Elstree 1976

| July 3, 2016

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…or 40 years ago in England. A large group of relatively unknown actors were summoned to participate in a relatively low budget science fiction movie called “The Star Wars”. Most of the actors and extras had no idea what they were getting themselves into, literally. Alien costumes, spaceship fighter pilots, robots? Was this going to be an actual big screen movie or something made for television? Very few, if any, had high expectations for the oncoming production, which, of course, went on to become one of the most widely seen movies in the history of the cinema.

Most of the audience is familiar with the major stars, such as Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher. But what about those unsung individuals whose fame and fortune never came to be? Whose roles were equal to those of the stars? Ten of those characters get their recognition, with and without the makeup/mask in Elstree 1976.

Elstree 1976 tells the story of nine men and one woman that appeared in the original Star Wars film. Some, like John Chapman (X-Wing pilot, background) and Pam Rose (Leesub Sirln, cantina denizen) played blink-and-you’ll-miss-them parts. Others, such as David Prowse (the man inside the Darth Vader costume), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Paul Blake (Greedo), and Garrick Hagon (Biggs Darklighter) played major roles in the legend and mythos of the Star Wars universe.

Laurie Goode played a Stormtrooper. No big deal, right? There were hundreds of Stormtroopers. Except Goode’s Stormtrooper is also part of Star Wars lore. There’s a sequence were stormtroopers are running through an entrance and one of them hits his head on the door. Somehow, that flub made it into the final cut of the film. That Stormtrooper was Laurie Goode.

Anthony Forrest also played a memorable Stormtrooper. When Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi enter the city limits of Mos Eisley, they are stopped by Stormtroopers that question them about their droids, C3PO and R2D2. Obi –Wan uses the Force to dissuade the inquiry, leading the orange shouldered stormtrooper to have them “move along, move along”. Forrest also played one of Luke’s friends on Tatooine. Those scenes were cut from the movie, but have since resurfaced on subsequent home media releases.

Elstree 1976 also looks at the personal lives of these ten people, some of which are still very much intertwined with the Star Wars franchise. Before Star Wars, David Prowse was a professional body builder. He stopped actively participating in Mr. Universe when a member of the organization informed Prowse he could never win the tournament because he had ugly feet! Prowse ended up getting a role in director Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange before portraying, arguably, the most recognizable villain in movie history, Darth Vader.

To this day when Prowse signs autographs, he signs them “David Prowse is Darth Vader”. Apparently people at Lucasfilm aren’t happy with that signature. They would rather he sign with “as Darth Vader” instead. This rather minor change of one letter has led to Prowse being banned from the yearly Star Wars Celebration.

Derek Lyons is no household name, but besides his minor role as a Rebel Alliance guard, Lyons has also appeared in The Shining, Superman 2, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, and 4 James Bond movies. Angus Macinnes, who played Gold Leader in Star Wars, also had roles in Witness and Judge Dredd. Macinnes comes off as snooty in the documentary. Macinnes believes that only individuals with a speaking part in Star Wars should take part in conventions and autograph signings. He even takes major umbrage with Kenny Baker being so popular at these events. Baker was the little person inside of R2D2. Sounds like jealously has reared its ugly head, eh, Mr. Macinnes?

The most engaging of all the actors looked at in this documentary is Paul Blake. Blake talks rather warmly of his time under the green mask of Greedo, bounty hunter and employee of slug-like gangster Jabba The Hutt. Blake beams with pride when he discusses his twin sons, one of which took home a silver medal for England in the 2012 London Olympics. Blake also exclaims “when I die my tombstone will read ‘here lies Greedo’, and I love it!”

Elstree 1976 is an inside look at a small cross section of individuals whose lives changed because of a small movie that became one of the most beloved films of all time. The DVD is released by FilmRise and Fisher Klingenstein Ventures, LLC. The DVD has no special features.

If you consider yourself a Star Wars fan, Elstree 1976 is a must own. Every saga has a beginning, including the saga of the humans behind the masks.

About the Author:

Steve graduated from Southwestern Michigan College with an Associate's Degree in communications. He currently resides in Niles, MI
Filed in: Film, Video and DVD

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