Sunday 2 March 2014

A long time ago in a timewarp that was the 1970s

More Star Wars.
I can't help it. I have a 5 year old

Alec Guiness and Peter Cushing were the highest paid actors. Guiness earned a fortune as his agents had cleverly got him a 2% profits clause in his contract. And he had a 'no marketing' clause too, so never did any promotional work for the film.

Star Wars started the trend for British actors to be the baddies. {personally, I'm fine with this. It suits us. Christopher Lee is in the Star Wars sequels. Who is more of a baddie than Dracula?}

Alec Guiness became very rich indeed. Or he would have done had he not chosen to remain in Britain and pay 83p in the £ to the taxman.

When asked if he had any regrets about not going to America with the Rolling Stones and the Beatles and Michael Caine and Roger Moore and Sean Connery etc... Alec Guiness replied, "No. But I did hope Denis Healey might have sent me a thank you card for staying. I don't suppose he will."

In Britain 21 million went to see Star Wars. A record only beaten by the Sound of Music.
The acting union equity was reluctant to allow the three American leads into the country. They wanted British actors to be given the roles. It had to be pointed out that unless Equity relented hundreds of British film and acting jobs were at stake.

When Marc Hamill, having never traveled before, went into a British hotel to ask directions, the receptionist mistook his US accent for an IRA terrorist and called the police.

Lucas had a difficult time making Star Wars and had to sack several key people . The British technical people thought the movie a farce. They were not alone. Fox, who took up the Star Wars option after Universal had rejected it, had so little faith they gave George Lucas an unprecedented 40% of the merchandising rights.

More than 250 million small action figures were shipped in the eight years after the first film, going to countries across the world. In the first year alone 42m were sold. 

  The merchandise for the film was not in place to accommodate the demand for the first Christmas rush after the film's release. The toys were a new size that allowed for scale models to accompany them. 3 3/4 action figures. Lucas and merchandise company Kenner Toys hit upon a novel idea with the introduction of early bird certificate boxes. These were basically empty boxes that promised the receiver they would get the figures once they had been made. They sold for $16 at the time and the actual figures arrived two months later. Limited edition packs were re-released in 2005. 
A secod hand early bird pack is worth about $250 today. 

James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, was so sure the film was going to be a flop, he had his name omitted from the credits. 

Actor David Prouse, who played Darth Vader, kept breaking the lightpoles used as light sabers in the filming. He wasn't asked to the fight scenes in any of the sequels.

Cinemas in the US were were not keen to be buying into  the film and only a few took up the option, Fox gave them a threat that they wouldn't get The Other Side of Midnight - a widely-anticipated adaptation of a Sidney Sheldon novel. The Other Side of Midnight, starring Susan Sarandon, was a box office flop.

When Alec Guiness, the lead part by salary paid,  discovered he was to be killed off half way through he threatened to walk out."I don't understand a word of this script, anyway."

The British pound collapsed a few weeks after shooting began. A pound was worth $2 on day one and only $1.76 at the end. A half million dollar bonus to the Americans.

Star Wars was made during the 1976 heatwave. The Blue screen filming needed huge arc lights raising the temperatures high enough to cause fainting among the actors.

George Lucas was burgled during the filming. But what really upset him was the crew's working arrangements. He was used to the highly regualated and unionised Hollywood working practicies but Britain gave him an eye opener.
 Their routine was tightly regulated. 8.30am. Tea-break at 10am. 1.15 hour for lunch.
4pm. tea. 5.30 home time. No packing up time. Whistle blower's finish.
That this was the film industry made no difference to the union film crew. Tea break is tea break. Not a minute later! Even if in the middle of a scene.
Even when the director asked if the crew would work overtime he was told that they would need to vote on the matter on the following morning. And on that morning, said Lucas, whenever I asked, they voted no.

Hertsmere Borough Council purchased Elstree Studios in 2011. The studio generates £35 million a year in their film production division alone. According to Local Government Chronicle, “Hertsmere BC [a public administration] now take in around £1m a year in rent from the studios, equating to approximately 16% of council tax income.”


dearieme said...

I've never seen it: any good?

Dick the Prick said...

@dearieme - naughty!

I guess that's how you make movies. It sounds like a total car crash but with Lucas knowing exactly what he was doing. Obviously the chap's dined out from it ever since but both he and Spielberg built high spec, technically superb epic movies.

Looking back at some of the non remastered stuff you can see the glue on the celluloid which highlights it was a Wallace & Gromit time series operation of loads of cut & paste jobs. I guess the actors couldn't understand the background work and the shift in movies that Lucas was pioneering.

It seems unwise for Hertsmere Council to not do some good old fashioned politics and just have a quiet word with their chief planner & monitoring officer and show them the error of their ways by ramming a carrot up their arses - to reach this stage of ultimatum does seem folly.

I didn't know that Guiness had threatened to quit, Crikey! I assume his grandkids are now getting the royalties.

Cheers Bill.

Anonymous said...

I'm not convinced on all of the facts - if I recall Guinness actually requested to be killed off, and was somewhat dismayed when dying turned out not to be as permanent as he thought.

Of course Star Wars comes with all kinds of apocrypha - Lucas' rather scattershot way of doing things and occasional rewriting of history guarantees it!

Electro-Kevin said...

David Prouse also played the Green Cross Code man in a televised government safety campaign to teach children how to cross the road safely.

The City of London police used to put on a panto every year with police volunteering their time off to act in it. They'd tour children's wards, schools in deprived areas and the like.

Prouse would turn up in Darth Vader outfit which thrilled the kids (not to say the coppers too.) The City Police had their own Dalek (a real one from the Dr Who set) too. (I've been inside it !!!)

The story at the time was that Prouse got involved in the pantos after he - the Green Cross Code Man - had run over 'John Little' (AKA PC Jeremy Bailey - a giant of a man) when he'd been on point duty in his full police uniform at one of the busy road junctions.

As for Brits playing villains - I don't mind either, but when history is re written against us and our own forces are depicted as stupid, cruel, hot headed and untrustworthy then I can't help but think there's a campaign against us.

Electro-Kevin said...

You may ask how Darth Vader fits in a panto about Robin Hood.

Believe me.

Darth Vader fits in everything. The kids who haven't run screaming from the room - not as many as you'd think - love him to bits.

Electro-Kevin said...

Kids won't behave ? Eat their greens ? Tidy their rooms ?


(PS - At the same show that I went inside the Dalek I had been seated next to the Bros twins who were about nine then as well.)

Bill Quango MP said...

I saw mr Prouse at a kids party, in full Dayh Vader, when I was picking up a younger brother.

He had been filming and the mum had asked for an autograph for her son as it was his birthday and he said he'd turn up to the party if she liked . Which he did.

Top fellah.

And one fom me.

This Xmas my minion got a 5 yrs old darth vader cloak and plastic mask. He put it on and I had to find a wrapping roll inner to make o as a lightsabre.
The mask was slipping over his eyes, so I said ,
" do you want me to hold your hand up the stairs?"
To see his cousins.

" no dad! If they see you they will know its not the REAL Darth Vader."

So up he went. A 2ft high darth vader, with a cardboard tube and dinosaur slippers.
And there was a shriek from his many 3-8 year old cousins.. "Look! It's a darth Vader!"

Power of kids!

Jan said...

Your little one reminds me of my own son Bill. He used to put the Star Wars video on the TV very loudly, pull the curtains to give the right atmosphere, lay out all his "weapons", computer (ZX Spectrum) etc all very neatly (which wasn't his forte usually) then immerse himself in the Star Wars experience. He was about 6 if I remember rightly. He's 33 now and has twin sons of his own and can't wait to get them involved. They are a bit young yet (coming up to 3). It will be interesting to see if they love Star Wars as much as their dad does.

Bill Quango MP said...

I'm sure they will Jan.
My boy only got into it at 4. Before then it was Spiderman everything. Now poor spidey doesn't get a look in.

But the modern kids have a very mixed up Star Wars universe to us original kids.

Its all a jumble of Star Wars. Star Wars sequels. Star Wars Lego. Clone Wars. Star Wars Galactic Heroes {tm}. Star Wars fighter pods and Star Wars Angry Birds.

A good Grannie can't go wrong on ebay!

Electro-Kevin said...

Lovely DV story, BQ !

One of my lads spent a whole summer dressed as Anikin Skywalker (scuse spelling)

When he was three he spent that year as Bob the Builder.