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Feature: Star Wars at 30
Feeling the Force
Veteran Starburst writer and film reviewer Alan Jones delves deep into the recesses of his movie-enriched mind to look back on the Sci-Fi movie that started it all…
For those of you who didn’t know, I’m an avid collector of Fantasy film memorabilia. It’s a subject I’ve written about in the past within these pages. Amongst many items gleaned from various movie sets and press offices throughout the years, I have three special favourites, because they remind me of my start in this journalist business and the very reason you are holding a copy of this magazine in your hands.
Very Special Item number one is a bound book of 20 black and white stills from Star Wars when it still sported the title The Star Wars printed on the cover. Everyone who worked on the movie at Elstree Studios in 1976 was given one of these, signed by director George Lucas and producer Gary Kurtz. ‘Thank you for your contribution to Star Wars’ is written on the reverse of the last photo.
VSI number two is a star paperweight made out of clear perspex with ‘May the Force Be With You’ etched on it. These were placed on every table if you attended the after-show party at the London première of what would turn out to be one of the best-loved, highly influential and most profitable genre movies in cinema history.
VSI item number three is the Christmas card sent to me by Gary Kurtz in 1980. We had kept in touch since our first meeting and this seasonal greeting is my absolute favourite because the colourful graphic is Yoda dressed as Santa Claus on a sleigh delivering a sackful of presents. The answer to your first question is no, I’m not selling them. The answer to your second, how the f**k did he get hold of such prized possessions, is about to be revealed...
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, before I’d even entered the film business professionally, I used to work in The Portobello Hotel. This boutique establishment wasn’t like any other hotel you could imagine. It was very free and easy, the staff mixed with the guests (it was encouraged), it was Glamour Party Central, and it marked one of the best times of my life. It was a blast hanging out with Abba, Queen, Blondie and every pop group of the day, plus Jaws star Richard Dreyfus, Jack Nicholson, Ryan O’Neal… the list is endless. The hotel remains a celebrity hide-out for the likes of Kate Moss and Johnny Depp. And so it was on one of my night shifts in early 1976 that three people walked through the door with four-month room reservations: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. They were in town to make this little Outer Space Adventure Fantasy for a name I vaguely recalled directing THX 1138, a slice of experimental Sci-Fi I really enjoyed. “Oh, you’re a fan,” said Fisher. You can guess the rest...
Over the weeks we became friendly, I especially with Ford, who would often stay up until the early hours, and soon I was a covert visitor on the Elstree sets meeting the rest of the cast and crew. It was my first time on any set and to say I was absolutely thrilled is an understatement, especially in the light of the great, revered and mythic things to come. I keep reading the set was a closed one. That wasn’t my impression at all.
by Alan Jones
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