George Lucas, with actor Anthony Daniels, in costume as C3PO on the set of Star Wars in 1977
R2-D2 refused to work. It wasn’t stubbornness on the part of the droid — a trait that would endear the character to millions of Star Wars fans around the world. Rather, as the first day of filming began on Star Wars in the Tunisian desert on the morning of March 22, 1976, R2-D2 wouldn’t work. His batteries were already dead.
The little droid wasn’t the only one with a problem. Several other robots, operated via remote control by crew members standing just out of sight of the movie camera, were also malfunctioning. Some fell over, others never moved at all, while still others had their signals scrambled by Arabic radio broadcasts bouncing off the desert floor, sending them careening wildly out of control across the sand or crashing into one another. “The robots would go bananas, bumping into each other, falling down, breaking,” said Mark Hamill, the sun-washed 24-four-year-old actor playing hero Luke Skywalker. “It took hours to get them set up again.”
“Making a movie is a terribly painful experience,” says Lucas (above, with camera), seen here behind the camera on the Star Wars set creating magical scenes like these ones
The movie’s director, a brooding, bearded 31-one-year- old Californian named George Lucas, simply waited. If a robot worked properly, even for a moment, Lucas would shoot as much footage of it as he possibly could until the droid sputtered to a stop. Other times, he’d have a malfunctioning unit pulled along by invisible wire, until the wire broke or the droid fell over. It didn’t matter anyhow; Lucas planned to fix everything in the editing room. It was where he preferred to be anyway, as opposed to squinting through a film camera in the middle of the desert. It was the first of what would be 84 long, excruciating days filming Star Wars — 20 days severely over-schedule. And the shoot was a disaster almost from the beginning. “I was very depressed about the whole thing,” Lucas said.
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