Even though Star Wars is set in a galaxy far, far away, its origins are very much of this world, and events happening during the time George Lucas wrote the script for the original trilogy greatly influenced the storyline. According to a new book, the revolutionary saga was meant to be a protest against the Vietnam war.
The book, titled How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise, written by Chris Taylor, discloses how characters that we know and love got their names and what was really behind what would become one of the biggest franchises in movie history. Taylor suggests George Lucas originally intended Star Wars to be the third in a trilogy that would secretly protest the unpopular Vietnam war.
Lucas supposedly made his coming of age film American Graffiti — set in 1962 and starring Harrison Ford — as a means to show how peaceful and happy Vietnam was before the conflict began in 1954. The Star Wars director didn’t serve in the war because he suffered from diabetes, but that didn’t stop him from voicing his opinion in a more subtle way.
Before Star Wars even became an idea, Lucas wanted to make a documentary on Vietnam that was going to be called Apocalypse Now. In the end, his friend Francis Ford Copolla took on the project, which became the 1979 epic war film starring Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, and Robert Duvall.
For Lucas, the three films — American Grafitti, Apocalypse Now, and Star Wars — were part of a trilogy about the situation in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam war. Star Wars was originally set in the 33rd century.
“A large technological empire going after a small group of freedom fighters.” George Lucas paralleled the intergalactic epic and the war in 1973 and left no doubt as to what side of the conflict he was on.
As it turns out, Lucas didn’t have an easy time selling his story to Hollywood executives and was rejected by United Artists, Universal, and Disney (which is currently producing Star Wars Episode VII). Even his close friends, Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma, thought the whole concept of extraterrestrial characters that spoke strange languages was weird and would be a flop.
Spielberg had his doubts, but was supportive and told Lucas Star Wars was going to be a great hit. De Palma didn’t mince words, saying, “What is this Force s***?” However, he wanted to stand behind his friend and re-wrote the starting iconic statement, “Star Wars: It is a period of civil war…”
In the end, Twentieth Century Fox took on the project, and even though filming had some major setbacks, and Lucas almost wasn’t able to complete Star Wars, it all ended well. The first of the trilogy premiered on May 25, 1977 and became an instant phenomenon with $775.4 million in box office sales to date.
[Image via Lcuasfilm]