With “Obi-Wan Kenobi” revisiting some of the most iconic characters from the “Star Wars” franchise on Disney+, nostalgia for the series is a hot topic right now. The fans’ reaction to seeing actors like James Earl Jones reprise their roles from the movies reminds us how inseparable the characters can be from the actors who played them. But it’s easy to forget that if the casting process had gone a little differently, the movies could have changed 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 historical science fiction film and the way he inadvertently influenced the film’s casting.
Englund revealed that his “Star Wars” audition happened spontaneously when he was asked to read for the role of Han Solo as he left 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 down the hall for this George Lucas space movie,” Englund said. “George Lucas was my hero, so I thought, ‘Damn, I’m going.’ Back then, they wanted Han Solo to be played older, like a cool uncle who makes you smoke marijuana at Christmas. They looked at me for five minutes, took a pair of Polaroids; I haven’t read. That’s all I remember.”
But while Englund’s journey to a galaxy far, far away was never meant to be, he was able to help a friend land a major role in the film.
“But when I left, I grabbed the auditions for this much younger character named Luke Skywalker,” he said. “I went back to my apartment in the Hollywood Hills and my friend Mark Hamill’s cowboy boots were on my porch. He worked as a very successful television actor in the CBS studios. Mark watched the show ‘Bob Newhart’ or ‘Mary Tyler Moore’. We watched together in the afternoon and called our agents at 5:00 pm to find out 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 pressured her to give him an audition.”
Hamill’s agent did indeed get him an audition for Luke Skywalker, and the rest is history. The serendipitous saga is the kind of story that has littered Hollywood history, a sentiment not lost on Englund.
“It’s kind of like the Tarantino movie ‘Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood,'” he said.
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