Star Wars: A New Hope Nearly Caused A War Between Tunisia and Libya (Plus More Trivia)

Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader duel in Star Wars A New Hope

Lucasfilm / 20th Century Fox

The first movie to gross over $300 million at the box office, Star Wars: A New Hope gave a new burst of life to the sci fi genre when it premiered in 1977, and it gave birth to one of the most beloved franchises of all time. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about the film.

1) The Jawa sandcrawler made the Libyan government uncomfortable 

The Tattooine scenes in A New Hope were filmed in Tunisia. The Tunisian government had to phone George Lucas at one point to ask him to move the Jawa Sandcrawler. The enormous prop had been left within sight of the border with Libya. Thinking it was a new type of military vehicle, the Libyan government became uncomfortable that it was so close to the border, and contacted the Tunisian government with threats of military mobilization. 

2) George Lucas went on holiday with Spielberg to avoid the premiere 

Lucas didn’t have much confidence in Star Wars: A New Hope. He was certain in would be a huge box office failure. To remove himself from any critique, instead of attending the premiere, he went on holiday to Hawaii with Spielberg. Whilst the pair of cinematic visionaries were sitting on the beach making a sandcastle, they started discussing a project that would later become Raiders of the Lost Ark

C3PO and R2D2 in Star Wars A New Hope
Lucasfilm / 20th Century Fox

3) R2D2 was originally going to be an English speaking foul mouthed droid 

In Lucas’ original script, R2D2’s vocabulary wasn’t limited to beeps and whistles. Rather, much like his counterpart C3PO, the droid could speak English that all the other characters could understand. However, the droid was actually intended to be quite foul mouthed. Although this was obviously changed, C3PO’s reactions to the bad language were all kept in the film.

4) Grand Moff Tarkin was wearing fluffy slippers in most scenes

Esteemed British actor Peter Cushing was cast to play the role of antagonist Grand Moff Tarkin. Cushing delivered a masterful performance as the villain. However, the actor did struggle with the character’s uniform. The boots were too small for his feet, and caused awful discomfort whenever he had to wear them. So, Cushing only wore the boots in scenes where the character’s feet were visible, and in scenes where his feet were out of shot, the actor sported a comfortable pair of fluffy slippers! Tarkin doesn’t seem quite so menacing, knowing that. 

5) Choosing between Darth Vader and Chewbacca

The two tallest actors in the cast of the movie – bodybuilder David Browse and Peter Mayhew – were actually asked which of the two tallest characters they would like to play; Darth Vader or Chewbacca. In the end, it was an easy decision, because whilst Prowse wanted to play a villain, Mayhew wanted to play a good guy. David Vader is only on screen for 12 minutes in the film. 

Stormtroopers aboard the Death Star
Lucasfilm / 20th Century Fox

6) Mark Hammill burst a blood vessel

During the trash compactor scene, Mark Hammill had to hold his breath for quite a long period of time. So long, in factor, that the actor actually burst a blood vessel in his eye, resulting in some ugly redness. Whilst the vessel healed and the redness went away, the camera crew had to be very selective which angles they filmed Hammill from, so as to hide the injury. 

7) Luke wasn’t intended to say ‘I can’t see a thing in this helmet’ 

During one scene, Luke says, ‘I can’t see a thing in this helmet.’ This wasn’t in the script, nor was it ad-libbed. Mark Hammill was genuinely saying it to Harrison Ford, having not realised the cameras were rolling. Lucas liked it, though, and kept it in. 

Luke Leia and Han Aboard the Death Star in Star Wars A New Hope
Lucasfilm / 20th Century Fox

8) Spielberg and Lucas traded 2.5% of the rights of Star Wars and Close Encounters

Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars: A New Hope were released very close together. Lucas was sure Steven Spielberg’s film would be a much greater success than his own space adventure movie, but Spielberg thought Star Wars would be the commercial champion of the two. To avoid either director being too disappointed if their own film failed but their friend’s succeeded, they agreed to give each other 2.5% of the rights. To this day, Lucas still receives 2.5% of Close Encounters, whilst Spielberg still receives 2.5% of A New Hope.  

9) There was an elephant inside the Bantha

The Bantha – the huge woolly creature ridden by the Tusken Raiders – wasn’t just a prop piece. There was an actual Asian elephant underneath all that fur. They dressed it up in a shaggy wooly costume with large horns. However, it was extremely hot in Death Valley where they were filming, and so the elephant kept ripping the costume off with its trunk, which made filming the scene drawn-out and difficult.

Lucasfilm / 20th Century Fox

10) George Lucas made most of his money through the Star Wars toys

To help get the movie picked up by the studio, George Lucas waived the usual bulky writer and director fees, agreeing instead to 175 thousand dollars and 40% of the merchandising rights. Thinking the merchandising would be next to worthless, the studio agreed. Lucas lucked out. Made by Kenner, the Star Wars action figures became some of the greatest selling toys of all time, and even made it into our list of Bestselling Christmas Toys of the 70s

There you have it – 10 facts about Star Wars: A New Hope!  

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