If there’s anything more fascinating than the Star Wars™ films themselves, it’s the history of how they were made and the people who crafted them. Spanning decades, the story of Star Wars is as gripping and entertaining as any lightsaber battle or desert speeder chase.
Here’s a walk through 1977, the year that our world was introduced to the beloved world of Star Wars.
George Lucas’s team are still working frantically to complete visual effects shots for Star Wars, and three editors are working long hours to assemble the footage into a cohesive story. Last-minute additions of a monocular monster for the trash compactor scene and a matte painting of the Mos Eisley Cantina’s exterior are among the film’s final shots. Lucas’s highest expectation for Star Wars is that it will break even at the box office.
Mark Hamill crashes his new BMW on the Antelope Valley Freeway in California, and requires reconstructive surgery to his face. A body double replaces Hamill for the final shooting of additional scenes with the landspeeder, filmed at China Lake Actes, north of Los Angeles.
John Williams conducts the London Symphony Orchestra to record the Star Wars soundtrack. It is recorded over the course of 14 sessions at Anvil Studios in Denham, England.
The first public screening of Star Wars takes place in San Francisco’s Northpoint Theater. To maintain secrecy, the invitation-only preview screening is advertised on the marquee as the world premiere of “Alaska”. Although the sound mix is not complete, the preview is a huge success with the audience.
Star Wars opens in 32 theaters in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. Lucas is sitting in a Hamburger Hamlet restaurant across the street from Mann’s Chinese Theatre (previously Grauman’s Chinese Theatre) when he sees a huge crowd, and then limousines pull up. Mann’s Chinese Theatre has the biggest opening day in its 50-year history, taking in $19,358 at approximately $4 a ticket.
Lucas was surprised to see Star Wars premiering at Mann’s because it had not been scheduled to screen there. But when William Friedkin’s Sorcerer (1977) was delayed, Star Wars filled the vacancy.
An exhausted Lucas arrives in Hawaii for a short vacation. Steven Spielberg joins him, and they build a sandcastle on the Mauna Kea hotel beach. After Spielberg expresses his interest in directing a James Bond movie, Lucas discusses his own idea for Raiders of the Lost Ark, the adventures of Indiana Smith. Because the hero’s name reminds Spielberg of the film title Nevada Smith (1966), Lucas later changes it to Indiana Jones.
Factors, Etc. releases a licensed series of Star Wars pin-back badges, including one on which Darth Vader’s name is misspelled. Meanwhile, tons of bootleg buttons and badges are also in circulation.
Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk by Meco (real name Domenico Monardo) is released by Millennium Records. The instrumental music album includes the Star Wars theme reworked as a disco tune.
C-3PO is on the cover of People magazine, which features short interviews with Star Wars’s director and cast. Lucas maintains he is through with directing “because I don’t enjoy being the boss. If I do a sequel, I’ll be an executive producer.”
C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), Darth Vader (Kermit Eller), and R2-D2 (remote-controlled by Mick Garris) set their hand and footprints in the concrete forecourt at Mann’s Chinese Theatre. Gary Kurtz supplies the signature for the handprint-challenged R2-D2 while John Williams’s Star Wars score blares from loudspeakers.
Zubin Mehta conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the first public Star Wars concert, which is staged at the sold-out Hollywood Bowl. Composer John Williams had written the “Suite from Star Wars” exclusively for the event, which also includes a poetry reading by Star Trek’s William Shatner and a laser show.
Lucas completes the story treatment for the first Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. The treatment opens with Luke Skywalker being attacked and bashed in the face by a “giant snow creature,” a story point that addresses Mark Hamill’s facial wounds from his car accident earlier in the year. Lucas hires Leigh Brackett to write the Empire screenplay.
Painstakingly produced and superbly illustrated, Star Wars Year by Year: A Visual History presents a unique Star Wars timeline – the full history of the amazing Star Wars phenomenon as you've never seen it before, including the Saga's impact on popular culture and world events. This updated edition includes brand new content covering the latest Star Wars movie, 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens as well as the ongoing animated TV series Star Wars Rebels and new Star Wars-themed lands coming to Walt Disney World Florida and Disneyland California.
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