It’s hard to believe that anything associated with the making of Star Wars hasn’t yet seen the light of day, but a collection of new (old) tapes probably remained in obscurity because they simply weren’t visual. Now, at long last, you’ll get to hear and see them.
They’re interview recordings made by a publicist tasked with explaining a strange sci-fi fantasy world to audiences who had never seen anything like it before. With the entire existing Star Wars saga being released as digital downloads for the first time today, Lucasfilm is offering up The Lost Interviews as a bonus feature on The Empire Strikes Back.
EW has an exclusive sample of Carrie Fisher’s conversation, as well as a clip from a separate bonus feature, with sound designer Ben Burtt discussing the creation of the lightsaber sound, a hum imitated by every human who has ever pretended to swing one.
But first … those lost tapes.
“Did you trust Mark?”
“Yeah … Well, the rope was the one to trust. He was the one with the girdle on.”
Here’s the scene: Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia are fleeing through the Death Star. Stormtroopers are breaking down the door. Our hero and heroine need to reach the other side of an endless chasm, but all they have is a rope.
Anyone who has ever seen 1977’s original Star Wars remembers this moment, an homage to countless adventure tales of the past, as Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher swing across the mechanical abyss to safety.
But with The Lost Tapes we get a glimpse inside the making of that iconic moment with scratchy, never-before-heard audio of Fisher discussing the scene with Charles Lippincott, the publicist assigned to create promo materials for the space opera nearly four decades ago.
Here’s a sample of the conversation between Lippincott and Fisher as she recalls her fear at making the leap across the set, clutching a girdle-wearing Hamill, for that bit of Death Star derring-do.
That vintage interview is hard to top, but perhaps even cooler is this new interview with Burtt, the man who broke new ground in sound design through his innovative recordings and manipulations of real world sounds, creating otherworldly ships, creatures, and devices that nonetheless had the aura of familiarity.
In this clip from the documentary “Discoveries From Inside: The Sounds of Ben Burtt,” which accompanies the Return of the Jedi download, he reveals that the staccato hum of the lightsaber was the fusion of a film projector motor and the picture tube on the back of his television (which suggests he needed a new TV back in the day.)
Even more amazing than hearing those two sounds isolated in their original form is Burtt’s explanation of how they solved the problem of making it sound like the swords were moving, burning their way through the air as Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi slashed at each other.
It involves the Doppler Effect, that physics phenomenon which changes the frequency of a sound wave as the object making it moves past the source absorbing it. It’s what warps the sound of a siren as it races by.
Let’s just say that making the lightsaber sound as though it’s moving involved the first-ever play renactment of one of the “laser sword” battles.