contributor ::: adam r. wood ::: emmy award winning editor
In his book High Fidelity, Nick Hornby observed that “fetish properties are not unlike porn”. In the pantheon of beloved stories (or cosplay fantasies) none are more revered or desirously coveted as the Star Wars saga.
In deed, conventions and fan gatherings exist to this day, where the fandom can dress as their favorite character and worship at the feet of what started out as a modestly budgeted Sci-Fi romp, lensed some 40 years ago. This is precisely where we find ourselves propelled back into, via the documentary “Elstree 1976”.
The film, itself, centers around the supporting cast and background artists who worked on the film, shot by the awkward kid from Modesto, CA. A group of actors who may (or may not) have contributed but a line of dialogue, who to this day are part of the worldwide circuit of conventions and autograph signings. A tradition that continues to preserve and protect the legacy of what is arguably one of the most popular and successful films of the modern age.
Named after the famous British film lot that housed a “galaxy far far away” (by way of sleepy Borehamwood) “Elstree 1976” is an enjoyable journey into the world of the actors that appeared (or even volunteered) to be a part of Star Wars.
For many, it was simply a job. One at the time, they inform the interviewers,
they assumed the film would either never be released, or end up as some sort of B movie failure
gracing the drive-thrus of lesser known theaters. Little could they know that their characters momentary appearance, or few lines of dialogue at the Hertfordshire studios, would go on to be recited back to them verbatim at fan festivals, or their backstories investigated, connected and written about in what has become official canon in the ever growing Star Wars universe.
“Its just like any other job, except you look weird”, “I thought it was some sort of B movie at the time” or “How many actors can say they’ve got their own action figure?” are just some of the observations made by the cast about their summer of ’76. Yet, for anyone expecting a definitive behind-the-scenes film about the making of Star Wars, this is not the documentary you have been looking for. This is about the unexpected love affair that the cast still have with a role that has come – for most – to define their careers, when they appeared in a film that seduced and enthralled the world.
Whilst not hailed as a critical success, the documentary itself is an enjoyable slice of nostalgia and incite. Its inhabitants are not simply clinging to the past and its glories, but are recounting their surprise and privilege at being involved in a project that is so universally loved and adored. In fact the audience experience of watching “Elstree 1976″ could be best described by Jeremy Bulloch, who portrayed the Mandalorian bounty hunter Boba Fett, as he was introduced on set with George Lucas who remarked (as he stepped onto the sound stage) “welcome aboard, its not a big role but I think you’ll have some fun”.