Star Wars 40th Anniversary: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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Star Wars on a big screen during a 2010 concert in Las Vegas. (Getty)

Today is May 25, 2017, the exact 40th anniversary of Star Wars. The franchise changed the world and is still going strong, with eight movies already released and three more on the way. Created by George Lucas, the sweeping epic mixed mythology with science fiction in a concoction that truly captured the imagination in few ways other movies have.

When Star Wars, later re-titled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, hit theaters, 20th Century Fox was not ready for a worldwide phenomenon. Despite starring Sir Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing, the three lead actors – Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford – were still unknowns. But that didn’t matter. It became a box office hit and earned six Academy Awards.

Rather than go through 5 facts you probably already know about Star Wars, here’s a look at some lesser-known facts about the making of A New Hope and where the franchise goes from here.

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1. The First ‘Star Wars’ Draft Had Han Solo as a Giant Green Alien

The first draft of Star Wars, as written by Lucas in 1974, famously had Han Solo as a tall green alien. This version of the character was included in 2013’s The Star Wars, an ambitious Dark Horse comics adaptation of the first screenplay. The comic was written by J.W. Rinzler and featured art by Mike Mayhew. The book revealed that the original Star Wars was far different from what we know today.

“It’s a very different story. It’s not like, ‘Oh, this is a new scene,’” Rinzler said in a 2013 interview with Wired. “It’s totally different, and although the characters are still there, they’re also totally different. Luke Skywalker isn’t an eighteen-year-old kid. He’s an old Jedi general with decades of experience. Leia is a princess, but she’s not related to Luke; she has a different mother and father. Han Solo is there, but he’s a giant green alien. A lot of the relationships are all there, they’re all percolating.”

Rinzler told Wired that he spent years trying to convince Lucas to let him turn the draft into a comic. Rinzler later learned that Dark Horse also wanted to do the same. Eventually, Lucas agreed.

“In some ways, the original draft is closer to Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon in tone, and it’s also closer to [director Akira] Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress — In fact, there even is a hidden fortress in the rough draft,” Rinzler said.

The Star Wars is currently available in Marvel’s Star Wars Epic Collection: Infinities.

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2. ‘Scarface’ Director Brian De Palma Helped Lucas Edit the Opening Crawl

Lucas was part of a generation of filmmakers who wanted to change Hollywood and they all knew each other. Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Brian De Palma all changed Hollyowod during the 1970s, along with Martin Scorsese. De Palma, who would go on to direct classics like Scarface, Blow-Out and Dressed to Kill, played a key, uncredited role in Star Wars. He helped Lucas edit down the opening crawl we all know by heart today.

In a 2005 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Lucas admitted that De Palma helped him cut the opening crawl down. It was originally six paragraphs!

“The crawl is such a hard thing because you have to be careful that you’re not using too many words that people don’t understand. It’s like a poem,” Lucas said. “I showed the very first crawl to a bunch of friends of mine in the ’70s. It went on for six graphs with four sentences each. Brian De Palma was there, and he threw his hands up in the air and said, “George, you’re out of your mind! Let me sit down and write this for you.” He helped me chop it down into the form that exists today.”

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3. The First ‘Star Wars’ Product From Kenner Was an Empty Box Promising Future Action Figures

Considering how ubiquitous action figure lines based on movies are these days, it’s surprising to remember that it wasn’t always that way. The Star Wars phenomenon caught everyone off guard, including the marketing machine that would later help the franchise become more than just a group of movies.

Kenner Products was the only company to agree to make products based on the movie, but they didn’t have any toys ready until 1978, the year after the movie came out! They knew they needed something in stores for the 1977 holiday season, but they didn’t have any figures ready. Instead, they released an empty box – yes, an empty box – called the “Early Bird Certificate Package.”

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The box contained a certificate that kids mailed away to later receive the first four figures – Luke, Leia, R2-D2 and Chewbacca. It also included a carboard display stand and stickers. Basically, it had everything a kid could want – except the toys.

Kenner’s original Star Wars line lasted until 1985. In 1995, Hasbro revived the Star Wars toy line and has been producing figures ever since.

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4. The Original Movie Has Grossed Over $460.9 Million Domestically Since It Was Released

When A New Hope was first released, it grossed $307.26 million domestically, Box Office Mojo notes. When you add in the 1983 and 1997 re-releases, the film’s domestic total reaches $460.9 million! A New Hope also grossed $314.4 million in foreign territories and was the highest-grossing film in the world until 1982’s E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial.

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The highest-grossing Star Wars films are the most recent. Star Wars: The Force Awakens earned $936.6 million in North America and $1.13 million in foreign territories.

However, if you adjust A New Hope‘s original domestic gross for inflation, the film actually made more money than The Force Awakens. When you take inflation into account, A New Hope earned $1.26 million.

The eight Star Wars movies already released have grossed a combined $7.765 billion worldwide.

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5. Disney & Lucasfilm Have 3 More ‘Star Wars’ Movies in the Pipeline

Disney and Lucasfilm have three more Star Wars films planned, including one later this year.

Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi will open on December 15, 2017. This film will pick up right where The Force Awakens left off, with Rey (Diasy Ridley) learning more about the Force from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and General Leia (the late Carrie Fisher) working hard to stop the First Order.

In 2018, Disney will finally release a Star Wars movie in the summer, with the Young Han Solo Star Wars Story opening on May 25, 2018. The film stars Alden Ehrenreich as a younger version of Harrison Ford’s character. Donald Glover also plays a younger Lando Calrissian. It’s being directed by Christopher Miller and Phil Lord.

star Wars: Episode IX will open on May 24, 2017. That movie will be directed by Colin Treverrow (Jurassic World) with a script by Treverrow and Derek Connolly. Clearly, Disney wants to keep fans excited until the 50th anniversary.

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