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7 Fun Facts About "Star Wars"

Few films have had as profound an impact on cinema as the original Star Wars and the multibillion-dollar franchise it inspired. For nearly 50 years, fans have been dressing up as Jedi, stormtroopers, and Sith, and imagining their own adventures in a galaxy far, far away. In fact, the films have had such a cultural impact that May 4 (“May the Fourth Be With You”) is essentially an official holiday for Star Wars fans the world over. Here are seven little-known facts about Star Wars, exploring both the production of the films and the inspiration behind the saga’s most iconic characters.

Filming the Original “Star Wars” Almost Caused an International Conflict

Although Star Wars is famously set in a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas used real-world sets and locations to stand in for extraterrestrial locales throughout the original trilogy. The ice planet Hoth in Empire Strikes Back was filmed near the town of Finse, Norway, while the forest moon of Endor scenes made use of the giant redwoods near Crescent City, California.

One of the most iconic locations in all nine films is the Skywalker homestead on the desert planet of Tatooine. Lucas decided to shoot these scenes, which kick off the entire Star Wars franchise, in the desert of Tunisia (though parts were also filmed in Death Valley, California). In the mid-1970s, Tunisia had a tense relationship with the Libyan government, run by Muammar Gaddafi. Star Wars filmed in Nefta, Tunisia, not far from the Tunisian-Libyan border. The biography George Lucas: A Lifedetails how the Libyan government originally perceived the production as a military buildup along the border, mistaking a Jawa Sandcrawler for military hardware. Libyan inspectors even crossed the border to confirm that these otherworldly vehicles posed no real military threat. Thankfully, the matter ended smoothly.

Darth Vader’s Look Is Based on a Real Japanese Samurai

The inspiration behind the original Star Wars is famously pulled from a variety of sources. The iconic title crawl that sets up the space drama in the film’s opening seconds can be found in 1930s adventure serials like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. The space battles between TIE fighters and X-Wings are a direct reference to WWII dogfighting, and the concept of the Jedi is likely lifted from the pages of Frank Herbert’s Dune.

But the most iconic character in the entire saga is undoubtedly Darth Vader, and his look is based on a very real historical figure — a Japanese samurai warlord named Date Masamune. Ralph McQuarrie, the concept artist behind the original trilogy of films, was influenced by Japanese samurai armor, and especially the jet-black armor of Masamune, who was born in 1567. The helmets are the most alike, but McQuarrie also borrowed the extended neck piece from Masamune’s armor. Vader’s helmet includes additional influences from helmets worn by the German army during WWII, all used to create the most ominous villain the galaxy (and moviegoers) have ever seen.

“ I Have a Bad Feeling About This” Is Said in Every "Star Wars" Film

The entire Star Wars saga is filled with little Easter eggs and references to other characters and events throughout the franchise. One that can be easily missed is the phrase “I have a bad feeling about this,” said in every single Star Wars film (and sometimes even uttered multiple times). The phrase is also found in one-off live-action films, animated TV shows, video game series, and novels, and has become a kind of “in-joke” among Star Wars creators.

Notably, The Last Jedi, the eighth film in the Star Wars saga, appears to be the only exception, as no character seemingly utters the famous phrase on screen. But director Rian Johnson confirmed that BB-8 actually delivers the line in binary, after which Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac, retorts, “Happy beeps here, buddy, come on.”

The Last Jedi” Invented Porgs To Digitally Mask Real-Life Puffins

One of the most important locations in Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi is the remote island on the planet Ahco-To, where a disgruntled Luke Skywalker spends his self-imposed exile and subsequently trains an adamant Rey. These scenes were shot on a very real Irish island called Skellig Michael. Although perfect for creating a much-needed sense of isolation, the island is also a wildlife preserve for puffins. The puffins became a real problem during the many scenes filmed on the island, as they constantly flew into shots and disrupted production. By law, The Last Jedi crew couldn’t mess with them, so according to Jake Lunt Davies, a creature concept designer on the film, the team decided to design an in-universe creature that lived on the island and digitally replaced any puffins that got in the shot with them. Hence, Porgs were born.

'N Sync Was Almost in “Attack of the Clones”

Turn back the clock to 2001, and pop culture was obsessed with both the new Star Wars prequel franchise and the boy band 'N Sync. At the behest of George Lucas’ daughter (along with the daughter of producer Rick McCullum), the members of 'N Sync were offered minor roles during the final battle on Geonosis. Justin Timberlake and Lance Bass declined the invitation, supposedly too tired from touring, but the other three band members — Joey Fatone, JC Chasez, and Chris Kirkpatrick — donned Jedi robes and shot their scenes for the film. The moment was particularly special for Fatone, who had an entire room of his house dedicated to Star Wars memorabilia. Sadly, the footage wasn’t used in the final cut, and the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo instead became a little-known piece of Star Wars history.

The Original “Star Wars” Almost Wasn’t Made

It’s almost unfathomable that a movie studio would pass up the opportunity to make Star Wars, but in the mid-1970s, George Lucas’ little indie film was perilously close to never being made. Lucas first tried to get the rights to Flash Gordon in order to make his own big-screen version, but when he was unable to secure a deal, he decided to make his own space adventure. Once he had the idea, he needed the money, but United Artists, Universal, and even Disney (which later bought the franchise rights for $4.05 billion in 2012) all passed on funding the film.

Finally, 20th Century Fox agreed to finance the project, not because they thought the film would be any good, but mostly to secure a relationship with the up-and-coming director. With an initial budget of only $8 million (eventually bumped up to $11 million) and plenty of disasters during filming and post-production, Star Wars was born from both financial and artistic adversity, yet it has gone on to inspire generations of fans around the globe.

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