On Friday we posted a fantastic, 14-part, fan-made 'Star Wars' documentary called 'Star Wars Begins' that combs through the first 'Star Wars' film with an absurd attention to detail, breaking down and reconstructing scenes, while sprinkling in audio quotes from several people involved behind the scenes and in front of the camera. The doc, which may be better defined as a commentary or fan edit than a straight-up documentary, also brings to the table a number of extremely rare nuggets (like concept art and the original, silent, black-and-white cut of 'Star Wars') that are sure to transfix even the most casual Star Wars fan.
Readers immediately fell in love with 'Star Wars Begins' after we covered it, so we thought it might be fun to have a brief chat with the creator, Jamie Benning, an editor and family man from London, England. We (Scott Weinberg and myself) tossed Jamie a few questions about the doc, which was pieced together using more than 150 different sources, and then asked him to give us a list of 10 things people still might not know about Star Wars after all these years.
Cinematical: With all the different 'Star Wars' docs and fan docs available, what made you decide to add to the pile? Was there something you wanted to include that no one else had done?
Jamie Benning: I started doing these fan documentaries back in 2005, before there was a plethora of fan edits, but I only just got around to finishing off the trilogy. I felt there was a gap that hadn't been filled by official or unofficial releases -- a feature-length audio and video commentary detailing the making of the film.
What's your all-time-favorite behind-the-scenes 'Star Wars' story?
It's tough to choose because there are so many, but in making 'Star Wars Begins,' I rather enjoyed Mark Hamill's report that production was stopped in Tunisia because of the ladybug mating season going on around them. The idea of copulating insects grinding a $10 million movie to a halt seems ridiculous!
What do you ultimately hope to do with this documentary and the two others ('Building Empire' and 'Returning to Jedi') you made?
These are totally non-profit-making exercises. They were made at my own expense. I mainly made these films for myself to learn some editing software but also for those fans that love the movies as much as I do. I think they will fill a hole whilst we wait for the Blu-ray releases. Ultimately, I hope that people will get a kick out of watching their favorite movies but from a different perspective. I've had lots of feedback saying that my films have rekindled an interest that the prequels had got in the way of. Who knows, if the right people see my work, it could lead to something else.
Has Lucas or anyone at Fox tried to kill this yet?
Not yet. If they did ask me to stop, I would. 'Building Empire' and 'Returning to Jedi' have been out there for four years now, so they are probably aware. I make it my duty to ensure that neither I nor anyone else profits from these films. I have been offered money, but I simply won't take it. Money is not a factor in my motivation to make these films. I have even gone out of my way to ensure that any copies that appear on eBay have been quickly removed. You have been warned.
10 Things People May Not Know About 'Star Wars':
1. 'Star Wars' was not called 'Episode IV' until its 1981 cinema re-release.
2. Jodie Foster auditioned for the role of Princess Leia.
3. 'Star Wars' was shot in Elstree Studios in Borehamwood during the hottest summer since records began.
4. Denis Lason, who plays Wedge Antillies, is Ewan McGregor's uncle. He actually advised his nephew not to take the part of Obi-Wan in the prequels.
5. Have a listen to composer Erich Korngold's 'Sea Hawk' from 1940 (it's on YouTube) to hear one of the tracks that influenced 'Star Wars' composer John Williams.
6. Industrial Light and Magic, the special effects house, spent $1 million before completing a single shot for 'Star Wars.'
7. Mark Hamill had previously been typecast as a delinquent on American TV shows. This was his first chance to play a hero.
8. Peter Cushing received over $3,000 per day to play the role of Grand Moff Tarkin -- more than the three principal actors received for their daily rate.
9. Peter Mayhew was a porter at a London hospital before being cast as Chewbacca.
10. Kenny Baker (R2D2) and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) are the only actors to appear in every Star Wars movie.