7 ‘Star Wars’ fun facts

Mekeisha Madden Toby
Special to The Detroit News

No one can deny the sheer excitement surrounding the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” But how well do you know the fascinating trivia surrounding the 38-year-old franchise?

In time for the seventh installment’s Dec. 18 release, here are seven fun facts:

1. Yoda told Luke he was 900 years old shortly before dying and becoming one with the Force. He was actually 892, according to “Star Wars” lore. As for the inspiration behind Yoda, legend has it he is a hybrid between the late British makeup artist Stuart Freeborn and Albert Einstein. Freeborn did the makeup for “Star Wars” (1977), “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) and “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” (1983).


2. John Ratzenburger, who is best known for his role as Cliff Clavin, the factoid-loving mailman on “Cheers,” had a small role in “The Empire Strikes Back” before landing on the hit sitcom.

3. To track R2-D2 and C-3PO’s character origins, fans should check out the 1958 film “The Hidden Fortress,” which features comedy foil sidekicks and inspirations Tahei and Matashichi. R2-D2 was designed and built by Ralph McQuarrie, John Stears and roboticist Tony Dyson.

4.Speaking of R2-D2, Kenny Baker, 81, and Anthony Daniels, 69, will reprise their roles as R2-D2 and C-3PO respectively in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The two have appeared in all seven “Star Wars” films. Peter Mayhew, 71, plays Chewbacca. He will also be back for “The Force Awakens,” which is his fifth movie in the franchise.

5. “Saturday Night Live” has famously parodied the casting calls behind “Star Wars.” But did you know actress Karen Allen (“Starman” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) auditioned to play Princess Leia? Meanwhile, James Caan (“The Godfather”) was in consideration to play Han Solo.

6. Actor Samuel L. Jackson, who played Mace Windu, asked for his lightsaber to be purple. (It is a cool color.)

An historical Hopi Indian hairstyle that's said to have inspired Princess Leia's iconic cinnamon-bun hairdo.

7.Princess Leia’s iconic cinnamon-bun hairdo was inspired by a combination of the hairstyles sported by Native American Hopi women and Queen Fria from the “Flash Gordon” comic books.

Mekeisha Madden Toby is a Los Angeles-based entertainment writer and TV critic.