Emerging from the deep cynicism of the late 70’s, Star Wars has proven a beacon of hope and escapism for 40 years. George Lucas’s sci-fi fantasy franchise speaks to the child inside us all, offering mythic archetypes that feed our dreams and still thrill four decades later. Indeed, it looks like the latest installment, Star Wars: The Last Jedi (out December 15, 2017) will go down as one of the biggest box office hits of all time.
That being said, Star Wars has never shied away from the “Dark Side” either–you can’t have the heroic Rebel Alliance without the Empire, and the behind-the-scenes atmosphere for the iconic film series has had plenty of controversy, conflict, and drama. What looks grandiose and uplifting onscreen can have some pretty dark origins.
From divorces to on-set feuds and creative interference, Star Wars has had moments of eye-raising scandal as well as its own share of tragedy, from as early as 1977’s Star Wars IV: A New Hope to present day.
Let’s look at some of the darkest secrets from the franchise’s history that Disney would kindly like you to forget when you storm the theaters to see The Last Jedi in December.
Here is Star Wars: 15 Dark Behind-The-Scenes Secrets Disney Wants To Bury.
15. George Lucas’s Star Wars Obsession Caused His Divorce
While Star Wars: A New Hope made George Lucas a household name, his ex-wife, Oscar-winning editor Marcia Lucas, deserves credit as well. Her advice was crucial, most notably the Death Star trench battled scene, about which she told Lucas that: “If the audience doesn’t cheer when Han Solo comes in at the last second in the Millennium Falcon to help Luke when he’s being chased by Darth Vader, the picture doesn’t work.”
Other notable contributions (to name but a few) included the suggestion that Obi-Wan Kenobi die in A New Hope, and the “good luck” kissing scene between Luke and Leia.
Unfortunately, Lucas’s obsession with his original trilogy (as well as building his production studio Skywalker Ranch), took its toll, and she filed for divorce in 1983. Mark Hamill would later say her absence was felt in the prequels, because she was “the heart and warmth of the films.”
14. George Lucas Told Carrie Fisher Not To Wear Underwear
While the late Carrie Fisher’s complaints against her skimpy metal bikini in Return of the Jedi are well-documented, (describing it as something “supermodels will eventually wear in the seventh ring of hell“), less known are her concerns about her wardrobe on the set of Star Wars IV: A New Hope.
In her 2008 memoir Wishful Drinking, Fisher recounts a conversation with director George Lucas about her iconic flowing white robe costume. It turns out Lucas has very specific thoughts on the subject: “George comes up to me the first day of filming, and he takes one look at the dress and says, ‘You can’t wear a bra under that dress… because there is no underwear in space.”
Lucas explained that in space, a woman could get strangled by her bra in the absence of gravity, but given no instance of weightlessness has ever been seen in the franchise, the explanation seems a tad flimsy.
13. Harrison Ford Tried To Destroy The Millennium Falcon
In a piece for Empire, Mark Hamill revealed that one time Harrison Ford grew so frustrated on the set of Star Wars (he didn’t specify which film) that the actor flipped out and grabbed a handsaw.
Luckily for the cast and crew, he took out his hostility on a beloved set-piece rather than anyone on-set: “You heard about Harrison taking a saw to the Millennium Falcon because he got so mad? People were coming up to me going, ‘You gotta stop Harrison, he’s sawing up the Falcon.’ It was made of wood and he just took a saw to it. I love Harrison. I got to stop him because I can make him laugh when he gets really, really mad.”
12. The Phantom Menace Ruined Jake Lloyd’s Life
Perhaps the most tragic entry on our list revolves around actor Jake Lloyd, best remembered for playing young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace. For anyone who thinks being a kid in a Star Wars film is a dream come true, in his case it was more like a nightmare.
Lloyd claimed his role in the film led to relentless bullying in school which he called a “living hell,” not to mention the online hate levied at his performance and Lucas’s prequel, of which he said “When you have something like that, there’s a lot of expectations for it to meet the standards of the public and I don’t think George did that.”
Lloyd’s experience was so negative that he gave up acting, but his troubles were just beginning– he was arrested in 2015 after leading police on a high-speed chase in South Carolina, only to be moved from prison to a psychiatric hospital after his mother revealed he suffered from schizophrenia (and had once attacked her).
11. Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher Had An Affair On Set
Fisher’s 2016 memoirs The Princess Diarist were full of juicy details, but one revelation topped them all: the actress had a torrid affair with her co-star Harrison Ford on the set of A New Hope.
The duo began their romance following a birthday party for George Lucas– “When you’re on location—this is something I discovered—everything is permitted,” the actress said while discussing the book during a Today Show interview.
Ford was 33 (and married at the time to Mary Marquardt), while Fisher was just 19, and she recalls her infatuation in the book: “I looked over at Harrison. A hero’s face—a few strands of hair fell over his noble, slightly furrowed brow. How could you ask such a shining specimen of a man to be satisfied with the likes of me?”
10. Terence Stamp Hated Working With George Lucas
The British actor most famous for playing the venomous General Zod, had an appropriately ruthless opinion of working with George Lucas on Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. In an 2013 interview with Empire, Stamp said, “We didn’t get on at all. I didn’t rate him that much as a director, really. I didn’t feel he was a director of actors, he was more interested in stuff and effects. He didn’t interest me and I wouldn’t think I interested him.”
Stamp said he took on the role Chancellor Valorum because he wanted to work with Natalie Portman: “But on the day I’m supposed to do my scene with her, for which I’d traveled halfway around the world, I said, ‘Where’s Natalie?’ And George says, ‘That’s Natalie,’ and points to a bit of paper on the wall. It was just boring.”
9. Carrie Fisher’s On-Set Addiction
Fisher’s battles with drug addiction are well-known, but fans might be surprised that they spilled onto the set of the original Star Wars trilogy. The actress admitted in Wishful Drinking that she used cocaine during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back: “We did cocaine on the set of Empire, in the ice planet. I didn’t even like coke that much. It was just a case of getting on whatever train I needed to take to get high.”
An internet theory sprung up in 2012 on Reddit that Fisher sported a suspiciously long fingernail on the set of Return of The Jedi, but the actress shot down any theory of a “coke nail” on Twitter, tweeting “I never used my fingernail for drugs. I used dollars or tiny spoons like any other respectable former drug addict.”
8. Mark Hamill Objected to Luke Skywalker’s Portrayal in The Last Jedi
Mark Hamill made some eyebrow raising comments of The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson in an May 2017 interview with Vanity Fair reagarding his vision for Luke Skywalker.
He told Johnson after reading his script that “‘I pretty much fundamentally disagree with every choice you’ve made for this character. Now, having said that, I have gotten it off my chest, and my job now is to take what you’ve created and do my best to realise your vision.’”
Needless to say this set internet fandom ablaze, and Hamill walked back his comments in a piece in Variety: “I was quoted as saying to Rian that I fundamentally disagree with everything you decided about Luke, and it was inartfully phrased. What I was, was surprised at how he saw Luke. And it took me a while to get around to his way of thinking, but once I was there it was a thrilling experience. I hope it will be for the audience too.”
In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Daisy Ridley was praised by critics and fans alike for her portrayal of Rey, the empowered female protagonist. So why wasn’t she made in an action figure? The initial line of Force Awakens toys lacked a serious Rey presence (one exclusion included a fully cloaked figure that came with a speeder).
Why wasn’t Rey featured more prominently in the toy line? Hasbro claimed it was to avoid spoilers, but an anonymous insider said in a vendor meeting at Lucasfilm’s Letterman Center, that the real reason for a lack of Rey toys amounted to sexism, saying he was told, “We know what sells. No boy wants to be given a product with a female character on it.”
Internet outrage commenced at this revelation, with the hashtag #WheresRey trending on Twitter until a figure with Ridley’s likeness was produced. Hasbro learned its lesson: a new Rey figure is displayed prominently in promotions for The Last Jedi.
6. Harrison Ford hated Han’s lines
There was a palpable tension between the film’s cast and George Lucas on the set of Star Wars IV: A New Hope. The actors often felt rudderless working with an introverted filmmaker who was more comfortable working on special effects shots and an overarching vision than helping them with their performances.
Harrison Ford often grew frustrated at translating Lucas’s clunky dialogue from the page to the stage, famously screaming onset that “You can type this s*** but you can’t say it!” Mark Hamill noted that Ford instead relied on his own instincts than cues from the director: “He’d written things in the margins, saying the same thing basically, but his way.”
5. George Lucas Didn’t Like The Force Awakens
While Star Wars: The Force Awakens divided some fans, most audiences (and critics) gave it high marks. As far as the creator of the franchise? He thought it kinda sucked.
George Lucas aired his grievances with the production in a lengthy 2015 interview with Charlie Rose, saying he felt miffed at being left out of the process: “They decided they were going to do their own thing. They weren’t that keen to have me involved anyway… and I don’t have the control to do that anymore… so I said, ‘Okay, I will go my way, and I’ll let them go their way.’”
As far as his complaints with the finished film, Lucas felt it added nothing new to the mythology: “They wanted to do a retro movie. I don’t like that. Every movie I work very hard to make them completely different, with different planets, with different spaceships, make it new.”
4. The opening crawl came from Brian De Palma’s mockery
In the new HBO documentary Spielberg, the iconic filmmaker recounts the time he, Martin Scorsese, John Landis, Francis Ford Coppola and Brian DePalma saw a rough cut of A New Hope.
While Spielberg loved it, he remembered DePalma was ruthless in his critique: “We all went to a Chinese restaurant after the film was over and Brian [De Palma] stood up and started to descry about, ‘What’s going on around here? I don’t understand this story. Who are these people? Who’s the hairy guy? Where do they come from?’”
Spielberg added “But out of all that, something great came: Brian basically said, ‘You need like an old-fashioned movie to start the picture with a forward, and all these words come on the screen and they travel up the screen and the foreword tells you what the hell you’re looking at and why you’re in the theater and what the mythology is.” And the iconic opening crawl was born.
3. Quentin Tarantino Claimed Disney Sabotaged The Hateful Eight’s Box Office
Lucas wasn’t the only filmmaker who had a negative reaction to The Force Awakens— Quentin Tarantino wasn’t a fan either, although it had nothing to do with the quality of the film.
The director blamed Disney’s aggressive distribution of the film for hurting the profits of his western The Hateful Eight (both films were released over the 2015 Christmas season)–and cited L.A. theater Cinerama Dome as an example in an interview with Howard Stern, saying the theater owners were told “if you honor your deal with The Hateful Eight, we will not allow you to have Star Wars, the biggest movie in the world.”
Given Tarantino’s film was shot in 70mm, which only a handful of theaters are able to screen, this seriously hurt the movie’s bottom line. While his claims against Disney have been disputed by industry insiders, it’s fair to say he won’t be checking out The Last Jedi anytime soon.
2. David Prowse Spoiled The Empire Strikes Back
He may have let James Earl Jones do all the talking, but the Darth Vader we all know and love wouldn’t have been possible without towering actor David Prowse skulking around in the villain’s iconic outfit. The irony is that when he did open his mouth, he got into trouble.
During an appearance at a convention in 1978, Prowse told attendees that for the upcoming sequel The Empire Strikes Back, Luke would learn that his arch-enemy was also his dear old dad: “Father can’t kill son, son can’t kill father. So they live again to star in Star Wars IV.”
Luckily, pre-internet, this massive spoiler’s impact was limited, and most ticket buyers were still shocked by the big reveal. The weird part is that this revelation never appeared in the script (Jones added it in post-production). So how did he find out? That remains a mystery, but Lucas and Prowse had a falling out, and he’s currently banned from all official Star Wars events.
1. The Continual Clash Between Filmmakers and Producers
When you have a 40-year-old film franchise, studio heads are always balancing between profit margins and satisfying storytelling. They want to offer the familiar, but with fresh takes. Star Wars has had major headaches trying to balance the two, with producer Kathleen Kennedy butting heads with a host of directors.
As a result we’ve seen a series of filmmaker firings: first Josh Trank was canned from an untitled Star Wars spinoff. Then Chris Lord and Phil Miller were let go from Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Colin Trevorrow was removed as director from Star Wars: Episode IX.
And then there’s Rogue One director Gareth Edwards– while he wasn’t fired from the film, it required heavy reshoots from screenwriter Tony Gilroy.
While some fans were relieved to see Ron Howard and J.J. Abrams take over the productions of Solo and Episode IX (respectively), there is also the concern that a lack of creative risks will dilute the franchise– but don’t expect Disney care as long as the box office results keep breaking records.
What other dark behind-the-scenes Star Wars secrets would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments.