Over the last 18 plus months casting for J.J. Abrams upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII has been big news. Every wisp of a rumor about someone who might have hung out with someone who may possibly have met the director on the street and even thought of Star Wars made headlines. Of course, that all exploded earlier this week when they finally, after nearly endless speculation, announced the bulk of the cast. While the Internet has changed the speed and scale, this isn’t the first time that Star Wars has caused such a hullabaloo. This trend goes all the way back to George Lucas’ 1977 A New Hope, if you don’t believe us, check out the original casting announcements for yourself. Just a heads up, some of these scans are rather old and blurry, and may give you a headache, but you get the general idea.
You start out, much like the most recent incarnation, with an announcement that the film is in fact happening. Though Lucas had ventured into science fiction with THX-1138, you have to wonder what the overall response was to the American Graffiti guy venturing into the realm of space opera.
This is followed, as is usually the case, with news that production has been scheduled. You’ll likely recognize some of the names in this article, including Lucas, Gary Kurtz, and Alan Ladd, who all played big roles in the early stages of the franchise.
The next two pieces talk about the film, but also drop the first piece of casting news, that Alec Guinness landed a lead role. Given the relative unknown status of the other leads—Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford—you understand why this was the lead story. At this stage of the game, Luke’s last name was also still Starkiller not the iconic Skywalker.
Ford was probably the most known of the big three at the time, though he was far from a household name. Star Wars would be Hamill’s first role in a feature, and up to this point, Fisher was most known as Debbie Reynolds’ daughter.
And though they get the bulk of the attention, it isn’t just the actors that have important roles to play.
To illustrate that we’re not done with the casting news, the announcement that Peter Cushing joined the cast came late in the game. Looking at this trend we can expect to hear more news in the future.
Maybe A New Hope didn’t start off quite as big as the newer installments, there was still a great deal of advanced hype. And it didn’t take long for lines to form around the block and for future obsessive fanboys to see the movie dozens of times. Nowadays we take such fandom for granted, but it hasn’t always been the case.
This last one is the easily the most fun. This is a personal note from Steven Spielberg to Lucas on the occasion of Star Wars passing his own blockbuster, Jaws, in the number of domestic film rentals. Not only is the message from one friend and collaborator to another kind of sweet, but that image of R2-D2 hooking the shark on his fishing pole is freaking brilliant. I knew there was a reason we like Spielberg, I mean besides the decades worth of fantastic movies.
Star Wars: Episode VII opens December 18, 2015.