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Book Review

Book Cover

The Making of Star Wars
The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film


Author: J. W. Rinzler
Ebury Press
RRP: £14.99
ISBN: 978 0 09 192499 7
Available 03 July 2008

George Lucas spent nearly ten years bringing his dream project to life: a ground-breaking space fantasy movie. Its original title: The Star Wars. The rest is history. Yet its production is a story as entertaining and exciting as the movie itself. Now, recounted in the words of those who were there, it is finally being told, for the first time...

Over 30 years after Star Wars was released theatrically around the globe comes the Making of... book that claims to tell the insider story for the very first time. That's not strictly true. Gary Jenkin's Empire Building: The Remarkable Real-Life Story of Star Wars does a pretty similar thing and that was published years ago. No, this book is a bit of a suck-up to Lucas and attempts to rewrite history so that what we get is a lot of quotes that basically back up the book's main thrust: that a plucky young director, who is a bit of a control freak, fought against the evil studio and anyone else who tried to tell him his idea was unworkable. He overcame great adversity to prove everyone wrong and he was soon turned into a demigod who we should all bow down before.

What this book does do for the first time is offer up interviews that haven't been published before. However, as the author J.W. Rinzler only uses snippets her and there to illustrate his points you never really get a real taste of most of the interviews. The sad fact is that most of the interviews must have been pretty dull (which probably explains why they were never printed anywhere) as a lot of the important cast members hardly get a look in (more of that later).

Between 1975 and 1978 over 50 interviews were conducted with key members of cast and crew - George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, composer John Williams, legendary production designer John Barry and Dennis Muren(who worked in the miniature and optical effects unit but would go onto produce the visual effects on the later movies) amongst many others. Apparently, these interviews have sat undisturbed in the Lucasfilm Archives for three decades. Until now.

Using his unprecedented access to the archives and the never-before-published 'lost' interviews, photographs, production notes, factoids and anecdotes, Rinzler picks his way through the creation of the original movie in the Star Wars franchise. According to the book's blurb: "A true story of human endeavour and creativity The Making of Star Wars reveals exactly what it took to produce one of the most outstanding and innovative films of all time" Sorry... I think someone got a little carried away there. We are just talking about a movie aren't we, and not landing a man on the Moon?

As Rinzler has managed to impress someone enough to be allowed access to the Lucas vaults you know that he's unlikely to reveal anything controversial. And... he doesn't. Not surprisingly, those actors that have sucked up to Lucas get the most coverage. So we get pages and pages of quotes from Anthony Daniels (C3P0) yet only one quote from Kenny Baker (and that's only to say that he found Daniels a hard man to get to know). There's the occasional quote from Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca); Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia); and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker); Harrison Ford (Han Solo); Alec Guinness (Obi-wan Kenobi) but not a single quote from Dave Prowse (Darth Vader). In fact the only two times Prowse is mentioned is when Fisher recounts the story of Prowse's "Welsh accent" (It's a Bristol accent if we're being picky); and a tale about how he was heavy handed on set and kept breaking the lightsabers (a tale he strongly denied when we spoke with him).

The majority of quotes are from Lucas and, as I mentioned previously, Daniels. So maybe this book should be retitled: The Making of Star Wars: as told by George Lucas and Anthony Daniels.

While those that are unfamiliar with the origins of the original Star Wars movie will find this informative most people, who were kids at the time of the film's release, will probably already know the majority of the history of its long struggle to get produced.

There's an interesting section on Alec Guinness's concerns about his character being killed off and then becoming a ghost. It got to the point where Guinness was all set to walk away from the project. However, Lucas convinced him this was the right way for the character to bow out. Sadly though, we don't actually get Guinness's side of the story, only quotes from Lucas.

The last chunk of the book is given over to the original drafts - so you can see how the story progressed as Lucas kept on altering things - and the story does go through some serious changes. At one point Han Solo was going to be a black character, and at another point Lucas was contemplating making all the characters Japanese.

At the end of the day all the book really does is tell us what we already know: that everyone on the picture worked above and beyond the call of duty; that Lucas really wasn't a very good delegater or communicator; and that the picture very nearly didn't get made at all.

Classical music fans will no doubt be surprised to learn that Dvořák wrote The Planets suite that was on the movie's temporary music track. I was always under the impression that it was Holst. Now, I know that Rinzler was quoting someone, but surely he could have pointed out this simple error.

While Star Wars fans will no doubt lap this up, I couldn't help but feel just a tad disappointed.


Darren Rea

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