“We were cast as an ensemble. I mean they had another set of three actors, and if they had gone the other way none of us would be here,” said Mark Hamill.
It was 1977, a new movie called “Star Wars” had become a massive hit. Hamill was on TV to talk about it. Harrison Ford, sitting next to him, explained the concept further to host Mike Douglas, who replied, “In other words, they looked to find the right chemistry, is that what you’re saying?”
The right chemistry. If you were to ask me — a die-hard fan of the Original Trilogy — what it is that makes those films really special, I’d name two things. The chemistry, the on-screen relationships between Fisher, Ford and Hamill — and the tantalising, evocative quality of the writing.
“Before the dark times, before the Empire.” “When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master.” “There is another Skywalker.” “That’s no moon, it’s a space station.”
Lines like these, now infamous, were designed to hint — strongly — that there was much more to this galaxy than what cinema-goers witnessed in just those three films. That idea, of a fuller narrative, a wider story, was embedded. Like the well-worn, rust-bucket space ships, it grounded the Original Trilogy and made the viewer feel that they were merely glimpsing something much bigger. So beguiling was that linguistic scene-setting.
It’s by no means a feature of script writing exclusive to Star Wars. Evocative references to lore are essential to Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Star Trek and many others. Besides helping the viewer really believe in an on-screen world, the backstory is a ready-made money-making enterprise. Right from the beginning with Star Wars, people have sought to go beyond those first three films. Far beyond. A bantha-sized industrial behemoth has been dragging the Star Wars phenomenon along interminably for decades now. Radio series, novels, video games, comic books, TV shows, fan fiction — and, yeah, more films.
Now that Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker has finally landed on our planet, the saga has “come to an end”, as Disney would say. What an interesting turn of phrase. In a universe where there are endless stories to discover, I want to focus on just one. The central story told across nine films rules them all. Really, it…