As a Star Wars fan, you've seen the movies, from A New Hope to The Last Jedi, and beyond. And of course you've probably had a faux lightsaber battle or two, pretending to be Luke Skywalker, Rey, or maybe Kylo Ren. But can you name the seven actors who have portrayed Darth Vader? Do you know how Ralph McQuarrie helped shape the world of Star Wars? Are you familiar with Deak Starkiller, Darth Plagueis, or Drew Struzan? Have you seen the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special? 100 Things Star Wars Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die is the ultimate resource for true fans of the galaxy far, far away. In this revised and updated edition, Dan Casey has collected every essential piece of Star Wars knowledge and trivia, as well as must-do activites, and ranks them all from 1 to 100, providing an entertaining and easy-to-follow checklist for viewers old and new to progress on their way to fan superstardom.
About the Author
Dan Casey is a Los Angeles-based critic, commentator, and on-camera host. A senior editor for Nerdist, he has also been featured on StarWars.com, TOKYOPOP, McSweeney’s, FOX News’ Tech Take, AMC Movie Talk, and the Young Turks' Nerd Alert. He is the author of 100 Things Avengers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.
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A Galaxy Far, Far Away
Everything changed on May 25, 1977. To the untrained eye, it was just another endless day in what seemed like a year that threatened to drag on forever. In the Netherlands, two days prior, a group of Moluccan terrorists seized control of a train and a school in the Netherlands, holding more than 100 children hostage. Two months prior, KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736 collided mid-air, killing 583 people in a horrific accident at the Tenerife airport in the Canary Islands; at the time, it was the deadliest accident in aviation history. In Dover, Massachusetts, residents reported seeing sights of an eerie monster dubbed the Dover Demon. On television, viewers were made to wrestle with their own demons as British journalist David Frost reopened old wounds with former President Richard Nixon in a four-night interview series. In short, the country — and even the world — felt as though it could use a new hope. On that Memorial Day weekend, that was exactly what they got, as a little-known sci-fi film called Star Wars opened in theaters and changed the course of cultural history.
The lights in the theaters faded to black as the reel-to-reel roared to life. After the classic Chuck Jones cartoon short Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½th Century played — something on which George Lucas insisted — the Fox fanfare filled the theater with its indelible drum roll and bright, piercing horns, heralding the arrival of something new. (In fact, this fanfare, originally created in 1933 by Alfred Newman, had fallen out of use by the time of Star Wars' premiere; it was another relic that Lucas insisted on reviving and appending to his baby.) Yet the fanfare was merely a preamble, a triumphant crescendo paving the way for 10 simple words in an icy blue font that would burn their way into the wrinkles of our brains: "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away ..."
This was the first indication that audience members weren't in for another run-of-the-mill sci-fi affair; these words had a fairy tale quality to them. That's because this wasn't "sci-fi" per se — it was space fantasy, a clever amalgamation of multiple genres to make an elemental tale of good and evil, light and dark, all set against a backdrop of the infinite. Of course, this thought barely had time to register for most viewers because suddenly the massive, yellow Star Wars logo filled the frame, accompanied by the thunderous arrival of John Williams' opening theme. Then, came the opening crawl, the sprawling wall of slowly scrolling text that crept up from the bottom of the screen, flying off into oblivion. (Note: the title Episode IV: A New Hope would not appear in the opening credits until the film's re-release in 1981.)
On its first day, the film opened in just 32 theaters across the country, and was set to open in 11 more over the coming days. There had only been one trailer for the film that had come out the previous Christmas, which promptly disappeared until, like Jesus, it returned for Easter. In spite of what seemed like a relative non-presence, the film had record-breaking ticket sales, grossing $255,000 on opening day. By the end of the weekend, it had grossed $2.5 million in ticket sales, technically placing it behind Smokey and the Bandit, which grossed $2.7 million across 386 screens. The numbers don't lie, though. A new king had been crowned.
The film became an instant cultural phenomenon. It spread like wildfire, all in an era before texting, Twitter, and Internet message boards. "On opening day I was on the East Coast and I did the morning-show circuit — Good Morning America," producer Gary Kurtz recalled in an interview. "In the afternoon I did a radio call-in show in Washington and this guy, this caller, was really enthusiastic and talking about the movie in really deep detail. I said, 'You know a lot abut the film.' He said, 'Yeah, yeah, I've seen it four times already.' And that was opening day. I knew something was happening." In fact, it is largely due to the popularity of Star Wars that theaters instated a policy of clearing out audiences in between shows; previously crowds could remain seated and watch the film again if they waited long enough.
Seeing the film immediately inducted the viewer into a sort of secret cabal with its own signifiers and vocabulary. "May the Force Be With You" buttons and homemade t-shirts emblazoned with Star Wars sayings became common sights, immediate indicators that you were in the know. Fans began trading theories and speculating about the film's vibrant backstory and the rich world Lucas had created. They were particularly curious about the nature of the Force. The film would go on to earn seven Academy Awards, $461 million in domestic box office receipts, and nearly $800 million in ticket sales worldwide. But more importantly, it had created a movement, a legion of diehard fans who weren't just obsessed with the intricacies of the galaxy far, far away.
This was, of course, just the beginning. Over the next 38 years, there would be five more Star Wars films, an ill-fated holiday special, two critically acclaimed animated series, countless video games, and a veritable merchandising empire. Honestly, if you can think of an item, there is a Star Wars-ified version of it (and it's likely housed at Rancho Obi-Wan for posterity). In total, the franchise has grossed more than $2.2 billion at the domestic box office, and more than $4.5 billion worldwide. Those box office receipts were just a fraction of the income generated by Star Wars; an April 2015 estimate stated that the franchise had generated $27 billion when toy sales, book sales, home video, and other assorted licensing fees were factored into the equation.
With statistics like that, it should come as no surprise that on October 30, 2012, the Walt Disney Corporation paid $4.05 billion to acquire Lucasfilm and all of its holdings, including the Star Wars brand. After giving his sweat, blood, and tears to this mythic story of good versus evil — two trilogies spanning the course of three decades — George Lucas was ready to pass the torch, the proverbial lightsaber, as it were. "For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next," said Lucas in an official press release at the time. "It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I've always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime."
Leading that new generation of filmmakers into the bold, new future are J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy, the respective Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi of this new era of Star Wars stories. After co-founding Amblin Entertainment with Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall, Kennedy had a long, fruitful career in film that prepared her well to become president of Lucasfilm. Making a name for himself first as a maverick writer and director, J.J. Abrams proved that he was more than up to the task of tackling a revered franchise in a sci-fi setting when he rebooted Star Trek for Paramount. Now, the duo are preparing the first new Star Wars film in a decade, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, combatting feverish fan expectation and ravenous paparazzi while they craft the film that will effectively kick off the next era of Star Wars films.
Considering that we already have release dates for Episode VIII and IX, as well as planned Star Wars Anthology standalone films in between, it doesn't look like the saga will be slowing down anytime soon. Some might see it as potential oversaturation, but to the Star Wars faithful, it seems like manna from heaven. Calling Star Wars a multi-generational franchise is underselling it because this is truly a family affair. Parents took their children to see it in the 1970s and '80s, and those children grew up endlessly watching it. Now, those children have children of their own, a new era of freshly minted Padawan learners who are growing up with their own unique encounters with the Star Wars series. It's all quite fitting for a saga of fathers and sons, really; after all, family has always been at the core of the Star Wars story. Where this sprawling space opera will take us next, nobody knows. Come December 18, 2015, we'll find out when we finally return to the galaxy far, far away — together.CHAPTER 2
George Lucas is so much more than Star Wars. Not only did he create Star Wars, but he is also the creative force behind the IndianaJones franchise. Over the course of his career, he has earned four Academy Award nominations. His companies, Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound, not only brought those films to life, but they redefined industry standards of excellence for a generation of filmmakers with advancements in special effects technology and filming techniques. He is largely responsible for the rise of the modern effects-driven blockbuster. He has a net worth of more than $5 billion, which is no small feat by anyone's measure. Yet without him — and moreover, without Star Wars — much of that would not exist.
Star Wars is the reason why we are here, after all. It is a uniting force, a pop cultural superpower that transcends cultures, languages, and generations. Epic in its scale, elemental in its narrative, it is a cultural product that borders on the universal — and it all sprang from the mind of one man, at least at first it did. Before we dive headfirst into the twisting, winding history of Star Wars, one must understand the origins of the galaxy far, far away. Though Star Wars' influences can be traced back to a number of sources, it was born from the confluence of passions and interests of George Lucas. With a quiet demeanor, a keen analytical eye, and a perpetual beard, Lucas seems at times like a man unstuck from time. A lifelong passionate film fan whose tastes appeared at odds with the mainstream, Lucas remained undeterred in his mission to transform the distinct pleasures of his youth into a sprawling saga of space fantasy.
Born on May 14, 1944, in Modesto, California, George Lucas grew up in relative comfort on an isolated ranch just outside the town itself. It was, by all means, the quintessential experience of growing up in small-town America. Like Luke Skywalker, Lucas had a need for speed in his younger days, spending endless hours at the racetracks of Modesto. Securing a fake ID, the young Lucas entered into autocross races of his own, and his world seemed to revolve around tinkering under the hood of his souped-up Autobianchi Bianchina, an Italian supermini that he tricked out to eke out every extra ounce of speed that he could. However, all of that changed on June 12, 1962, when Lucas was involved in a nearly fatal car wreck that cut short his teenage aspirations of being a professional racecar driver. It was a watershed moment that gave Lucas a new attitude on life, one that would stay with him for many, many years.
Speaking with Oprah Winfrey in 2012, Lucas said, "It gave me this perspective on life that I'm operating on extra credit. I'm never afraid of dying. What I'm getting is bonus material." It was the fearlessness Lucas now experienced which allowed him to channel that familiar sense of adrenaline into his filmic work. In fact, when Star Wars first came out in 1977, it felt faster-paced than any of its rivals at the time. It may sound silly when compared to the frenetic, apoplectic editing style heralded by Jason Bourne and his ilk, but it was the truth.
Lucas' fondness for filmmaking also blossomed from his passion for automobile racing. While working as a pit mechanic for the AWOL Sports Car Competition Club, Lucas would often bring his 8mm camera with him. One day, it happened to catch the eye of a famous cinematographer named Haskell Wexler, who took an interest in the young man, noting his keen cinematic eye. With some pushing and prodding — and a phone call by Wexler to a USC instructor — Lucas applied to the film school at the University of Southern California. Whether it was due to Wexler's influence or his own aptitude, Lucas was accepted, and officially enrolled as a film student at USC.
Though he would come into his own at USC, the origins of Lucas' lifelong fascination came from his time at Modesto Junior College. Alongside his childhood friend John Plummer, Lucas would venture into Berkley and San Francisco to seek out the burgeoning independent film scene on the North Coast. In particular, a series called Canyon Cinema, curated by filmmakers Stan Brakhage and Bruce Conner, called out to the boys like a siren song. At these screenings, George Lucas turned from casual consumer to cineaste. Of all the films he saw, a short film called 21-87 had the greatest influence on Lucas. Created by a young Montreal filmmaker named Arthur Lipsett, 2187 was a pastiche of seemingly random audio clips and video footage culled from the National Film Board of Canada's archives. One audio clip spoke of a "kind of force" that pervaded man and nature. It was a sentiment that would evolve into the Force of the Star Wars films and a film that would echo across the galaxy far, far away.
At USC, however, George Lucas went from gawky Modesto teen to one of the brightest young cinematic lights the school had ever known. Alongside classmates like Walter Murch, John Milius, Howard Kazanjian, and Robert Zemeckis, Lucas became part of a clique known as the Dirty Dozen, a group of emerging filmmakers who would go on to become major players within the film industry. In particular, they had a passion for cinema outside the cultural norm, especially world cinema. To wit, John Milius, who would go on to co-write Apocalypse Now and direct Conan the Barbarian, introduced him to the works of Akira Kurosawa, which would have a powerful effect on the development of Star Wars.
In 1966, Lucas graduated from USC and received a draft letter for the U.S. Army. However, when Lucas reported for medical inspection, he learned that he would not be heading to Officer Candidate School or to Vietnam at all; he received a 4-F rating and a diagnosis of diabetes, the result of surviving on a steady diet of Coca-Cola and Hershey's bars in the editing room at USC. Embarking on a lifestyle that bordered on ascetic, Lucas cleaned up his act and his diet in order to improve his bill of health. Though he intended to apply to USC graduate school, his brief detour into potential military service caused him to miss the application deadline. Rather than rest on his laurels, Lucas started a job cutting films together for the U.S. Information Agency, working out of editor Verna Fields' living room. This was a formative experience for Lucas, not only because he learned that he wanted to be a director and producer, not an editor, but also because he met a young woman named Marcia Griffin, whom Fields had hired as a second editor. She was clever, willful, and able to match Lucas creatively, pound for pound. It's no wonder that in a few short years, she would be his first wife.
"Neither one of us would take any shit from the other," Lucas said of his future wife. She was his intellectual equal, but more importantly, she challenged him in new and exciting ways. It's fitting that she was one of the first people that he told about the space fantasy story swirling around in his head, the result of years of consuming sci-fi adventure serials like Flash Gordon. "That damn movie was whirring through the editing machine in George's head on the day we met," Marcia would reveal nearly 20 years later, in the wake of their divorce. "He never doubted it would get made. ... He spent a lot of time thinking of ways to get those spaceships and creatures on the screen." Before he made Star Wars though, Lucas made a splash at USC graduate school with a futuristic sci-fi short called Electronic Labyrinth: THX-1138 4EB. It was a dense, Orwellian tale of man on the run from an oppressive government. The film would serve as a calling card of sorts for Lucas, attracting the attention of another student filmmaker, a young man named Steven Spielberg (although it would be more than a decade before the two would collaborate). After graduating, the strength of THX helped Lucas land a scholarship for an internship at Warner Bros. While on the studio backlot, his former classmate and Dirty Dozen cohort Howard Kazanjian introduced Lucas to another hotshot director whose star was on the rise, Francis Ford Coppola. Slightly older than Lucas, Coppola saw potential in the young USC grad, and took him under his wing.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "100 Things Star Wars Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die"
Copyright © 2018 Daniel Casey.
Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 A Galaxy Far, Far Away 1
2 George Lucas 5
3 Star Wars: A New Hope 15
4 The Empire Strikes Back 22
5 Return of the Jedi 31
6 The Phantom Menace 38
7 Attack of the Clones 44
8 Revenge of the Sith 50
9 The Force Awakens 58
10 The Last Jedi 64
11 Rogue One 74
12 Luke Skywalker 82
13 Princess Leia Organa 93
14 Darth Vader (a.k.a Anakin Skywalker) 101
15 Han Solo 107
16 Chewbacca 113
17 R2-D2 120
18 C-3PO 126
19 Rey 132
20 Finn 139
21 Kylo Ren 145
22 Poe Dameron 152
23 BB-8 157
24 Star Wars: The Clone Wars 162
25 Star Wars: Rebels 166
26 J.J. Abrams 170
27 Irvin Kershner 175
28 Richard Marquand 178
29 Rian Johnson 182
30 The Jedi Order 186
31 The Sith Order 190
32 The Force 193
33 Every Force Power Explained 197
34 A Brief Guide to the Galaxy Far, Far Away: The Most Important Planets 206
35 Master Yoda 212
36 Obi-Wan Kenobi 219
37 Boba Fett 224
38 Supreme Leader Snoke 228
39 General Hux 232
40 Rose Tico 236
41 Mark Hamill 242
42 Carrie Fisher 247
43 Harrison Ford 253
44 Sir Alec Guinness 259
45 Emperor Palpatine 262
46 Jabba the Hutt 268
47 Jar Jar Binks 272
48 Grand Moff Tarkin 275
49 Lando Calrissian 279
50 The Death Star 281
51 Peter Mayhew 285
52 Anthony Daniels 289
53 Kenny Baker 292
54 The Nine Vaders 296
55 Ahsoka Tano 301
56 Qui-Gon Jinn 305
57 Darth Maul 308
58 Jango Fett 312
59 Padme Amidala 314
60 Mace Windu 317
61 General Grievous 321
62 The Hunt for Wedge Antilles 323
63 Doctor Aphra 326
64 A Hive of Scum and Villainy 331
65 Kathleen Kennedy, the Most Powerful Woman in Hollywood 333
66 Count Dooku 338
67 Darth Plagueis; or the Sith Who Knew Too Much 341
68 The Expanded Universe: What Happened? 343
69 Stormtroopers vs. Clonetroopers: a Guide to the Expendable 346
70 Splinter of the Mind's Eye: the Almost Sequel 352
71 Essential Star Wars Expanded Universe Stories 355
72 Lawrence Kasdan 358
73 Ralph MeQuarrie 363
74 The Kessel Run; or How Han Solo Learned to Time Travel 366
75 Order 66 and Operation Knightfall 369
76 The Jedi Council: a Who's Who 373
77 Admiral Ackbar 379
78 Lightsabers 384
79 The Millennium Falcon 389
80 The Imperial Walkers: AT-ATs, AT-STs, and Beyond 393
81 Star Tours: How Movie Magic Met the Magic Kingdom 398
82 Marcia Lucas: the True Hero of the Galaxy Far, Far Away 403
83 Plan the Ultimate Star Wars Vacation 408
84 Skywalker Ranch 412
85 Charles Lippincott 415
86 John Dykstra 419
87 Drew Struzan 422
88 John Williams 425
89 The Special Editions: What's the Big Deal Anyway? 429
90 Fight Like a Jedi with Lightsaber Lessons 435
91 Live the Movies-Enlist in the 501st Legion 438
92 Ho Ho Oh No! the Star Wars Holiday Special 440
93 The Opening Crawl 445
94 How Star Wars Saved Marvel Comics 447
95 Who Shot First? Han Solo vs. Greedo 451
96 The Scream Heard' Round the Galaxy 453
97 Rancho Obi-Wan 456
98 Build Your Own R2-D2 459
99 Porgs 462
100 May the Fourth Be With You 464