“What a piece of junk!” Luke Skywalker might not appreciate things past their prime, but for open-minded film studios, recycling old props and costumes helps to cut back on production costs, or, when the muses impart their blessing, creates something entirely new. The resourceful folks behind Star Wars definitely tapped into their inner Jawa when they rummaged through the storage closet, pulling up all sorts of used odds-and-ends that gave sharp-eyed audiences a sense of déjà vu.
1) Triple Your Greedo, Triple Your Fun
Star Wars’ $11 million budget — in the 1970s, at least — was enough to make 20th Century Fox’s executives break out into nervous sweats when loosening the studio purse strings, yet despite having so much money at one’s disposal, the magnitude of director George Lucas’ grand design required some painstaking penny-pinching. In screenwriter and film critic David Pirie’s 1981 book, Anatomy of the Movies, a mere $300,000 was allocated toward costumes (compared to nearly one-third of the budget spent on special effects and spaceship miniatures). It was clear where the film’s priorities lay, and nowhere else was this more apparent than Han Solo’s confrontation with Jabba the Hutt in Docking Bay 94.
Among the crime lord’s cronies lurking in the shadows of the Millennium Falcon are three Rodians all resembling Greedo — of whom was shot dead in the cantina only a few short scenes before. This might have been confusing for many of us watching Star Wars for the first time, but a little behind-the-scenes trivia reveals that more than one actor (Paul Blake and Maria De Aragon) portrayed the ill-fated bounty hunter, meaning there were duplicates of the costume on hand. So when the Jabba scene called for some alien thugs, it was no doubt more cost-effective to recycle the Greedo suits rather than create entirely new ones.
2) Who Gave Bossk That Spacesuit?
It isn’t uncommon for studios to raid each other’s prop and costume departments for secondhand goods, and in The Empire Strikes Back, a small handful of viewers were quick to spot some sci-fi duds borrowed from another popular series. The Trandoshan bounty hunter Bossk’s yellow jumpsuit was worn by a spaceman in the Doctor Who fourth season serial “The Tenth Planet.” In fact, variations of it have appeared in both A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, donned by various spacers (most notably fan-favorite smuggler BoShek) and Rebel A-Wing pilots, respectively. The suits aren’t unique creations, however — they’re all High-Altitude Windak Pressure Suits that were utilized in Britain’s Royal Air Force during the 1960s. How’s that for pop culture and military history?
3) IG-88 Walked into a Cantina…
Among fans, there’s no denying IG-88’s status as the second most-feared bounty hunter next to Boba Fett: he’s intimidatingly tall, ruthlessly efficient in his line of work, and bears an unnerving resemblance to a skeleton. With qualities like these you’d assume the design was intentional, but his production origin actually stems from a simple background prop. IG-88’s cylindrical head was originally a part of the distillery setup seen in the cantina in A New Hope. This, in addition to numerous recycled bric-a-brac, were pieced together to form his industrial, rigid appearance (a complete departure from concept artist Ralph McQuarrie’s streamlined, if not elegant, design). Though if you really want to get technical, any aerospace engineering aficionado would happily point out that IG-88’s noggin is a component of the combustion assembly in a Rolls-Royce Derwent jet engine.
4) Hoth Couture
If there’s anything a Rodian seemingly loves more than the thrill of the hunt, it’s a snazzy vest. The Greedo doppelgangers hanging out at Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi share their species’ fashion proclivity, but closer, pause-button scrutiny shows that we’ve seen these vests before. Brought from Hoth all the way to Tatooine, the Rodians sport the same vests worn by Princess Leia and other Echo Base staffers in The Empire Strikes Back, although in this instance colored a muted orange. It’s that trademark diamond pattern — you can’t miss it!
5) CZ’s Tops
As fleeting as his appearance was in A New Hope, there’s no missing the addled, cross-eyed droid CZ-3 (portrayed by C-3PO performer Anthony Daniels) aimlessly wandering a Mos Eisley street as Luke and Obi-Wan Kenobi make their way toward Docking Bay 94. Six years later in Return of the Jedi, the same costume would be used again, renamed CZ-4 and now one of Jabba’s overworked — and perpetually terrified — droid servants. This time he could be seen more prominently than before, first lying in a heap in the droid torture chamber and then right before the Hutt’s entourage sets off for the Great Pit of Carkoon.
Steven Romano is a writer, a geek culture enthusiast and, above all, a longtime fan of the galaxy far, far away. Landspeeder, don’t bantha, over to his blog and Twitter at @Steven_Romano.