Star Wars Episode 3.5: The Phantom Cast List

“You can type this Bantha poodoo, Master Lucas, but you can’t say it.”

What if Christopher Walken was Han Solo? “Nevah, tell ME, the odds…” Or Kurt Russell? “I don’t give a fuck about your rebellion. Or your Princess.” Imagine if instead of taking our breath away with soft rockers Berlin, Terry Nunn adopted a danish headphone hair style and a life on the sci-fi convention circuit? In August 1975, George Lucas didn’t know who┬áhe wanted to cast in his left field space opera. According to casting director Dianne Crittenden, “George was looking for something very visual.”

Together with Lucas’ friend and fellow casting director Fred Roos, they all set up three weeks of intensive casting sessions at the Zoetrope offices at Goldwyn studios, seeing thousands of young actors from early morning to late evening, as quickly as two people every five minutes initially. Lucas believed in first impressions and gut instinct, but his shyness led to Brian DePalma, casting for Carrie at the same time and sitting in on the sessions, stealing some of the best talent for himself.

By the third day they had seen nearly every well known young actor in L.A, including John Travolta, Nick Nolte, and Tommy Lee Jones. Mark Hamill was actually seen on the second day, after waiting two and a half hours. Meanwhile, DePalma poached Travolta and Bill Katt, plus Sissy Spacek and Amy Irving, to Diane Crittenden’s irritation.

At one point, Lucas thought of only casting Japanese and African-American actors, and doing the film in Japanese, with subtitles. He loved the idea of it being like an exotic documentary, stumbled across by a modern audience. Kenobi and the princess would be Japanese, and Han Solo would be black. Glynn Turman, lately of The Wire, was briefly considered for Han Solo. Toshiro Mifune was a possibility for Obi-Wan Kenobi. Turman said later “A love interest was going to develop between Han and Princess Leia and they didn’t want to confuse the issue with an interracial relationship. Harrison Ford has my career!”

star wars alt cast poster

William Katt auditioned for both Luke and Han, reading at one point alongside Kurt Russell reading Han’s lines. Katt was eventually snapped up by DePalma for the role of Tommy in Carrie. Katt said, after seeing his Han audition for the first time in almost thirty years, “I found it very difficult to get a handle on that (role) and bring the particular attitude they were after.” It is interesting also to see his more measured approach to the role of Luke, compared to Mark Hamill’s naive take.

Terri Nunn recalled that “Nobody understood what George was doing. We just showed up and started to read these lines that were like “R2D2, grab the phaser! The Force is coming!” I was like”What the fuck am I saying?” At one point, seeming serendipity struck. George pulled in Harrison Ford, who had previously worked with him on American Graffiti. Ford at that time had got despondent over his prospects and returned to his fall back trade, carpentry. He was working down the hall and was brought in to read alongside other actors. His test with Terri Nunn failed to ignite a spark but he obviously impressed George, and gradually, a winning triumvirate of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher won through the long process.

In fact Fred Roos had specifically contracted Ford to fit a new door at Zoetrope so that Roos could persuade George to drop his “not working with previous actors from previous projects” rule, and have him partake in the read throughs. Despite George Lucas’ reticence and seemingly only having a two-pronged directing technique (“faster” / “more intense”) Ford, Fisher and Hamill lit up the screen and made Star Wars believable to cinema-goers from eight to eighty. The Force will be with them, always.

 

 

Originally posted 2012-08-10 19:07:32. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Read and post comments on this article