Of course you know who played Luke, Han, and Leia. You might even know who that was under Chewbacca’s fur onesie, or stuffed inside R2-D2’s cylindrical shell. But even if you have strong feelings about whether or not Greedo shot first, you probably can’t name the performer who did the actual shooting. (It’s Paul Blake.) The anonymous folks who helped to populate the “Star Wars” universe are the subjects of “Elstree 1976,” a shaggy, ill-sculpted mess of a documentary that’s certainly of interest to rabid fans, but probably not too many others.
The movie takes its title from the name of the studio and the year where what’s now known as “Star Wars: A New Hope” was filmed. It’s essentially a compilation of talking-head interviews with the guy who played the third pilot from the left in the X-Wing briefing room, and that Stormtrooper who bumped his heat in that one shot. In other words, this is deep cut making-of material.
The biggest name on hand by far is David Prowse, who provided the gigantic body (but not the voice) of Darth Vader. He’s an engaging raconteur, and he’s also persona non grata at official Lucasfilm-sanctioned events after a falling out with George Lucas years ago. “Elstree 1976” is clearly an unofficial, fan-made film, which limits the amount of truly interesting information it can dole out. It is, though, clearly a labor of love for director Jon Spira, who includes snippets of deleted scenes with Luke Skywalker’s buddy Biggs Darklighter and another character named Fixer, who was completely cut from the finished film. (The actor who played Fixer, however, does appear as the Stormtrooper who gets Force-duped by Obi-Wan Kenobi in Mos Eisley. Those weren’t the droids he was looking for…)
As a morsel of geek catnip, or as a poignant look at the unexpected, fleeting nature of celebrity, “Elstree 1976” works well enough. But it’s probably not going to recruit any new believers into the ways of The Force.
(94 minutes, not rated, opens Friday, May 6, at the Kiggins Theatre) GRADE: B