There Were People Behind Those Masks — Meet Some Of The Actors Who Played The Characters And Creatures In The Original “Star Wars” Movie

November 15, 2016 — Back in 1976, when a small science fiction movie was being filmed on the sound stages of Elstree Studios in England, no one working on the film had any idea that they were involved in the early days of a cultural phenomenon. 

The film, of course, was the original Star Wars movie; expectations for the movie were quite low.

Star Wars is now an indelible part of our culture. Even people with no interest in science fiction are likely to know the names Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca and R2D2. The film propelled Harrison Ford to superstardom; Carrie Fisher will forever be linked to Princess Leia. James Earl Jones, one of his generation’s greatest actors, is best known now for the voice emanating from the frightening mask of Darth Vader.

The films brought immense fame to its principals and its director.

But there was also an army of character actors behind rubber masks, under cloaks and hoods, hidden by storm trooper costumes, whose faces were not seen. Some had a line or two, many did not. They were there for the work, the paycheck. They had no thought that the movie they were making would influence the rest of their lives. But for many of them, it did.

Acclaimed documentary Elstree 1976 lets a number of them describe their experiences making this unique movie and the ways in which it changed their lives.

“Who wouldn’t be curious to meet the people behind
Star Wars‘ many masked characters and find out what it was like to work with legendary creator George Lucas on the iconic film? Elstree 1976 features interviews with David Prowse, the man in the Darth Vader suit for the first three Star Wars films (though James Earl Jones did the character’s voice), as well as John Chapman, who had a role as an X-Wing pilot, and Paul Blake, who suited up as Greedo, the bounty hunter who famously tangled with Han Solo in the Mos Eisley Cantina. While the film focuses on the performers from the original Star Wars, Spiro also includes an interview with Jeremy Bulloch, the actor who played Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back.”(

The Force Awakens has sparked a tremendous amount of excitement for a new generation of Star Wars stories, but the success of J.J. Abrams’ film has also rekindled a widely shared nostalgia for George Lucas’ original trilogy. Judging by the trailer for Jon Spira’s Elstree 1976 — an upcoming documentary about the unassuming background actors who brought the original movie, now known as A New Hope, to life — that nostalgia extends to the people who made these movies what they are. 

“Named after the British production facility where Lucas shoot Episodes IV — VI, Elstree 1976 focuses on 10 people who didn’t realize that their bit parts in a bizarre space opera would shape the future of the movies themselves. “It was just another job, except it looked weird,” one of the saga’s unsung heroes recall. From a guy who played a nameless sand trooper to Jeremy Bulloch — the man behind the mask of bounty hunter Boba Fett — Spira’s film allows the masked men and women of Star Wars to finally tell their own stories.” (Rolling Stone)

“If you’re a movie aficionado on top of being Star Wars fan, you have even more news to look forward to, and you won’t have to wait until December to enjoy it. Elstree 1976, a documentary that explores the behind-the-scenes lives of actors and extras in the Star Wars films, will be in theaters and on-demand starting May 6. A beautiful piece of cinematic history, “Elstree 1976” gives fans the unique opportunity to see a side of Star Wars filmmaking never before highlighted. From the actor behind the most notorious mask in film history, to extras and characters cut from the film, the documentary is a peek into the mind of filmmaker George Lucas’ original series.” (TWC Central)

“Elstree 1976 is a new Star Wars documentary that offers hardcore fans of the franchise an interesting look at the lives of the actors whose faces we never saw in the original films and the effect Star Wars had on them. George LucasStar Wars was just another job for a lot of people. Little did they know how there lives were going to change after it was released. 

“The doc centers on the actors who played characters such as Darth Vader (David Prowse), Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch), Greedo (Paul Blake), X-Wing pilot Angus MacInnes, Stormtroopers, and more. While they were making the movie they never suspected how popular their characters were going to become.

“We’ve seen a ton of Star Wars docs over the year, but I like the unique spin that this one has. It’s really interesting to hear these people talk about what it was like to be a part of the film. When George Lucas began work on a mysterious project named Star Wars in North London back in 1976, no one could have predicted how it would go on to shape cinema as we know it, least of all the legions of on-screen extras. In this affectionate documentary, we meet ten of those bit performers who appeared, however fleetingly, in Lucas’ box office behemoth. Rather than the standard ‘making of’ – the likes of which have been seen countless times before – Elstree 1976 paints an intimate portrait of these performers, examining how their brushes with Lucas shaped the paths of their lives. With a cast ranging from Darth Vader himself (or David Prowse as he’s better known to his friends), to a performer whose character was cut entirely from the finished film, this is not so much a film about Star Wars as the story of a group of people united by one life-changing experience.” (Geektyrant).

Purchase Elstree 1976 on DOD and Blu-Ray here, or you can stream it immediately on Amazon Video.

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