The summer of 1977 was a particularly insane time in American history. The Son of Sam killer was terrorizing women across New York City, a massive flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania killed 85 people, Elvis Presley and Groucho Marx died days apart and a blackout turned Manhattan into a scene straight out of a dystopian science fiction movie.
A new film called Star Wars also hit theaters. The trailer for the seventh chapter of the saga debuted last week, so we decided to look back to the time when America first became obsessed with George Lucas’ space opera. Two months after the film premiered, the lead actors appeared on The Mike Douglas Show alongside Pete Rose and the Swiss mime troupe Mummenschanz.
Carrie Fisher, who was still a couple months shy of her 21st birthday, came out first.
“Forgive me for just staring at you,” Douglas said as soon as she sat down. “But I know your mom and dad well. When someone looks at an offspring for the first time they say, ‘Let’s see, do I see some of the mother?'” They eventually got around to the movie. “We knew it was special when were doing it,” she said. “But we never imagined it would be a big hit like it is. It’s terrific.”
Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill came out next. “Has anyone mentioned,” Douglas asked, “that ‘Star Wars’ is almost like an updated Bob Hope/Bing Crosby road picture?” Ford didn’t flinch at the odd comparison. “It is a road picture in space,” he said. “The characters have the same devil-may-care attitude about the situation. It’s not real serious.” (A couple of million Star Wars fans probably have a different opinion about the seriousness of the movie.)
Mark Hamill revealed that George Lucas had two sets of lead actors in mind for the film. “If they had gone another way, none of us would be here,” he said. “They weren’t mixing and matching. From the beginning, it was either the three of us or three other people.” Imagine being one of those poor people: “Hey, I was almost Luke Skywalker. Seriously. No, I swear to God…”
In their wildest dreams, Ford, Hamill and Fisher probably couldn’t have imagined they’d be reunited 37 years later to create another film in the franchise, or that it would somehow still be one of the most anticipated movies in the history of Hollywood.