally supposed to be a cute monkey wearing a mask and walking with the help of a cane.

13.       The boy band ‘N Sync made a cameo  appearance in Attack of the Clones because George Lucas’ daughter was a huge fan, but they were edited out of the final cut.

14.       Luke Skywalker was originally called Luke Starkiller all the way up to the begining of shooting. When they wanted to change the name they realized that his full name hadn’t been uttered yet, so they didn’t have to reshoot. In story development, George Lucas considered the plotline that Luke removes Darth Vader’s helmet after their epic fight and puts it on. He would then say, “Now I am Vader,” and turned to the dark side.

15.       Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, was in a bad car  accident before filming started on the Empire Strikes Back, resulting in severe facial trauma. They wrote in a scene where Luke is mauled by a Wampa just to account for the scars on his face.

21.       Amazingly, a character from Spielberg’s ET: The Extra Terrestrial made an appearance in The Phantom Menace, as a senator planet Brodo Asogi in the Grand Convocation Chamber when Queen Amidala calls for a vote of no confidence.

22.       Star Wars had almost the identical production crew as 2001: A Space Odyssey because Lucas was such a big fan of Stanley Kubrick’s film.

23.       The very first day of shooting of Star Wars was full of problems. Shot in Tunisia, the Libyan government because concerned with a massive military vehicle they saw right over the border. They sent threats to the Tunisian government and started mobilizing their military before finding out it was just Jawa’s sandcrawler – a film prop. Lucas had his team move it away from the border and an international incident was averted.

24.       Then, a major rainstorm hit the region for the first time in 50 years, turning the sand world into mud and forcing production to be halted for the day.

25.       Yoda’s facial features are based on Albert Einstein’s features, including his lips inspired by Einstein’s mustache.

26.       Star Wars fans have actually named two official days in honor of their favorite movies: Force Friday on September 4, and Star Wars Day on May 4th (May the 4th be with you!)

27.       During filming of Return of the Jedi, actor Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca and donned his furry suit, was instructed not to wander too far off the set in the redwoods area of California in case a hunter mistook him for Big Foot or a bear and took a shot.

28.       Actor David Prowse was given the choice to play Chewbacca or Darth Vader, but choose Darth because he wanted to be a villian.

29.       In a story development session for Return of the Jedi, Lucas played with the notion of Luke removing Vader’s helmet, putting on himself, proclaiming “Now I am Vader,” and turning to the dark side. Thankfully, he realized that was a little overboard and we didn’t want to lose our hero.

30.       The distinct whining engine noise that the TIE fighters makes is actually compiled from the sound of elephants bellowing mixed with a car on wet pavement.

31.       The legendary opening sequence of the first film where the credits and backstory rolled down the screen was unique at the time. Film makers had to use a physical crawl technique to shoot that. George Lucas actually paid a fine and retired from the Directors Guild in order to keep that non traditional credit sequence.

32.       During the evacuation of Cloud City, you can see a uniformed resident running with a database of rebel contacts, looking to protect it from invaders. In fact, they just used an ice cream maker for the database.

33.       I don’t know how they pulled this off, but the word “Ewok” has never been spoken out loud in any of the Star Wars movies.

34.       The name of one of the films most beloved characters, “R2-D2,” was invented by George Lucas back when he was filming another movie, American Graffiti. A member of the sound crew asked him to retrieve reel #2 of the second dialogue track, which in movie set-speak became,  “Could you get R2-D2 for me?”

35.       The good news is that movie fans won’t have another long wait before the next Star Wars is released. The schedule for future films includes Star Wars: rouge One released December 16, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII released May 26, 2017, and Star Wars, Episode IX coming to theaters on December 31 of 2019.

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