TimeLine : The Making of Star Wars

Star Wars: 1944-1974 . 1975 . 1976 . 1977
The Empire Strikes Back: 1978 . 1979 . 1980
Return of the Jedi: 1981 . 1982 . 1983

    January 1976

  • Ralph McQuarrie completes a concept painting of a redesigned Y-wing inside a Yavin docking bay.

  • Sir Alec Guinness negotiates and finalizes a contract giving him £15,000 a week and 2% of the films net profits to play "Obi-Wan Kenobi," a deal that would eventually earn him over $95 million.

    January 1, 1976

  • George Lucas completes a fourth draft of The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars . This draft includes additional backstory for Darth Vader including his connection to Ben Kenobi and Luke's father. The backstory between Vader and Kenobi included a duel between the two which ends with Vader falling into a volcanic pit, necessitating the special suit and breathing mask. The additional Sith Lords that were seen in previous drafts were cut from this story, as well as the Kiber Crystals. The parts of the story that took place in the Alderaan prison now take place on the Death Star itself. "The Force of Others" becomes the more simple "The Force."

  • Costume Designer John Mollo and Creature Designer Stuart Freeborn begin to work on Lucas' space fantasy. Freeborn's first project would be to develop a costume for the character of Chewbacca, which kept him busy for three or four weeks. The suit was created from yak hair.

  • George Lucas heads to England to prepare for shooting Star Wars in March. Costume designer John Mollo gives George a live "fashion show" of the costumes he had been putting together based on designs by Ralph McQuarrie. George gives direction on how to further develop the costumes.

    Mollo was tasked with creating costumes for Rebel and Imperial soldiers that looked like military uniforms - familiar to the real world so that no one paid too much attention to them, but different enough to add to the feel of a new "universe."

    Mollo had a budget of $1173 to build the costume for Darth Vader, which would largely be based on the McQuarrie painting, and $18,189 for the costume of C-3PO.

    January 10, 1976

  • George Lucas meets with Gary Kurtz about the changes he has made in the fourth draft of the script.

    January 14, 1976

  • The Wizards at Industrial Light and Magic complete effects tests for "laser swords," R2-D2 and illuminated control boards.

    January 20, 1976

  • George Lucas meets with Gary Kurtz and Gil Taylor to discuss the script and production.

  • P. Childs draws up a blueprint for R2D2.

    January 23, 1976

  • Industrial Light and Magic complete effects tests for "laser swords," and Jawa eyes.

  • Blueprints are drawn up for the Cantina set.

    Late January 1976

  • George Lucas decides on a cast. Alec Guinness had already been signed on to play Obi Wan Kenobi and Lucas chose Mark Hamill to play Luke Starkiller, Harrison Ford to play Han Solo and Carrie Fisher to play Princess Leia. Hamill's salary was $1000 a week, Fisher's was $850 a week and Ford's was $750 a week.

  • Roadrunner Productions Ltd begins shipping models and set pieces to Tunisia. Each shipment took five days - a ferry to France, on road to Italy, a ferry from Genoa to Tunis, and on road from Tunis to Djerba.

    February 1, 1976

  • A formal budget of $8,228.228 is drawn up during negotiations between Fox's Bill Immerman and Lucasfilm's Tom Pollock. Lucas was given $72,700 to direct and $50,000 to write and trips between LA and London were reimbursed. Conversations and nefotiations would continue however.

  • Veteran Actor Peter Cushing is cast as Governor Tarkin around this time.

    Early 1976

  • It is believed that somewhere in this time period Lucas revives the story of Darth Vader falling into a volcano during a duel with Ben Kenobi as a way of explaining his need for the suit because it is told to Mark hamill during filming.
    Mark hamill: "I remember very early on asking who my parents were and being told that my father and Obi-Wan met Vader on the edge of a volcano and they had a duel. My father and Darth Vader fell into the crater and my father was instantly killed. Vader crawled out horribly scarred, and at that point the Emperor landed and Obi-Wan ran into the forest, never to be seen again." ("Luke Skywalker is Alive and Well," by David Packer, Starlog, November 1980)

    February 11, 1976

  • Liz Moore takes over designing C-3PO from John Stears and John Barry. Moore gives a new set of drawings to Lucas to look over. Moore then modeled nine possible C-3PO faces out of clay, which her and Lucas began remodeling by hand. Later, plaster molds would have to be made of Anthony Daniels' body in order to build the entire suit - a process that had to be done twice because the first mold collapsed.

    February 16, 1976

  • Roadrunner Productions Ltd ships more models and set pieces to Tunisia.

    February 17, 1976

  • Blueprints are drawn up for the Pirate Ship model.

    February 23, 1976

  • ILM's art department creates blueprints to the Death Star "Garbage Compactor" set.

    February 27, 1976

  • Peter Mayhew signs his contract to play Chewbacca the Wookie. Mayhew had been discovered for the role while playing Minoton in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. One of the makeup men on that film was also working on the Wookie costume for Star Wars.

    Late February

  • Gary Kurtz flies to LA to meet with Alan Ladd, Jr. to resolve ongoing negotiations between Lucasfilm and Fox. Lucasfilm threatened to abandon the picture, if contracts were not signed.

    March 1976

  • Larry Cuba begins working on computer animations that would be seen as the stolen "Death Star Plans," and on other screens and in space ships. Cuba takes over for Ben Burtt, who had been working on these computer animations up to this point.

    March 1, 1976

  • ILM's art department creates blueprints to the Death Star Cell Block set.

    March 11, 1976

  • Fox finally signs the final production-distribution contract and sends it back to Lucas with Gary Kurtz. Lucas signs the contract a mere week before shooting was to begin.

    March 12, 1976

  • ILM's art department creates blueprints to the Death Star Conference Room set.

    March 15, 1976

  • George Lucas finishes revising his script for The Star Wars, with help from Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, as production begins. Luke's last name changes from Starkiller to Skywalker. The alternate name for Ben Kenobi (Obi-Wan) is added at this time, as is the dialogue involving Darth Vader murdering Luke's father. The "Pirate Ship" becomes known as the Millennium Falcon.

  • ILM conducts more robot costume tests, including the nearly completed C-3PO costume and remote controlled R2-D2.

    March 1976

  • Upon arriving in England, Mark Hamill has a costume fitting on the first day. Second day, he meets with Lucas and Kurtz, who give the star a tour of the sets that are still under construction.

    March 16, 1976

  • Mark Hamill has lunch with George Lucas and Gary Kurtz at a Chinese restaurant.

    March 17, 1976

  • George Lucas and Gary Kurtz throw a part for the cast and crew at the Hotel Africa in the Maghreb room.

    March 18, 1976

  • Sir Alec Guinness writes to a friend about his new role.
    Sir Alec Guinness: "Can't say I'm enjoying the film. ...new rubbish dialogue reaches me every other day on wadges of pink paper-and none of it makes my character clear or even bearable. I just think, thankfully, of the lovely bread, which will help me keep going until next April even if Yahoo (a play) collapses in a week. ... I must off to studio and work with a dwarf (very sweet-and he has to wash in a bidet) and your fellow countrymen Mark Hamill and Tennyson (that can't be right) Ford. Ellison (?-No!)-well, a rangy, languid young man who is probably intelligent and amusing. But Oh, God, God, they make me feel ninety—and treat me as if I was 106.-Oh, Harrison Ford-ever heard of him?" (Source: Alec Guinness: The Authorised Biography, Piers Paul Read)

    March 20, 1976

  • The Cast and crew fly out of Heathrow Airport and arrive in Djerba a half a dozen hours later.

    March 21, 1976

  • The crew wakes up at 6AM for a long drive to Tozeur. Unfortunately, the biggest hotel in town was closed for renovations and the other hotels were booked up by the cast and crew of the television miniseries Jesus of Nazareth. The Star Wars cast and crew ended up in fourth-rate hotels, sometimes doubling or tripling up in rooms.

  • A chartered Lockheed Hercules C-130 delivers the last of the set pieces and equipment that did not make it in the previous shipments.

    March 22, 1976

  • Principal Photography begins at Nefta in the Tunisian Desert and continues for 2 and a half weeks.

    Scenes shot on this day indcluded the Jawas selling the droids beneath the giant Sandcrawler tread, which was built on the Salt Lake of Chott el Jerid, near Nefta. The scene included 12 local children as extra "Jawas." A second scene was also shot at the end of the day - Luke and C3PO rushing out of the Lars homestead to search for the missing Artoo. The shot of Luke watching the twin suns set on the Tatooine horizon was supposed to be filmed on this day, but had to be scrapped due to unsuitable weather conditions. It began to rain quite heavily.

    Shooting was to begin at 6:30 AM, but it took two hours to fit Anthony Daniels into his C3PO costume. After numerous malfunctions with the remote controlled R2-D2 and R5-D4 droids, filming ended that day at 7:20 PM.

    Production falls behind in the first week of shooting due to technical malfunctions. On the second day of shooting, Tunisia is hit with a rare winter rain - the worst the region had seen in 50 years. The remote controls for R2D2 constantly malfunctioned, windstorms destroyed sets and sand damaged cameras.

  • The unique Lars family homestead would be filmed at the Hotel Sidi Driss in the Berber Hill town of Matmala.

  • The language spoken by Jawas is in fact Zulu.

    March 23 - March 25, 1976

  • Cast and crew continues to shoot at the Lars Homsestead at the Salt Flats and Sand Dunes of Nefta. Scenes shot during this time include C3PO and the Krayt Dragon bones, The droids arguing about which way to go, Stormtroopers finding evidence of the droids, Luke discovering his dead aunt and uncle and the malfunctioning droid.

    March 25, 1976

  • Sir Alec Guinness arrives in Toseur.

    March 26, 1976

  • Scenes shot on this day included Luke and C-3PO searching for R2-D2; Luke being attacked by the Tusken Raider; Various scenes in the Canyon in Yozeur, including Obi-Wan Kenobi's entrance; and Luke finding the broken C-3PO.

    March 29, 1976

  • The shot of Luke watching the twin suns set on the Tatooine horizon is filmed, as well as an unused scene of Luke watching a battle in space through his binoculars, additional shots of the Tusken Raider attacking Luke; Luke and Ben overlook Mos Esiley.

    March 30 - 31, 1976

  • Scenes filmed on this day Tusken Raiders watching the Landspeeder; Jawas attacking R2D2 and carrying him off; Ben and Luke find the dead Jawas and burn the bodies.

    April 1976

  • Dennis Muren is hired by ILM to work with Richard Edlund.

    April 1, 1976

  • Cast and crew move several hours to the Lars Homestead location in Matmata's Sidi Driss Hotel. Scenes shot on this day included Owen looking for Luke and the Lars dining room scene.

  • Harrison Ford arrives in England ahead of shooting at Elstress Studios.

    April 2, 1976

  • Scenes of the Mos Eisley Cantina were filmed at multiple shooting locations. The exterior shots were shot in Ajim, Djerba on this date, including the "These are not the droids you're looking for" scene, Stormtroopers watching the Millennium Falcon fly away and the droids in front of the Cantina.

    Most of the interior scenes were filmed in April at Elstree Studios in london, while several alien close ups were filmed at Hollywood Center Studios. The effects crews had ten weeks to create as many of the creatues as they could for the Cantina scene.

  • Cast and Crew have a mini-birthday party for Sir Alec Guinness.

    April 4, 1976

  • Filming wraps in Ajim, Tunisia. Final scenes shot in Tunisia included the cut scenes of dialogue between Luke, Biggs, Fixer and Camie in Anchorhead.

  • Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels have dinner together.

    Early April 1976

  • Sometime prior to heading to England, Alec Guinness had began to sour on the idea of his character dying in the film. His biggest objection was the fact that he would be willingly sacrificing himself to become a ghost. Upon arriving in England, Lucas had lunch with Guinness and had to convince him that it was better for the story. Eventually, Guinness began to accept that it was the best thing for the character and the film.

    April 7, 1976

  • Filming moves to Elstree Studios in England and continues for 14 and a half weeks. Conditions at Elstree were sometimes a challenge. The British crew did not take the film seriously, and due to union regulations, stopped working at 1:15 to 2:15 for lunch, broke at 4PM for tea, and refused to work past 5:30 - even if they were in the middle of filming a scene.

    Roger Chrstian, Set decorator: "With my set-decorating budget I couldn't afford to do what I wanted to do. In those days you could buy scrap airplanes from $60, and so I went around Britain buying up scrap aircraft, jet engines - all sorts of stuff. Out of that we did most of the set dressing." (Source: Star Wars Insider in 2008)
    John Barry, Production Designer: "We bought thousands of pounds worth of aircraft junk and took it to pieces. You can imagine the complexity of drawing that would have to go into making those very complex sculpted forms. But when you just take apart a jet engine, you get wonderful things." (Souce: Star Wars: The Blueprints)
    Roger Chrstian, Set decorator: "I got truckload after truckload of airplane scrap and taught the guys how to break it down and we made bins of different objects. They learned how to identify things that might look good on set." (Source: Star Wars: The Blueprints)

    Look closely at Obi-Wan Kenobi's lightsaber from A New Hope and you'll find a balance pipe from the Derwent engine. The lightsaber emitter at the top of the saber might look like an elegant weapon, but it's actually part of an old airplane.

  • As filming moves to England, Ben Burtt begins collecting sound effects for the film.
    Ben Burtt: "Seventy percent of the time I was recording. About every two weeks I'd send a tape representative of what I'd recorded to England. I probably sent about twenty tapes during their shooting. I'd have my voice on the tape, saying, 'Here's ten examples of explosions; here's some examples of jet planes; here's a whole bunch of bear sounds.' I even tried to make them do some phrases. I said, 'Here's a Wookie getting angry, here's a Wookie being lovable.' I never got any response, but they told me they did hear it. I honestly think they were so busy they probably never had a chance to listen to the tapes. I think Bunny Alsup heard them, you know, but I don't think George had time. BUtg that was the only way they knew I was doing anything. The other 30 percent of the time I was doing adds and ends at ILM."

    April 9, 1976

  • On Stage 3, scenes were shot on the Docking Bay 94 set, which included the full size Millennium Falcon exterior. This included Declan Mulholland's first day filming portraying Jabba the Hutt.

  • Philip Strick of Sight and Sound magazine visits the set at this time and writes an article about the production of the film.

  • Threepio's Oil Bath was also filmed on this day.

    April 12, 1976

  • On Stage 3 at Elstree, Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew continue filming the (eventually cut) scene where Han Solo talks to Jabba the Hutt, portrayed by Declan Mulholland, in Mos Eisley's Docking Bay 94. (Scene AA53)

    April 13, 1976

  • Interior scenes for the Mos Eisley cantina were filmed on this day. Stuart Freeborn got sick and had to be admitted into the hospital while creating the cantina creatures. As a result, most of the costumes were designed to be background characters. Key characters, such as Greedo, had not been finished to everyones satisfaction.

    April 14, 1976

  • Back on Stage 3 at Elstree, Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew once again film the (eventually cut) scene where Han Solo talks to Jabba the Hutt in Mos Eisley's Docking Bay 94. (Scene AA53)

    April 19, 1976

  • Some minor revisions are made to the Fourth Draft, adding some minor dialogue. It was at this time that Luke Starkiller officially became known as Luke Skywalker. The name change did not require re-shooting because Luke's last name had not yet been spoken on camera. According to Alan Ladd, this is when it was decided that Obi-Wan should be killed in the film. Lucas had been toying with the idea of killing one one of the major characters since the crew was shooting in Tunesia. C-3PO, Chewbacca and Kenobi were all under consideration, but Lucas realized that Kenobi had nothing to do in the second half of the film.
    George Lucas: "I was struggling with the problem that I had this sort of dramatic scene that had no climax about two-thirds of the way through the film. I had another problem in the fact that there was no real threat in the Death Star. The villains were like tenpins; you get into a gunfight with them and they just get knocked over. As I originally wrote it, Ben Kenobi and Vader had a sword fight and Ben hits a door and the door slams closed and they all run away and Vader is left standing there with egg on his face. This was dumb; they run into the Death Star and they sort of take over everything and they run back. It totally diminished any impact the Death Star had... Anyway, I was rewriting, I was struggling with that plot problem when my wife suggested that I kill off Ben, which she thought was a pretty outrageous idea, and I said, 'Well, that is an interesting idea, and I had been thinking about it.' Her first idea was to have Threepio get shot, and I said impossible because I wanted to start and end the film with the robots, I wanted the film to really be about the robots and have the theme be the framework for the rest of the movie. But then the more I thought about Ben getting killed the more I liked the idea because, one, it made the threat of Vader greater and that tied in with The Force and the fact that he could use the dark side. Both Alec Guinness and I came up with the thing of having Ben go on afterward as part of The Force." (Source: "The Force Behind Star Wars," by Paul Scanlon, Rolling Stone Magazine, August 25, 1977)

  • Carrie Fischer arrives in England.

    April 20, 1976

  • Harrison Ford and Alec Guinness film their scene together in the Cantina Set.

  • Carrie Fisher's first costume fitting at Berman's takes place on this day. She is taken onto the Cantina set to show her hair and wardrobe to George Lucas who gave his approval.

    April 21, 1976

  • Harrison Ford films his confrontation with Greedo in the Cantina Set.

    John Barry, Production Designer: "All the bar equipment in the cantina, those are all the combustion chambers from jet engines, which we sprayed with a metallic gold process and put light in the bubbles and all the rest. But they have an interest, because somebody's worked over it and some intelligence has gone into them, so they are far more interesting than anything you could have made from scratch in the time available." (Souce: Star Wars: The Blueprints)

  • Harness Expert Eric Dunning is summoned to meet with the filming crew to discuss Luke and Leia's swing across the Death Star chasm, which would be filmed on Wednesday the 28th.

    April 23, 1976

  • The scene inside of Obi-Wan's home was filmed at this time. After filming inside of Obi-Wan's home was completed, George Lucas and John Barry did a quick walk through of the set the crew would be filming on the following Monday - the Death Star corridor.

    April 25, 1976

  • A short scene of a Gonk Droid in a Death Star corridor is filmed on this day. The scene did not make the final cut for the film.

    April 26, 1976

  • This Monday marks the first day of shooting for David Prowse. A scene was filmed where Prowse (as Darth Vader) is seen walking through a Death Star corridor.

  • Alec Guinness is interviewed by the Sunday Times about his character in the film.
    Alec:"I tried to make him uncomplicated. I'm cunning enough now to know that to be simple carries a lot of weight. The laser sword seems to be a marvelous weapon. It's rather like a Japanese sword with a row of laser buttons. But I must confess I'm pretty much lost as to waht is required of me... What I'm supposed to be doing, I can't really say. I simply trust the director."

    April 27, 1976

  • The scene where Luke and Leia swing across the Death Star chasm is filmed on this day.

    April 29, 1976

  • Carrie Fischer films her scene with Peter Cushing.
    Peter Cushing: "There was a great deal of the script I didn't understand, especially the technical jargon. And I wasn't alone. Many of the stagehands came up to me and asked, 'What is all this about? I can't understand a word of it.' I told them, 'Neither can I. I'm just saying the lines, and trying to sound intelligent.'"

    April 30, 1976

  • Sir Alec Guinness invites the cast and crew to the Executive Restaurant at EMI studios for drinks.

    Late April or Early May 1976

  • Alan Ladd and other Fox Executives visit production to view dailies and ease concerns about the budget of the film. Ladd and the others were shown early footage without Lucas being present. Ladd's initial reaction was .
    Ladd: "I was warned up front that it was a very rough assembly, and that they were quite unhappy with the editor. The picture started, and all I could say was, 'That's interesting; it looks good,' and so forth. But, and I never said this to George, my real reaction was: utter and complete panic. I didn't sleep that night. But the next day I spoke to George, and when I heard specifically what his concerns were, and how things should be changed, I must say I lost the anxiety about it. Had George said, Didn't you love it? I would have been very scared and very nervous. But he said, 'This is not what I want and this is not what it's going to look like.' He explained that he hadn't even seen a lot of the footage himself yet."

    May 10, 1976

  • Production Supervisor Robert Watts is interviewed by Charles Lippincott.
    Robert: "The biggest problem on this picture is that we have a large number of sets that we shoot on for a comparatively short period of time. So it has been a case of trying to keep up with the set construction. Though we're employing large numbers of laborers, we're literally one day ahead on the set construction. People have been working on weekends; people have been working overtime in the evenings to get this thing done. But it's been necessary, because we couldn't have kept up without it."

    May 11, 1976

  • Scenes were shot in Leia's cell block of the Death Star.

    May 12, 1976

  • Scenes were shot in Leia's cell block of the Death Star.

    May 13-18, 1976

  • Production moves to Shepperton Studios for scenes of the Throne Room Medal Ceremony and Death Star Attack Briefing.
    John Mollo "That scene wasn't in our budget. Someone came in and said, 'Of course, you realize there are 250 extras in it.' So we asked George and he said it was more like four hundred, so we really had to make do. Nothing was made at all; it was all stock items. We took our gray Rebel combat jackets and our pilot outfits, and we added funny caps. At Berman's, in boxes, we found something like two hundred US Marine olive-green stand-ups, which we left well at the back because they had buttons on them. We also found two hundred French Foreign Legion costumes, khaki jobs with collars, so we added hats, scarves, and things. For the Rebel generals, George came in with a still from Once Upon a Time in the West, where they were all striding through the dust in Rangoon coats. Gary came in with a khaki jacket with leather patches and a bit of metal hanging on it. One of the art directors wanted an American cavalry shirt."

    May 19-June 1, 1976

  • Scenes were filmed in the Death Star Prison Corridor and Falcon Cockpit.

    Late May, 1976

  • As filming continues in England, ILM completes its first effect shot of the escape pod leaving the Rebel ship.
    Grant McCune: "George had gone to England and John was busy, so Richard Edlund designed this whole shot, and Jamie Shourt and I stuck it all together. We took the escape pod and tied the entire box that held the tub and took it up to the roof of the building. Then we took a great big volleyball net, with four guys holding it. I had a trigger to push the electronic pulse through the whole system. Richard took the high-speed camera that was mounted on top of the box, and we said 'We'll try it and hope that the pod doesn't break when it hits the net.' We dropped it twice that day. When we got the film back the next day, the first shot was perfect - just exactly what they wanted. For three or four months, that was the only shot that the shop was able to put out, so everybody was real happy about it."
    Grant McCune: "We took electric solenoids and put three of them inside the tube that held the pod. The pod had a ring around it where these claws would hold on to it, which were connected to the solenoid, so that when you tripped the button, all three claws would pull out and drop. Down lower in the tube, we put three-inch aluminum tubing in it with a number 44 flashbulb that lasts for 1.7 seconds; at the end of the tubes were the flashbulbs. Closer to where the pod was, we'd cut little square tables out and laid fish scales and mica dust on it, and we'd put air jets in with an air solenoid - so the final effect when it fired was the pod dropped through the tube, the explosive bolts would go off and then all the junk that was sitting around it that got exploded would float around in space right behind it [middle]."

    May 27, 1976

  • The iconic Darth Vader (David Prowse) and Obi-wan Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness) duel is filmed on the set of the Death Star over the course of three days.

  • The second unit begins front projection tests on a different stage for the Falcon cockpit scenes.

    May 28, 1976

  • The iconic Darth Vader (David Prowse) and Obi-wan Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness) duel is filmed on the set of the Death Star.

    May 29, 1976

  • The iconic Darth Vader (David Prowse) and Obi-wan Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness) duel is filmed on the set of the Death Star.

    June 1, 1976

  • The final day of shooting the Vader/Kenobi duel. The beginning of the scene with dialogue from both characters is filmed on this day, as is scenes of the hangar shootout.

    June 2-8, 1976

  • Various scenes were filmed including Obi-Wan shutting off the Death Star tractor beam, and Han and Luke discuss rescuing the Princess.

    June 9-14, 1976

  • Production moves back to Shepperton Studios for scenes in the Rebel hangar. The giant Rebel throne room set had to be torn down and rebuilt as the Rebel Massassi hangar. This was done in about 3 or 4 days.

    Mid June 1976

  • Principal photography on Star Wars is five weeks behind schedule. FOX gave Lucas on additional week to finish before the studio pulled the plug. Principal photography had to end on July 16. Lucas hired two additional camera crews so three crews could work simultaneously.

    Mid 1976

  • The idea of changing the film's title was always in the air - even during production.
    Mark hamill: "[Fox] didn't want to have 'wars' in the title... [FOX Executives said their research] shows that women between the ages of 18 and 36 do not like films with the word 'wars' in the title. I'm not making this up. This was a real memo. So we had a contest- 'Naming the Movie' -and we put it up on the call sheet: Anybody that can come up with a better title than Star Wars, if their title was selected, they'd win something - I forget [what it was]. And nobody came up with anything any better."

    June 15, 1976

  • Variety reports that Peter Cushing and David Prowse were cast in the new film - obviously, long after the event actually took place since filming is well underway at this time.

    June 16, 1976

  • Alec Guinness wraps filming on Star Wars. On this day, the scene where Obi-Wan senses the destruction of Alderran was filmed aboard the Millennium Falcon set. After filming, numerous members of the production go to a Greek Restaurant with Guiness, including Hammell and Fischer.

    June 17-28, 1976

  • Various cockpit and trash compactor scenes are filmed.

    June 21-22, 1976

  • The trash compactor sceen begins shooting on Stage 4. The "trash monster" itself was changed drastically from what Lucas had originally envisioned. The original plan was for the monster to be seen more clearly on camera - changing shape and moving around the trash compactor. While designs were made and a full-size monster was created, due to time and budget issues, only the tenticle ended up on screen.

    June 23, 1976

  • John Dykstra, Richard Edlund and Robbie Blalack arrive in England via TWA flight 760 to help supervise the switch to bluescreen.
    George Lucas: " The biggest change during filming was from front projection to bluescreen. We had shot the approach to the Death Star, but once we got the results, we realized it wasn't going to work."
    John Dykstra: "We decided we were going to do bluescreen, and then we really got rolling again. We went over to England to check it out."
    Robbie Blalack: "We were faced now with remaking all of those shots at a later period of time, so the energy level went sky-high and we flew over there, helped them, worked with them to set up the shooting. We converted the VIstaVision camera to take Nikon lenses, so it was compatible with what we were shooting; we did testing; and I went over to Kodak to see that we got the correcct and best perforations on all the stock they gave us. We did all of this coordination, running around, and spent about a week there, got over jet lag about three days into it, and flew back. But it was very exciting, actually seeing the full-sized pirate ship, seeing all of these people walking around and the stormtrooper extras resting in the sun, with half of their stormtrooper suit on. We had fun in the midst of it, but we also realized what we were faced with. All the plates that we had sent to England, except one or two of the TIE ships going towards the Death Star, we never used again; that was all shelved, and we started over."

    Gary Kurtz: "John Dykstra came to London when we started the bluescreen. We waned to make sure that we weren't going to go back to the US and hear, non of this stuff is any good and you didn't do it right. So he and Richard and Robbie all came to London, and we stood on the stage with Stan Taylor from Tecnicolor and went over everything very carefully. Then we sat down with John and went over the optical effects. We said, 'We have 360 shots, that makes one shot a day projected out - are we going to finish on time or not?' And John sat there and said, 'If things go right, yeah, we can do that.' We gave them the last chance at that time."

  • News of the switch to bluescreen effects did not sit well with FOX executives, who were still concerned with the budget.
    George Lucas: "The bluescreen cost another $100,000, but there wasn't anything we could do about it, so there wasn't any issue about it. We had to stay on schedule and we had to get the stuff shot. But lighting the bluescreen really slowed us down - it would take forever, hours and hours."

    ILM completes its second effects shot, which was completed about a month after the first. The shot was of the escape pod descending towards Tatooine.
    Dennis Muren: "Richard (Edlund) was gone to England for four days, with John and Robbie, so when they needed to do this shot of the pod dropping, they already had the background painting, so I composed the shot and gave some motion to the background through the stars and shot the pod using the big camera. I think it was Grant that came up with the idea, or maybe John, to have the pod mounted off-axis, so it would look like it was tumbling. When it goes down a distance, I had it sweeping in toward the planet all of a sudden, like the planet's gravity is taking over. We didn't want it to go in front of the planet, though, because we hadn't worked out all of the bluescreen problems. I lit the shadows of the pod with orange light, as if it were being reflected off Tatooine, That was about it; it was very smooth. I shot it in one afternoon."

    June 24, 1976

  • Harrison Ford wraps filming on Star Wars..

    June 28, 1976

  • Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher fly home to Los Angeles. Ford had wrapped his part of the filming and Fisher was taking a break from filming.

  • Peter Mayhew wraps filming on Star Wars.

  • John Dykstra, Robbie Blalack and Richard Edlund return home to work at ILM.

    July 16, 1976

  • Major filming for Star Wars concludes.

  • The final day of shooting included the scene from the start of the film where Vader interrogates a captured rebel before throwing him against a wall.

  • When Lucas leaves England, he spends time in New York with Brian De Palma and then in Mobile, Alabama with Steven Spielberg - hard at work filming Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Lucas was feeling very depressed about his new film - unhappy with the way things had been going on his difficult shoots and convinced that his film might bomb at the box office. Believing that Spielberg was making the biggest film of all time, he suggested a bet between the directors.
    Steven Spielberg: "He (George) said 'You want to trade some points? I'll give you two and a half percent of Star Wars if you give me two and a half percent of Close Encounters.' I said, 'Sure, I'll gamble with that, great.'"

  • When Lucas returned home to California, he discovers that his special effects team had only completed 2 out of 365 effects shots and spent more than $1 million of the $2 million effects budget. Suffering from chest pains, Lucas is hospitalized the next day from hypertension and exhaustion. News of his worsening condition spreads to friends and family who become worried about the director.
    John Dykstra: "George is in England, you know, and I don't care how articulate he is at describing what he wants, or how articulate I am at understanding what he wants, the truth of the matter is without him being here to see the film, it's really tough to get that cohesive spirit of working together."

    July 25, 1976

  • The Los Angeles Times runs a short article about Lucas and his new Space Fantasy film.
    George Lucas: "I suppose it's science fiction. But we don't explain anything. We take all the hardware for granted. The story really is an action adventure. A fantasy. Buck Rogers updated. It's aimed primarily at 14- and 15-year-olds, in the way that American Graffiti was aimed primarily at 16- and 17-year-olds."

    Late 1976

  • Editor John Jympson was fired after an early cut of the film was seen as a disaster. Marcia Lucas takes over for a time and starts over from scratch.

    August 11, 1976

  • Ralph McQuarrie paints the cover for the Star Wars novelization at this time.

    September 1976

  • ILM begins shooting the escape from the Death Star sequence.

    October 11, 1976

  • ILM works on the very complex shot of the Millennium Falcon being pulled into the Death Star by the space stations tractor beam. The two stormtroopers in the foreground were both played by Joe Johnston.

    November 1976

  • ILM films explosions and blows up seven models at their Van Nuys location.

  • Marcia Lucas edits a rough cut of the film, lasting 117 minutes and missing most of the visual and audio effects. It was here that Lucas decided to cut certain scenes to relieve the already swamped ILM crew and also to improve the pace if the film. Scenes that were cut include Luke's scene with Biggs Darklighter at Tosche Station and Han's conversation with Jabba the Hutt in the docking bay of Mos Eisley. Lucas had intended to replacve Declan Mulholland (playing Jabba the Hutt) with a stop-motion "slug-like" character, but realized that there was no way for ILM to be able to complete this effect on time.

    December 1976

  • ILM begins work on the climactic Death Star battle sequence.

  • The Novelization of Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker is released.

  • Martin Scorsese asks Marcia Lucas to come to LA to help finish editing his New York, New York. Paul Hirsch and Richard Chew are brought in to finish editing.

    December 31, 1976

  • Guests are treated to an early screening of Star Wars at Francis Ford Coppola's New Years Eve Party.
    Irvin Kershner: "George is standing back at the door, and we don't want to face him. This is the most awful stuff we've ever seen... we were really concerned for him."

(All logos, images, characters and storylines are the sole property of Lucasfilm, Ltd.
All material used on these pages are used for illustrative purposes only under Fair Useage terms of copyright law.)
Research and written documentary Copyright © 1997-2016 Eric Townsend All Rights Reserved. Do not reproduce or publish without permission.

back frontpage forward