Star Wars Facts for May 4th
May the 4th is everyone’s favorite kind of holiday: one based on word play! Okay, I’m lying about the word play part, but Star Wars fanatics love May the 4th anyway. It’s the date that sounds the closest to “May the Force be with you!”, the unofficial battle cry of the Jedi. In celebration of this, the nerdiest unofficial holiday ever, let’s talk about the Force, the Jedi, and everything else. Here are five Star Wars facts you can use to impress your friends on May 4th.
Star Wars Loves a Cliché
The writers of the eight films to date in the official series have all included a phrase straight out of a cheesy horror movie. Yes, if you and your friends drink every time that you hear the phrase, “I have a bad feeling about this,” you’ll…enjoy one adult beverage every two hours or so. You will get *two* drinks during the original Star Wars, though, and it’s the one that counts the most, right?
This fact does require a bit of massaging, though. Technically, you’ll never hear the words in Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. Nobody says those words in the common tongue, which we’ll call English for our purposes. Instead, it gets recited in an alien language. So, the latest film comes with a technicality.
George Lucas loves the gag, though. In fact, you’ll hear it in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull…as long as you’re willing to watch Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Darth Vader versus Flash Gordon
Cinematic history is littered with examples of studios making terrible decisions that make no sense in hindsight. The roots of Star Wars are difficult to track since creator George Lucas has changed his story a few times, probably because he doesn’t remember the details all that well after several decades. One tidbit remains unquestioned, though.
In the early 1970s, Lucas entered into a two-picture deal with United Artists (UA). In agreeing to make two films with this studio, he asked for a specific project. He wanted to create a Flash Gordon movie! UA didn’t have the rights to this franchise, however, and they couldn’t acquire them, either.
Not content to discard the idea of a space saga, Lucas researched the various inspirations for the character of Flash Gordon. He discovered that the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs provided the baseline for the television and movie serial. Lucas paid particular attention to the stories of John Carter of Mars.
Yes, the least successful would-be Disney franchise of the 2000s directly led to the most successful movie franchise, the one Disney paid $4 billion to acquire. The next time you watch Star Wars, see if you can see a bit of John Carter and Flash Gordon in the characters and story!
Star Wars Has Reached Outer Space
Star Wars (theoretically) existed “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” The saga takes places among the stars, and that’s why it’s fitting that the film has been appreciated the proper way. Astronauts have watched the movie in outer space!
To celebrate May the 4th three years ago, astronauts made one of the most dramatic tweets ever on the holiday. The 140 characters stated, “Just watching @starwars. In space. No big deal. #StarWarsDay #Maythe4thBeWithYou”. Yes, someone beyond the planet Earth has celebrated Star Wars Day with a screening.
NASA’s actually done a terrific job with May the 4th. Back in 2014, R2-D2 spent his May the 4th holiday at the facility. You can watch the adorable and uplifting video here. What will NASA do to show some love to the Star Wars franchise today? You’ll have to check their twitter feed to find out. If it’s really good, I’ll put it in the next MickeyBlog News update, I promise.
Not Bad for a Giant Glow Stick
What’s the coolest part of the Holy Trilogy? Should you ask 20 different people, you’d get 20 different responses. The correct answer is, of course, “I love you.” “I know.” But that’s a side issue. Should you ask those same 20 people to name their favorite five things about Star Wars, one weapon will invariably make all the lists.
Star Wars is inexorably linked with the Lightsaber. It’s the weapon of choice in intergalactic close quarters combat or at least it was a long time ago in that galaxy far, far away. Movie fans have always loved the shiny sticks for their dazzling illumination and that inimitable sound, the one that once caused Groundskeeper Willie to punch Professor Frink.
Here’s the thing about that Lightsaber that everyone loves so much. It has value. At the time, it was a cheap prop that some prop guy on the set put together. Since then, it’s became one of the seminal props in movie history. And we learned its true value last summer.
In June of 2017, Ripley Entertainment purchased Luke Skywalker’s Lightsaber. Specifically, they bought the one that was used in Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. It wasn’t cheap. The company paid $450,000 for ownership of this prized possession. After 40 years in existence, only three entities have owned this particular Lightsaber.
I’m not sure if it’s in mint condition or not, but you may find it on display. It was most recently available for viewings at Ripley’s Hollywood Odditorium. You can read some of the “odd” details about it here. This story will make you want to google “Graflex camera flash gun.” Rather than include it as a fact, I won’t spoil the explanation for you. The article will explain it.
People Die a LOT on Paper in Star Wars
Do you love Poe Dameron? Most of us do because the daring pilot is the finest flyer in The Resistance. We’re not alone in thinking that Oscar Isaac is wonderful in this role. J. J. Abrams, the director of the film tossed out a key part of the script after watching Isaac perform.
In the original script for Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, Dameron died on Jakku. That first time that you see him in the movie was also intended to be the last time you see him. After Abrams marveled at Isaac’s work, the film’s co-writer and director went back to the drawing board. He re-evaluated some of the story and didn’t just allow Dameron to live. Abrams gave Dameron a key role in the second half of the movie!
This wasn’t even the first famous example of a Star Wars character narrowly avoiding the Grim Reaper. Han Solo died in the original draft for Return of the Jedi. Lucas planned to take a break of at least a decade before doing another Star Wars movie, and he already knew that he would use different characters for the next trilogy. As such, he figured that a heroic death for Solo would prove meaningful to viewers with no lasting repercussions to the franchise. Crazy, huh?
Fortunately, George Lucas is a businessman. For reasons that I’ll explain in a moment, he cared about the merchandising sales in the years that would follow Return of the Jedi. Upon reflection, he appreciated that a dead Han Solo was bad for business. So, everyone’s favorite space pilot got to marry Princess Leia and bear the evil child that would eventually threaten the universe. That’s right. The First Order wouldn’t have their Supreme Leader, Kylo Ren, if Lucas hadn’t been so greedy back in 1983.
The Best Movie Deal Ever
This final fact might be one that you already know, but it always bears mentioning. Back in the mid-1970s, the early perception of Star Wars was horrific. Competing studios were certain that the film would bomb out of theaters and become a laughing stock. These executives were biased, though. They’d passed on the unusual idea of a space western when Lucas had pitched it to several other groups.
Only Fox was willing to give the popular director a chance with his unique project. They agreed to let Lucas make the movie. They fretted over his salary, though. Coming off of American Graffiti, Lucas wasn’t a cheap hire. That film had grossed $140 million with a budget of less than $800,000. He’d earned a huge pay raise.
Facing huge costs for the Star Wars production, Fox begged Lucas to lower his asking price on his directorial fee. He agreed to drop it by $500,000 in exchange for one unusual concession. Lucas wanted the merchandising rights to the film he was about to make. Fox had no reason at the time to deny him this request, as they expected the movie to bomb. They were primarily focused on developing a working relationship with a promising new talent in the industry.
This seems like a good time to mention that George Lucas is worth more than $5 billion.
Yes, he earned $4.1 billion from the sale of Star Wars to Disney. Don’t get confused on the point, though. He was a billionaire long before he ever sold Lucasfilm. In exchange for losing $500,000 in upfront salary, the auteur earned a large chunk of every Lightsaber, figurine, and lunchbox ever made with the Star Wars brand on it.
The estimates are that he’s given away billions of dollars in philanthropic endeavors, all of which was possible because Fox didn’t understand the appeal of a movie it paid George Lucas to make. On May the 4th, always remember that the man who invented Star Wars isn’t just a storytelling genius. He’s also one of the shrewdest businesspeople on the planet. He turned $500,000 into $5 billion. That’s a pretty solid return on investment. Oh, and Lightsabers are cool, too.
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