Why Were There No Spaceballs Action Figures?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Spaceballs had a deal that involved them agreeing to do very limited licensing tie-ins with their film.

One of the most famous scenes in Mel Brooks’ Star Wars parody, Spaceballs…

was the scene where Brooks (as the Yoda parody “Yogurt”) mocks the proliferation of Star Wars merchandising by telling the other characters in the film that the real money is in merchandising!

Amazingly enough, the film Spaceballs actually did not have any notable tie-in merchandising of its own.

Why was this?
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Did Alec Guinness Come Up With the Idea for Obi-Wan Kenobi to Die in Star Wars?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Alec Guinness came up with the idea for Obi-Wan Kenobi to die in Star Wars.

An interesting but often misunderstood part of Star Wars lore is Sir Alec Guinness’ distaste for the Star Wars film franchise. The Academy Award-winning actor was the most famous member of the cast when the film was originally announced. Clearly, though, while he felt that the film would be a financial success, he never imagined that it would become so successful that later in his life he would be better known for playing Obi Wan Kenobi than for doing dozens of acclaimed films and many years of acclaimed Shakespeare productions on the stage (on top of his Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actor for playing Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai, Guinness also won a Tony Award playing Dylan Thomas in the play Dylan). He was certainly critical of the film (especially the dialogue) but he also praised it. When he first saw the film, he wrote in his diary:

It’s a pretty staggering film as spectacle, and technically brilliant. Exciting, very noisy and warm-hearted. The battle scenes at the end go on for five minutes too long, I feel, and some of the dialogue is excruciating and much of it is lost in noise, but it remains a vivid experience. The only really disappointing performance was Tony Daniels as the robot — fidgety and over-elaborately spoken. Not that any of the cast can stand up to the mechanical things around them.

In addition, he was thoroughly grateful to George Lucas for the financial windfall Guinness received from the film’s success. After all, he did return for both sequels. So it was not like he abhorred the films. His true ire seemed to be directed at people who couldn’t seem to see him as anything other than Obi-Wan Kenobi. In 1997, he wrote in his diary, “Was unpleasant to a woman journalist on Telegraph, who wanted to know how much I earned on Star Wars. Oh, I’m sick of that film and all the hype.”

That said, it is true that Guinness had a hard time on the actual filming of the first film. He wrote to a friend of his, Anne Kaufman, about the film:

Can’t say I’m enjoying the film. New rubbish dialogue reaches me every other day on wadges of pink paper — and none of it makes my character clear or even bearable. I just think, thankfully, of the lovely bread, which will help me to keep going until next April . . . I must off to studio and work with a dwarf (very sweet — and he has to wash in a bidet) and your fellow countrymen Mark Hamill and Tennyson (that can’t be right) Ford. Ellison (? — no!) — well, a rangy, languid young man who is probably intelligent and amusing. But oh, God, God, they make me feel 90 — and treat me as if I was 106 — Oh, Harrison Ford, ever heard of him?

This has led to the legend that Alec Guinness was so sick of filming the movie that he came up with the idea that George Lucas should kill off Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Guinness himself claimed it to be true in 1999, noting that he convinced Lucas that it would make Obi-Wan a stronger character, adding “What I didn’t tell Lucas was that I just couldn’t go on speaking those bloody awful, banal lines. I’d had enough of the mumbo jumbo.” Actors asking to be killed off is a popular area for possible legends, as we’ve already detailed in past Movie Legends Revealed whether Leonard Nimoy asked to be killed in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and whether Harrison Ford asked to be killed in Return of the Jedi. So what is the truth here – did Alec Guinness come up with the idea to kill off Obi-Wan Kenobi?
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Did Harrison Ford Accidentally Audition for the Role of Han Solo in Star Wars?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Harrison Ford accidentally auditioned for the role of Han Solo in Star Wars.

While he has been lucky enough to play many different roles in a series of blockbuster films over his long movie career, the most important role in Harrison Ford’s career is still likely that of smuggler Han Solo in 1977’s Star Wars.

The success of that film directly led to him going from a little-known actor already in his mid-30s to a guy who you would hire to star in your big budget film. With all respect to his other famous role, Indiana Jones, if it were not for Solo we wouldn’t know Harrison Ford’s name today (outside of obsessed American Graffiti fans, of course). Ford eventually had a sort of love/hate relationship with the role that made him a star (as we’ve covered in an old Movie Legends Revealed, he even asked Star Wars Director George Lucas to kill off Han in the third Star Wars film, Return of the Jedi), but he also noted in a Reddit AMA that “Han Solo was also a huge part of my life.” But how did Ford get the chance to play Han Solo in the first place? Did it tie in with his famed early career in carpentry? Read on to find out!
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Did George Lucas Add a Scene to Star Wars to Make Sure That It Wouldn’t Be G-Rated?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: George Lucas added a scene involving a severed arm to assure that Star Wars would be rated PG rather than G.

When the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) instituted the film rating system in 1968, the approach was a good deal different than it is now. There were four ratings, G (for general audiences), M (for mature audiences, which became PG in 1972), R (restricted) and X (adults only, which became NC-17 in 1990). The only ratings that required age restrictions were R (no one admitted under 16 without a guardian – later changed to no one under 17) and X (no one admitted under 18 period – later changed to no one under 17). The G rating at the time was not intended to mean fare for children, it was meant that the film was simply suitable for a “general audience.” As a result, a number of films in the late 1960s and early 1970s were released with G ratings that would seem surprising today, such as True Grit, Planet of the Apes, The Odd Couple and Airport. Over a third of the films released in 1968 were rated G. These films were likely rated the way they were due to confusion over the M rating, the middle ground between “open to general audiences” and “restricted.” “Mature” gave off the wrong connotation, as M-rated films held no age restrictions, but it seemed like “mature” was suggesting more adult fare while it was just meant to let parents know that the film might be particularly unsuitable for small children. The PG rating was introduced in 1972 and soon became the most popular rating for non-R films (as you might imagine, since PG was just for all films that didn’t meet the standard for an R, the content in PG films varied dramatically, ultimately leading to the introduction of the PG-13 rating, which also carried no age restriction, but at least gave parents the warning that kids under the age of 13 likely shouldn’t watch the film). Of the six Star Wars films by George Lucas, all but one of them were rated PG (just the final prequel, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, received a PG-13). The first three films predated the PG-13 rating, but when they were re-released in the 1990s, they maintained their PG rating.

However, legend has it (suggested to me by reader Mike J.) that Star Wars nearly received a G rating but actually added a scene to assure a PG rating. From a 1980 article about the shrinking amount of G-rated fare in 1980, it stated:

Even Star Wars didn’t risk the jinx of the G…the preliminary version initially earned a G rating from the MPAA. To get the desired PG, however, a scene depicting a dismembered arm was added to the cantina sequence.

Is this true?
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Was Star Wars Originally Subtitled “Episode IV: A New Hope”?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Star Wars was originally subtitled “Episode IV A NEW HOPE” as an homage to Flash Gordon cliffhangers and not because of any planned sequels

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: There was no “Episode IV A NEW HOPE” subtitle in the original Star Wars film because 20th Century Fox had it removed because it would be too confusing for moviegoers.

One of the main reasons why there are so many legends out there about Star Wars is because of the creator of Star Wars, George Lucas. Over the years, Lucas has been quoted saying a number of seemingly contradictory statements about the Star Wars films. Rather than being contradictory, though, I think most of his statements come from him simply having lots and lots of ideas for the Star Wars films and those ideas have changed as time goes by. So when he is asked about them in 1977, he has one idea on how they will go. When he is asked about them in 1978, he has an entirely different idea. In 1979, a different idea and so on and so forth. The problem for fans is figuring out the timeline of when things were said, so that they can realize that two positions weren’t contradictory, Lucas merely changed his mind on them (and then likely changed it again and again). As a result, one of the more confusing pieces of Star Wars lore is exactly when did the the first Star Wars film get subtitled “Episode IV A NEW HOPE”?

There are enough different stories out there that I decided to do TWO Movie Legends on it this week (although both are directly related to each other).
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Did ‘N Sync Film Cameos as Jedi Knights in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: ‘N Sync filmed appearances as Jedi knights in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

Perhaps the key moment in the second Star Wars prequel, Attack of the Clones, is what is known as “The First Battle of Geonosis,” where Mace Windu and a group of Jedi Knights are saved from Separatists led by former Jedi Knight Count Dooku by Yoda and the Republic’s new clone army. This was the first battle of what would become known as the Clone Wars and was also all part of then-Supreme Chancellor Palpatine’s secret plan to take complete control of the Republic by manufacturing a civil war that would require him to be given special powers that would lead to him becoming Emperor Palpatine. The battle featured a whole lot of Jedi Knights in the background.

There were so many that it would be pretty easy to sneak some well-known faces into the background without any one noticing. Reader Chris B. wrote in to ask if that’s exactly what was done with the members of the pop group ‘N Sync. Chris asked:

I remember back when Star Wars Episode II was coming out I heard a rumor that the members of NSync would be playing Jedi Knights during the climatic final scene. You know, the one where Sam Jackson defiantly exclaims “This Party’s Over!” (hate that part). Anyhoo, if you could work some mojo and grab me an answer, I would be eternally grateful.

Read on for the answer!
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Was Darth Vader Not Originally Luke Skywalker’s Father in Empire Strikes Back?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Darth Vader was not originally Luke Skywalker’s father in The Empire Strikes Back.

Earlier this month, comedy writer Michael Schur, showrunner of Parks and Recreation and co-creator of Brooklyn 99, had an amusing tweet poking at a little bit of a plot hole in the Star Wars films:

“Owen, you must hide this baby, at all costs, from Anakin Skywalker.”
“Okay. Should we continue to call him Luke Skywalker?”
“Seems fine.”

The reason that that plot point did not exactly make sense was because originally Anakin Skywalker was not Darth Vader. It is fairly well known among even casual Star Wars fans that George Lucas’ original plans for “The Star Wars” were drastically different from what made it into the first film. This is the basis for Dark Horse Comics’ current mini-series The Star Wars, which is based on George Lucas’ original draft of the Star Wars story. However, as it turns out, there were still drastic changes to be made in Lucas’ plans for the films even after the first film, all the way up through the original screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back.

Read on to learn how the tragic death of a Sci-Fi legend might have re-shaped the Star Wars universe forever!
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Was the Wampa Attack in Empire Strikes Back Written to Explain Away Mark Hamill’s Facial Injuries He Suffered from a Car Accident?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: The Wampa attack on Luke Skywalker in the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back was written to explain away Mark Hamill’s facial injuries he suffered in a car accident.

Few events in Star Wars history are quite as complicated as Mark Hamill’s infamous car accident he suffered after primary filming was complete on the original Star Wars film. Since the accident occurred before the first film was released, Hamill was not yet a major star and as a result there was little to no media coverage of the accident at the time. Heck, there is even some debate over when the accident occurred (it’s not a significant debate, though, basically just a matter of whether it happened in December 1976 or January 1977. I think January 1977 is correct). So when people are forced to cover a story after the fact, quite naturally the accounts of the accident have become varied, from “He just broke his nose and one of his cheek bones” to “they had to reattach his nose.” Accounts of the accident are all over the place. One story about the accident, though, that has remained fairly consistent is that the scene early in The Empire Strikes Back

when Luke Skywalker is assaulted by the Yeti-like creature known as the Wampa was written into the film to explain away Mark Hamill’s facial injuries for the rest of the film.

Is that true?
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Did Concerns Over Toy Sales Keep Han Solo From Being Killed Off in Return of the Jedi?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Concern over toy sales kept Han Solo from being killed off in Return of the Jedi.

One of the biggest decisions that filmmakers have to make when dealing with franchises is how to handle killing off characters. Do you kill off one of your main characters? And if so, which one? This debate was a major one for George Lucas when he began working on the final film of the original Star Wars trilogy of films and as it turns out, at least one character might have survived due to, of all things, the Star Wars line of toys. Read on to learn what went down in the great “Should Han Solo die in Return of the Jedi?” debate of 1982.

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Did Steven Spielberg Win a Percentage of the Profits of the First Star Wars in a Bet?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Steven Spielberg won a percentage of the profits of the original Star Wars film in a bet.

One of the most difficult periods in the creative process for a filmmaker is the period after filming is completed but before the film is released. Once the film comes out, whether it is a hit or not, the creator at least knows where he or she stands. Before it comes out, though, their mind just races with the possibilities. You would be surprised at the massive hit films where their directors were freaking out after the filming was finished about all the things that had gone wrong and how no one was going to go watch the movie that they had just spent months of their life making. It was just this sort of reaction by director George Lucas in 1976 that led to one of the craziest bets in film history.

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