|Star Wars: The At Long Last Love of science fiction?|
Most written accounts suggest that Fox was bracing itself for a $10 million flop.
George Lucas was clearly under a lot of strain. He had taken personal charge of Industrial Light and Magic in an effort to get the film finished on time. The movie missed its original release date of Christmas 1976 and there was tremendous pressure to make the revised date of May 1977. At one point, Lucas went to a hospital in Marin County, California, convinced he was having a heart attack. He could hardly have been an objective judge of how the film was coming together.
At least one person seems to have still believed in the film. When Fox was asked to release $20,000 for second unit work on the Tatooine scenes to be done in Death Valley, studio boss Alan Ladd Jr was hauled before the Twentieth Century-Fox board and asked why the film had over-run. According to Dale Pollock's book Skywalking, Ladd told them: “Because it’s possibly the greatest picture ever made.”
|At Long Last Love: sadly not|
the Star Wars of musicals
Fox executives apparently reacted very differently when they saw a rough assembly of the film, still without music or completed effects. They were won over – and some made a lot of money by exercising share options. So maybe the idea that everyone thought Star Wars would flop is a myth, which has grown out of Lucas's understandable gloom and the failure of his screening to friends.
What's your own take on this? Was the film's success really a surprise, or has that been exaggerated over the years? Do you remember how Star Wars was being talked about before its release, if it was talked about at all? Please leave a comment and discuss.