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We look at Alec Guinness’ true feelings for Star Wars…

December 9th, 2015 by Matt Gault Comments

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Star Wars was responsible for launching the careers of many promising actors. George Lucas’ space opera smashed its way into global consciousness in 1977 and catapulted the likes of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher into superstardom, write Squareeyed.

However, although it must have been such an exhilarating experience to witness and contribute to the birth of the biggest movie franchise of all time, not everyone looks back on their time on set through rosie-tinted spectacles.

One such actor was Alec Guinness, who famously portrayed Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original trilogy. Guinness was lauded for his performance as the Jedi Master, but Guinness himself wasn’t particularly thrilled by the whole experience, as documented in a piece by Dangerous Minds. 

In Alec Guinness: The Authorised Biography, Piers Paul Read gives readers a glimpse at some correspondence and diaries written by Guinness while Star Wars—later christened Star Wars: A New Hope—was being filmed.

In a letter dated December 22, 1975, Guinness wrote to a friend, noting the likelihood of his next movie being “fairy-tale rubbish”:

“I have been offered a movie (20th Cent. Fox) which I may accept, if they come up with proper money. London and N. Africa, starting in mid-March. Science fiction—which gives me pause—but it is to be directed by Paul [sic] Lucas who did American Graffiti, which makes me feel I should. Big part. Fairy-tale rubbish but could be interesting perhaps.

A few months later, on March 18, 1976, Guinness shows that he’s not very good at remembering Harrison Ford’s name either while confirming that he wasn’t having the greatest time during the film.

“Can’t say I’m enjoying the film. … new rubbish dialogue reaches me every other day on wadges of pink paper—and none of it makes my character clear or even bearable. I just think, thankfully, of the lovely bread, which will help me keep going until next April even ifYahoo collapses in a week. … I must off to studio and work with a dwarf (very sweet—and he has to wash in a bidet) and your fellow countrymen Mark Hamill and Tennyson (that can’t be right) Ford. Ellison (?—No!)—well, a rangy, languid young man who is probably intelligent and amusing. But Oh, God, God, they make me feel ninety—and treat me as if I was 106.—Oh, Harrison Ford—ever heard of him?

If that’s not enough, there’s also this diary entry from April 16, 1976:

“Apart from the money, which should get me comfortably through the year, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them all well enough, but it’s not an acting job, the dialogue, which is lamentable, keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young.

In his memoir A Positively Final Appearance, Guinness tells the following story:

“A refurbished Star Wars is on somewhere or everywhere. I have no intention of revisiting any galaxy. I shrivel inside each time it is mentioned. Twenty years ago, when the film was first shown, it had a freshness, also a sense of moral good and fun. Then I began to be uneasy at the influence it might be having. The bad penny first dropped in San Francisco when a sweet-faced boy of twelve told me proudly that he had seen Star Wars over a hundred times. His elegant mother nodded with approval. Looking into the boy’s eyes I thought I detected little star-shells of madness beginning to form and I guessed that one day they would explode.

“I would love you to do something for me,” I said.

“Anything! Anything!” the boy said rapturously.

“You won’t like what I’m going to ask you to do,” I said.

“Anything, sir, anything!”

“Well,” I said, “do you think you could promise never to see Star Warsagain?”

He burst into tears. His mother drew himself up to an immense height. “What a dreadful thing to say to a child!” she barked, and dragged the poor kid away. Maybe she was right but I just hope the lad, now in his thirties, is not living in a fantasy world of secondhand, childish banalities.”

Allegedly, Guinness was also eager to have the Obi-Wan character killed off to limit his involvement in future Star Wars movies.

Well, I suppose everyone’s entitled to their opinion.

To be fair, Guinness also thoroughly enjoyed the finished product and recounts the first time he watched the film on the big screen in an interview with Michael Parkinson back in 1977 – when A New Hope was released.

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Matt Gault is a sports writer and film fanatic. He is a fully-qualified journalist and has worked for BBCNI, Sunday Life and has been published on The Guardian's website. He interns at REDNI, sub-editing for the Belfast Telegraph. He studied at Queen's University pretending to like history and literature and then University of Ulster Coleraine, where he slacked off enormously for a year and somehow got away with it. He also enjoys Captain Morgans, The Sopranos, Led Zeppelin and Hunter S. Thompson which makes him a remarkably uninteresting person.

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