40 fun facts about Star Wars: A New Hope

Contributed by

On May 25, 1977, Star Wars ushered in a new dimension of science fiction and fantasy entertainment and has illuminated our lives with its dashing heroes, cruel villains, exotic aliens and sleek starships for nearly five decades. I was one of those geeky 12-year-olds who stood in a mile-long line at the Coronet Theater in San Francisco for an epic 70mm, 6-track stereophonic sound affair on opening day, even smuggling in my Sanyo boom box to tape the film and revisit it in my headphones while falling asleep every night.

Star Wars legends and lore could fill volumes with fun facts and trivia about the first production's trials and tribulations. Many of these listed below will be totally familiar to you and some will be refreshingly foreign, but they all make up the sparkling tapestry of the Star Wars experience.

Here, in no particular order, are 40 fun facts revolving around George Lucas and Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. Please add your own interesting tidbits in the comments section below!

- Star Wars opened in just 32 theaters on May 25, 1977, but was expanded to 43 over the premiere holiday weekend.

- Star Wars' budget was initially $10 million but was boosted up to $11-12 million after it was completed.

- Star Wars' grand premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard was only made possible by the delay of William Friedkin's Sorcerer.

- To this day, Star Wars: A New Hope has raked in $775 million worldwide, including re-releases and special editions.

- At the 1978 Academy Awards, Star Wars took home six Oscars for Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects and Best Original Score

- Needing more aliens for his cantina scene, Lucas asked makeup master Rick Baker to use off-the-shelf monster masks to fill in the crowd.

- Many plot devices of Star Wars came from director Akira Kurosawa's 1958 classic The Hidden Fortress.

- Lucas pitched Star Wars to studios with a striking series of 21 drawings he commissioned from famed illustrator Ralph McQuarrie, including scenes of Luke Starkiller clashing with Darth Vader, the rowdy Mos Eisley cantina and the Millennium Falcon parked in Docking Bay 94.

- Han boasting of the Falcon's Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs was originally a writing mistake. George Lucas mistook parsec for a unit of time, which makes no sense since parsecs are a measure of distance.

- The iconic opening crawl is a nod to old Flash Gordon serials and was accomplished by placing two-foot-wide die-cut yellow letters over a 6-foot-long black paper and passing the camera over the page.

- Lucas based the mythological framework of the original Star Wars around the theories and writings of Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero With a Thousand Faces.

- The name Darth Vader has simple origins. Darth is a variation of the word dark. And Vader is a variation of father.

- James Earl Jones was picked to voice Vader due to his deep, mellifluous voice and was paid a total of $7,500 for his two-hour vocal work.

- Lucas used vintage newsreel footage of actual World War II dogfights to help choreograph his space battles.

- Sir Alec Guinness once famously declared Star Wars as "fairy-tale rubbish."

- Guinness negotiated the best deal of all the main cast members, receiving 2.25% of the profits of the movie, which came to $3.3 million back then. Estimates have him making over $60 million over the years from this deal. Not bad for rubbish!

- While shooting the trash compactor scene, Mark Hamill held his breath so long that he popped a blood vessel in the side of his face. Lucas had to adjust framing while shooting the rest of the scene to avoid showing the dark mark.

- The original design of the Millennium Falcon looked very similar to the Rebel Blockage Runner seen in the opening sequence. Lucas made his modelmakers change it because it looked too much like the spaceships in Space: 1999.

- After the huge success of American Graffiti in 1973, Lucas delivered a 13-page treatment of The Star Wars to Universal Studios and United Artists, who turned him down cold

- Harrison Ford, who played Bob Falfa, the cocky street racer in American Graffiti, at first was only brought in during casting to help deliver lines but was ultimately cast as Han Solo when Lucas preferred his acting style.

- USC grad Ben Burtt revolutionized the use of sound effects in cinema and was given a Special Achievement Academy Award for his work on Star Wars.

- Chewbacca's growl is a blend of bear, lion, walrus and badger vocalizations.

- R2-D2’s "voice" was created using synthesizer loops matched with beeps, tweets and boops patterned after infant coos performed by Burtt himself.

- Darth Vader's sinister breathing was recorded by sticking a microphone inside a scuba tank regulator.

- The Tusken Raider yowl is a cocktail of mule sounds and people imitating mule sounds.

- The famous lightsaber buzzing whoosh was made by blending the hum of a 35mm film projector and passing a broken microphone cable by the tubes of an old TV set.

- The sound of a screeching TIE Fighter engine was created by combining an elephant's bellow and an auto driving on rainy pavement.

- The production filmed all its Tatooine exteriors in the country of Tunisia.

- 20th Century Fox was caught off guard by the film's success and had the lab working around the clock to strike up new 35mm and 70mm prints.

- By the peak hysteria for Star Wars in late summer 1977, the space fantasy was playing in 1,098 theaters across the United States, an astronomical figure back in the day.

- Number of days in wide release when official gross surpassed $100 million: 81

- Longest-running engagement: 76 weeks, Westgate Theater in Portland, Oregon

- Mark Hamill made $650,000 plus 0.025% of the movie’s total profit, as well as revenue on re-releases, TV screening and more.

- Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) was originally paid $450 per week for a total of 12 weeks = $5,400

- Kenny Baker's (R2D2) paycheck: $7,810 with no royalties

- The Rebel Blockade Runner's official name is the Tantive IV and was revealed on NPR's 1981 radio adaptation of A New Hope.

- Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin) found his black costume boots so uncomfortable that he wore comfy slippers during many of his scenes.

- Greedo speaks a South American language called Quechua.

- A disco version of the Star Wars theme became a Billboard No.1 hit in disco-crazed 1977 and held the top slot for two weeks.

- HAN SHOT FIRST!!