star wars film proves force of UK creativity
The success of the latest 'Star Wars' film maintains a global platform for British creativity that began almost four decades ago.
All seven Star Wars movies were filmed in the UK, with British designers, technicians and production experts providing key contributions to the iconic series. The re-boot of the franchise, 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens', which following its release in late 2015 quickly became the highest-grossing film of all time in the UK, also includes young British actors in two of the lead parts.
The UK Government’s GREAT Britain campaign, Disney and Lucasfilm have now developed a unique collaboration that brings together leading UK figures from sport, entertainment, science and business to celebrate the essential role played by British talent and innovation in the Star Wars phenomenon from the first film in the 1970's to the latest instalment.
In the initiative, 'Star Wars: Made GREAT in Britain', well-known Britons such as Jessica Ennis-Hill, Jamie Oliver, Sir Richard Branson, and Tim Peake pay screen tribute to the work of UK set designers, costumiers, musicians and other creative talent in the film series, and to the legacy of their ideas.
Almost 40 years ago the partnership between Great Britain and Star Wars began with the production of 'Star Wars: A New Hope' at Elstree Studios.
The imagination, inspiration and innovation of the filmmakers included the original lightsaber design by British set decorator Roger Christian - who fashioned it from spare camera parts and collected junk, Academy Award®-winning costume designs from British-born John Mollo – the man who brought Darth Vader’s iconic look to life; and the key roles of the London Symphony Orchestra and Abbey Road - the birthplace of the series' iconic theme music.
'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' drew on the droid-building skills of two British fans, Oliver Steeples and Lee Towersey, who were recruited to bring R2-D2 to life plus British actors Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Gwendoline Christie who play Rey, Finn and Captain Phasma in the new film.
The 'Star Wars: Made in Great Britain' celebrates links between the UK and the record-breaking series. Image: GREAT Campaign.
Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm, said: “Britain is the home of Star Wars. Returning to the UK and setting up at Pinewood felt like a kind of homecoming, especially with the generations of crew members who go back to the early days of the Star Wars saga. It’s been wonderful to see this new generation drafting off that classic sensibility while working on these new films.”
George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said: “Nearly 40 years ago British creativity brought Star Wars to the big screen and I’m delighted that British talent in front and behind the camera is set to captivate cinema audiences around the world again. Just as this film represents another chapter in the extraordinary star wars story - so it also represents a new chapter in British film making.
"I was determined that the UK would be the home of this great production, and together we fought hard to bring it here. Two years later we see the results: more jobs, skills and investment."
How UK made Star Wars a multi-decade success story:
- All seven Star Wars films were made in the UK:
'A New Hope' - Elstree & Shepperton Studios
'The Empire Strikes Back' - Elstree Studios
'Return of the Jedi' - Elstree Studios
'The Phantom Menace' - Leavesden Studios
'Attack of the Clones' - Ealing & Elstree Studios
'Revenge of the Sith' - Elstree & Shepperton Studios
'The Force Awakens' - Pinewood Studios
- Darth Vader’s helmet was crafted by British sculptor, Brian Muir
- The lightsaber was made by Briton Roger Christian for less than £10 out of assorted spare parts. Christian went on to win the Oscar for Best Art Direction – Set Decoration for the original 'Star Wars: A New Hope' in 1978
- The only full-scale model of the Millennium Falcon was built in an airplane hangar in Welsh military town Pembroke Dock in 1979 for 'The Empire Strikes Back'; the team was sworn to secrecy, and the project was code-named Magic Roundabout
- John Williams’ Oscar-winning original score for 'Star Wars' was recorded at the world-famous Abbey Road Studios by the London Symphony Orchestra
- The original R2-D2 was built by British special effects experts John Stears and John Barry for the original 'Star Wars'.
Published: January 28, 2016.
Read more about the UK's film and TV sector here.
Watch a clip on why Warner Bros also chose to invest in the UK film sector.