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8 Star Wars Questions We Still Need Answered

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The Star Wars franchise has given birth to one of the most passionate and knowledgeable fan bases in all of pop culture. Each installment has been scoured by fans for decades in order to answer every question that George Lucas’s seminal space opera posed. But as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars, there are still a few mysteries about the saga that have no definitive answers. Here are eight Star Wars questions we still need answered.

1. WHY DOESN'T ANYONE RECOGNIZE R2-D2 AND C-3PO?

Nineteen years are supposed to have passed between the end of the Star Wars prequels and the start of the original trilogy, so you should forgive Obi-Wan for being fuzzy on the details of a few of his younger exploits. But how can he not remember R2-D2 and C-3PO when they show up in 1977's A New Hope? Obi-Wan fought countless battles with the two droids by his side, with R2 swooping in to save his life on a number of occasions. And don't forget that C-3PO was Obi-Wan's ride home after the Jedi Master turned Anakin Skywalker into a quadruple amputee (and subsequently doomed the galaxy for two decades) at the end of Revenge of the Sith. Surely you'd remember a thing like that.

So it’s a bit strange that when he first encounters the droids in Episode IV, ol’ Obi-Wan specifically says, “I don't seem to remember ever owning a droid,” before listening to Princess Leia’s message about the Death Star plans. Either Obi-Wan is lying (which he does pretty often), is being way too literal (he never actually owned R2 or C-3PO), or simply forgot about the previous three decades of his life.

Almost as bad as Kenobi’s memory is Uncle Owen’s. In the prequels, a young Uncle Owen lives with C-3PO for years on the farm on Tatooine, as we see when Anakin and Padme stop by in Attack of the Clones (2002). Yet when the two droids wind up at his front door, he doesn’t offer up so much as a nod of recognition. Even for emotionless droids, that’s got to hurt.

2. DOES OBI-WAN FORGET THAT LEIA IS A SKYWALKER?

On the subject of Obi-Wan’s suspect memory, he also seems to completely forget that Leia is the daughter of Anakin Skywalker during The Empire Strikes Back (1980). When Luke leaves his Jedi training early to save Han and Leia from Darth Vader, Obi-Wan tells Yoda that Luke is “our last hope.” Yoda then famously reveals that, “No, there is another.”

It’s a great line, but there’s one problem with it: Obi-Wan knows that there is another Skywalker around that could defeat Vader; he literally helped deliver Leia as a baby. So he’s either forgotten about another major event from the prequels, or he doesn’t even entertain the thought of Leia being able to save the galaxy. The most likely explanation? George Lucas was just making this stuff up as he went along.

3. WHY DOESN’T DARTH VADER SENSE ANYTHING ABOUT LEIA?

The Force is a powerful weapon, and throughout the saga, Darth Vader showed that he could use it to sense things about people that others couldn’t. He sensed Obi-Wan’s presence aboard the Death Star, he got into Luke’s head during their duel in Return of the Jedi, and he could seemingly see his loved ones' futures throughout the prequels. Yet he couldn’t feel something—anything—about Leia having the Skywalker blood when they first met in the opening moments of A New Hope.

It’s not entirely clear when it was decided that Leia would be a Skywalker, so it could be assumed that this was never part of the plan in 1977. But in the 40 years since, no one has been able to offer up an official reason—no matter how contrived—to explain away this question.

4. WHY DO SOME JEDI DISAPPEAR AFTER THEY DIE?

When Obi-Wan and Yoda die in the original trilogy, their bodies cease to be, disappearing and becoming one with the Force. It’s a noble end to two of the most important characters in the franchise, and it also set a precedent at the time that all Jedi disappear when they die. Well, the good guys at least, since Darth Vader’s body doesn’t disappear after his death in Return of the Jedi (though fan opinions differ on whether or not his physical body vanishes before his funeral pyre).

Yet in the prequels, none of the Jedi disappear when they die, most notably Qui-Gon Jinn. It’s later revealed that Jinn is the one who teaches Yoda how to communicate with the living from beyond the grave. Despite his body never vanishing, Jinn still winds up as a ghost in The Clone Wars animated series, and his spectral voice is even heard in Episode II when Anakin goes on his murderous rampage of the Sand People. So what made Obi-Wan and Yoda’s deaths so special? What did they learn while in seclusion that allowed them to vanish? With the next Star Wars movie being called The Last Jedi, it looks like time is running out on an answer.

5. WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH ANAKIN’S FATHER?

In The Phantom Menace (1999), Shmi Skywalker—Anakin’s mother—gave Qui-Gon the eye-rolling explanation that Anakin has no father and was the product of a miraculous birth. The mystery surrounding Anakin’s parentage gets more interesting in Revenge of the Sith, when Chancellor Palpatine tells Anakin of his mentor, Darth Plagueis.

According to Palpatine, Plagueis was a Sith Lord so powerful that he could use the Force to manipulate the Midi-chlorians (think weird cells that give Jedi super powers) in a person’s body to create life. It’s never explicitly said that this is how Anakin came to be, but the theory is a popular one among fans. Even if it’s true, there’s the bigger question of whether it was Plagueis himself, or his pupil, Palpatine, that created Anakin.

6. SO WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED TO THOSE BOTHANS?

Mon Mothma doesn't get a whole lot to say throughout the movies, but her most famous line is also the most cryptic of the entire saga. When detailing the stolen plans of the new Death Star in Return of the Jedi, Mothma’s face suddenly drifts into an expressionless mask as she chillingly says, “Many Bothans died to bring us this information.”

Whatever happened to the Bothans, it couldn’t have been good. Though they never even appear on screen during the movies, the best we can tell is that they look like pint-sized wolves and are apparently big-time movers and shakers in the world of intergalactic politics. We’ve already seen one Death Star get its plans stolen on film, but the plight of the ill-fated Bothans might be worth its own movie just to explain Mothma’s thousand-yard stare.

7. HOW THE DID SECOND DEATH STAR GET BUILT SO QUICKLY?

In the closing moments of Revenge of the Sith, we see the very basic skeletal structure of the first Death Star being constructed. Nineteen years later, the thing is cruising around the galaxy and turning entire planets into dust. After the first Death Star is destroyed, the Empire has another one—even bigger than the original—almost fully operational in the four years between A New Hope and Return of the Jedi.

So how did the second Death Star go up so quickly? If you head over to Reddit, you can read a lot of theories about improved technology and shortened research and development time. But seeing as though we’ll never get a movie revolving around the galactic construction union contracted to work for the Empire, it’s best to just accept the Death Star as is. It’s not like it lasts long anyway.

8. WHERE DID THE EWOKS GET LEIA’S DRESS?

Isn’t it a little bit odd that the Ewoks had a dress for Princess Leia just lying around in Jedi? Watch it again—it’s a really nicely tailored dress that fits Leia perfectly. This is one of those small details that probably didn’t capture many fans’ attention at the time, but once you realize how strange it is, it’ll be hard to watch the movie the same way again.

There’s really no logical reason for a race of warrior teddy bears to be in the business of sewing together people clothes just in case they have company. But this is Star Wars after all, so fans already have plenty of theories. The most popular? The Ewoks eat humans, and the dress is something left over from a recent meal. Terrifying, but completely reasonable.

We already know that the little critters were fixing to cook Chewbacca, Han, and Luke when they first captured them, so we can assume they’ve eaten people before. And since the dress was put on Leia so quickly, we can also assume that it wasn’t just made on the fly from spare fabric. Therefore, it must have belonged to someone else at some point, and that someone else might have met her end at an Ewok barbecue. And with no official explanation coming in the foreseeable future, this is all we have to go on.

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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15 Things You May Not Know About Close Encounters of the Third Kind
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Columbia Pictures

We are not alone. Here are a few facts about Steven Spielberg’s 1977 UFO classic, on its 40th anniversary.

1. IT WAS INITIALLY A VERY DIFFERENT FILM.

Spielberg’s initial story outline involved UFOs and shady government dealings following the Watergate scandal, which became a script entitled “Watch the Skies.” The idea involved a police or military officer working on Project Blue Book, the Air Force’s official study into UFOs in the 1950s and 1960s, who would become the whistleblower on the government cover-up of aliens. There were numerous rewrites—Taxi Driver scribe Paul Schrader even took a crack at it, penning a political UFO thriller titled “Kingdom Come” that Spielberg and the movie studio rejected—before the story we know today emerged.

2. IT’S NAMED AFTER LEGITIMATE UFO RESEARCH.


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Spielberg partly based his idea on the research of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a civilian scientific advisor to Project Blue Book who eventually admitted that 11 percent of the study’s findings about unidentified flying objects could not be explained using science.

The title (which is never specifically explained in the movie) is actually derived from Hynek’s own alien close encounter classification system: A close encounter of the first kind is sighting of a UFO; the second kind is physical evidence to prove the existence of an alien; and the third kind is actual contact with alien life forms.

3. THERE’S A CAMEO FROM THE GODFATHER OF UFO RESEARCH.

Hynek, who also served as a technical advisor on the movie, makes an uncredited cameo in the final scene of the movie. You can spot him pretty easily—he’s the goateed man smoking a pipe and wearing a powder blue suit who pushes through the crowd of scientists to get a better look at the aliens.

4. NOBODY WANTED THE STARRING ROLE.

Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Columbia Pictures

The director first offered the part of Roy Neary to actor Steve McQueen, who turned it down because he said he couldn’t cry on cue, something he saw as essential to the character. Spielberg then went to Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman, and James Caan who all turned him down as well before asking his friend Richard Dreyfuss, who previously worked with Spielberg on Jaws, to take the part.

5. BUT IT WASN'T THE MOST DIFFICULT ROLE TO CAST.

Spielberg approached French actors like Lino Ventura, Yves Montand, and Jean-Louis Trintignant to play Claude Lacombe—who was based on famous UFO researcher Jacques Vallée—before settling on director and sometimes-actor François Truffaut. The initially skeptical Truffaut, who was nervous about appearing in a big budget Hollywood movie, accepted the role because he wanted to compile research for a book about acting (he never did write the book).

6. MERYL STREEP COULD HAVE PLAYED ROY'S WIFE.

Many actresses—including a then-unknown Yale Drama School grad named Meryl Streep—auditioned for the part of Roy’s wife Ronnie, but he ultimately cast actress Teri Garr because he saw her in a coffee commercial and loved the way she was able to convey a wide range of emotions in a 30-second clip.

7. THEY SHOT IN A DISUSED AIR FORCE HANGAR.


Columbia Pictures

Spielberg wanted to shoot in real suburban locations rather than studio backlots, but the production had trouble finding locations. The biggest question: Where could Spielberg shoot the climactic canyon sequence with the mothership?

The production looked for huge indoor enclosures that would allow for the massive scale of the scene, though they only found ones with center support dividers that spoiled the openness Spielberg wanted for the UFO runway. The only location producers found without center dividers was a 300 foot by 300 foot disused hangar that had been used for dirigibles during World War II at Brookley Air Force base in Mobile, Alabama.

8. THE TEAM BOUGHT A HOUSE FOR THE PRODUCTION—AND SOLD IT FOR A PROFIT.

The Nearys' house, which is located at 1613 Carlisle Drive East in Mobile, was actually purchased by the production for $35,000 so they could do whatever they wanted with the interiors. It was later sold for $50,000 after production wrapped, netting a $15,000 surplus that went back into the film’s budget.

9. THE MEMORABLE 5-NOTE TONES TOOK A LONG TIME TO FIGURE OUT

Composer John Williams worked with Spielberg to come up with the movie’s distinct five-note musical method of communication between humans and aliens—which Spielberg partly based on the Solfège system of musical education—a year before shooting began.

Williams initially wanted a seven-note sequence, but it was too long for the simple musical “greeting” Spielberg wanted. The composer enlisted a mathematician to calculate the number of five-note combinations they could potentially make from a 12-note scale. When that number proved to be somewhere upwards of 134,000 combinations, Williams created 100 distinct versions, and they simply whittled the combinations down one by one until they had a winner.

10. SPIELBERG USED TRICKS TO GET THE PERFORMANCE OUT OF HIS CHILD ACTOR.


Columbia Pictures

Cary Guffey, who plays little Barry Guiler, had never acted before, so Spielberg set up ways to coax a performance out of the 3-year-old. To get a shot of Guffey reacting to the aliens first approaching the Guiler house, Spielberg slowly unwrapped a present for the young actor just off camera, making him smile. Guffey even exclaims “Toys! Toys!” in the final take.

To get the boy to react to the aliens offscreen, Spielberg had Guffey walk up to his mark where—unbeknownst to the little actor—two crewmembers were dressed as a gorilla and a clown standing behind cardboard blinds. When Guffey entered the kitchen, Spielberg dropped the first blind revealing the clown to scare him, and then dropped the other blind to reveal the gorilla, which scared him even more. The gorilla then took off his mask, revealing the film’s makeup man, Bob Westmoreland, who Guffey recognized, causing him to laugh and smile in the final take.

11. THE MOVIE NEARLY FEATURED VERY EARLY CGI.

Spielberg originally toyed with the idea of using computer generated images to create the aliens and their ships, even going so far as to have animator Colin Cantwell create a CGI test of three UFOs floating over a stadium. The single-shot test, which took three weeks to complete and was one of the first computer generated images ever created for a film, proved to be unfeasible for the whole movie—so the idea was dropped.

12. THERE WERE SOME UNORTHODOX IDEAS FOR CREATING THE ALIENS.

Spielberg wanted the aliens to be non-human beings that glided instead of walked, and he had a weird idea to pull it off: An orangutan dressed in a specially-made suit. For a screen test, the production team outfitted an orangutan in grey spandex and strapped it into roller skates. The orangutan immediately took off the skates and crawled to its owner, so a full test couldn’t be completed, and the team scrapped the idea. The majority of the small aliens in the final movie were played by local elementary school girls from Mobile in specially made grey suits and masks who were heavily backlit to create the final alien silhouette effect.

13. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS FEATURES A PRECURSOR TO E.T.


Columbia Pictures

To create the alien who bids farewell using the musical hand signals at the end of the film, Spielberg enlisted the help of Italian special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi, who designed a fully articulated steel, aluminum, and fiberglass animatronic puppet that Spielberg nicknamed “Puck.” Puck’s expressions were based on photos of Guffey. The puppet was operated by a crew of seven puppeteers, with Spielberg himself controlling the final articulation before the alien leaves to go to the mothership.

Puck would help inspire E.T. after Spielberg asked himself, “What if this little guy didn’t get back on the mothership?” Rambaldi would also go on to design the character of E.T.

14. SPIELBERG BET AGAINST HIS OWN MOVIE—AND REALLY CASHED IN.

Spielberg and his buddy George Lucas both had new movies coming out in 1977; Lucas’s was a little movie called Star Wars. Lucas thought his ramshackle space movie wouldn’t make back its budget, and he knew his friend’s new movie would break box office records just like Jaws had done, so he offered Spielberg a friendly wager. Both agreed to give the other 2.5 percent of the profits of their respective films. Lucas grossly underestimated his movie, which went on to become the second highest grossing movie of all time if adjusted for inflation (in comparison, Close Encounters is #71). The difference ended up being $40 million.

15. SPIELBERG DIDN'T LIKE THE VERSION THAT WAS INITIALLY RELEASED.

Spielberg wanted to release Close Encounters in the summer of 1978, which would have given him ample time to edit the film and finish its special effects—but Columbia Pictures, which was going through major financial troubles, insisted he have it ready for a November 1977 release, leaving the director with a final cut on a movie he didn’t feel was completely ready. 

Three years later, the company allowed Spielberg to “finish” the movie under one condition: That he show the inside of the mothership, which would give the studio’s marketing department an angle to sell this new version. The director capitulated, adding new scenes and cutting others to create a “Special Edition.” The director was unhappy with the scene, though, and later cut it for the Collector's Edition home video release.

ADDITIONAL SOURCES:Blu-ray special features; Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Making of Steven Spielberg’s Classic FilmClose Encounters of the Third Kind Diary.

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