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Monday, October 01, 2012

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

This entry is a milestone entry of sorts.  This is a milestone that I wish to celebrate and share with each and every one of you reading this blog right now.

First of all, this is the first blog entry of October 2012.  And, I don’t know exactly what this new month will bring, but it has got to be a lot better than September.  The leaves on the trees are changing colour, the air is fresh and crisp, and in Canada, Thanksgiving is a week away, so it’s definitely looking like a great month so far.

But an even bigger milestone lies within this blog post as well.  This happens to be my FIVE HUNDREDTH blog entry!

Yes, it’s true.  October 1, 2012 marks the 500th post on the Pop Culture Addict’s Guide to Life.  500 laughs.  500 tears.  500 references to pop culture.

I still can’t believe that it’s only been a year and a half since I began this blogging project, and now I am at post number 500!  I’m either very dedicated to my craft, or I am very much in need of a social life.

Or both.

At any rate, because this is my 500th blog post, I really wanted to choose a topic that really stood out.  Blog topic #500 is quite epic, so I wanted to feature a subject that was just as epic.  And, I think that I’ve picked a topic that most everyone will approve of.

I also have a story to tell you about this particular topic.

Since today is Monday, you probably have figured out that the theme of the day is the Monday Matinee.  Naturally, I’ll be featuring a movie in this space.

And would you believe that although this movie was released thirty-five years ago, it took me several years for me to see the movie for the first time?

It was September 2001.  The first season of “The Amazing Race” had just begun, people were still trying to make sense out of 9/11, and Mariah Carey’s “Glitter” was flopping at the box office.

As for me, I was twenty years old, still enrolled in university, and was taking a film studies class.

I have to admit that I absolutely adored film studies.  Where else could you sit in a classroom that was designed to look like a movie theater and watch movies for college credit?

Now, even though I didn’t have a great experience in college during that year (I ended up dropping out that same year), I did like film studies.  We ended up watching quite a few movies from various eras.  Some movies were from the days of silent film, and other movies were huge blockbusters.  Each week was a theme week that was related to a particular genre of film (one week was dedicated to film noir, another was dedicated to horror, another was dedicated to Bollywood, etc), and our homework assignments were based around the films we watched in class.

On the lesson plan for late September 2001 was a week devoted to science-fiction, and at first I wasn’t exactly keen on the idea.  Of all the genres of film that are out there, science-fiction is easily my least favourite.  But since our professor was making up the lesson plan, I couldn’t very well change it.

The movie on the lesson plan was one that almost everyone in the room had seen before.  After all, the film was released five times in movie theaters between 1977 and 1982, was re-released in 1997, and has seen several VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray releases ever since.

But I hadn’t seen it.  I was twenty years old, and I was still a “Star Wars” virgin.

Yes, today’s subject is the 1977 film, “Star Wars”...or, if you want to get technical, “Star Wars Episode IV:  A New Hope”, directed by George Lucas.  Not a bad subject to talk about for the 500th blog post, huh?

The film, as most of you know, starred Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, and Alec Guinness, just to name a few, and was first released on May 25, 1977.  The movie has since been re-released using enhanced computer generated imagery, and was the first movie to ever make over three hundred million dollars at the box office.  In fact, “Star Wars” was one of the few movies to be declared the box-office champ twice.  It dethroned “Jaws” in 1977, was beaten by the 1982 film “E.T.”, and reclaimed the top spot once more in 1997 when the film was re-released.  It held the top spot for an additional year before “Titanic” ended up taking over the top spot in 1998.

Now, do I really need to go over the plot of the movie, seeing as how most of you have likely seen this film already?  Well, okay, I’ll summarize it for you.  Or rather, I’ll let the credit crawl summarize it for me with background music courtesy of John Williams.

Basically, there are plans to build a space station known as the “Death Star” that is capable of destroying entire planets, and Princess Leia (Fisher), the leader of the Rebel Alliance has the plans in her possession.  Unfortunately, thanks to the evil Darth Vader (played in a dual role by David Prowse and James Earl Jones) and his Imperial forces, Leia is captured.  However, before she is taken away, she manages to hide the plans inside a robot named R2-D2.  R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) then flee the scene and end up on the desert terrain of the planet Tatooine, where they come into contact with Jawa traders, who capture the pair and sell them.

Fortunately for the two Droids, they are purchased by farmers Owen and Beru Lars.  The couple also have a nephew named Luke Skywalker (Hamill).  And it is Luke that happens to hear Princess Leia’s secret holographic message while he was busy attempting to clean R2-D2.

Luke is unclear as to what Leia was trying to say, but when he heard her ask for Obi-Wan Kenobi’s help, Luke believed that Ben Kenobi (Guinness), a hermit who lived nearby could shed some light on the subject.  Sure enough, Ben and Obi-Wan are one in the same, a Jedi Knight who fought alongside Luke’s father, Anakin Skywalker before he was betrayed and killed by Darth Vader.  It is here that Obi-Wan gives Luke one of his father’s prized possessions...his lightsaber.

Initially, after viewing Leia’s original message, Luke is unsure that he wants to accompany Obi-Wan Kenobi to the planet of Alderaan in hopes of helping Luke learn the ways of the Force...but after Imperial stormtroopers invade Tatooine and destroy it, killing Luke’s aunt and uncle in search of C-3PO and R2-D2, he does a complete 180 and agrees to help out, recruiting the assistance of smuggler Han Solo (Ford) and Wookiee Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) to go on the journey.

And that’s all that I really am going to say about Episode IV.  There’s actually six Star Wars movies in total (keeping in mind that while “Episode IV” was the first film made, the real debut of the storyline takes place in “Episode I”, which came out twenty-two years after “Episode IV”.

Confused yet? 

Anyway, just to offer up some brief spoilers for those of you who haven’t watched the other five films, we see what happened to Anakin Skywalker in Episodes I-III, we meet up with the cute and cuddly Ewoks in Episode VI, greeted by the Yoda we are in Episode V, and in Episodes V and VI, we learn that Luke Skywalker has more relatives than the average member of the Osmond family.

I tell you, the Star Wars films are like a science-fiction soap opera.

I’ll tell you something though, the first time I watched “Star Wars”, I was completely glued to the screen.  I found the whole movie interesting, I admittedly loved the unintentional comic pairing of R2-D2 and C-3PO, and I’ll be the first one to admit that I almost leaped out of my chair the minute I heard that first swoosh of a swinging lightsaber.  The whole movie was brilliant from start to finish, and I’m sorry that I ended up waiting so long to see it.

As of right now, I have seen exactly half of the Star Wars films...Star Wars, 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back”, and 1983’s “Return of the Jedi”.  I haven’t seen the newer films as of yet (mainly because I’m sort of afraid of that annoying Jar Jar Binks character that appeared in Episode I), but I’m sure at some point, I will.

So, that’s all that I really have to say about my own personal experience with “Star Wars”, a movie that was as epic as this 500th post.  And while we’re here, why don’t I share with you a little bit of behind the scenes trivia about this iconic movie?  After all, there might be a few things that you may not have known.

1 – Did you know that before Mark Hamill was cast as Luke Skywalker, William Katt auditioned for the movie?  In the end, Katt ended up in the 1976 film “Carrie”, which held their auditions the same day as “Star Wars”.

2 – Initially, the movie was slated to be released on Christmas Day, 1976, but was pushed ahead to the 1977 Memorial Day weekend.

3 -  Some of the people who auditioned for the role of Princess Leia were Cindy Williams, Sissy Spacek, Sigourney Weaver, Anjelica Huston, Farrah Fawcett, Geena Davis, Debra Winger, Catherine Hicks, Meryl Streep, and Berlin lead singer Terri Nunn.  And when Carrie ended up auditioning for the role of Princess Leia, she won the role, provided that she lose ten pounds.

4 – Quite a few people were considered for the role of Han Solo.  Kurt Russell, Nick Nolte, Christopher Walken, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Perry King, and Bill Murray were all considered.  At some point, George Lucas even contemplated making Han Solo African-American, with Billy Dee Williams and Glynn Turman considered for the role as well.

5 – George Lucas almost considered the idea of making Luke Skywalker a dwarf in early stages of the screenplay!

6 – Due to the way the weapons were constructed, most of the Imperial stormtroopers appeared to be left-handed.

7 – If you are a fan of the Final Fantasy video game series, there are plenty of references to Star Wars characters beginning with Final Fantasy VI in 1994.  There are two characters named Biggs and Wedge, and the enemies that the team battles also have Imperial soldiers!

8 – Some of the footage that ended up on the cutting room floor was used in the rather lacklustre Star Wars Christmas special.

9 – C-3PO and R2-D2 were spun off into their own cartoon series, “Droids”, in the early 1980s.

10 – Star Wars was the first film to be entirely screened in Dolby Stereo.

11 – Would you like to know what Princess Leia wore underneath her outfit?  Gaffer tape!  Seriously!  Carrie Fisher’s breasts were taped down!

12 – By June 1977, the price of 20th Century Fox stock doubled in value as a result of the success of Star Wars.

13 – Oddly enough, despite not having a grasp of the English language, Chewbacca ended up having the last line in the movie.

14 – In the earliest stages of the screenplay, Han Solo was supposed to be an alien, and Luke Skywalker could have been Laura Skywalker, as he was originally planned to be a she!

15 – Before Anthony Daniels was hired as the voice of C-3PO, Mel Blanc had auditioned for the part!

16 – Although James Earl Jones did the speaking voice for Darth Vader, he requested that his name be left off the credits for fear of being type-cast.  In the 1997 re-release of the film, Jones’ name was added to the credits.

17 – Initially, George Lucas briefly considered Orson Welles to be the voice of Darth Vader.

18 – Remember the trash compactor scene in the film?  The crew never did get the stench out of the Chewbacca costume.  I really feel bad for the actor who had to wear that thing after that scene.  Speaking of which...

19 - ...the actor that played Chewbacca, Peter Mayhew, was working as a hospital orderly at the time he was cast as Chewbacca.  The minute he stood up and revealed his 7’2” frame, Lucas hired him on the spot.

20 – Mark Hamill ended up popping a blood vessel in his face while shooting the trash compactor scene (he held his breath too long), and all subsequent scenes were shot on one side of Mark’s face.

21 – Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin) was supposed to wear boots as part of his costume, but they did not fit.  So, in the majority of his scenes, he wore soft, fuzzy slippers.

22 – The Tatooine scenes were filmed in Tunisia, and were filled with some delay, as sandstorms ended up destroying several of the Tatooine sets.

23 – Luke Skywalkers’ original name was slated to be Luke Starkiller.

24 – Despite playing the same character in the film, David Prowse and James Earl Jones have not yet met each other.

25 – Alec Guinness did not exactly enjoy the Star Wars experience.  He reportedly did not even read any Star Wars fan mail!

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