Elstree 1976 isn’t a film about the making of Star Wars. John Spira’s documentary plays like a High School reunion film. It’s a look at the past and a catch-up with some of the supporting actors and extras who played a part in George Lucas’ seminal science fiction film. Don’t expect to see Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher or Mark Hamill here, but do expect to see some of the actors who helped bring some of the series’ iconic characters to life. David Prowse (Darth Vader), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Paul Blake (Greedo), Garrick Hagon (Biggs Darklighter) are some of those who share their stories about how they came to be associated with one of the most beloved films ever made.
There’s an inherent sadness which runs through Elstree 1976. We learn about the interviewees’ success and failures and how life has affected them over the last 40 years. While some look back on it as some fun they had in their youth, others still cling-on to it, working hard on the convention circuit selling autographs. These people have lived their lives and while they don’t have fascinating stories to tell, it’s an interesting look at the ‘acting’ profession. It’s quite fascinating to learn the pecking order of those involved at conventions and how those who played characters with names or dialogue look down on anyone who filled-out the background. There’s even snobbery at this level of acting.
The biggest star on-hand here in this Kickstarter funded film is David Prowse, the man behind Darth Vader’s famous helmet. Prowse talks about how he got started his career in film through bodybuilding and how he came to attached Star Wars. Frustratingly he hints at, but never fully goes into how he fell-out with Lucasfilm, and how he has been banned from the official Star Wars celebrations. Professional supporting actor and extra Derek Lyons had the most interesting story. Lyson’s has had a career working in a huge selection of television shows and film, a true journeyman who has never cracked the big-time but seems to take his work very seriously.
An intriguing look at George Lucas’s 1977 film from the perspective of the people you’ve likely never given a second thought to, Elstree 1976 is a quirky documentary which offers a different look into the world of Star Wars and movie-making. It might not be the most visually dynamic documentary, or the most insightful but it’s a curious look at Star Wars, a film which has been analysed on nearly every other level.
Elstree 1976 comes with a director’s commentary, extended interviews and additional material. A good line-up.