Internal memos which lead to the initial rejection of 'The Star Wars'

Apr 14, 2014

It’s the stuff of legend that several movie studios passed up the chance to take part in the production of the first Star Wars before Fox took a punt which paid off handsomely. Here’s some excerpts from two internal memos from United Artists and Universal which perhaps lead to the initial rejections.

One can only imagine how the actual people who passed over Star Wars felt a few weeks after its cinematic release!


United Artists Rejected rejected Lucas  – here’s there internal advice from the West Coast Office Memorandum Date: October 13, 1975

To: Mike Medavoy

From: Marcia Nasatir

– here’s there Screenplay is a cross between a phantasmagoric Walt Disney cartoon and an exciting, juvenile FLASH GORDON adventure story. It is a fantasy world that has obviously been well thought out by its creator George Lucas. The production design at the screenplay’s end is impressive and imaginative. There is no doubt that visually the film could be quite extraordinary, and expensive. The screenplay is very straightforward in its action.

But there is no metaphysical message that 2001 contained, no salvation offered for the youths of today in the future. THE STAR WARS is a space action film for the entire family. It is a director’s film. If Lucas makes it properly exciting and fantastic, keeping you on the edge of your seat so that the adventures completely engulf you, then he will have a hit. But if the simple story and heroics sag in any way you are going to have a costly bomb on your hands. Because I do not see how this picture can be inexpensively made. Essentially, there are no starring roles for important action. Word of mouth and the property itself will have to sell it. The decision has to be if you have enough faith in the director making an expensive family adventure film. I would not go with the project.

There seems to be too much cost involved for this kind of juvenile story. But the director obviously knows what he wants, and may be able to bring it off. While so much is visual, my imagination was not really jolted or stimulated as the amusing, energetic heroics unfolded.


So there was a lot of recognition of the potential but some justified fear about cost but no committment.

Universal's internal memo was similar
To my mind, we’re really rolling dice with this kind of a project, but I think the concept here (at least in terms of what has been done so far with the genre), is rather exciting, and combined with the potential action inherent in the piece, it seems to me an attractive possibility in many ways.

On the other hand, a great deal of this screenplay (above the special effects and make-up problems) is going to be very difficult to translate visually. I’m thinking particularly in terms of our robot "heroes", Threepio and Artoo.

And even if all visuals and special effects work perfectly, the story could be ultimately no more than an interesting exercise if the audience doesn’t completely understand the rights and wrongs involved, and just as important, have absolute empathy with young Luke Starkiller. And it is in these areas I believe the script still needs work. Action and adventure abounds. We still need more from the characters.

Bottom line: If the movie works, we might have a wonderful, humorous and exciting adventure-fantasy, an artistic and very commercial venture. Most of what we need is here. The question, in the end, is how much faith we have in Mr Lucas’s ability to pull it all off.


So each script review liked some elements but felt it was risky. Thank goodness for Alan Ladd eh?

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