With “Obi-Wan Kenobi” revisiting some of the “Star Wars” franchise’s most iconic characters on Disney+, nostalgia for the series is a hot topic right now. The fan reaction to seeing actors like James Earl Jones reprise their roles from the films serves as a reminder of how inseparable the characters can be from the actors who played them. But it’s easy to forget that, had the casting process gone slightly differently, the films could have been altered dramatically. In a new interview with The Guardian, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Stranger Things” star Robert Englund recalled his own audition for the landmark science fiction film, and the way he inadvertently influenced the film’s casting.
Englund revealed that his “Star Wars” audition happened spontaneously, as he was asked to read for the role of Han Solo while leaving his audition for Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now.”
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“As I was leaving, one of the producers told me they were casting across the hall for this George Lucas space movie,” Englund said. “George Lucas was my hero, so I thought: ‘Hell, I’ll go.’ At the time, they wanted Han Solo to be played older, like a cool uncle who lets you smoke marijuana at Christmas. They looked at me for five minutes, took a couple of Polaroids; I did not read. That’s all I remember.”
But while Englund’s trip to a galaxy far, far away was never meant to be, he was able to help a friend land an important part in the film.
“But as I left, I snatched the audition sides for this much younger character called Luke Skywalker,” he said. “I went back to my apartment in the Hollywood Hills and my buddy Mark Hamill’s cowboy boots were on my front porch. He was working down the hill at the CBS studios as a very successful television actor. Mark was watching the ‘Bob Newhart’ or ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ show. We’d watch together in the afternoon and then call our agents at 5pm to see how our auditions had gone. I remember saying: ‘Guess what? George Lucas is making this space movie.’ We both loved ‘American Graffiti,’ so Mark called his agent and put her under pressure to get him an audition.”
Hamill’s agent did, in fact, get him an audition for Luke Skywalker, and the rest is history. The serendipitous saga is the kind of story that Hollywood history is littered with, a sentiment that is not lost on Englund.
“It’s a bit like the Tarantino movie ‘Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood,’” he said.
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