George Lucas' creative process in developing STAR WARS is featured in BLOCKBUSTER.
George Lucas had studied literature and sociology at Modesto Junior College, and took an interest in the story arcs of major characters. When he was denied the rights to Flash Gordon in the early 1970s, he began writing his own epic space adventure, determined to build a world with rich history and detail.
1. Luke Skywalker
It has been reported that George used his own name as a placeholder for the main protagonist in early treatments of The Star Wars, but the name used throughout pre-production was Starkiller.
This became Luke Starkiller later on, but he did not like the idea of Luke being named "Star Killer" when the story called for him to "kill a star" (the Death Star). It also sounded a bit too intense for the character. He settled for a subtler moniker when he replaced it with Skywalker instead.
As for the name Luke, it's been reported that it was used because it is similar to the Greek word "leukos," which means "light." (But some have also pointed out that "Luke S." sounds very similar to "Lucas," so it's possible George's name lives on in the mystique after all.)
2. Princess Leia
Princess Leia, or Princess Leia Organa, was modeled after Princess Dejah Thoris from John Carter of Mars. The New York Times reported in 1997 that "Leia" also references Lady Galadriel in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
Organa is a reference to her grounded nature and the story's larger theme of "nature versus technology."
3. Han Solo
Harrison Ford's iconic character gained his last name "Solo" simply because he was a loner. The central idea was that Han Solo was selfish and put himself ahead of anyone else — a theme in the film.
"Han" is an archiac version of the name "John," a name often associated with anonymity (as in "John Doe").
4. Darth Vader
The villain in STAR WARS carried a lot of deeper meanings. George modeled the Galactic Empire after the Nazis. It is no wonder that Lucas went to a German word, "vater."
The meaning of that word, "father," could have been a major spoiler for the plot twist that would come in a later STAR WARS film.
Much like with Luke meaning "light," "Darth" is a variation of the word "dark."
Tatooine is the name given by Lucas to Luke Skywalker's home planet. The name was not created until after STAR WARS began production in Tunisia -- and specifically the town of "Tataouine" which was near the filming locations.
6. Obi-Wan Kenobi
Arguably the strangest of the main character names from the original STAR WARS film, Obi-Wan Kenobi was meant to suggest a Japanese warrior feel. Specifically, this referenced Akira Kurosawa films: "Obi" is the name of the sash that ties a kimono closed, and "ken" is the name for a sword.
Before casting Alec Guiness, Lucas reportedly approached Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune to star in the role. Mifune reportedly turned down the offer because he felt it was "a film for children," according to the New York Times.
Lucas had fun with the names of some of his characters, rather than rooting them all in world culture. R2-D2 reportedly got his name from a sound editor's notation on footage from George's previous film, AMERICAN GRAFFITI.
Its meaning? "Reel two, dialogue two."
8. The Force
One of STAR WARS' most spiritual components is the idea of "The Force." This was originally a reference to ideas of a Canadian filmmaker, Roman Kroitor, who believed all living beings were connected to nature in some mysterious way, and those connections are what people believe to be God.
According to Variety, Lucas included this idea, and called it "The Force of Others" in the early drafts of the story. Brian De Palma reportedly suggested this longer name felt too cumbersome, and it was eventually shortened to "The Force."
Jedi is the name of the ancient order, and one that director Brian De Palma found to be confusing. After an early screening of STAR WARS, as portrayed in BLOCKBUSTER, De Palma remarked that no one would understand anything about the Jedi.
The word itself is a homage to the titles given to nobility in John Carter of Mars: Jeddak.
The biggest minor character of STAR WARS, Chewbacca made an immediate splash in pop culture, and became one of the most popular masks sold in stores, and Halloween costumes in 1977 and 1978. Chewbacca was inspired by Lucas' dog, an Alaska malamute, as described in BLOCKBUSTER Episode I: The World Builders.
Chewbacca references "sobaka," the Russian word for "man's best friend." Naturally, Chewbacca is "Han's best friend."
BLOCKBUSTER has been painstakingly researched, compiled and referenced from thousands of sources, and details many of the events that led to the creation of JAWS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, and STAR WARS — and the very idea of "the blockbuster" film.
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