The first instalment of the Star Wars film series was released in cinemas in the United States of America.
The iconic space opera was written and directed by the American filmmaker George Lucas. His directional debut, the dystopian science fiction film THX 1138 was not received well by critics or filmgoers. However his second release, American Graffiti, was much more successful and was a key factor in securing financial support for Star Wars from 20th Century Fox President Alan Ladd, Jr.
Lucas himself has often presented conflicting accounts of the film’s development, but what is clear is that it took him over three years to write the screenplay. Yet despite the significant time spent crafting both the script and the universe in which it was set, Lucas continued to rewrite the script while shooting.
External scenes for the film were filmed in Tunisia, Guatemala and Death Valley while the internal shots were completed on sets based at the massive sound stages of Elstree and Shepperton Studios near London. Within a week of the start of filming, the production had already begun to run behind schedule, and Star Wars ended up going nearly a third over its original $8 million budget.
Demand for the finished film from theatres was initially so low that 20th Century Fox forced them to show it in return for copies of the more eagerly anticipated The Other Side of Midnight. Despite this difficult start, when adjusted for inflation the science fiction epic went on to become the third highest-grossing film in the world.
Star Wars was nominated for ten Academy Awards of which it won six, alongside a Special Achievement for Sound Effects Editing. However, the film’s impact on both popular culture and the development of cinema is immeasurable.