In the history of cinema, few movie franchises can boast the success, global acclaim and incredible longevity of Star Wars™. A truly worldwide phenomenon, this timeless space opera saga has exploded in popularity over the last 45 years, and has a level of fandom that continues to reach new heights with its continued exposure to each new generation of viewers.
Despite being the brainchild of American moviemaker George Lucas, the Star Wars franchise has many links to British heritage and the United Kingdom, which chiefly stem from the roots of the original Star Wars trilogy. Whilst the weird and wonderful scenery we see throughout the trilogy is set in fictional galaxies far, far away, Borehamwood’s Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, England, was often the place where these intergalactic landscapes were built, and where much of the first three movies was filmed.
Since then, the studio itself has become synonymous with Star Wars and there is even a large sound stage named after Lucas, as a tip of the cap to the influential director. Whilst the remaining films in the larger ‘Skywalker Saga’ (namely the prequel and sequel trilogies) weren’t filmed at Elstree, the relationship with the studio has seemingly come full circle with the release of the Star Wars spin-off series Andor™. Season Two of the Disney+ production returned to Elstree in 2022 for a large part of the shooting, bringing the story back to where it all began.
The British connection doesn’t end with the shooting location, as it also extends to the cast and crew. With the bulk of the original trilogy filmed in the UK, it made sense from a logistical and financial standpoint for George Lucas to use British actors and workers in his production. As a result, a large portion of the cast was British, including those who played some of the most iconic characters in the history of Star Wars franchise.
Perhaps one of the most famous of these actors is Oscar-winner Alec Guinness, who appeared as the watchful Jedi conscience Obi-Wan Kenobi™. A giant of cinema at the time, Guinness was arguably the biggest name attached to the project at the time of filming, having featured in big screen classics such as The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia, so his presence lent instant credibility to the film. Meanwhile, much of the supporting cast was also British, from Kenny Baker and Anthony Daniels as R2-D2™ and C-3PO™ respectively to Peter Mayhew in his role as the lovable, towering Wookiee Chewbacca™.
Similarly, on the Dark Side of the Force, David Prowse starred behind Darth Vader’s™ bodysuit in the original trilogy, whilst Ian McDiarmid took on the role of Emperor Palpatine™ throughout the entire saga. Vader’s army of supporting villains also featured some notable British actors, perhaps most notably Peter Cushing OBE playing the role of Grand Moff Tarkin™.
Now, almost 50 years since the original Star Wars movie first hit screens across the UK, we are proud to celebrate the British legacy of this incredible franchise with the very first official Star Wars UK coins.