Watching now-famous actors audition for now-classic films, you can’t help but feel a little thrill of false prescience, knowing how the story turned out — the story the film tells, certainly, but also the story of the film itself, and those of the actors’ subsequent careers. Today, hundreds of clips of screen test footage, none ever meant for public viewing, have found their way onto the internet. We’ve featured Marlon Brando’s for Rebel Without a Cause, John Belushi’s for Saturday Night Live, and Audrey Hepburn’s for Roman Holiday, among others, here on Open Culture. (And don’t forget Andy Warhol’s distinctive spin on the process.) Few films have become as beloved as the first chapter of Star Wars, and few actors have become as famous as Harrison Ford, the man who played Han Solo. Above you see not Ford’s screen test, but Ford assisting in that of Mark Hamill, the future Luke Skywalker, and perhaps the man most famous specifically for acting in Star Wars.
“It checks out again,” reads Ford. “There’s no mistake.” “You can’t find Organa Major?” reads Hamill. “I found it,” reads Ford. “It just ain’t there.” Star Wars enthusiasts, a group of some vigilance, will immediately notice that these stars-to-be read different lines than they deliver in the finished film. A bit of research on Wookieepedia tells me that Organa Major, known in most early drafts of Star Wars’ script as Ogana Major, would, in later revisions, take the name Alderaan and become — in Wookieepedia’s words — “the home of many famous heroes, including Leia Organa Solo, Bail Organa, and Ulic Qel-Droma.” Issues of nomenclature aside, to watch Hamill’s screen test is to behold the humble origins of a film that would rise to unbelievable heights of cultural relevance, claiming a prime spot in the mythology of the late twentieth-century West. Yet its generation-captivating performances begin with a couple guys trading lines on muddy gray Sony PortaPak video.