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the STAR WARS saga


The start of it all…

“Do you know that we turned down Star Warsback then?” William Friedkin. asked Deadline Hollywood’s Mike Fleming Jr. “We” was the Paramount-based Directors Company, formed by ther currenty hot-shots: Peter Bogdanovich, Francis Ford Coppola, William Friedkin. “Because of Francis’ relationship with George Lucas, we were offered Star Wars. It was more than we had the right to spend… Both Peter and I hated the script. We didn’t see it. Francis did. But we passed on Star Wars!!!” 

Then again, every studio in town turned it down, Until George’s agent, Jeff Berg, performed a miracle by winning a begrudging OK from Fox.  Then, when Lucas required more money to finish the shoot, Berg pulled off a bigger miracle for George.  “Instead of Fox giving him a few dollars more,” recalled Friedkin, “Berg got for him the remake rights, the sequel rights andall of the merchandise. That’s how much that studio believed in Star Wars!”


“May The force be with you.”


Directed by George Lucas . 1997


Now let’s go back to the real beginning…as kindly Uncle George gets downon his zillionaire knees and relates not one, not two… but three prequels.

Annakin Skywalker. After his sprited debut in his dad's biggest flop, The Postman, George Lucas saw


Young Joe Costner for

young Annakin


- the future Darth Vader, in the first of his flashback tales. Joe was even called back, but as his father reported: "Joe hasn't shown a great desire to act."

Lucas cut the contenders to three… Brooklyn’s Michael Angarano and Justin Berfield (Malcolm inthe Middle’s older brother) were beaten by Colorado-born  Jake Lloyd. He is the only US actor to play Luke Skywalker’s father. His predecessor, Sebastian Shaw, was British, and his successor, Hayden Christensen is Canadian.

Queen Padmé Amidala .Surprisingly,Kelly McDonald - beautiful, but with an at times impenetrable Scots accent - was inthe running until Natalie Portman became queen. "Auditions," said Kelly, "are all part of the job."

Darth Maul . Benicio Del Toro was set for the ten-horned Maul until splitting when Lucas cut most of his lines. Ray Park didn’t blink at that. His Maul never blinked at all, in fact. And his few lines remaining were voiced by Peter Serafinowicz (from Shaun of the Dead). Park's lightsaber fighting, however, was all his own.

However, the most fascinating casting story was behind the camera...  revealed by  Ain’t It as late as  December 9, 2008...

Lucas asked UK playwright extraordinaire Sir David Hare to co-direct with him. Hare had shot an episode (Paris May 1919) for George's series, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, in 1993.“I really did [it] because I knew I could get some fantastic actors [Cyril Cusack, Douglas Henshaw, Michael Kitchen, Jeroen Krabbé, Michael Maloney, Anna Massey, Josef Sommer] and thought it would be fun... He asked me to work more seriously with him. It was a lovely idea - he would be able to do all the action and the stuff that he loves.He said: ‘You really love actors. I never really feel I understand actors as well as you do, so why don't you direct the actors and I'll do the action...’ But that is so not what I do.”



“Anakin, may The Force be with you.”


Directed by George Lucas . 2000


Annakin Skywalker . The line-up included  Jonathan Brandis, Colin Hanks, Charlie Hunnam (a gay icon since TV's  Queer As Folk,1999),  Ryan Phillippe (he looked too old for Natalie Portman), Paul Walker, rock band drummer Nathan Wetherington. Brandis (Bastian in The Never Ending StoryII) hung himself  at age 27 the following year.

Lucas settled upon Hayden Christensen because, among other reasons, he and Natalie Portman made a great looking couple.And, of course, he had to deliverthe signature line:

Dormé . The beautous Aussie Rose Byrne replaced the beautous Keira Knightly (fromEpisodeI) as the leading handmaiden in the entourage of Queen, now Senator PadmeAmidala. “That was easy.I just stood by Natalie Portman looking very serious.”

Captain Panaka .  The Royal Shakespeare Company actor Hugh Quarshie decided not to continue hisIrole whenLucasfilm refused to let him read the whole script.His character was replaced with a new Security chief Captain Typho, played by Jay Laga'aia

George Lucas had a walk-on, so did his kids: Katie and Jett. No one recognised them. Except George Lucas and his kids.


“Oh, I have a bad feeling about this.”


Directed by George Lucas . 2003


General Grievous .  Gary Oldman agreed to be General Grievous, then quit(a repeatof Steven Spielberg in 1983) upon learning that Lucas washiring non-Screen Actor's Guild members.Another SAG member who refused wasJohn Rhys-Davies, who owes his career to Spielberg-Lucas’ Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981.The role was read on-set by Duncan Young and screen-voiced by Matthew Wood, a Lucasfilm employee, hence his (familiar, if more usually directorial) pseudonym of  Alan Smithee?

Governor Tarkin .  Australian Wayne Pygram took over when Lucas dropped plans to have Peter Cushing return, posthumously, from the first film - computerising his stock Tarkin footage, circa 1977.

Mace Windu .  Rap star Tupac Shakur tested for the role that proved yet another fan-worship winner for Samuel L Jackson. Tupac was murdered in 1996.


Captain Antilles was first offered to Denis Lawson

- and not because he was Ewan McGregor's uncle.


Denis (mis-credited as Dennis) hadplayed Wedge Antilles in the original trilogy. Rohane Nichol became the captain.

Coppola, Spielberg, De Niro, Liam Neeson, Elijah Wood visited the set of the final chapter- which featured walk-ons from Lucas, his daughters Amanada and Katie, son Jett (as a young Jedi again) and, for once outside his C-3PO suit, Anthony Daniels

Daniels (C-3PO) and Kenny Baker (R2-D2) who are the only actors to appear in all six films. Frank Oz voiced Yodain five chapters. James Earl Jones (voice of Darth Vader), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Ian McDiarmid (Palpatine) are featured in four. Obi-Wan Kenobi appeared in all six films but played bytwo different actors:Sir Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor.



“Hey, Luke. May The Force be with you!”


Directed by George Lucas .1976


“When we were making the movies,” Mark Hamill recalled, “ George was not a jolly guy on set. [Laugh] I always felt badly for him because he agonises over details, and I’m sure after imagining it in his head for so many years, to see it realised - he’d look up and just hang his head and groan. Harrison, Carrie and I were always trying to cheer him up and joke him out of his doom and gloom.”

It didn’t end there…

At the first screening for his New Hollywood group, George Lucas was convinced he had a flop. "I've made a Walt Disney movie! A cross between Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. It's gonna do maybe eight, ten million."

He had, as many of his characters were to exclaim in the series, "a bad feeling about this."

At the beginning, he wanted "a real triangle with real emotions and at the same time, it has to end up with goodwill."


With Luke as a girl... or a dwarf...

an Eurasian Leia... a black Han Solo...

or a green-skinned monster with no nose and gills.

The wookies were called Jawas,

R2-D2 and C-3PO were A-2 and C-3.


Preferring story-construction,special effects andediting to dealinghand-on with live actors,George Lucas held his casting sessions simultaneously with Brian De Palma's foray through the same age group for Carrie. They saw about 40 actors a day for two months at the Samuel Goldwyn studios. Some of those who failed toenter space woundup in Stephen King country:William Katt, Sissy Spacek and the future (short-lived) wives of Spielberg and De Palma: Amy Irving,Nancy Allen.

The hot youth of the hour were heavily rumoured for Princess Leia and Luke Starkiller (sic). Han Solo was the problem - and the key to the solution.For Harrison Ford, "it was almost obvious what the relationship should be - or could be - bylooking at the other two!


Oh, also trying out for space, was the future

Freddy Kreuger of Elm Street, Robert Englund.

Afterwards, he told a pal to try for it. Mark Hamill.


George finally selected four trios, whittled down to two: Christopher Walken, Will Selzer and Penthouse Pet (and future Berlin group singer) Terri Nunn v Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.

I think you know who won...

Luke Skywalker .  Robby Benson, William Katt, CharlesMartin Smith… andStella Stevens’ son(and future producer) Andrew: "Mark and I were both up for an ill-fated TV series, The Oregon Trailas well as a film called Star Wars. [Laugh]. I got The Oregon Trail!"

Han Solo Strangest claim of all came from Al Pacino during a “master class” he staged at  an  Atlantic City casino  in 2015.  He said he’d been offered Solo.  “But I couldn’t  make any sense of the sccrpt.”  Pause. “Can you see me in Star Wars?” No, nor could Geogre Lucas, I’m sure.  This is, perhaps, Pacino trying to be funny….  He would, though,  have  been perfect as Ham Solo.

Actually, Lucas first thought of Paul Le Mat, his podgy alter-ego in American Graffiti. Next up for the role actually based on Coppola: Tom Berenger, Bruce Boxleitner, James Caan, Patrick Duffy, Perry King(who became the radio Solo),NickNolte, Burt Reynolds(every studio wanted Burt for any and everything, he was the reigning box-office champ, until Solo & Co pulverised The System), Kurt Russell.And “it was mine for the taking,” Al Pacino told a London audience during An Evening With Pacinoin June 2013. So what happened? “I didn’t understand the script.”

George also had black actors in mind… Glynn Turman (also a rodeo star who later wed Aretha Franklin) and Billy Dee Williams.  He becameLando Calrissian in the following chapter while Turman went to Munich to work with Ingmar Bergman in The Serpent’s Egg, 1977. His feeelings on losing Solo could be,  perhaps,  best summed up by one of his 1978 movies: A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But A Sandwich!

"Theone time Imet those two guys [Lucas and Spielberg]in a professional capacity," recalled James Woods, "I got to listen to them talk on the phone...!Now, of course, they'd probably put the phone down and pay some attention." He attendedthedouble-castingsession. Briefly.


“When I went in, Lucas was on the phone.

De Palma was kibbutzing.

I sat down and they said:‘Oh hi! How are you?’

They talked on the phone, laughed at each other

and they said: ‘Thanks for coming in.’

And I left.That’s all.”


"I'm happy because the last thing I'd wanna do is be Han Solo or have pig blood dropped on me.I mean, I'm a great audience member for those kindathings,but they're ina completely different business from the business I'm in.It's like when you see Brando in Superman... I'd throw those movies out ofbalance.Can you see Robert De Niro chasing Martians -do you know what I'm saying?I don't eventhink I'dbe verygoodinthem."

Christopher Walken tested for  Lucas in an Upper West Side apartament in Manhattan - with Jodie Foster as Princes Leia. “She was very young.She was just wonderful. Just Brilliant.”“I don’t even know if I knew it was called Star Wars.I’m sure I was terrible.” Not so much. He as #2 to Ford,according to Lucas.

Finally, Lucas ran into another Graffitigraduate, building a new entrance to Coppola's officeand asked Harrison Fordto read in tests "just as a favour."Sure, kid!

Princess Leia   .Glynis O’Connor, PJ Soles...Cindy Williams. She was also George’s first choice for Radioland Murders, due  to be his next movie after American Graffiti, 1972 - and then again after Star Wars..  She and Steve Martin were announced in  1978 as as Penny and Roger Henderson, the parents of Richard Dreyfuss’ Graffiiti character (according to Lucas). Radioland Murders, was not made until 1994.

Jodie Foster tested for Lucas opposite Christopher Walken as Han Solo.“She was very young,” reported Walken. “She was just wonderful. Just Brilliant.”

“I’m glad I didn’t do Star Wars,” said Amy Irving. “It was a nothing part. I wouldn’t want to get famous because of that movie.”   She isn’t famous because of any movie!


Carrie Fisher won - and hated the dialogue.

She told George:  “You can type this stuff

but you can’t say it!”

“George Lucas is a great producer, and I’m very grateful to him for giving my daughter an opportunity to play a great part,”  Carrie's mom, Debbie Reynolds,  told Hollywood Reporter in January 2015. “My first [big] role was Singin’ in the Rain, and my daughter's first [big] role was Star Wars. I had one bun for a hairdo, and Carrie had two buns! She just finished the new Star Wars - and my granddaughter, Billie Lourd, is playing a role in it, too! It’s very exciting to see my granddaughter jumping into the fray also.”

Obi-Wan Kenobi .  Just as he turned down 007, Japanese superstarToshiro Mifune passed, although (or because?) Lucas’s scripted by influenced by, at least, two of the actor’s films for Akira Kurosawa: The Hidden Fortress, 1958, and Yojimba, 1961.

Lucas next thought about Orson Welles (already rejected as Darth Vader’s voice) and the Hammer horror regular Peter Cushing, who became The Grand Muff Tarkin (in very uncomfortable boots). Hey, why think of Cushing when Sir Alec Guinness is intown!Really?Is he? Lucaslunched with him and agreed toadd more dignity to what became the British acting knight's most famous (and lucrative) role. Not that he understood any of it. Now, that’s acting!

Darth Vader .   The giant from Detroit, 7ft 2in Richard Kiel passed -  “not another mask!”  And the 007 squad were already talking to him about being Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me - a role with dialogue!English pro wrestler Big Pat Roach, 6ft 5ins,auditionedbut George told David Prowse: "If you're good enough for Kubrick [in A ClockworkOrange], you're good enough for me." Maybe Lucas didn’t know, but Roach had made two Kubricks, Orange and Barry Lyndon…Prowse was taller, 6ft7ins.Lucas gave the physical education teacher and sometime actorhis pick of Vader or Chewie. Prowse always wanted to play a baddy. Lucas, the producer, did not forget Roach and Patlater had two memorable fights (as different characters) with Indy Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

"I should have guessed something was up," said Prowse, "when they didn't ask me to read."


His Bristol accent was risible for such a dire villain.

The crew called him Darth Farmer.


Roach’s accent was no better. And Vader was dubbed by James Earl Jones for $10,000, after Lucas felt Orson Welles' tones were too well-known, and alas, more from US TV commercials than movies.Having narrated Bugs Bunny Superstar, Orson alsonarrated George’s teaser trailer.

C-3PO .  George neverintended to use the very British tones of the actor insidethe suit. But writing the robot as an "used car salesman" type, George saw cartoon king Mel Blanc (the man of a thousand voices: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester, Tweety, etc). Plus satirist Stan Freberg- who suggestedhe stick with Anthony Daniels’ fuss-budget-cum-butler delivery.

Chewbacca . Darth Farmer himself, David Prowse, passed the prospect of "three months in a hairy gorilla suit" to a Yorkshire hospital porter called Peter Mayhew. He securedChewie afterten seconds. All he did was… stand up. He was 7ft 3ins.

As the film became the super-series, Prowse rankled over the lack of personal publicity. "I was the greatest screen villain of all time and didn't even get a light sabre out of it!Mind you, when we did Star Wars, we couldn't get off the set fast enough.We all thought it was rubbish."


“I have a bad feeling about this..."


Directed by Irvin Kershner . 1979

A change of casting after the film has been shot, edited, released andre-releasedis extremely rare. Such was the case with the extremely plummy New Zealander Clive Revill as the Emperor. His scenes with James EarlJones voicingDarth Vaderwere re-recorded for the 2004 DVD by Ian McDoarmid - who remained Palpatine for the rest of the series.

George Lucas asked Yaphet Kotto

to play LandoCalrissian


He passed with the alleged (lame) excuse that it would be difficult to find work afterwards, if Lando was killed off. D’oh!



“I have a really bad feeling about this.”


Directed by Richard Marquand . 1982


The sole VI “casting” tale I ahve  concerns the director...

George Lucas first asked his closest buddy butSteven Spielberg felt duty-bound to refuse as he was a member of the Directors’ Guild- which Lucas had quitover V disagreements.


He was then also rejected

by David Cronenberg and David Lynch

- who summed it up for both of them:

“It’s Lucas’ thing.”


It was never reported if either Davidgreeted the offers with:Preposterous!

Finally, the producer signed the then non-union Welsh film-maker  Marquand on the strength of his so-so UK spy thriller, Eye of the Needle, 1981. Marquand's work was lacklustre. He died at 49in 1987 having made one lasting contributionto the series - selecting Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor-cum-Senator-cum-Supreme Chancellor Palpatine over V’s Clive Revill. Ian also played (uncredited) Darth Sidious in this film.

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