Christmas quiz 2007

In 2007, who was an "exploding tomato", what did Congleton ban and to whom did Boris Johnson apologi

Politics

1 When asked in July, which of these cabinet ministers denied smoking cannabis in their youth?

a) Jack Straw

b) Harriet Harman

c) Jacqui Smith

d) Alistair Darling

2 Prime Minister Gordon Brown became an honorary Hindu during a ceremony marking the festival of Diwali this year, adopting the first name Govardhan. What does it mean in Sanskrit?

a) Warrior charioteer

b) Beautiful lotus flower

c) Hill in paradise

d) Attractive, charming servant

3 Which city did the Tory MP Boris Johnson annoy by claiming that it was "too full of drugs, obesity, underachievement and Labour MPs"?

a) Liverpool

b) Birmingham

c) Bristol

d) Portsmouth

4 Which of the following was one of the great or considerable "achievements" with which David Cameron did not credit Tony Blair on his leaving office?

a) Peace in Northern Ireland

b) Overthrowing Saddam Hussein

c) His work in the developing world

d) Serving as prime minister for ten years

5 How many houses does the Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Chris Huhne own?

a) Two b) Three c) Five d) Seven

In the news

1 The panic-induced run on Northern Rock was the first seen in Britain since the collapse of which wholesale bank in 1866 with £11m in debts?

a) Fox Brother, Fowler & Co

b) Cunliffe, Brooks & Co

c) Backhouse's Bank

d) Overend, Gurney & Co

2 Under what more popular name did "catarrhal fever" hit the news headlines?

a) Avian flu

b) Bluetongue disease

c) Foot-and-mouth disease

d) Classical swine fever

3 What seemingly harmless activity did the hospital in the town of Congleton ban as a health and safety hazard in September?

a) Doing crosswords and sudoku

b) Watching TV

c) Knitting

d) Playing cards

4 The police identified 169 separate what in London?

a) Crime-free streets

b) Corrupt members of the force

c) Illegal gun-dealers

d) Gangs

5 Moira Cameron became the first woman to take up which job?

a) Postmaster General

b) Yeoman of the Guard

c) Voice of the speaking clock

d) Venetian gondolier

Online and technology

1 Full-scale production of the XO-1 began in November. What is it?

a) Boeing's newest airliner

b) The "$100 laptop"

c) Jaguar's next concept car

d) Nintendo's latest games console

2 Having discounted the device by $200, what did Apple offer in order to placate purchasers of the full-price iPhone ten weeks after its US launch in April?

a) An announcement saying, "Ha! Got you suckers!"

b) A full apology

c) $100 voucher

d) Free iTouch

3 Which Japanese corporation launched the world's largest commercial LCD TV, a 900lb, 108in monster?

a) Toshiba b) Sanyo

c) Sharp d) Sony

4 Microsoft revealed that which feature in its new operating system, Vista, can be hijacked so a PC tells itself to delete files?

a) Speech recognition

b) Back-up and restore

c) Shadow copy

d) Disk management

5 Which Facebook founder was taken to court, having been accused of stealing both the idea and business angle of the social networking website from a rival?

a) Thomas Anderson

b) Michael Birch

c) Noah Glass

d) Mark Zuckerberg

Books

1 It was revealed that the bricklayer David Sharp, who had been given up for adoption during the Second World War, was the long-lost brother of which novelist?

a) Ian McEwan

b) Philip Pullman

c) Julian Barnes

d) Graham Swift

2 Which poet's hip flask fetched £7,200 at auction, about ten times its expected price?

a) Robert Burns

b) Sylvia Plath

c) Dylan Thomas

d) Lord Byron

3 What was the name of the J R R Tolkien book completed by his son Christopher and published in 2007?

a) The Children of Húrin

b) The Stones of Osgiliath

c) The Kings of Valinor

d) The House of Turgon

4 Who belatedly won the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award for his description of oral sex in his final novel?

a) Norman Mailer

b) Kurt Vonnegut

c) Ira Levin

d) Sidney Sheldon

5 What were Doris Lessing's very first words on being informed that she had won the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature?

a) "Oh Christ"

b) "Can I get the groceries out of the taxi first?"

c) "Bloody hell"

d) "It's about time"

International affairs

1 Yahya Jammeh claims he can cure Aids and HIV with a natural herb infusion. Nobody would listen to him if he were not the president of which African country?

a) Senegal

b) Cameroon

c) Benin

d) Gambia

2 The then president of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, was cited for which sartorial faux pas on a visit to Turkey?

a) Wearing short sleeves with a tie

b) His socks had holes in them

c) His flies were undone

d) Unidentifiable stains on his tie

3 Fifteen sailors from which Royal Navy ship were taken captive by Iranian forces?

a) HMS Exeter

b) HMS Devon

c) HMS Kent

d) HMS Cornwall

4 What became the 23rd official language of the European Union in January?

a) Basque/Euskara

b) Breton

c) Irish

d) Esperanto

5 Promising a "citizens' revolution", Rafael Correa was sworn in as the president of which country?

a) Peru

b) El Salvador

c) Ecuador

d) Uruguay

Television

1 A September edition of whose Sunday TV show, Aló Presidente, lasted a record eight hours?

a) Nestor Kirchner

b) Fidel Castro

c) Daniel Ortega

d) Hugo Chávez

2 On Ugly Betty, who performed maid-of-honour duties at the wedding of Wilhelmina Slater and Bradford Meade?

a) Lindsay Lohan

b) Victoria Beckham

c) Paris Hilton

d) Mischa Barton

3 The Catholic organisation Opus Dei complained about its portrayal in which BBC TV drama series?

a) Spooks

b) Waking the Dead

c) Doctor Who

d) The State Within

4 Describing himself as resembling "an exploding tomato", which Panorama journalist lost his temper and shouted at a representative of the Scientologists in a widely disseminated video clip?

a) Paul Kenyon

b) Raphael Rowe

c) John Sweeney

d) Peter Taylor

5 Which Cumbrian town became the first place in the UK to lose its analogue television signals and start the digital switch-over in October?

a) Whitehaven

b) Ulverston

c) Thursby

d) Kendal

Arts

1 Which Woody Allen movie shares its title with the Turner Prize-winning film by Mark Wallinger in which he wanders around a deserted Berlin gallery wearing a bear costume?

a) Love and Death

b) Interiors

c) Sweet and Lowdown

d) Sleeper

2 Which acclaimed film director made a tricky transition to opera with her ENO production of Carmen?

a) Beeban Kidron

b) Sally Potter

c) Carine Adler

d) Antonia Bird

3 Which Hollywood film was condemned by the Iranian government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham as a sign of "hostile behaviour, which is the result of cultural and psychological warfare" being waged by the US?

a) Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

b) Transformers

c) Norbit

d) 300

4 The people of Israel voted overwhelmingly for a song about which subject to be their Eurovision Song Contest entry?

a) Nuclear annihilation

b) Palestinian invasion

c) West Bank barrier

d) Suicide bombings

5 Martin Scorsese finally won a Best Director Oscar for helming The Departed. How many times had he previously gone home empty-handed from the Academy Awards?

a) Four b) Five c) Six d) Seven

Fashion and style

1 How much would a Louis Vuitton Tribute Patchwork Bag, released in March, set you back?

a) £19,129

b) £21,675

c) £23,484

d) £25,232

2 What two-word name was given to the 2007 fashion trend, adopted by Versace and Alexander McQueen, that involves wearing tight high-waisted trousers and skintight minidresses?

a) Tight couture

b) Fit wear

c) Body con

d) Squeeze dress

3 Known as the British Chanel, which brand shut up shop completely with the end of its closing sale on 20 April?

a) Jean Muir

b) Mary Quant

c) Celia Birtwell

d) Barbara Hulanicki

4 Perhaps surprisingly, Victoria Beckham was confirmed as the new face of which American designer's spring/summer 2008 ad campaign?

a) Calvin Klein

b) Tommy Hilfiger

c) Tom Ford

d) Marc Jacobs

Climate change

1 On which US TV show did the 2007 Nobel Peace Prizewinner Al Gore mock himself, saying: "Quiet! A whale is in trouble! I have to go!"?

a) 30 Rock

b) The Late Show With David Letterman

c) Curb Your Enthusiasm

d) Scrubs

2 From March until June, Mayor Ken Livingstone offered £100 cashback to Londoners if they did what?

a) Not fly for one year

b) Instal insulation in their homes

c) Give up their car for public transport

d) Replace all their inefficient light bulbs with energy-saving ones

3 Scientists working with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claimed in February that human activity was likely to increase global temperatures by what best-estimate range over the next century?

a) 0.5-2.2°C

b) 1.8-4°C

c) 2.5-4.7°C

d) 3-5.2°C

4 Though aides briefed the media that he was preparing to exchange his car for a Toyota Prius, Gordon Brown instead chose a 4.2-litre model of which car that happens to fall into the government's worst emissions band?

a) Jaguar XJ V8

b) Rolls-Royce Phantom

c) BMW 7 Series

d) Aston Martin DBS V12

5 In March, meteorologists said that which major city had had its first winter without snow since records began in 1876?

a) Beijing

b) Seoul

c) Pyongyang

d) Tokyo

Media

1 Described by one holidaymaker as "every swimmer's worst nightmare", the video footage of the great white shark splashed across the Sun's front page on 28 July was filmed not in Cornwall, but where?

a) Australia

b) Florida

c) Mexico

d) South Africa

2 Conrad Black was found guilty in July on four out of 13 charges laid against him. On which of the following charges was he declared guilty?

a) Mail fraud

b) Racketeering

c) Money laundering

d) Wire fraud

3 Which writer branded the BBC a "racist institution" during a radio interview?

a) Paul Abbott

b) Jimmy McGovern

c) Alan Bleasdale

d) Stephen Poliakoff

4 Rupert Murdoch took over control of Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal from which family?

a) The Millers

b) The Grahams

c) The Woodwards

d) The Bancrofts

5 Which former Wimbledon footballer-turned-private-investigator was jailed along with the News of the World's royal editor Clive Goodman for his part in the royal household phone-tapping scandal?

a) Jonathan Atkinson

b) Damien Griffin

c) Glenn Mulcaire

d) Paul McAllister

Sport

1 Which England player was disallowed a "phantom try" in the rugby union World Cup, though he claimed he was "100 per cent sure" that he had grounded the ball without going into touch?

a) Jason Robinson

b) Paul Sackey

c) Mark Cueto

d) Mathew Tait

2 At which world championships - held 29 March to 1 April - did Great Britain top the medals table with seven gold medals?

a) Swimming

b) Rowing

c) Amateur boxing

d) Track cycling

3 Why did Björn Borg pull out of an exhibition match with Pat Cash at the Liverpool International Tennis Tournament in June?

a) He dropped a jar of pickled herring on his right foot

b) Bitten by a dog

c) Stage fright

d) He missed his plane

4 What verdict was returned by the coroner Patrick Murphy in November with regard to the death of the Pakistani coach Bob Woolmer during this year's Cricket World Cup?

a) Natural causes

b) Unlawful killing

c) Open verdict

d) Death by misadventure

5 Which female tennis player won the Australian Open despite being ranked 81st in the world?

a) Serena Williams

b) Jelena Jankovic

c) Lindsay Davenport

d) Daniela Hantuchova

Compiled by Olav Bjortomt With illustrations by Dan Murrell

The Answers

Check the answers here

This article first appeared in the 17 December 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas and New Year special 2007

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Starting Star Wars: How George Lucas came to create a galaxy

On the 40th anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars, George Lucas biographer James Cooray Smith shares the unlikely story of how the first film got made.

While making THX 1138 in 1970, writer/director George Lucas told composer Lalo Schifrin that he wanted to make a Flash Gordon picture, an updating of the 40s sci-fi serials that he’d enjoyed as a child. It would, however, be those serials not as they were, but how he remembered them as having been. When the rights to these proved unavailable, he began to work on original idea, hoping to create something similar, but which he would own himself.

In January 1973, after completing his 50s nostalgia picture American Graffiti but before its release, Lucas began his outline for this space adventure. The first line of this near-incomprehensible document was The Story of Mace Windu. Mace Windu, a revered Jedi-Bendu of Opuchi who was related to Usby CJ Thape, Padewaan learner to the famed Jedi.’

"Jedi" was a word Lucas had coined to describe a clan of warrior mystics who were essential to his story. A man whose fascination for Japanese cinema had become a general interest in Japanese cultural history, he’d named them after the branch of Japanese drama that drew moral and instructive lessons from stories set in the past – Jidai geki.

This version is set in the thirty-third century and features a teenage Princess, droids, an Evil Empire and a grizzled Jedi warrior, General Skywalker, whose plot role resembles Luke’s from the finished film, although his character is Obi-Wan Kenobi’s. It climaxes with a space dogfight and ends with a medal ceremony. Among the planets named are Alderaan (here the Imperial capital) and Yavin, at this point the Wookiee homeworld. Some characters from this draft (Valorum, Mace Windu) would eventually find a home in The Phantom Menace more than twenty years later.

By May Lucas had a 132 page script, The Adventure of Anikin Starkiller. Skywalker had acquired the forename Luke but was no longer the protagonist. This was Anikin (sic) Starkiller, one of the sons of General Skywalker’s old comrade, the partially mechanical renegade Kane Starkiller. Anikin had to protect a Princess, aided by two robots R2-D2 and C-3PO.

Lucas had worked backwards from Flash Gordon, looking to uncover the source of his appeal, hoping to transfer it to his own story. Once he’d worked his way through the comic strips of Gordon’s creator Alex Raymond, he tackled Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jules Verne and Edwin Arnold’s Gulliver on Mars. Conversations with his New Hollywood peers about the archetypes thrown up by his reading – and which he increasingly saw everywhere – brought him into contact with Joseph Campbell’s then newly published Myths to Live By (1972) an anthology of lectures and essays from a man who devoted his career to identifying the basic archetypal characters and situations which he felt underpinned all human mythologies.

"The book began to focus what I had already been doing intuitively" Lucas later said, an idea which seemed to him to itself reinforce Campbell’s contention that such archetypes and situations dwelled in a collective unconsciousness. Lucas expanded his reading to epics of all kinds, and began planning a visual style that would combine the vistas of Japanese master director Akira Kurosawa with the kind of static-camera realism which he’d used on American Graffiti.

Lucas wanted over-exposed colours and lots of shadows, but shot in a way that made them seem unremarkable. Seeing the Apollo missions return from the moon "littered with weightless candy bar wrappers and old Tang jars, no more exotic than the family station wagon" had illustrated to him the problem with every fantasy movie ever made. Their worlds never looked like people lived in them. His film would depict a "used future". Describing the aesthetic he’d sought to American Cinematographer he explained: "I wanted the seeming contradiction of…fantasy combined with the feel of a documentary."  To Lucas Star Wars wasn’t science fiction, it was "documentary fantasy".

There was only one studio executive Lucas thought had any hope of understanding what he was trying to do, Fox’s Alan Ladd Jr, son of the late actor. Like Lucas and his contemporaries in New Hollywood, Ladd was a man driven by a love of cinema. Lucas could communicate with him through a shared vocabulary, describe a planned scene as being like something from The Searchers (John Ford, 1956) or Fahrenheit 451 (Francois Truffaut, 1966) and be understood. Ten days after his presentation to Ladd, they signed a development deal. Fox agreed to pay Lucas $15,000 to develop a script, plus $50,000 to write the movie and another $100,000 to direct it, should it actually be made. American Graffiti associate producer Gary Kurtz was named as Producer for Star Wars, and received $50,000.

The script development money gave Lucas enough to live on whilst he continued work on the screenplay. As he did so it changed again; a ‘Kiber Crystal’ was written in and then written out. Skywalker became Deak Starkiller’s overweight younger brother before becoming the farm boy familiar from the finished film. Characters swapped names and roles. A new character named Darth Vader – sometimes a rogue Jedi, sometimes a member of the rival ‘Knights of Sith’ – had his role expanded. Some drafts killed him during the explosion of the Death Star, others allowed him to survive; across subsequent drafts his role grew. Some previously major characters disappeared altogether, pushed into a "backstory", Lucas choosing to develop the practically realisable aspects of his story.

This is an important clarification to the idea that Star Wars was "always" a part of a larger saga, one later incarnated in its sequels and prequels. That’s true, but not in an absolutely literal way. Star Wars itself isn’t an excerpted chunk of a vast plotline, the rest of which was then made over the next few decades. It’s a distillation of as much of a vast, abstract, unfinished epic as could be pitched as a fairly cheap film to be shot using the technology of the mid 1970s. And even then much of the equipment used to make the film would be literally invented by Lucas and his crew during production.

In August 1973 Graffiti was released and became a box office sensation, not only did the profits make Lucas rich (he became, at 29, a millionaire literally overnight) its success meant that Lucas was able to renegotiate the terms of his Fox deal. Rather than making demands in the traditional arenas of salary and percentages Lucas wanted control of the music, sequel and merchandising rights to his creations. Fox conceded him 60 per cent of the merchandising, aware of its potential value to them, but eventually agreed that Lucas’s share would rise by 20 per cent a year for two years after the film’s release. Few films made money from spin-off products for a whole 24 months, and Star Wars would surely be no different. Lucas got the sequel rights as well, albeit with the proviso that any sequel had to be in production within two years of the film’s release or all rights would revert to Fox.

Most important amongst Lucas’ demands was that, if it went ahead, he wanted the film to be made by his own company, not by Fox. That way he could control the budget and ensure all charges and costs made to the production were legitimately spent on the film. The experience of watching Mackenna’s Gold being made while a student on placement a decade earlier had taught him just how much money a studio could waste, and on a film like Star Wars – which was both ambitious and would inevitably be under-budgeted – it was crucial that this did not happen. Control of the music rights also had a sound reason behind it. Universal were making a fortune out of an American Graffiti soundtrack that was simply a repackaging of old hits featured in the movie. Of the profits of this Lucas saw nothing despite having selected the tracks featured and fought long and hard for their inclusion in his film.

In March 1975, Ladd took Lucas’ draft to the Fox board. They passed it and budgeted the film at $8.5m. Characters bounced in and out of that script right up to the preparation of the shooting draft, dated 15 January 1976. This was tailored to be as close to the film’s proposed budget as possible, and contain as many of the ideas, characters and situations Lucas had spent the past few years developing as he considered feasible.

This draft is the first version of the script in which Kenobi dies fighting Vader. Previously he had been injured, but escaped with Luke’s party. Alec Guinness, who had already been cast, was initially unhappy with this change, but was persuaded by Lucas that a heroic death followed by appearances as a spectral voice would prove more memorable to audiences than his spending the last third of the film sitting on Yavin whilst the X-Wings went into battle.

Filming began on location in Tozeur, Tunisia on 22 March 1976. Before shooting Lucas sat his crew down and made them watch four films which he felt between them defined what he was after in Star Wars. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 (1969), Douglas Trumbull’s 1975 Silent Running, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time In the West and Fellini’s Satyricon (Both 1969). The Leone picture was full of the sun-blasted vistas Lucas wanted to evoke for Tatooine, and the Fellini film, with its aspects of travelogue and attempts to portray an entire society in a fly-on-the-wall manner gave an idea of the "documentary fantasy" approach the director was so keen on. All four films shared one vital element: they’re windows onto lived-in worlds remarkable to audiences but regarded as ordinary by the film’s characters.

The first scenes shot for Star Wars were those of Luke buying Artoo and Threepio from the Jawas outside his foster parents’ home. Producer Kurtz had allowed 11 days for the shoot, after that a borrowed army C130 Hercules was scheduled to pick up the cast and crew.

A few days into shooting, creature make-up man Stuart Freeborn was taken ill and had to be flown back to Britain where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. Other crew members contracted dysentery. On 26 March Tunisia experienced its first winter rainstorm for half a century, damaging equipment and exterior sets delaying filming of key scenes.

Lucas wanted the stormtroopers to ride ‘dewbacks’, dinosaur-like domesticated beasts that allowed the troops to move across the desert. One dewback was built, out of foam rubber stretched over a wire frame. It could only be used in the background and no one was ever seen riding one. The other live animal Lucas wanted to portray was a Bantha, a huge horned, shaggy beast reminiscent of a prehistoric mammoth. It was to be the mode of transport for the Tusken Raiders, faintly Bedouin, vaguely mechanically-enhanced humanoids who attacked Luke in the Jundland wastes. In the end, creating the beasts proved impossible, and while they were referred to in dialogue in scenes that were shot (‘bantha tracks…’) none of their sequences were lensed.

As hard as the shoot was on Lucas, he at least had an idea of what he was trying to do and how it would all fit together. The actors, suffering stomach troubles, sunburn and long days, were less clear. Anthony Daniels trapped inside an almost immovable fibreglass body suit suffered the worst. Twenty five years later he would give credit for helping him to get through the Tunisia filming to Alec Guinness. "He was incredibly kind to me…I firmly believe that I wouldn’t have completed that arduous task of shooting without him."

Once the Tunisian shoot was over, the cast moved to EMI Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, outside of London. Star Wars was being made in the UK because it wasn’t possible to shoot the film in Hollywood at that time, not that Lucas – with his lifelong disdain of LA itself – wanted to anyway. Star Wars required nine stages simultaneously, something that no Hollywood studio complex could guarantee at anything like sufficient notice. In March 1975 producer Kurtz had flown to Italy to look at studio space, but found nothing suitable. He then caught a plane to London, where Lucas joined him.

Together they scouted UK film studios. Pinewood was a possibility, but management insisted Lucasfilm hire their technicians, a condition which became a deal-breaker. Neither Shepperton nor Twickenham had enough sound stages (although the giant Stage H at Shepperton  - bigger than any stage at Elstree – would ultimately house one scene of the film) which left only EMI Elstree. Then losing £1 million a year, Elstree was being kept open more or less on the insistence of Harold Wilson’s government, whose allies in the Trades Union movement considered the closing of the facility unconscionable. Elstree had no staff, and anyone who wished to rent it had to supply their own technicians and much of their own equipment. Off-putting to many, it sealed the deal for Lucas and Kurtz, who wanted to move their own people in. They hired the facility for seventeen weeks starting at the beginning of March 1976.

To design and build the sets needed to turn to Elstree into a realisation of Lucas’s screenplay they hired John Barry, a British designer who had worked under Ken Adam on Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975) a film Lucas admired enough to hire its costumier John Rollo as well.

Elstree’s two largest stages were given over to Mos Eisley Spaceport and the interior of the Death Star. Both the Mos Eisley hangar bay and the one inside the Death Star which replaced it on the same stage were constructed around the full size Millennium Falcon set created by John Barry’s protege Norman Reynolds. Built by Naval engineers at Pembroke Dock, Wales it was 65 feet in diameter, 16 feet high and 80 feet long. It weighed 23 tonnes.

The absence of Stuart Freeborn, still recovering from Tunisia, meant that most of the aliens seen in the Mos Eisley cantina sequence were completed by assistants and lacked any articulation at all. Unhappy with the scenes as shot, Lucas resolved to do to re-shoots back in the USA.

The last scenes to be shot were for the opening battle, as Vader and his stormtroopers boarded the blockade runner. With little time Lucas used six cameras, manning one himself (Kurtz manned another) and shot the sequence in two takes. The six cameras produced so many different perspectives on the action that even the duplicated events that are in the film are unnoticeable. The finished sequence, chaotic though the creation of it was, is amongst the best put together moments in the movie, a superb evocation of Lucas’ documentary fantasy approach, and the cameras dart in and out of the action like reporters shooting newsreel footage. Virtually the first live action seen in the picture, its style later went a long way towards convincing audiences that what they were seeing was somehow real.

Principal photography completed on 16 July 1976, although some re-shoots and pick up shots for the Tatooine sequences were undertaken in Yuma, Arizona in early 1977. Amongst those scenes shot were those featuring the Banthas. Lucas borrowed a trained elephant from Marine World, and had it dressed to resemble a more hirsute, fearsome pachyderm. Mark Hamill was unavailable to participate. He’d crashed his car of the Antelope Freeway in LA shortly before and was undergoing painful facial reconstructive surgery. Although Hamill should have been involved in the re-shoot, in scenes of Luke’s landspeeder moving across the desert, Lucas had no choice but to film them without him; he took a double to the shoot, dressed him in Luke’s costume and put Threepio in the foreground. Also re-shot, over two days in La Brea, California, were portions of the cantina sequence. New cutaways and background shots were filmed to be inserted into the Elstree footage in order to eliminate as of the unsatisfactory masks as possible.

While supervising editing of the film Lucas experienced chest pains, and was rushed to hospital where he was treated for a suspected heart attack. He was later diagnosed with hypertension and exhaustion, both exacerbated by his diabetes.

Fox were by now trying to book Star Wars into cinemas, and had picked a release date in May, long before the 4th July public holiday, long regarded as the opening weekend of summer. Fox wanted $10m in advance bookings for Star Wars, desperate to recoup an investment that internal studio sources had now decided was foolish. They secured less than $2m, and achieved that only by implying to theatres that they wouldn’t be offered Charles Jarrot’s much-anticipated The Other Side of Midnight if they didn’t sign up for Star Wars too. Before its release several exhibitors complained at this "block booking" and filed suits; Fox was later fined $25,000 for the practice, punished for forcing cinemas to agree to show something which was, by the time they paid the fine, the most financially successful movie ever made.

In early 1977 Lucas screened Star Wars for a group of friends, it was nearly finished – although the opening crawl was longer and many of the special effects shots were absent, represented instead by sequences from World War II films and real combat footage shot by the USAF. Among those present were Brian De Palma, Alan Ladd Jnr, Steven Spielberg and Jay Cocks. Martin Scorsese had been invited but troubles editing his own New York, New York meant he didn’t turn up.

De Palma hated Star Wars, and spent the post-screening dinner rubbishing it to anyone who would listen. Others present were unsurprised, De Palma had behaved in the same way during the group screening of Scorsese’s’ Taxi Driver; laughing loudly through Cybill Shepherd’s conversations with Robert de Niro, and at one point shouting "Shit!" halfway through a tense scene. Only Spielberg seemed impressed, and told Lucas that he thought Star Wars would take $100m. Lucas pointed out that nothing took $100m, and countered that Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind would do better at the box office. The two directors wrote what they considered realistic estimations of what each other’s film would make in its first six months of release on the inside of matchbooks, which they then traded. By the time Lucas got round to opening Spielberg’s matchbook and saw the figure $33m in his friend’s scrawling hand Star Wars had already made ten times that.

Odd as it seems now, when every blockbuster is prefaced by months of breathless, unrelenting media "enthusiasm", Star Wars wasn’t released on a wave of hype or accompanied by an extensive marketing campaign. It was released (on 25 May 1977) to thirty-two screens, after a barely publicised premiere at Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. It made $2.8m in its opening week, but didn’t receive a nationwide release for two months. Despite almost unprecedented success in preview screenings, Fox were still unsure of what to do with Lucas’ bizarre children’s film. Indeed it, only got a Hollywood opening at all because William Friedkin’s Sorcerer – which had been intended for this slot at Mann’s – wasn’t finished.

So negative had advance feeling about Star Wars been that Lucas left the country; he was still in LA on opening day, finishing the sound edit (he was unhappy with the copy playing downtown, and unknowingly embarking on a lifetime of revising his movie) but the next day he and his wife (and Star Wars film editor) Marcia flew to Hawaii, where they were joined by friends, including Spielberg and Amy Irving. It was an attempt to escape what Lucas felt would be the inevitable terrible reviews and wrath of the studio. Even when Ladd called him to share his excitement over the movie’s colossal opening weekend, Lucas was unmoved; all movies labelled science fiction did well in their first few days due to the business attracted by the neglected fanbase for such things. It was only when the film continued to do outstanding business and was expanded to more and more theatres that Lucas considered returning early from his holiday, and began to realise that the film he’d just delivered had changed his life.

As "Star Wars" expanded into more cinemas, and people began to queue round the block to see it, shares in Fox climbed from well under $10.00 to $11.50 each; over the next three months the value rose to $24.62, nearly trebling in price, such was the film’s value to the embattled studio. It was a magnificent vindication for Alan Ladd Jr, who had more than once had to intervene to stop colleagues closing down the film’s production completely. He had never lost faith in Lucas and his bizarre idea, but he was virtually the only person employed by Fox itself who hadn’t.

Just a few weeks before, as the end of the financial year approached, Fox had tried, and failed, to sell its investment in Star Wars to a German merchant bank as an emergency pre-tax write off.

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