Elstree 1976

elstree-1976_3With the Star Wars universe very much back in the general public’s consciousness due to last years triumphant film The Force Awakens and the imminent release of the first anthology film Rogue One it is an opportune moment to release a documentary looking back to where it all began. Instead of focussing on the main players in the making of A New Hope it instead takes a different route.

Elstree 1976 looks to the more minor figures that contributed to the film. Through a series of talking head interviews we meet some of the actors who portrayed some recognisable and some not so well remembered. These actors give an insight into what is felt like to be part of the biggest movie franchise on the planet.

For each actor, we first see their action figure which gives us a reminder of just how big Star Wars is. Even minor characters in the Mos Eisley cantina have their own figures. Each actor then gives a brief account of their early life and initial acting career. For the most part, they are remarkably similar. There are few of them that admit having any great ambition in the acting game. They are all fairly pragmatic about the business and what it takes to make it.

elstree-1976-2Their stories then start to focus on how they came to be involved in the making of the film. Again, it is a similar story of how their faces fitted for the roles they were given. Every one of them recollects that they treated as just another job. There was little indication of just how the film was to be received. What they do say is that they enjoyed the time on set and the main actors and even George Lucas was very approachable.

It was not until the success of the movie did the actors find a second career taking part on the convention circuit. This is where the documentary really starts to be interesting. With such a big franchise there is an ever growing market for anything to do with Star Wars. Some of these actors have found that they are able to support themselves based on these appearances. Of course, where there is an audience there is money to be made. There is a distinct pecking order with David Prowse and Jeremy Bulloch at the top. It isn’t long before we hear of problems arising. The dispute is over who is actually entitled to be there selling photos. For some, to be included in the credits is their badge of honour. For the non-credited actors, who are basically extras, there is an intense animosity. They are perceived as chancers. It shows another side to the convention scene and changes the tone of the documentary.

To cap off this change in mood we get Dave Prowse re-igniting his dispute with the Star Wars organisation. He is barred from attending the major Star wars celebrations due to his fractious relationship with George Lucas and an apparent stubbornness. He signs his photos with the words ‘Dave Prowse is Darth Vader’. Disney asked him to change is to as which was met with disdain on Prowse’s part. It comes across as being very petty on both their parts.

John McArthur
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