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  Elstree 1976 A Long Time Ago In A Blockbuster Far Far Away
Year: 2015
Director: Jon Spira
Stars: Paul Blake, Jeremy Bulloch, John Chapman, Anthony Forrest, Laurie Goode, Garrick Hagon, Derek Lyons, Angus MacInnes, David Prowse, Pam Rose
Genre: DocumentaryBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: What's it like to have your own action figure? How does it make you feel being made into a toy? For some of the actors on the original Star Wars, it's a genuine novelty and makes them feel as if it has cemented their place in pop culture, for others, well, it didn't even look like them and it's not really what they got into the business for anyway. But being in that film, one of the most popular movies of all time, one which around a billion people have seen worldwide, must have changed their lives somehow, right? That association has to mean something special, but as this series of interviews with eleven of the performers who appeared in that epoch-making event back in 1976, the reactions are very different.

Granted, they are all grateful for being in it, but for most it was not the be all and end all of their lives, it was a part they played for a week, maybe two or three, and that is a very small section of an entire existence in the great scheme of things no matter that it’s a nice source of anecdotes for the rest of that life. The biggest name here was David Prowse, the towering bodybuilder who played the role of the villainous Darth Vader, though he was in the costume and his voice was famously not used. He seems to think that was because he was not available to dub his lines in the United States, though anyone who has heard the untreated original footage will be more aware that the most evil man in the universe didn't suit sounding like one of The Wurzels.

James Earl Jones, who performed Vader's voice instead, was absent from this film, but what anecdotes we had from significantly less famous individuals were by no means negligible, mainly because this was not wholly centred around George Lucas's classic phenomenon, it was more biographical than that, albeit a selection of biographies edited together. The reflective nature of the stories made for a nice film to mull over as you could compare it with your own life and whether it would work out the way you expected, or if you were looking back whether your youthful dreams had come true, and if there had been a brush with something epic in those years or if it had just never happened to you.

The interviewees here were not exactly hasbeens and never-weres, they had made something of their time on Planet Earth, if not a galaxy far, far away, and director Jon Spiro, who had raised funds to complete this thanks to the efforts of backers on the internet, was respectful enough to allow them to spin their yarns and make their points. Each of them was good company, probably because there was enough variety in their accounts as their lives spiralled off in various directions to keep things interesting. If there was no real poignancy, you just accepted that was the path they had taken after their involvement with Star Wars and left it at that, then there was a wealth of human interest nevertheless: some were involved with the entertainment industry from that day to this, while others had alternatives to go through.

Not that it was all sunshine and rainbows, there were the ups and downs, sorry, slings and arrows (we are discussing actors) that everyone must counter and accept, but on the whole you had the impression being part of Star Wars, even in a tiny capacity in some instances, had been a benefit, if only because of that aforementioned novelty. You had the impression there was a hierarchy, however, with the lead actors at the top and lower down those who had been in costumes that covered their heads - Jeremy Bulloch's Boba Fett is a major draw at the conventions, for example - to those who had bit parts with lines, and right at the bottom the extras. There appeared to be a little resentment as to who was most entitled to their claim to fame, which was amusing to see, though it was a pity Prowse had stepped on a few toes and was persona non grata with the official Star Wars lot. All in all, an absorbing dip into lives that had one thing in common, which just happened to be a blockbuster that became an obsession around the world. "Here lies Greedo", indeed. Music by Jamie Hyatt.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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