Alec Guinness Hated Star Wars And Obi-Wan Kenobi Didn’t Learn Anyone’s Names

By Rudie Obias | Updated

star wars quote Alec Guinness

When the original Star Wars film hit theaters on May 25, 1977, it became a giant hit and was well on its way to becoming one of the most successful and influential film series of all time. One of the elements that gave the space opera an air of respectability was the involvement of legendary actor Sir Alec Guinness in the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Can you even imagine what Star Wars would be like without Guinness?

Long-time fans likely recall that Guinness almost didn’t take the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars. In fact, some of the actor’s less-than-enthusiastic remarks about George Lucas‘ sci-fi flick were published in his 2003 biography.

In a letter to his friend Anne Kaufman, Alec Guinness dismissed Star Wars as “fairy-tale rubbish.” But like many a professional actor before him, Guinness took the iconic role because 20th Century Fox gave him a lot of money.

Here are some more choice words from Alec Guinness: The Official Biography…where he also gets George Lucas‘ first name wrong:

I have been offered a movie (20th Cent. Fox) which I may accept, if they come up with proper money. London and N. Africa, starting in mid-March. Science fiction – which gives me pause – but is to be directed by Paul [sic] Lucas who did ‘American Graffiti,’ which makes me feel I should. Big part. Fairy-tale rubbish but could be interesting perhaps.

Even once he accepted the job, Guinness’ demeanor stayed much the same. He continued:

… 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 keep going until next April even if Yahoo collapses in a week …

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 ninety – and treat me as if I was 106. – Oh, Harrison Ford – ever heard of him?

Man, there is just so much gold here it almost needs a blow-by-blow recap. Alec Guinness clearly despised being on set for Star Wars and likely felt the whole thing was completely beneath him. To his credit (kind of), this was before the movie and characters had become worldwide phenomenons and he clearly didn’t see it becoming this massive thing.

Beyond that, Alec Guinness also had major issues with the dialogue and didn’t, in any way, understand what the hell his character was all about. Hilariously complaining about the dialogue being sent his way and hating every bit of it.

star wars

The one positive for Alec Guinness playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars seemed to be the catering, at least he appreciated the bread.

And then he mentions, though not by name, Kenny Baker who he was working with at the time. The latter played R2D2 in the first movie. Alec Guinness clearly liked him, though again, not enough to say his name in the letter.

Finally, he completely bungles Harrison Ford’s name, though admittedly, he does seem to like the guy. Man, it’s all so great what is happening here. Imagine Alec Guinness looking around the Star Wars set, clueless as to who he is playing, no idea who anyone’s names, thinking the writing is elementary school level, but at least the grub isn’t bad.

The coup-de-grace to this whole debacle is that Alec Guinness ended up being great as Obi-Wan Kenobi. His role earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The film itself was nominated in numerous categories, including Best Picture and Best Director for George Lucas.

Alec Guinness, of course, went on to appear in the next two Star Wars films as well though only briefly.

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