The Adventures Of Luke Starkiller as Taken From The Journal Of The Whills: Saga One: Star Wars

Written by Chris Gelderd

Every great idea comes from your imagination, or rather; your imagination that has been inspired by something or someone else to give you said great idea.

George Walton Lucas Jr, the founder of small production company Lucasfilm since the 1960s, had a great idea for a movie in 1974; a Flash Gordon adventure. This was encouraged by his love of the Flash Gordon serials and the works of visionary director Akira Kurosawa. Before the seed was planted however, George Lucas had successful graduated from the University of Southern California and been turned down by the United States Army due to his diabetes. So, the only course that beckoned was his love for film.

After a few low-budget films under his belt like the panned ‘Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB’ in 1971 the well-received ‘American Graffiti’ in 1973, Lucas set his sights on buying the rights to Flash Gordon to make his own epic adventure film for the big screen. However, even with the help of his friend Francis Ford Coppola, George failed to acquire the rights and his vision was crushed

But this was a man with a dream, and one way or another he was going to achieve it! So, after ‘American Graffiti’ performed well, George began writing his own sci-fi adventure with a synopsis entitled ‘Journal of the Whills’. And so over the course of the next year, a vision started to come together that fused inspiration from world cinema, various genres and even his pet dog Indiana. Multiple drafts were done, and he threw ideas around trying to think what audiences would want to see; visions of a fantastical future, or adventures of a mystical past? Characters started to come together like General Annikin Starkiller, a large green smuggler with gills called Han Solo and mysterious villains known as Sith.

It became a classic story of good v evil, heroes and villains. A fantastical quest across the stars taken by a band of heroes to save the day, and a damsel in distress, held by evil villains as they try to conquer the galaxy. With conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie helping George turn his ideas of spaceships, sprawling planets, huge control rooms, armoured villains and roguish heroes into reality, by the time the fourth and final draft was complete, the story of Luke Starkiller, Jedi Knight, was ready to go. Securing a budget of $8.5m and the backing of 20th Century Fox, George laid the foundations through 1975

Forming his own visual effects company called ‘Industrial Light & Magic’, George began hiring the talent to bring his story to life. Visual effects engineer John Dykstra. Cinematographer Gilbert Taylor. Producer Gary Kurtz. Composer John Williams. Editor Paul Hirsch. Location scouting took place across America, North Africa and Europe to seek out locations ripe for turning into desert worlds and bustling cities, and Elstree Studios in London was hired for the more focused and controlled shooting.

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Young actor Mark Hamill was cast as Luke Skywalker – formally Starkiller – and with little experience to his name, George felt he was the perfect unknown face to become a young, naïve farm boy thrust into a galactic adventure.

Carrie Fisher, following a debut opposite Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn in ‘Shampoo’, took the role of Princess Leia, a member of the Galactic Senate and royal family, beating off competition from Jodie Foster, Karen Allen and Amy Irving to bag the role.

For the smuggler Han Solo, George Lucas wanted a new face for the role and so initially rejected young carpenter Harrison Ford, whom had worked with Lucas before on ‘American Graffiti’. It was only when Ford read lines for the auditions that his delivery actually won him the part, beating off competition from Sylvester Stallone, Christopher Walken, Jack Nicholson, Steve Martin and Billy Dee Williams to name but a few.

To counter his cast of unknown faces, Gary Kurtz made it clear that George needed some established actors to give the film credibility. For that, veteran actors Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness were cast as Governor Tarkin and Obi-Wan Kenobi respectively to add depth and a gravitas to their roles and importance to the story.

Theatre and radio actor Anthony Daniels was cast as protocol droid C-3PO who would act with his voice and body alone behind a full costume. Kenny Baker, standing at just 3ft 8 was cast as astromech droid R2-D2 to help control and operate the droid from inside. Rounding out the aliens and droids was Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, a 7ft gentle Wookiee with fierce loyalty to the heroes of the piece.

The physically imposing bit-part actor David Prowse was cast as Sith Lord Darth Vader, our villain clad in black. Due to his West Country accent, his physical stance was all that was needed. Orson Welles was wanted to voice Vader, but due to him being too well known, George cast American actor James Earl Jones for his deep and menacing voice as Vader, recorded in post-production to help create a villain full of mystery and danger.

With many more British and American talent filling out the rest of the cast of good guys and bad guys, ranging from farmers to pilots to aliens and soldiers, the shoot commenced in March 1976.

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It initially became more surreal as it went on. Cast and crew injected their passion and professionalism into the shoot for a film that seemed to be nothing but a “children’s film”. The harsh climate of Tunisia hampered external shots and proved difficult for Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker to work in, confined to their robotic suits, let alone the armoured clad Stormtroopers on set. The sets on Elstree were difficult to fit out and light correctly with their dark and brooding black and gray colours. Furthermore, director George was a very quiet and introverted man on set. Focused, serious and adamant to battle on to get his dream to the big screen, he was difficult to work with at times and many of the cast tried to crack his serious shell.

Even the actors, having as much fun as possible, found it one big joke. Harrison Ford lauded the script – “you can type this shit George but you sure can’t say it” – and production design – “there’s a princess with weird buns in her hair”. Kenny Baker felt the film was going to be a flop. Alec Guinness at times felt the film was mindless and had no real direction.

George was diagnosed wish exhaustion and hypertension by the end of shooting. Post-production was also a tough time in getting the visual effects right, working to a tight deadline that pushed a Christmas 1976 release back to summer 1977. Convincing studio execs and peers to have faith in the film was also tricky. It was a tough film from start to finish, and the budget expanded by $3m to a total of $11m taking in re-shoots and added effects. Composer John Williams recorded the soundtrack in March 1977 with the London Symphony Orchestra to help tell the story with music, not just words.

With little faith and marketing from Fox, only 40 theatres ordered the final cut of the film.

On Wednesday May 25th 1977, George Lucas’s dream of a small scale sci-fi space saga was finally released to low expectations.

It was called ‘Star Wars’.

40 years to that day, the rest, as they say, is history…

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The Three Empire Award Winners Have Been Announced

The ‘Three Empire Awards’ show, in which the nominations and winners are voted for by the public, took place tonight in London. From the off, some of the nominations were pretty questionable, for example ‘Captain America: Civil War’ was nominated for a ‘Best Thriller’ award? There were notable film absences in some of the categories, which didn’t give me much hope on the public’s voting for the winners. 

I mean let’s face it, these awards have got nothing on The Odysseys

‘Rogue One’ bagged the ‘Best Film’ award, and it’s director Gareth Edwards took home the award for ‘Best Director’.  Robert Eggers’ ‘The Witch’ took the prize for ‘Best Horror’, with it’s lead Anya Taylor-Joy taking home the ‘Best Female Newcomer’ award. ‘Deadpool’ managed to nab the ‘Best Screenplay’ award, and ‘Finding Dory’ swam ahead of ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ to win ‘Best Animation’.

‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ took home 4 awards, including ‘Best Costume Design’, ‘Best Make-Up and Hairstyling’, and Eddie Redmayne won ‘Best Actor’ for his performance as Newt Scamander. The awards ended with Sir Ian McKellen presented his best friend, Patrick Stewart, with the ‘Empire Legend’ Award. 

Best Male Newcomer: Dave Johns
Best Female Newcomer: Anya Taylor-Joy
Best Actress: Felicity Jones (Rogue One)
Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts)
Best Documentary: Supersonic
Best British Film: I, Daniel Blake
Best Comedy: The Greasy Strangler
Best Horror: The Witch
Best Thriller: Jason Bourne
Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy: A Monster Calls
Best Director: Gareth Edwards (Rogue One)
Best Film: Rogue One
Best Screenplay: Deadpool
Best Animated Film: Finding Dory
Best Soundtrack: La La Land
Best Costume Design: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Best Make-Up and Hairstyling: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Best Short Film: Inner Workings
Best Visual Effects: Doctor Strange
Best Production Design: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Empire also awarded 3 special prizes: 
Empire Hero: Tom Hiddleston
Empire Inspiration: Luc Beeson
Empire Legend: Sir Patrick Stewart

Written by Tom Sheffield

Writers’ Top 10 of 2016

A few surprises in the JumpCut UK writers’ top 10 of 2016

The festive season is over and the new year is here, and with the new year comes plenty of “best films of 2016” lists. Not one to miss out, the team here at JumpCut UK decided to pool together our individual top 10 of the year and create a Writers’ Top 10 of 2016. All of our writers were asked to name their personal top 10 films of the year, and they weren’t given any criteria about what kinds of film to choose (i.e they didn’t necessarily have to be films that would get film lecturers excited).

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First Rogue One Reactions Hit The Web

We are just days away from one of the most anticipated films of the year being released, and after the premiere in Hollywood last night celebrities, critics and bloggers alike took to social media to share their reactions to ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’.

If their tweets are anything to go by then Star Wars fans will not be disappointed with this spin-off, with some reactions even going as far as placing ‘Rogue One’ in the top 3 best Star Wars films. Gareth Edwards is receiving high praise , as are the entire cast for their performances, with Donnie Yen and Felicity Jones getting some special mentions.

The embargo for ‘Rogue One’ lifts on Tuesday, meaning reviews hit the web 2 days before the film is released here in the UK. Some of the lucky people who attended the premiere have recommended avoiding reviews and tweets until you’ve seen the film for yourself as there are lots of incredible scenes that could easily be ruined or spoiled for you, so browse social media at your own risk.  

I have my ticket booked for the IMAX midnight showing and so have no intention of reading these reviews until after I’ve seen it, but hearing the film get such an overwhelming reception at it’s premiere is incredibly exciting! With ‘Rogue One’ looking like a strong start to the future of Star Wars spin-offs, we can soon start getting even more excited about the untitled ‘Han Solo’ movie which will star Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, and Emilia Clarke, which is slated for a 2018 release. 

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Did Disney Just Tease Tarkin’s Return in Rogue One?

With ‘Rogue One’ tickets now on sale, Disney haven’t held back on their marketing and have released a number of new TV Spots over the past week. But the latest ‘Rogue One’ TV spot to drop, “Breathe”, may have just teased the return of  none other than Grand Moff Tarkin, Commander of the Death Star!

A brief shot in the new TV Spot shows a Tarkin-looking figure watching over the the Death Star during its construction. Tarkin’s involvement during Rogue One would make perfect sense, what with the Emperor making him Commander of the Death Star and this film taking place shortly before the events of ‘A New Hope’, in which he uses the power of the Death Star to blow up Alderaan. Grand Moff Tarkin was played by the late Peter Cushing, who gave a truly chilling and memorable portrayal as the Empire’s Regional Governor.

Whilst the visual effects team behind ‘Rogue One’ are keeping their lips tightly sealed about their self confessed “innovative stuff”, it’s widely rumoured that we could see Cushing, who died in 1994, digitally brought to life to reprise the villainous role, and this TV Spot seemingly confirms it. The mysterious figure in question doesn’t give much away, but many fans are commenting on the figure’s likeness to Cushing, namely the grey uniform and the shape of the figure’s head from behind. 

If this rumour is in fact true, we can probably expect Tarkin to only have a short, but very welcomed, amount of screen time during the film. His presence in the film, alongside Darth Vadar and Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) will mean the Rebels have got their work cut out for them.

Are you excited for Tarkin’s return? Which other characters would you like to see make a return to future Star Wars films?

‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ lands in UK cinemas on December 15th

Written by Tom Sheffield

Why We Need Star Trek In A Star Wars World

Written by Gillian Finklea

Going to see the latest installment in the ‘Star Trek’ series has become a weird ritual for me, that I look forward to more with each passing movie. It’s a fictional universe I have no deep relationship with, having never watched the many television versions or any of the movies made before J.J. Abrams rekindled the franchise. Truth be told, my favorite ‘Star Trek’ movie is probably ‘Galaxy Quest’. And yet, I am actually giddy each time a new movie comes out, because this new ‘Star Trek’ series is wonderful and is only getting better. It is a compelling and fun exploration of what our relationship to space could be in the future, along with excellent characters and exciting action set-pieces. However, my happiness is dashed when I realise that very few will ever experience ‘Star Trek’ in this sense — because of a little juggernaut called ‘Star Wars’.

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Rogue One Gets a Second Trailer

The second trailer for the first of the Star Wars spin off films has arrived and I think we can all agree that it is pretty amazing. So amazing in fact that I’m not sure where to begin with it! There’s the beautiful stripped down version of the Imperial March, some absolutely stunning imagery ( the eclipse & the light moving over the Star Destroyer are personal favourites), and that spine tingling final shot of Vader that everyone was waiting for. We are quickly reacquainted with Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and learn a bit more about Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). We also get to see some of the other characters in action (how amazing does Donnie Yen’s character look?) The trailer only touches briefly on the story, but I personally don’t want or need any more than that. In fact I’d go so far as to praise the trailer makers for it – they’re spoiling us, without spoiling us! Roll on December!

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is scheduled for UK cinematic release on December 16th 2016

Written by Emma Ditchburn

Wham, Bam, Thank You Han: Is There A Han Solo Trilogy In The Works?

The internet has been ablaze with rumours over the past week that a new ‘Star Wars’ trilogy, centring around a young Han Solo, is in the offing. Breakout star of ‘Hail Caesar’ – Alden Ehrenreich – has already nabbed the role of a young Han in his own spin off ‘Star Wars’ film, and since we’ve been promised a multitude of related films, it would seem logical that Lucasfilm and Disney would want to jump aboard the Han hype-train, should his initial outing prove successful.

The rumour seems to have been substantiated in a report in the NY Daily Times, stating that Ehrenreich has been signed to a deal which includes “at least” three movies, indicating he will either get multiple solo Solo films, or young Han might appear elsewhere throughout the ‘Star Wars’ universe.

Gareth Edwards’ ‘Rogue One’ will kick off a string of stand-alone ‘Star Wars’ adventures away from the main, numbered series, and will be coming to the big screen in December of this year. 

Written by Abbie Eales