Alec Guinness

Iconography.  Alec Guinness  Your Comments  Alec Guinness Wall of Film Posters  Star Wars: The Complete Saga UK Blu-Ray Boxset  Search Site

The Making of Star Wars
1 9 7 7

film  /film/
Capture on film as part of a series of moving images; make a movie of (a story or event).

Star Wars Episode VI: A New Hope (1977)

It was in 1975, two years before the release of Star Wars that the script had arrived at Alec Guinness's home at Petersfield.

'The script came through the door and the moment I saw a sci-fi sticker on it I said to myself "Oh crumbs, it's not for me." But I started to read it and I had to turn the page.'

Guinness compared the script of Star Wars to le Carre's TheHonourable Schoolboy:

'It had vigour and I finished it at a sitting. Was that normal? No, not at all. But it's a jolly good sign. I don't apply any professional "technique", if that's the word, when I read scripts. But if I'm held then I think there's a chance the public will be held too. Probably the last time I went through a film script so swiftly was when James Kennaway's Tunes of Glory came into my hands.'

Guinness agreed at once to meet the director, George Lucas, witha view to playing the master warrior Obi-Ben Kenobi. He thoughtthe part difficult because Kenobi was good. There was a dangerof becoming "a bit smug, a bit know-all". Kenobi had to havean "extra sense of what's going on". A short man, as short as Guinness, Lucas was very vulnerable, very nervous of people,and shy. Anthony Daniels, who was to play the robotic character C3PO, said Lucas carried a little black book in which he wroteeverything down. His own part of C3PO was full of "terribly cornylines", such as "Curse my metal body, I wasn't fast enough,"which were, in an odd way, reminiscent of Victorian children'sfiction...(scroll down).

alec guinness in star wars



{US}  {Colour}  {115 Mins}


  • Mark Hamill  Luke Skywalker
  • Harrison Ford  Han Solo
  • Carrie Fisher  Princess Leia Organa
  • Peter Cushing  Grand Moff Tarkin
  • Alec Guinness  Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi
  • Anthony Daniels  C-3PO
  • Kenny Baker  R2-D2
  • Peter Mayhew  Chewbacca
  • Dave Prowse  Darth Vader
  • James Earl Jones  Voice of Darth Vader
  • Phil Brown  Uncle Owen Lars
  • Shelagh Fraser  Aunt Beru Lars


  • Dir:
      George Lucas
  • Prod:
      Gary Kurtz
  • Scr:
  • Ph:
      Gilbert Taylor
  • Ed:
      Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas, Richard Chew
  • Mus:
      John Williams
  • Art Dir:
      John Barry




After discussion with Lucas, Guinness agreed to play the role.But they at once had a crisis because, a week or so before shooting, Lucas changed the script which in its previous version had Kenobi appear on page twenty, when he became leader and tutor of a smallband of rebels. He then led these on their series of adventures that"culminated in a giant space battle that destroyed the evil empire'sprincipal weapon, the 'Death Star', and ended with Ben Kenobi giving everyone medals".

Lucas had to inform Guinness of the important plot change, andas he did, grew nervous. "Although Ben is the leader," he explained,"I think it might be better if he ... Oh, like kinda died halfwaythrough the picture." Guinness was upset. Understandably so.Actors do not want to play a character that dies halfway throughthe film; nor did they want to be informed of their prematuredemise over lunch.

Although he remained extremely civil Guinness later told Lucas he no longer wanted to do the picture.

Lucas had a major anxietyattack, which led to another long meeting with Guinness. "I wenton and on," Lucas said, "about how important the change was inorder to make the story work. And how important it was to have a powerful actor play Ben, especially now that he had so much less screen time. As a writer, he was easily convinced."

As an actor, too, Guinness eventually came around. But he became more than an actor in the film: "an incredible blessing", Lucas was to call it later. The preperation for the filming was on a Herculean scale; what especially endeared Lucas to Guinness was that he himself brought the costumes to London to see if Guinness liked them, while he came to all the fittings...(scroll down).

Star Wars The Complete Saga Episodes I-VI Ltd. Edition Film Cell Blu-ray Boxset

Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Episodes I-VI) Ltd. Edition Film Cell [Blu-ray] [1977] - Available: AMAZON.CO.UK

Affiliate/Advertising policy


Daniels spent six very undignified months preparing for C3PO, which sometimes entailed "standing naked in a cold room at Elstree" while they "faxed" his body for its robotic role. When Guinness and his wife Merula arrived at Heathrow in 1976 for the flight out to Tunis, where they were to film on location, Daniels first saw him as a grand figure whose limousine drove right up to the plane. However, in the course of seeing much of them over the next weeks, he found Guinness extraordinarily approachable while Merula was "a living saint". Guinness worried over whether the young actor was being paid proper expenses and offered to advance him some. They spent two or three weeks on desert location on some salt flats in windy and grotesquely hot weather on a hotel diet of unremitting veal or chicken - at one point the Guinnesses went down with food poisoning while there were often long frustrating waits while the ailing special effects had to be sorted out.

Incarcerated in metal, at one time having to lose an arm (torn off in a fight), Daniels found the waiting horribly painful, while he was generally rather embarrassed about the whole restriction of being a robot.

Guinness helped his confidence greatly, he was especially clever at indirectly paying him compliments, while his calm and interest permeated everyone, including Mark Hamill who played Luke Skywalker. The image Lucas had of Guinness was of him sitting in a chair with a relaxed, approachable elegance, as if on the deck of a ship on some exotic cruise floating down a celluloid river. As for Guinness, Lucas in his total concentration reminded him of the young David Lean. But unlike Lean, Lucas did not dictate or impose. During the actual filming he had little to say although able to sense when Guinness was uncomfortable and walk across and "drop a brief word in your ear". Others found him not all that interested in the actors as such: "Very retiring, he doesn't enjoy directing actors very much. He would invariably say, after a take, "Terrific; can you do it again a bit faster?"

He was the detective -The heat and the waiting while they tampered with the machines was too much for Daniels but grimly he stuck it out: then, "One day Alec blew up ... Gosh I'm not wrong." thought C3PO. Guinness quickly returned to serenity: "a whirlpool of serenity" was the phrase Daniels used. During the laser/sword fight between Guinness and another actor his assailant lost concentration and failed to keep to the pre-arranged numbers with the result that Guinness "hit the wall and the floor. They ran towards him, He was all right but everyone was shocked. It was the fact he didn't lose his temper made me realise how angry he was."

"His presence lent so much credibility that everyone
 finally believed that giant furry aliens and talking robots made perfect sense."

It was even more than a presence, however. Familiarity breeds contempt. The machines such as R2D2 ("Reel Two Dialogue Two") and C3P0, ("an euphonic accessory"), as well as the hirsute monsters, were often treated as they looked, or relegated to a sub-human plane and ignored. But Guinness would enter this world of weird creatures and adapt entirely to it, yet he remained well-centred in himself, and kept exactly within his own brief. As such he helped the cast and the production team to treat the menagerie as real, sentient beings. He brought to Star Wars and its two sequels (both written by Lucas but directed by others) in which Kenobi returns as a ghost (or as an underlying deity of "The Force"), its human identity and at a profound level helped the film to communicate its sense of the good (conceived of as an energy source) triumphing over the bad.

During the filming on location Merula, Guinness's own saint, would be all this time out sketching in the local town or market: on one occasion she was drawing a mosque when some of the gendarmerie stopped her, threatened arrest, and wanted to confiscate her sketchbook. She gave them a few pages, but kept her own drawings tucked away....(scroll down).

alec guinness in star wars
Sir Alec Guinness - Star War (1977)


One moment during the filming was of special significance to the director. In the cockpit of Han Solo's spaceship where the area was cramped, and when Han was at the controls - with Chewie, the giant furry alien, next to him, and Luke and Ben standing squeezed in behind them - they played a scene during which Chewie had to reach up and hit a switch above Kenobi's head. In one of the takes Chewie reached up to flip the switch above Kenobi's head. In one of the takes Chewie reached up to flip the switch for the "umpteenth time and accidentally hit Alec right square in the face."

He was unhurt but taken completely by surprise, so he fell out of character. When Lucas looked at the film the next day in the editing machine he noticed that when he took the film from the moment Guinness was hit and studied it one image at a time he saw Guinness's face go through a series of different characters, "all in a split second, starting with Ben and ending with Alec, with about a half-dozen completely different characters in between".

Lucas then came to understand more clearly what he called:

An incredible physical nature of creating a character; how a truly gifted a character; how a truly gifted actor is so concentrated, so thorough that even their facial muscles are transformed. Like a chameleon, Alec has a lot of different shades, different colours and different characters. Every frame of film from the moment he was hit was a different character ... until he finally arrived at Alec Guinness.

When Guinness was performing in The Old Country in 1978 speculation about how much he made out of Star Wars grew to its height and like most reports of the earnings of actors, reached exaggerated dimensions. "Star Wars takings are already $100 million. Sir Alec gets 2% of profits", ran one Daily Express headline. The truth, apparently, was that his contract was for 2.25 per cent of the director's profit, which was only 20 per cent of the film profits. Of course this was on top of his fee, but let us say the profit was $100 million (which was absurb at that time, anyway, because the film itself was expensive to make), then Guinness would have received $450,000. Of course there were still The Return of the Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back - "I will do them if the lines are sayable" - so ultimately the return must have been exceptional. Yet the idea that Guinness had, overnight, been turned into a multi-millionaire was false.

"I would keep more, if I went to live in America. But living in Los Angeles I'd go completely mad" (Guinness momentarily closed his eyes at the painful thought). He decided to stay in England. "As I pop through the stage door every night, I think, 'This is what I wanted to do as a kid: going to the dressing-room, reading my correspondence, taking my time putting on my make-up ...'" But he did add: "You think Dennis Healey (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) might send one a letter of thanks for staying. I don't suppose he will."

Guinness was pleased with Star Wars: "It wasn't smug," he said. But he was a bit puzzled at some reactions: "It's funny how people identify." One person, perfectly sane, or so he said, wrote to him, "I wish to be a Jedi knight. I wish to come to outer space." He wrote back saying, "I earn my living as an actor at the Queen's Theatre."



  • 1977: Best Art Direction, Sound (Don MacDougall, Ray West, Bob Minkler, Derek Ball), Original Score, Editing, Costume Design (John Mollo), Visual Effects, Special Achievement Award (sound effects)

  • Nominations: Best Picture, Supp. Actor (Alec Guinness), Original Screenplay

British Film Academy Awards:

  • 1978: Nominations: Best Film

Star Wars Episode 4 (IV) Ltd Edn 2 Dvd Set


Biography | Filmography
It's All Alec, It's Awesone ... It's The Alec Guinness Wall of Posters

British War Dvds | Alec Guinness Collection (Screen Icons) Dvd Boxset
Barnacle Bill | The Captain's Paradise | The Card
The Comedians | Dr. Zhivago | Great Expectations
Kind Hearts and Coronets | The Ladykillers | The Lavender Hill Mob
Lawrence of Arabia | Oliver Twist | Quiller Memorandum
Raise The Titanic | Tunes of Glory | Twelfth Night
Star Wars Episode 4 (IV) Ltd Edn 2 Dvd Set

Deborah Kerr | Vivien Leigh | Margaret Lockwood | Jean Simmons

Alec Guinness Dvds & Books @ | Alec Guinness Posters | Photos


Links.  Alec Guinness  Your Comments  Alec Guinness Wall of Film Posters  Star Wars: Complete Saga UK Blu-Ray Boxset  Search Site  Top of Page

© Lenin Imports   E-mail