The Star Wars Audition Tape
The Star Wars Audition Tape By Mike White. I have long-heard that George Lucas didn’t hold the reins during the Star Wars audition. Rather, the rumour contends that Brian DePalma stood in as Lucas’s mouthpiece in a "combined casting call" with Carrie...
I have long-heard that George Lucas didn’t hold the reins during the Star Wars audition. Rather, the rumour contends that Brian DePalma stood in as Lucas’s mouthpiece in a "combined casting call" with Carrie. Among the actors who landed the Han, Luke, and Leia roles was another Lucas veteran (Charles Martin Smith of American Graffiti), a few Francis Ford Coppola co-workers (Cindy Williams, and Frederick Forrest from The Conversation), and numerous DePalma cast members (Amy Irving and Andrew Stevens from The Fury, William Katt from Carrie). DePalma, it’s said, gave Lucas advice on retooling Star Wars after an early screening of the unfinished film. Additionally, Lucas talks of DePalma, Jay Cocks, Gloria Katz, and Willard Huyuck providing input on the film’s opening scroll. (Katz and Huyuck would also polish a good deal of dialogue for Lucas, including some of the film’s more memorable exchanges including Han Solo’s, "We’re fine. We’re all fine here now, thank you. How are you?")
Bootlegged to the point of being black & white, The Star Wars Audition Tape is a terrific look at some of the more promising young actors in Hollywood during the mid-seventies. Oddly, Mark Hamill does a terrific read as Luke Skywalker-far better than he was in the actual role. I’ve heard that Ford served as a stand-in to read Han Solo. His frequent appearance throughout the screen tests supports this hypothesis. His mastery of the role is evident even at this early point. Some of the other noteworthy interpretations of Solo came courtesy of Kurt Russell and Frederic Forrest. For what it’s worth, Russell might have made a good Luke Skywalker if given the chance.
Despite rumours and jokes to the contrary, neither Nick Nolte nor Christopher Walken made an appearance on this tape.
To omit these insightful screen tests from release only makes Lucas’s so-called "definitive collection" of Star Wars -related materials even more of a joke than it already is. Perhaps these will see the light of day in an official capacity when "The Star Wars Holiday Special" finds a legitimate release.
Was DePalma responsible for Star Wars standing out as one of the finest films in the series? This talented (at the time) director wasn’t the only reason for the film’s success but he was definitely a reason. Likewise, when Lucas went on to make The Empire Strikes Back he continued to associate himself with wiser, more experienced people. The triumph of The Empire Strikes Back is beholden in large part to writers Lawrence Kasdan, Leigh Brackett and director Irvin Kerschner.
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