The Star Wars Effect

I love the movie La La Land. For once, I’ll avoid a lengthy rant about the worst flub in Oscar history. And it has nothing to do with getting the cards mixed up. Sigh. For the uninitiated, Emma Stone’s character grapples with a series of failed auditions. Each rejection, from botched auditions to a solo play, sharpens her skills, eventually propelling her to stardom. I won’t spoil the movie’s ending.

While researching a novel, I stumbled across the original casting tryouts for Star Wars. Occasionally, the YouTube recommendation algorithm strikes gold. Yes, these are priceless. And surprisingly, these auditions, reminiscent of Stone’s in La La Land, underscore the power of proper casting. Still, I can’t help but think about what could have been.

Imagine Kurt Russell playing Han Solo?

Or Robbie Benson as Luke?

And what about Sigourney Weaver portraying Leia? Or Kim Basinger?

I encourage everyone to take in these throwbacks. Sure, it’s entertaining to watch Harrison Ford grow agitated when someone forgets a line. Or think how Kurt Russell might have brought something different to the role of Solo—he read for Luke too. But only on a second viewing did I make a connection across each audition. No matter the actor, each had this lost look while reading the script. And in fairness, the early lines about nerf herders don’t necessarily roll off the tongue. These were uncharted waters.

A Near-Perfect Story

The initial script, later named Episode IV A New Hope, began its evolution before 1973. Contrasting recent sequels, the original underwent extensive revisions, and George Lucas’s dedication birthed one of cinema’s most streamlined narratives.

Imagine you’ve never heard of Star Wars. No expanded universe, books, or Disney spin-offs. Now, rewatch the original. This story covers significant ground during its runtime, from Luke discovering his Jedi heritage to the Rebel Alliance’s battle against the Death Star on Yavin IV.

The story introduces an entire new universe in a short runtime:

  • There are clear objectives, Find a Princess.
  • High Stakes, the Fate of the Galaxy.
  • Character transformation, Farm Boy to Hero.

And it’s economical, each scene has a purpose to drive the story onward.

Holding what may be the most important movie in history, the actors flub their lines. None of them understood the moment. How could they? Before Star Wars, the 1976 Domestic Box office grossed less than one billion dollars (Notes, sources and figures do vary). Here are the top five movies:

  • Rocky
  • To Fly!
  • A Star is Born
  • All the President’s Men
  • The Omen

Then, Star Wars, a movie shot in the desert, transformed the industry, grossing twice what Rocky achieved the previous year. What’s more, Luke Skywalker’s heroic journey not only enchanted audiences but nearly doubled the 1976 box office, bringing in a staggering 1.7 billion in 1977.

The only problem?

Science Fiction movies were dubbed B Movies. Sure, there were outliers. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. War of the Worlds. The Day the Earth Stood Still. Each had some commercial success. But for a Hollywood Executive in 1978, everything had to change quickly. Special effects. Movie sets. Actors. A whole new ballgame.

The Sprint Matters

Change often instills fear in established entities. And it’s imperative for early-stage companies to sell with reckless abandon. While survival and making payroll are critical, gaining scale and traction quickly also deters future rivals. Take ChatGPT by OpenAI, the remarkable launch amassed a hundred million users. Yet, with time (a few months), challengers have emerged. Anthropic. Elon started a company. Google launched Bard. Adobe embedded offerings into its suite.

Yes, this is a California gold rush and NVIDIA is selling the shovels. This pattern is recurrent, evident in sectors from automobiles to software models.

Shaken, Not Stirred

While I haven’t watched Moonraker in years, and many rank it as one of the weaker Bond films, the opening sequence remains one of the most memorable in movie history. In this scene, Bond is pushed out of an airplane without a parachute and must fight in freefall to secure one from a henchman.

I know. Yawn. We’ve seen that in Captain America. And in Black Widow.

But go back in time. When these actors jump out of the plane, this required real skydivers and weeks to shoot. No green screen. What’s more powerful is that the cameraperson also jumped out of the plane. And why not? While Bond battled the villains, somebody had to film the action. Crazy.

Yet, the audience wanted the moon.

If you watch the original trailer for the movie, Hollywood vowed to entertain. After seeing the massive success and appeal of science fiction and space-themed movies following the release of Star Wars, the producers of the famed series decided to capitalize on the trend. Originally, For Your Eyes Only was intended to be the next Bond film after The Spy Who Loved Me. However, due to the boom initiated by Lucas, the decision was made to fast-track Moonraker, which had more potential for space-themed scenes. Yes, Bond shoots space lasers. Sigh.


I plan to rewatch Moonraker soon. For now, I’ll trust the reviews—it’s an uneven movie after the wild ride opening. Still, even if it’s imperfect, other creative studios catch on to the brave new world. New movies were greenlit, scripts written. Those sets do get built.

And yes, the summer of 1982 is often considered one of the greatest years for science fiction cinema. Here’s a list of notable sci-fi films that were released during the summer of 1982 (from June to August):

  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (June 4th)
  • Firefox (June 18th)
  • ET (June 11th)
  • Blade Runner (June 25th)
  • The Thing (June 25th)
  • Tron (July 9th)

This is a pivot. Whether it’s the race to cast the perfect actor, the sprint to revolutionize an industry, or the dash to release a groundbreaking film, it’s all a testament to how change, opportunity, and innovation drive us forward. The journey might be unpredictable, but it’s the race that shapes the story. Onward.


  • As of this writing, Star Wars sits at Number 13 on the AFI (American Film Institute) list of Top 100 movies.
  • The 1976 Domestic Box Office Numbers. And 1977. And it’s worth noting, Close Encounters movie is a pretty good flick too.
  • Head line photo taken at Disney World, sometime in 2003.