Star Wars could have been – and very nearly was – incredibly silly.
The original cut was such a disaster that George Lucas’ pal Francis Ford Coppola allegedly offered to pay Lucas to abandon it, and all the actors thought they were in the midst of an absolute turkey.
In retrospect, there were a few things which saved it. One was the special effects. Another was the incredible job the editors did in salvaging it, especially Lucas’s ex-wife Marcia (and she’s the hero of the short but amazing YouTube documentary How Star Wars Was Saved In The Edit).
And the third was a handful of performances by classically trained actors that gave the film some much-needed gravitas: Alex Guinness as Ben Kenobi, Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin), and the initially uncredited James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader.
That last one was incredibly important because the voice of the man in the suit – British actor David Prowse – didn’t… um, have quite the same effect.
Prowse looked pretty menacing – he was a champion bodybuilder and stood just shy of two metres tall even before the Vader boots – but his gentle Bristol burr doesn’t exactly strike fear into the heart. Especially when yelled through a plastic helmet.
He has long contended that he thought he was doing the voice of Vader until the very last minute and was most displeased with the decision to dub him. But when you compare the two…
Yeah, it wasn’t the wrong decision.