Mark Hamill explains why ‘Star Wars’ was ‘the most expensive low-budget movie ever made’

Mark Hamill, Alec Guinness and C3PO
Credit: Lucasfilm

It is impossible to quanitfy the pop culture and financial impact that the Star Wars franchise has made over the last few decades, something that The Last Jedi is only going to add to now that it is out in cinemas.

But the series had a very auspicious start, with United Artists and Universal Pictures both rejecting the film before 20th Century Fox agreed to finance it, giving Lucas $7.5 million to make “A New Hope.” All of that money needed to be seen on screen, though, and because Lucas was ambitiously trying to create a space fantasy that meant their finances were stretched.

“First of all, the scope of them is so enormous,” Hamill recalled to me when I sat down to talk to the actor at the end of November. “George called ‘Star Wars’ the most expensive low-budget movie ever made. That was because our budget was $7.5 million, it went up eventually to $9 million.”

“My point is that every penny had to be up on the screen. They weren’t paying the actors anything. Well, Sir Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing because they were established. They had careers, we were all unknowns.”

Hamill then went on to reveal what the biggest technical innovation in the first “Star Wars” film was, too. Hamill admitted that, in comparison to the avalanche of special effects used in “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi,” it is rather tame, but for the time is was truly ground-breaking.

“We didn’t have CGI. The biggest innovation in ‘Star Wars’ was computer controlled cameras, so that you could program a camera move. That was how they were able to achieve the assault on the Death Star in a way they never could have before. For 1977 that was innovative.”

The success of “A New Hope” and its sequels means that “The Last Jedi’s” special effects are a little bit more innovative than the above. You can now finally marvel over “The Last Jedi” as it has just been released into cinemas, and is set to cause quite a stir. 

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