In honor of Star Wars Day, we’ve taken a deep dive into some of the best behind-the-scenes stories from the making of the Skywalker saga. From what it was really like filming that first movie, later titled A New Hope, right up until the very secretive casting for the sequel trilogy, we have stories from the making of each of the nine mainline movies.
So, why not take a look at these force-ful facts (we’re sorry) and see if you learn anything new about the making of one of the best sci-fi sagas in film history.
Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
Fact #1: In her memoir The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher shared some huge insights into her personal life while filming A New Hope. However, the late actor’s book also contained some interesting trivia about the making of the film. In it, she opened up about the origins of Leia’s iconic hairstyle, explaining it was based on women who fought in the Mexican Revolution between 1910 and 1920. In Fisher’s typical witty fashion, she labelled Patricia McDermott’s hairstyle “the hairy earphone configuration”.
Fact #2: It’s well known that Darth Vader’s body and voice were played by different actors. James Earl Jones gave us the dulcet tones of the villain while his intimidating physicality was acted by David Prowse. But did you know the heavyweight actors never actually met while filming? In 2015, Prowse opened up about this in an interview with WhatCulture.com (opens in new tab), explaining: “We had arranged to meet but it was during the ash cloud fiasco and I got a call from his son to say the ash cloud had lifted so he had to take the next available flight back to New York. So I didn’t get to see him.”
Fact #3: In a stunt gone wrong, Mark Hamill broke a blood vessel in his face while filming the trash compactor scene. He explained on Twitter (opens in new tab)that the incident happened when the Luke Skywalker star was holding his breath for too long. As a result, the remaining shots had to be filmed on the side of his face.
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Fact #4: Those working on the production on The Empire Strikes Back decided to make the most of shooting on location in Finse, Norway. When a fierce snowstorm hit the hotel where the cast and crew were, director Irvin Kershner decided (opens in new tab)this was a perfect opportunity to film. He used the storm as a backdrop for Luke escaping the Wampa cave in Hoth, sending Hamill out into the elements.
Fact #5: Harrison Ford was initially unsure if he wanted to return for a third movie, having not signed up for a three-movie deal. As a result, one of the reasons Han Solo was frozen in carbonite was to allow the actor the freedom to decide at a later time. According to Screen Rant (opens in new tab), it was producer Howard Kazanjian who ended up persuading Ford to return after working together on Indiana Jones.
Fact #6: Yoda’s puppet was almost controlled by legendary puppeteer Jim Henson, who was a friend of George Lucas’. In the 1995 VHS release of the film (opens in new tab), Lucas explained that he was offered the role, but turned it down as he was working on the 1981 film The Great Muppet Caper. He recommended Frank Oz in his place – and the rest was history.
Fact #7: In an early edition of the script, Luke had a sister named Nellith and Darth Vader was not his real father. A ghost of Anakin Skywalker appeared in a vision to tell Luke this, explaining he had split them up to protect them both. This idea was later scrapped in the draft stage, according to Star Wars Holocron (opens in new tab).
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Fact #8: Yoda originally was not part of the script for the Return of the Jedi. However, Lucas was urged to include a scene where Luke was explicitly told that Vader was his father. This advice came from child psychologists who felt younger viewers needed this twist to be spelt out for them. Lucas explained this in the 2004 DVD release of the film.
Fact #9: Fisher and Warwick Davis developed a close bond during the filming, with the Princess Leia star very concerned the 11-year-old star had enough to eat and drink while filming in the hot Ewok costume. Davis later called her “everything an eleven-year-old Ewok could possibly wish for” in an interview with the Daily Mail (opens in new tab).
Fact #10: Jabba the Hutt was one of the largest and most expensive puppets ever built. In a fascinating documentary created by Jamie Benning (opens in new tab), Star Wars viewers can see how Toby Philpott and his team operated the huge robot. During this, Philpott explained how he and David Barclay were inside the puppet operating his mouth and body.
Fact #11: The ending was not always as optimistic – in one early draft of the film (opens in new tab), Luke was supposed to walk off alone. The idea was he would leave his friends behind in a move reminiscent of Westerns. However, Lucas later decided to go with a more upbeat ending to the trilogy when it came to releasing the movie
Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Fact #12: In the Phantom Menace making-of documentary, The Beginning, Lucas could be seen nervously screening an early version of the film. After it finished, he said: “It’s a little disjointed. It’s bold in terms of jerking people around, but… I may have gone too far in a few places.”
Fact #13: Natalie Portman and Keira Knightley looked so similar fully dressed and in make-up that people had difficulty telling them apart. Even Knightley’s own mum (opens in new tab) found it hard to spot her when she was visiting the set.
Fact #14: Eagle-eyed viewers should be able to spot a familiar ship in the background of the scenes in Coruscant. Among the traffic flying around the city, the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation is briefly visible (opens in new tab). E.T. can also be spotted on Coruscant as well in the background of the Galactic Senate scene.
Fact #15: Liam Neeson played Qui-Gon Jinn in the film, but his appearance cost set designers extra. While making the film, the sets were only built to head height with the rest filled in with CGI. However, Neeson’s height meant they had to make extra tall sets, which reportedly cost (opens in new tab) an extra $150,000.
Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
Fact #16: Many actors were considered for the role of Anakin Skywalker aside from Hayden Christensen. Among them were Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, and Colin Hanks. Apparently, one of the many reasons (opens in new tab) Christensen was picked was because of how he looked opposite Portman
Fact #17: Christopher Lee was pranked by the Star Wars crew after they added fangs to the model of Yoda used to film one of his lightsaber battles. This was done to reference the Count Dooku actor’s iconic turn as the legendary vampire in Dracula. Reacting to this, he reportedly said (opens in new tab): “I will not comment on that. I didn’t think you would do this to me, George!”
Fact #18: Digital artist Paul Huston relied on practical model-making a lot to create the backgrounds in Attack of the Clones. In Sculpting a Galaxy, he explained he would create a practical set that would be enhanced with digital matte painting. This was used for the setting of Anakin and Padmé’s picnic on Naboo, with the waterfall cliffs created using painted aluminum and the ground made from a furry brown carpet.
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Fact #19: Revenge of the Sith was the first Star Wars film to be rated PG-13. Lucas discussed this pre-release with Vanity Fair (opens in new tab), admitting he was expecting it as it was a “darker film”. He told the publication: “This one is a little tougher, and I think children, young children especially, should be warned that this is not your average Star Wars.” One of the main reasons for the film’s rating was due to Anakin’s burnt body.
Fact #20: Neeson filmed a cameo as Qui-Gon Jinn that was not included in the final cut. He was supposed to appear in a scene with Yoda, where he explained how Jedi communicate after dying. An unfinished version of the scene can be seen in the Blu-ray release of Revenge of the Sith.
Fact #21: Darth Vader’s suit was made to be top-heavy as Lucas wanted Christensen to feel slightly uncoordinated wearing it (opens in new tab). One way this was done was by adding weights to the helmet. The idea is Anakin would not yet feel at home in the iconic suit.
Fact #22: The army of Wookiees in Revenge of the Sith were actually made up of only eight extras. According to Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars, this was because they only had eight Wookiee costumes in total, so they had to dress up with different pieces of armor to give the impression they were different.
Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
Fact #23: Some of the cast only found out they were cast in the film moments before the table read. Speaking on Dublin’s 2FM radio, actor Domnall Gleeson admitted he was only told he had the part of General Hux a day before he was in the room reading with Ford, Hamill, and Fisher. Oscar Isaac was only told on the day of the table read that he had the part, according to Collider (opens in new tab). He was apparently told to wait in a London hotel room to find out whether he’d been cast as Poe Dameron or whether he would be put on a flight back to the US.
Fact #24: Speaking of casting, Adam Driver was not the only actor considered to play Kylo Ren. Hugo Weaving and Michael Fassbender were also reportedly in the running to play the role. Fassbender admitted he was in early conversations on MTV’s Happy Sad Confused podcast. He explained: “We talked about a role. We had a conversation. I’m pretty sure I was busy doing something else in the summer he was kickstarting that.”
Fact #25: In the original script, Poe was supposed to die early on in the story. Director J.J. Abrams opened up about this in the special features of The Force Awakens DVD (opens in new tab). He shared how Isaac wasn’t happy about the choice, admitting he was tired of his characters dying off in some of his recent movies.
Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
Fact #26: To accompany the film’s release, Disney also dropped a feature-length documentary about the making of the movie called The Director and the Jedi (opens in new tab). In this, Hamill opened up about being overcome with emotion when he saw Yoda again. Toward the end of the documentary, he can be seen encountering the puppet once again as Frank Oz rehearses. He placed his hand over his heart, saying: “It’s really getting to me.”
Fact #27: Director Rian Johnson confirmed that while filming her part as Holdo, Laura Dern couldn’t help but say “pew” every time she shot her blaster. These weren’t audible but one moment did make it into the final cut of the movie, at about one hour and 30 mins in. Speaking about this, Dern told Stephen Colbert (opens in new tab) this was because she was so excited about filming it. She explained: “Doing the scene, I went, ‘Pew-pew!’ They’ve taken the sound out, I don’t think you’ll hear that in the movie. I was so excited! I mean, it’s Star Wars!”
Fact #28: Fisher’s dog Gary had a small cameo in the movie, appearing in the background while Rose and Finn are talking at the Casino on Canto Bight. Johnson confirmed this on Twitter (opens in new tab) after fans spotted him in a production still. In the film, Gary is visible on the left-hand side of the screen next to a man with a black fez on.
Fact #29: Andy Serkis, who played Supreme Leader Snoke in the film, went to extreme measures to help motion capture accurately portray his vision for the role. While filming, he taped down the side of his mouth in order to reflect how Snoke would speak. He told Entertainment Weekly (opens in new tab): “The only thing I did use was across his jaw,” Serkis said. “His jaw is completely mangled and the left side of his face is mauled. So I had a way of taping down the left-hand side of my mouth to restrict the lip movement on that side.”
Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Fact #30: While filmed on location in the Wadi Rum desert, the filmmakers brought out a green screen for a key moments. In the Vanity Fair special (opens in new tab), released a few months before release, Isaac admitted he had been confused by the choice. Speaking to the publication, he said: “I was like, ‘J.J., can I ask you a question? I notice we’re shooting on greenscreen.’ And he’s like, ‘So why the hell are we in the desert?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah!’ And he said, ‘Well, because look: the way that the sand interacts with the light, and the type of shots you would set up – if you were designing the shot on a computer you would never even think to do that.'”
Fact #31: The Rise of Skywalker featured a number of cameos, including singer Ed Sheeran playing a small role. However, you might not realise that Obi-Wan Kenobi-star Alec Guinness’ granddaughter also made a small cameo in the film. It was revealed in the Skywalker Legacy documentary that Sally Guinness played a First Order officer in one of the scenes.
Fact #32: Lord of the Rings actor Dominic Monaghan played a member of the Resistance in the final film of the saga. He apparently landed the role (opens in new tab) after winning a bet with director J.J. Abrams. The pair had a wager during a World Cup game, which Monaghan won.
Fact #33: A big section of the film was shot in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan. Abrams enlisted some locals to play Aki-Aki, who are natives of the planet Pasaana, when Rey, Poe, Finn, and C3-PO go on their search for Sith Wayfinder.
Want more Star Wars? Check out our guide to Star Wars Day (opens in new tab), as well as all you need to know about the upcoming release of Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney Plus.