Two interesting but possibly silly factoids about Star Wars

A while back Peter Mayhew – the 7’6” guy inside Chewbacca’s costume in the original Star Wars – released a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ stills from the production.

They’ve got a period look – the movie was shot in the age of disco, flares and vinyl-topped cars. But it’s kind of cool to think Star Wars still has the power to capture our imaginations despite its stylistic origins in the decade taste forgot. Which leads me to a couple of factoids:

'That's no moon'. Wait - yes it is. It's Mimas, orbiting Saturn.
‘That’s no moon’. Wait – yes it is. It’s Mimas, orbiting Saturn.

1. Tattooine is a real place. Most of the movie was filmed at Pinewood (hence the surfeit of British seventies brat-packers in bit-parts) but Lucas filmed the desert sequences in Tunisia near a town that looks like the Star Wars version. The name of that town? Foum Tataouine. Though before you all go ‘squee, how cool is it that they found a town of the same name’, think about how movies are actually made.

Not only is Tataouine a real place – it was liberated from the Nazis in 1943 by New Zealanders. I’ve met some of the guys who were in on the drive. (Just to compound the trivia, Luigi Cozzi’s Italian spaghetti version of the Lucas epic, Star Crash (1978) was filmed in part at Bari, where the Kiwis landed later the same year).

 2. Darth Vader’s real accent. Darth Vader was played by British actor and weight-lifter Dave Prowse, but he lost his voice to James Earl Jones. Prowse is from the West Country – Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who was also West Country, spoke the same way. A soft, lilting accent that is one of England’s quintessential classics. But not, it seems, suitable for the movie’s chief villain.

Call it meta-entertainment. The story behind the adventure. Or something.

I can’t help thinking that the story behind the forthcoming Disney knock-offs won’t be anywhere near as interesting.

 Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014


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4 thoughts on “Two interesting but possibly silly factoids about Star Wars

  1. So Cool. That’s a lot of great trivia. I think it only makes sense that they found a great planet name in a foreign city. I knew the actor was a Brit, but I didn’t know he was from the same place as Arthur C. Clarke (one of my all-time favorite authors). Thanks for enlightening us!

  2. Great post! I knew that the Tattooine scenes were shot in Tunisia, but had no idea that it was named after a real place, or the WW2 history.

    Those snaps taken by Mayhew are fantastic aren’t they! I had a bit of a Star Wars geek out moment of my own a few years ago while looking through the ephemera collection at the British Film Institute. They had the original continuity script from what was then called ‘The Star Wars’. It included handwritten notes (including last minute changes to dialogue) and Polaroid snaps of the actors in costume. An absolute treasure!

    Unfortunately, I was told at the time that the BFI were unlikely to be able to reproduce it – due of course to copyright issues. Maybe one day… in a galaxy far far away….

    1. It’s amazing where Kiwis have been entwined with history – and thence with icons of Hollywood like this movie! I still remember, as if yesterday, queuing up outside Napier’s State Theatre to see Star Wars for the first time. Then having the theatre manager come out and explain that the theatre was full. I took a photo not too many months ago of that building (long since re-purposed, but still a wonderful example of Spanish Mission architecture) with the place along the side wall where I had got to in the queue, all those years before. It was THAT influential a movie. For me and – I think – for the western world.

      Mayhew’s snaps add a tremendous dimension to what, I think, has to be considered a true movie legend. So does that continuity script!…I’m not surprised that copyrights intruded. They always seem to, these days.

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