How Star Wars Surprised the World

Discussion in 'DVD Video' started by Fred Goodwin, CMA, May 28, 2006.

  1. How Star Wars Surprised the World

    http://www.americanheritage.com/ent...raffiti-science-fiction-special-effects.shtml
    http://tinyurl.com/fvs66

    In the late 1970s most movie theater owners simply weren't interested
    in a movie set in space. The last truly successful science-fiction film
    had been 1968's 2001: A Space Odyssey; more recent fare, such as the
    ecological fable Silent Running (1972), had bombed. So on May 25,
    1977-29 years ago today-Star Wars opened on just 32 screens
    nationwide.

    It didn't look like a logical career move for its creator, the
    director George Lucas, either. After the unexpected smash success of
    his American Graffiti (1973), which earned him two Oscar nominations
    and millions of dollars, the then-29-year old director was a hot
    commodity in Hollywood. For a follow-up he decided to develop an idea
    he'd been tinkering with for years: a space fantasy, complete with
    elaborate sets and dazzling special effects. He struck a deal with 20th
    Century Fox for $150,000 to write and direct the movie that would
    become Star Wars.

    He already had some experience with the sci-fi genre, having filmed the
    grim, low-budget Orwellian tale THX 1138 (1971). He now aimed to tell a
    more optimistic and straightforward story of good versus evil, right
    versus wrong-a story that he felt would particularly appeal to
    children. But he struggled with the Star Wars script for more than two
    years, seeking inspiration from sources such as 1950s sci-fi movies,
    1930s Flash Gordon serials, and quasi-mystical contemporary sci-fi
    novels such as Frank Herbert's Dune. He also studied the work of the
    writer Joseph Campbell, whose research into various cultures'
    archetypical hero mythologies, detailed in his 1949 book The Hero With
    a Thousand Faces, helped provide a template for the Star Wars plot.
    "There's a whole generation growing up without any kind of fairy
    tales," Lucas said later. "And kids need fairy tales."

    After constant writing and revising, he eventually had enough material
    for three movies. But the first one, he knew, had to be a success, and
    his perfectionism drove him to oversee every aspect of its production.
    He spent months auditioning relatively unknown actors. Some who were
    rejected would later become major stars, including Christopher Walken,
    Nick Nolte, Jodie Foster, and Amy Irving. The role of Luke Skywalker
    (who was originally going to be named Luke Starkiller) went to the
    unknown Mark Hamill. Harrison Ford, who had had a bit part in American
    Graffiti, was cast as Han Solo, and Carrie Fisher, the daughter of the
    actress Debbie Reynolds and the singer Eddie Fisher, won the part of
    Leia.

    With an initial budget of only $8.5 million, production began in March
    1976 in the deserts of Tunisia, in Africa, and one disaster followed
    another. On the second day of shooting it rained-the first winter
    rain the area had seen in 50 years. The controls for the robot R2-D2
    constantly malfunctioned, and a whole day was spent on a shot of the
    robot moving only a few feet. Sand damaged camera equipment beyond
    repair, and windstorms destroyed expensive sets that had been shipped
    in from England.

    The production later moved to the sprawling Elstree Studios outside
    London, and none of the British crew took the project seriously. This
    was, after all, a movie with robots and a furry "Wookiee."
    Technicians inadvertently damaged sets with explosions, one of which
    caused a stuntman to be hospitalized. The actors, meanwhile, tried to
    make sense of Lucas's standoffish directorial style. After one take
    he admonished them by saying, "Uh. . . let's do it again, only this
    time . . . do it better."

    Returning to California after the overseas production wrapped, Lucas
    discovered that his special-effects team, the newly founded Industrial
    Light & Magic, had completed only 3 of 365 special-effects shots yet
    had spent more than $1 million of the $2 million special-effects
    budget. The next day he was hospitalized overnight with chest pains.
    Suffering from hypertension and exhaustion, he vowed that once he
    completed Star Wars, he would never direct another film.

    He and his crew worked around the clock to finish the movie, enduring
    numerous additional setbacks. The special effects went 35 percent over
    budget, and the entire film's budget ballooned to more than $10
    million; Mark Hamill suffered a car accident that severely injured his
    face, making reshoots with him impossible. Many Fox executives were
    certain the movie would be an unmitigated flop.

    On May 25, 1977, Star Wars' release date, Lucas spent the day mixing
    foreign-language versions in a sound studio in Los Angeles. He called
    his wife and asked her to meet him at a local hamburger joint for
    dinner. As they approached the restaurant, the noticed that the streets
    were clogged with traffic, and crowds of people were filling the
    sidewalks. He had forgotten that Star Wars was playing at the famous
    Mann's Chinese Theatre, across the street from the restaurant. The
    crowds were there to see his film.

    Word of mouth quickly spread that the movie was a one-of-a-kind
    experience, and moviegoers, particularly children, attended it in
    droves all over the country. Some $3 million in tickets were sold in
    the first week of release-in only those 32 theaters. By the end of
    1977, more than 1 in 20 moviegoers had seen Star Wars several times. By
    April 1978 it had grossed a staggering $215 million in the United
    States alone, smashing box-office records. It would go on to rake in
    six Academy Awards, as well as millions of dollars from product
    merchandising, including Star Wars calendars, soundtrack albums, and
    action figures. Five sequels would follow, and the seemingly tireless
    Lucas would direct three of them.

    Star Wars not only rejuvenated the moribund science-fiction genre; it
    also ushered in the era of the summer blockbuster movie-which, for
    better or worse, transformed the way the movie industry does business.
    Film companies would increasingly channel millions into big-budget
    escapist fare and forgo smaller, low-budget films. Lucas's Industrial
    Light & Magic would go on to revolutionize visual effects in film. Such
    spectacle is an integral part of American movies to this day, driving
    budgets-and box-office grosses-ever higher. For the movie industry,
    Star Wars was a fairy tale with a very happy ending.

    -David Rapp has written about history for American Heritage,
    Technology Review, and Out. He has a degree in film from New York
    University.
     
    Fred Goodwin, CMA, May 28, 2006
    #1
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  2. Fred Goodwin, CMA

    Cicero Guest

    "Fred Goodwin, CMA" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > How Star Wars Surprised the World


    It surprised me that it is so highly rated in the IMDB top 250. It comes in
    at Number 11.
     
    Cicero, May 28, 2006
    #2
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  3. On a pleasant day while strolling in alt.video.dvd, a person by the name
    of Cicero exclaimed:
    >
    > "Fred Goodwin, CMA" <> wrote in message
    > news:...
    > > How Star Wars Surprised the World

    >
    > It surprised me that it is so highly rated in the IMDB top 250. It comes in
    > at Number 11.


    It's a popularity contest. Why be surprised? Star Wars is obviously very
    popular.

    --
    aaronl at consultant dot com
    For every expert, there is an equal and
    opposite expert. - Arthur C. Clarke
     
    Aaron Lawrence, May 28, 2006
    #3
  4. Fred Goodwin, CMA

    Dan Kimmel Guest

    "Fred Goodwin, CMA" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > Star Wars not only rejuvenated the moribund science-fiction genre; it
    > also ushered in the era of the summer blockbuster movie-which, for
    > better or worse, transformed the way the movie industry does business.



    Some would credit Spielberg's "Jaws," released two years before, with
    creating the "summer blockbuster" mentality.
     
    Dan Kimmel, May 28, 2006
    #4
  5. In article <>,
    "Dan Kimmel" <> wrote:

    > "Fred Goodwin, CMA" <> wrote in message
    > news:...
    > > Star Wars not only rejuvenated the moribund science-fiction genre; it
    > > also ushered in the era of the summer blockbuster movie-which, for
    > > better or worse, transformed the way the movie industry does business.

    >
    >
    > Some would credit Spielberg's "Jaws," released two years before, with
    > creating the "summer blockbuster" mentality.


    True. The difference that Star Wars made was that sci-fi and
    action/adventure movies became the standard genre for these
    blockbusters. So it begat all the superhero movies, the Indiana Jones
    sagas, and the rest of the Star Wars.

    --
    Barry Margolin,
    Arlington, MA
    *** PLEASE don't copy me on replies, I'll read them in the group ***
     
    Barry Margolin, May 28, 2006
    #5
  6. Fred Goodwin, CMA

    Goro Guest

    Barry Margolin wrote:
    > In article <>,
    > "Dan Kimmel" <> wrote:
    >
    > > "Fred Goodwin, CMA" <> wrote in message
    > > news:...
    > > > Star Wars not only rejuvenated the moribund science-fiction genre; it
    > > > also ushered in the era of the summer blockbuster movie-which, for
    > > > better or worse, transformed the way the movie industry does business.

    > >
    > >
    > > Some would credit Spielberg's "Jaws," released two years before, with
    > > creating the "summer blockbuster" mentality.

    >
    > True. The difference that Star Wars made was that sci-fi and
    > action/adventure movies became the standard genre for these
    > blockbusters. So it begat all the superhero movies, the Indiana Jones
    > sagas, and the rest of the Star Wars.


    and themarketing. Don't forget about the merchandising that is now
    ubiquitous.

    -goro-
     
    Goro, May 28, 2006
    #6
  7. Dan Kimmel wrote:

    > "Fred Goodwin, CMA" <> wrote in message
    > news:...
    >
    >>Star Wars not only rejuvenated the moribund science-fiction genre; it
    >>also ushered in the era of the summer blockbuster movie-which, for
    >>better or worse, transformed the way the movie industry does business.

    >
    > Some would credit Spielberg's "Jaws," released two years before, with
    > creating the "summer blockbuster" mentality.


    At the time, it was still treated a Bestseller Book, just like "Love
    Story" and "The Godfather"--

    Considering that up until 1977, big studio budgets were for Bestselling
    Novels, and special effects were for Terrifyingly Realistic Irwin Allen
    Disasters, think SW's later-generation influence was perfectly summed up
    in one TV/radio ad:
    "Never before has so much studio resources and new technology been
    apent...just for fun. :) "

    Derek Janssen
     
    Derek Janssen, May 28, 2006
    #7
  8. Fred Goodwin, CMA

    franky Guest


    > He already had some experience with the sci-fi genre, having filmed the
    > grim, low-budget Orwellian tale THX 1138 (1971). He now aimed to tell a
    > more optimistic and straightforward story of good versus evil, right
    > versus wrong-a story that he felt would particularly appeal to
    > children.


    And when the prequels came out, those children, now grown up, hung
    shit on them because the films failed to grow up with them. Poor
    George.
     
    franky, May 29, 2006
    #8
  9. Fred Goodwin, CMA

    Halmyre Guest

    Goro wrote:
    > Barry Margolin wrote:
    >
    >>In article <>,
    >> "Dan Kimmel" <> wrote:
    >>
    >>
    >>>"Fred Goodwin, CMA" <> wrote in message
    >>>news:...
    >>>
    >>>>Star Wars not only rejuvenated the moribund science-fiction genre; it
    >>>>also ushered in the era of the summer blockbuster movie-which, for
    >>>>better or worse, transformed the way the movie industry does business.
    >>>
    >>>
    >>>Some would credit Spielberg's "Jaws," released two years before, with
    >>>creating the "summer blockbuster" mentality.

    >>
    >>True. The difference that Star Wars made was that sci-fi and
    >>action/adventure movies became the standard genre for these
    >>blockbusters. So it begat all the superhero movies, the Indiana Jones
    >>sagas, and the rest of the Star Wars.

    >
    >
    > and themarketing. Don't forget about the merchandising that is now
    > ubiquitous.
    >
    > -goro-
    >


    Didn't Lucas get all the merchandising rights for Star Wars because the
    studio didn't think it worth having?

    --
    Halmyre

    ceci, n'est pas un signature
     
    Halmyre, May 29, 2006
    #9
  10. Fred Goodwin, CMA

    Sean O'Hara Guest

    In the Year of the Dog, the Great and Powerful Goro declared:
    > Barry Margolin wrote:
    >
    >>True. The difference that Star Wars made was that sci-fi and
    >>action/adventure movies became the standard genre for these
    >>blockbusters. So it begat all the superhero movies, the Indiana Jones
    >>sagas, and the rest of the Star Wars.

    >
    > and themarketing. Don't forget about the merchandising that is now
    >


    Merchandising! Merchandising! Merchandising! Where the real money
    from the movie is made.

    --
    Sean O'Hara | http://diogenes-sinope.blogspot.com
    Bureaucrats write memoranda both because they appear to be busy when
    they are writing and because the memos, once written, immediately
    become proof that they were busy.
    -Charles Peter.
     
    Sean O'Hara, May 29, 2006
    #10
  11. Fred Goodwin, CMA

    Dick Sidbury Guest

    In article
    <447a47b2$0$7884$>,
    "franky" <> wrote:

    > > He already had some experience with the sci-fi genre, having filmed the
    > > grim, low-budget Orwellian tale THX 1138 (1971). He now aimed to tell a
    > > more optimistic and straightforward story of good versus evil, right
    > > versus wrong-a story that he felt would particularly appeal to
    > > children.

    >
    > And when the prequels came out, those children, now grown up, hung
    > shit on them because the films failed to grow up with them. Poor
    > George.


    Some of us who were adults in 1977 did too. And it wasn't because my
    level of sophistication increaded between the time I was 30 and the time
    I was 60.

    dick
     
    Dick Sidbury, May 29, 2006
    #11
  12. Fred Goodwin, CMA

    Justin Guest

    franky wrote on [Mon, 29 May 2006 09:00:28 +0800]:
    >
    >> He already had some experience with the sci-fi genre, having filmed the
    >> grim, low-budget Orwellian tale THX 1138 (1971). He now aimed to tell a
    >> more optimistic and straightforward story of good versus evil, right
    >> versus wrong-a story that he felt would particularly appeal to
    >> children.

    >
    > And when the prequels came out, those children, now grown up, hung
    > shit on them because the films failed to grow up with them. Poor
    > George.


    The prequels got younger instead of older or even staying the same.
     
    Justin, May 29, 2006
    #12
  13. On Mon, 29 May 2006 11:53:37 -0500, Justin <>
    wrote:

    >> And when the prequels came out, those children, now grown up, hung
    >> shit on them because the films failed to grow up with them. Poor
    >> George.

    >
    >The prequels got younger instead of older or even staying the same.


    I think _Star Wars_ is the movie he wanted to make for himself. The
    prequels were the movies he wanted to make to prove to everybody that
    he knew what he was doing.
     
    Howard Brazee, May 29, 2006
    #13
  14. Fred Goodwin, CMA

    Adam Cameron Guest

    > The
    > prequels were the movies he wanted to make to prove to everybody that
    > he knew what he was doing.


    Well he certainly fucked that up then, didn't he, eh?

    --
    Adam
     
    Adam Cameron, May 30, 2006
    #14
  15. On Tue, 30 May 2006 00:11:55 +0100, Adam Cameron
    <> wrote:

    >> The
    >> prequels were the movies he wanted to make to prove to everybody that
    >> he knew what he was doing.

    >
    >Well he certainly fucked that up then, didn't he, eh?


    Yep.
     
    Howard Brazee, May 30, 2006
    #15
  16. Fred Goodwin, CMA

    Alpha Guest

    "Howard Brazee" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > On Mon, 29 May 2006 11:53:37 -0500, Justin <>
    > wrote:
    >
    >>> And when the prequels came out, those children, now grown up, hung
    >>> shit on them because the films failed to grow up with them. Poor
    >>> George.

    >>
    >>The prequels got younger instead of older or even staying the same.

    >
    > I think _Star Wars_ is the movie he wanted to make for himself. The
    > prequels were the movies he wanted to make to prove to everybody that
    > he knew what he was doing.


    The prequels appeal to video game mentality.
     
    Alpha, May 30, 2006
    #16
  17. Fred Goodwin, CMA

    trike Guest

    Alpha wrote:
    > "Howard Brazee" <> wrote in message
    > news:...
    > > On Mon, 29 May 2006 11:53:37 -0500, Justin <>
    > > wrote:
    > >
    > >>> And when the prequels came out, those children, now grown up, hung
    > >>> shit on them because the films failed to grow up with them. Poor
    > >>> George.
    > >>
    > >>The prequels got younger instead of older or even staying the same.

    > >
    > > I think _Star Wars_ is the movie he wanted to make for himself. The
    > > prequels were the movies he wanted to make to prove to everybody that
    > > he knew what he was doing.

    >
    > The prequels appeal to video game mentality.


    I suspect he was unduly influenced by his kids, especially the first
    one. It's full of the kind of humor young ones like. Another example
    of how children will ruin your life. Wear condoms!

    Doug
    ....yes, I know his kids are adopted.
     
    trike, May 30, 2006
    #17
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