A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…. Well, actually, not that long ago, and much closer to home… Let’s start this again. Back in 1976, in the deserts of Tunisia, the suspicious activities caused neighboring Libya to prepare for war. The suspicious activities involved people and vehicles from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Confused? Read on and learn how Star Wars almost sparked a real war.
George Lucas had big dreams for Star Wars, the first in what would become a wildly successful series of films. Star Wars tells of the epic struggle between good and evil, as represented by the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. The Empire, of course, is ruled under the iron first of Emperor Palpatine. The big hero of the Rebels ends up being Luke Skywalker, of the planet Tatooine.
Lucas found a Tatooine-like location on his home planet. The deserts of Tunisia provided the perfect setting for Luke Skywalker’s home. What Lucas did not take into account was that a real-world iron-fisted dictator lurked just a few light saber-lengths away: Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.
Libya and Tunisia share a border, and in 1976, relations between the two nations was less than ideal. When Lucas’ crew began its preparations for filming, the Libyan government cast a suspicious eye toward the set.
Matters reached high intensity when Libyan made a demand that Tunisia immediately cease its provocative deployment of a massive military vehicle near the border. Gaddafi warned that conflict was inevitable if Tunisia did not comply with his demands at once.
The offensive military vehicle in question was a Jawa Sandcrawler. If the demands had come after Star Wars was released, Lucas might have been in a better bargaining position. Since the release of the first installment in the series, Star Wars films have generated more than $10 billion (adjusted for inflation) worldwide. At the time, however, Lucas was more interested in getting the first movie done than he was in taking the battle of good and evil directly to Gaddafi. He quickly agreed to move the Sandcrawler to a less-provocative location.
Although future installments of Star Wars did not come close to triggering shots fired across borders, there were some reasons to be concerned about bullets. When filming scenes in the Redwood forests of Northern California for Return of the Jedi, one actor, in particular, had reason for concern. Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca, had bodyguards assigned to him when he was in costume. There were serious concerns that he would be mistaken for a bear and end up having to dodge bullets, rather than blasters.
Curiously, the bodyguards also had to protect Mayhew from Bigfoot hunters. Although Mayhew confirmed this fact, he did not offer an opinion as to who was scariest: Bigfoot hunters, bear hunters, Jabba the Hut, or Darth Vader.
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