You might think that everything that could be said about the original Star Wars (or A New Hope if you’re, you know, one of those guys) has been said, but then along comes Jon Spira’s crowdfunded documentary Elstree 1976 to show you that you’re wrong.
Spira takes a boots-on-the-ground look at the classic film, eschewing the Hamill/Ford/Fisher triumvirate and instead tracking down a host of bit players to tell their story. The two biggest subjects at hand are Jeremy Bullock (Boba Fett) and David Prowse (Darth Vader – or at least his body) but the former X-Wing pilots, Stormtroopers and aliens Spira digs up are much more interesting. Certain elements of Star Wars lore are reaffirmed – pretty much everyone involved thought it was a kids’ film, and not a very promising one – but what really stands out is the picture of mid-‘70s British show business that Elstree 1976 builds up, populated with dancers, chancers, wannabe actors and near-miss pop stars.
At times, Elstree 1976 – named for the studio where much of the original Star Wars was shot – is a bittersweet affair: few of the subjects interviewed amounted to much in the entertainment world after their brief turns in Star Wars, and it’s only that film’s enduring cult that keeps them in the spotlight, albeit largely at fan conventions hawking their autographs and anecdotes. Still, all seem happy with their lot and eager to share their stories.
The casual viewer might be nonplussed by Elstree 1976, but Star Wars fans – and Lord knows there’s more than a few of them – should find plenty of value.