Star Wars Opens
The studio had no faith in the film; cinemas didn’t want to show it; the dialogue was so clunky that Harrison Ford felt some was unsayable. But it changed cinema for a decade and more, and made several fortunes. Star Wars opened in the USA on May 25 1977 (only arriving on British screens on December 27 that year), a seminal day in geekdom. The campaign to promote it had been clever, and the night before it opened some of a nerdish persuasion began queuing in their sleeping bags.
Though naturally regarded as an American film – George Lucas its presiding genius, and 20th Century Fox its distributor – it featured plenty of British talent. Much of it was filmed at Elstree by cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, already famed for Dr Strangelove among many other productions. As so often Britons provided some of the baddies – Peter Cushing as the Death Star’s commander, David Prowse as Darth Vader (though not his voice). But here we supplied the two robots as well, in the forms of actors Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels; the giant Wookie (Peter Mayhew) and by far the finest performance in the film, that of Alec Guinness as Ben Kenobi.
Cushing recognized how popular the film would be with kids, and agreed to sign. Guinness saw likewise, and negotiated two per cent of the box office takings, which made him very rich indeed.