This is the 24th post in a daily series. Read about it here and see the list of previous posts here. A new post about “Star Wars” will be posted every day for 40 days leading up to the franchise’s 40th birthday on May 25th.
“Star Wars” fans have some sharp criticisms for the films in the franchise, but there’s one group of people that have said even harsher things about the movies: the actors who were in them.
(We’ll go ahead now and warn of spoilers for the “Star Wars” movies, particularly “The Force Awakens.”)
Alec Guinness had pointed words for the original movie before it was even filmed. In a letter to his longtime friend Anne Kaufman, Guinness called the story “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 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.
That word appeared in a later correspondence with Kaufman after filming had begun:
… 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 … 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?
For his part, Ford has just as dismissive of “Star Wars” as Guinness was, if not more so. Ford was on the same page with Guinness about the dialog, having famously told George Lucas, “George, you can type this shit, but you sure has hell can’t say it.” By the time “Return of the Jedi” was released, Ford was ready to be done with the series. In an interview promoting the movie, Ford said, “Three is enough for me. I was glad to see that costume for the last time.”
Ford reiterated that in a 2010 interview with MTV, saying, “Han Solo was very good to me at a certain point in my career. But I’m done. I’m done with him.”
We know now, of course, that he would do one more “Star Wars” movie. Solo was in “The Force Awakens,” but was killed by Kylo Ren, and it’s presumed Ford won’t return.
In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Ford explained that he had been trying to get Solo killed for 30 years.
Indeed, as a 2010 interview proves, Ford had been vocal about that attempt.
At one point in time, “Return of the Jedi” was meant to be Solo’s last appearance. Gary Kurtz, the producer for “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” said that in earlier plans of the third movie, Han Solo was meant to die in a botched Imperial raid. Lucas didn’t want any of the main characters killed off, lest that hurt toy sales. Kurtz and Lucas hit a stalemate, and Kurtz walked away from the series. Luckily for Ford, J.J. Abrams was amenable to killing off Solo.
Mark Hamill said he did “The Force Awakens” in part because he thought saying no was out of the question. Speaking at the “Star Wars Celebration” event in 2015, he said:
I couldn’t say yes or no, but what was really interesting was later I thought, ‘It’s not like a choice, it’s like … it was like I was drafted… Can you imagine if for some reason I said, ‘I don’t think I want to do it’? I would have all of you surrounding my house like villagers in a Frankenstein picture.
Though Ford and Guinness were the most blunt in their disdain for “Star Wars,” their cast mates didn’t shy away from complaining about their experiences with the movies. Carrie Fisher was open about her love-hate relationship with the franchise. When Lucas received a AFI Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, Fisher delivered a brutal but hilarious assessment of Lucas’s unflinching and controlling nature, saying “George Lucas ruined my life. I mean that in the nicest possible way.”
She later used a lot of the same lines in the stage adaptation of her 2008 memoir, “Wishful Drinking.”
Ford and Guinness had issues with the dialog, and Fisher had complaints about Lucas, but some of the other actors took swipes at each other. Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2, and Anthony Daniels, who played C-3PO, famously did not get along. At all. Of Daniels, Baker said, “He’s the rudest man I’ve ever met.” Perhaps earning that title, Daniels said, “He might as well be a bucket.”
Daniels, though, has had his critiques for other aspects of the films beyond Baker. On the topic of the prequels, he said, “The effects are clever but pointless. The skill is there, but so what? Coldness, that’s the word. Bleakness, even.”
His co-stars from Episodes I, II, and III have had their own complaints. Natalie Portman said the movies hurt her chances for work:
Star Wars had come out around the time of ‘Seagull,’ and everyone thought I was a horrible actress… I was in the biggest-grossing movie of the decade, and no director wanted to work with me.
Terence Stamp, who played Chancellor Valorum, was excited to appear in “The Phantom Menace” because it meant he would get to work with Portman. Or so he thought. In an interview with Empire Magazine, he said:
I came all the way back from Australia to do it. I didn’t want to but my agent leaned on me and I wanted to meet Natalie Portman because I’d seen her in The Professional. And I did meet her and she was absolutely enchanting. But on the day I’m supposed to do my scene with her, for which I’d traveled halfway around the world, I said, “Where’s Natalie?” And George says, “That’s Natalie,” and points to a bit of paper on the wall. It was just boring.
Without Portman, Stamp said, there was little interest for him, as he was no fan of Lucas:
We didn’t get on at all. I didn’t rate him that much as a director, really. I didn’t feel like he was a director of actors; he was more interested in stuff and effects. He didn’t interest me and I wouldn’t think I interested him.
Ewan McGregor did not criticize the movies, per se, but said that having been in the prequels has meant he’s bumped into opportunists who just wanted to use him to make money off fans. He said:
The people I meet are the fuckers who want me to sign ‘Star Wars’ photos so they can sell them on the Internet or the people at premieres who are crushing children against barriers to get me to sign their fucking picture of Obi-Wan Kenobi. They’re not fans—they’re parasitical lowlifes and fucking wankers.
Ahmed Best, who played Jar Jar Binks, has not complained about the actual films, but has said the anti-Jar Jar backlash was painful. One can imagine that being one of the most hated characters in the series would take its toll.
But the actor who might have the most to complain about is Jake Lloyd, who said his experience of playing young Anakin in “The Phantom Menace” made him want to stop acting. “Other children were really mean to me,” he said in an interview with Blackbook. “They would make the sound of the lightsaber every time they saw me. It was totally mad.” That was traumatizing enough for him that “I’ve learned to hate it when the cameras are pointed at me,” he said.
Not only does that make us feel sorry for Lloyd and feel bad for anything we ever might have said about “The Phantom Menace,” it also puts Ford’s and Guinness’s complaints into perspective.