Bizarre Things That Happened On The Set Of Star Wars

When Star Wars was first released in 1977, it quickly became one of the most iconic films of all time, spawning a franchise that has made more money than a million Han debts to Jabba. However, behind the scenes, so many unfathomable difficulties and overall weirdness occurred during filming, you'd think there was some kind of curse at play.

The elements made filming impossible

In March 1976, filming began with New Hope's Tatooine sequences. George Lucas decided to go on location in Tunisia, where problems began almost immediately. On the second day of filming, heavy rain prevented any work from being done. What was so unusual about rain, you might ask? Well, it was the first winter rain in that region of Tunisia in 50 years. Besides this bad luck on the film crew's part, production was set back even further, because the controls for R2-D2's suit malfunctioned constantly. Since this was the '70s and all technology was crap, an entire day was spent just filming a few seconds of footage consisting of R2-D2 moving a couple feet.

C-3PO didn't fare much better: when Anthony Daniels (the actor who played the robot) first put on the plastic costume, he took just two steps when the left leg piece shattered and injured his foot ... ouch. There were even more technical issues, when sand ruined the film equipment and windstorms destroyed sets that had been constructed all the way over in England. Apparently, George Lucas tried to film the movie exclusively on sacred burial grounds.

Things didn't improve when the production moved to Elstree Studios in London, because the crew there didn't take the film seriously, and they kind of accidentally caused an explosion, one that destroyed a set and sent a stuntman to the hospital. How the crew blew up an entire set due to negligence is anyone's guess, because that's kind of cartoonish and insane.

Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford had an on-set romance

Go ahead and make the Han Solo-Princess Leia connection, because Carrie Fisher already did, in her book The Princess Diarist: "It was Han and Leia during the week, and Carrie and Harrison during the weekend." The affair occurred during the filming of A New Hope, when Fisher was just 19 and Ford was 33 ... and married with two kids. Fisher even admitted she was out of her league with the relationship: "I was so inexperienced, but I trusted something about him. He was kind." The affair would last just three months and was "intense," according to Fisher. However, maybe don't take her word for it — she claims she can't recall much of the relationship due to "the brutal strength of Harrison's preferred strain of pot." Well, at least now we know what Han Solo was smuggling in the movie.

Harrison Ford would divorce his wife in 1979, but had precious little to say about his fling. Fisher recalled recently on the Graham Norton Show, "Harrison and I never spoke about it again. I saw him a lot because I became friends with his second wife and I can remember three times when we were all together that I, of course, made an oblique reference to it and he just grunted." Maybe he forgot because of the "brutal strength" of his pot, or something like that.

George Lucas' health fell apart

Lucas' problems began before A New Hope was even being filmed. During the writing of the first Star Wars script, Lucas found it so difficult, he experienced symptoms like chest and stomach pains, along with worse headaches than a college student trying to write an entire paper on the morning it's due.

Even more bizarre was his habit of cutting his hair when he encountered too much difficulty during the writing process. Lucas managed to work through these problems, but his health only worsened when he encountered further stress during filming. After being informed that several special effects shots hadn't been filmed, Lucas experienced further chest pains, which were diagnosed as a combination of hypertension and exhaustion. Knowing his circumstances, those symptoms actually seem pretty reasonable.

Still, Lucas continued to work, despite another obstacle being thrown his way when Mark Hamill injured himself in a car crash right before the filming of Empire Strikes Back. Lucas' experience filming A New Hope was so difficult, he vowed never to work in such a capacity again. According to Carrie Fisher, she once visited Lucas during this time, only to encounter him incapacitated on his couch: "I don't ever want to do this again" he said. As we all know, Lucas' effort was worth it in the long run, since he now has enough money to live like a real-life Jabba the Hutt.

The Hoth set was a snowy nightmare

Like A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back encountered historic weather problems when it began filming in Norway in March of 1979. Northern Europe had just encountered one of its most severe winters in history — while blizzards and extreme conditions were perfect for the snow planet of Hoth, it was less than ideal for the cast and crew. Most of the filming occurred in sub-zero temperatures, which made it impossible to use any equipment outdoors.

So, what did the crew do? They shot most scenes just steps away from their hotel like a bunch of jerks, while the actors froze to death. When even that became too difficult, they decided to call up Harrison Ford for filming. Ford was in London, so he took a train to Oslo. Since no trains were going to Finse, where the production was taking place due to multiple avalanches on the line, Ford had to take a snowplow to get to Finse. It's a shame he didn't film his road trip for the outtakes.

The filming was a non-stop party

During the filming of Empire Strikes Back, it was nothing but revelry on-set, with drinking, drugs, and celebrities ranging from the Rolling Stones to Monty Python.

While shooting went on in London, Carrie Fisher rented Python trooper Eric Idle's home, and he seems to have been quite the host. One night, while partying with the Rolling Stones and Idle, Idle made her and Harrison Ford a drink he called the "Tunisian Death Special" which had been used to make extras from a Monty Python film in Tunisia more compliant. For something as wacky as Python, that drink and what it did actually sounds like something out of a horror movie. Neither Ford nor Fisher slept that night, and the drink's effects were still affecting them when they went onto the Bespin Mining Station set that morning.

"I remember that we never went to sleep, so we weren't hungover—we were still drunk when we arrived in Cloud City the next day. We don't really smile a lot in the movie, but there, we're smiling." Fisher later related. In addition to drinking like high schoolers who just cracked their parents' liquor cabinet, Fisher admitted to doing cocaine on the set, which made the filming even less of a chore, especially when on location: "Location means like everything is permitted. I went without being needed to Norway [on Empire]—that's how much fun I was having. I was upset that I didn't get to go to Tunisia for the first one. But I had a good time on the movies." So there you have it: in the era of DARE, your childhood heroes were doing blow with the Rolling Stones.

Miss Piggy made a surprise visit to Dagobah

Star Wars enthusiasts will know that Frank Oz, the legendary muppeteer, played Yoda in Empire Strikes Back. However, to successfully manipulate the Yoda puppet on the Dagobah set, Oz endured painful circumstances unlike anything you could think of.

Oz, who was 6'2" and weighed 175 pounds at the time, was forced to cram himself into a small bunker, so he could be out of sight while working. Making things even more difficult, the mineral oil used to create the murky atmosphere of a bog planet caused Oz and director Irvin Kershner such bad nausea, they were forced to wear gas masks. When Oz was in his bunker, he could neither hear nor see what was going on above him, so a TV monitor and radio earphones were installed to help remedy this. The process was so arduous, it took around four hours of work to capture just two lines of dialogue. About his performance as Yoda, Frank Oz said: "It was one of the hardest I've ever done in 20 years of performing." Who would've known that being forced to fit into a small container while wearing a gas mask, then relying on a TV and headphones to work a puppet was more difficult than controlling characters on a kids' show!

To break the tension on the set, Oz decided to have a familiar character make a surprise visit. During one especially difficult work day, Oz brought in the iconic muppet Miss Piggy, in the middle of what was supposed to be an extremely serious moment between Yoda and Luke Skywalker. After some ribald banter about Hamill joining Piggy behind the couch, the pair donned matching lavender gloves and gowns, breaking into a duet of the song "Feelings," which brought uproarious laughter from the crew who had probably lost all desire to live by then.

Chewbacca had a surprising problem on the Endor set

To perfectly capture the forest moon of Endor for Return of the Jedi, the crew hit the Northern California town of Crescent City and began filming in the vast forests there. Soon, a rumor began to spread that Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewbacca, had to be accompanied by a group of crew members wearing brightly-colored outfits, because it was feared that he might be mistaken for the legendary Bigfoot and shot by hunters. As silly as this whole story sounds, the forests of the Pacific Northwest have been infamous for Bigfoot sightings, so it was a very real (albeit hilarious in hindsight) fear.

This anecdote was first spread by Star Wars comic book writer Hadan Blackman, who mentioned the story in an interview. But for over thirty years, it remained just an outrageous rumor — then, in 2015, the story appeared on the Reddit, and users wanted to ask Peter Mayhew himself if it was true. Mayhew (who has an account with the site) took the liberty of confirming the rumor. So, if you had a Bigfoot sighting near Crescent City around 1979, you might want to rethink what you saw.

The Ewok actors caused some unusual problems

The players behind those wacky Jedi Ewoks would present some ... interesting problems, which began when their consumes were being designed. Apparently, it was originally intended for the actors to be able to move their eyelids and mouth, but the designers were unable to do so. This gave the Ewoks a sort of wooden appearance, making them equal parts cuddly and nightmare-inducing. Later, during filming in Crescent City, the actors frequently overheated in their costumes, with one saying, "The costumes were like saunas. The wardrobe people were constantly bringing us Gatorade." No wonder they always looked so angry.

While there were technical issues with the actors, they created some memorable stories because of their behind-the-scenes trysts, too. J.W. Rinzler, who wrote The Making of Return of the Jedi, said that the Ewok performers often used their dressing rooms for secret lovemaking: "A few people had funny stories about having to knock on any doors that contained private places ... normally little people aren't used to seeing so many other little people at the same time — so it was kind of a new experience for them." So now you know: the Ewok actors were getting steamy both in and out of their costumes.