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Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

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Release Date: May 19, 1999 (North America)

Genres: Action, Science Fiction, Sequel          MPAA Rating: PG

Production Phase: Released

Studio: 20th Century Fox   Production Company: Lucasfilm, Ltd.

Who's In It: Liam Neeson (Qui-Gon Jinn), Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Natalie Portman (Queen Padmé Amidala), Jake Lloyd (Anakin Skywalker), Pernilla August (Shmi Skywalker)

Who's Making It: George Lucas (Director), George Lucas (Screenwriter), Rick McCallum (Producer), George Lucas (Executive Producer), David Tattersall (Director of Photography)

Premise: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away the Galactic Republic is upon the precipice of war. The aggressive Trade Federation sparks a conflict that threatens to consume the galaxy. After failing to... More »

Official Website:

What We Think: You can write a book about what has been rumored, supposed, conjectured, hoped for, begged and outright lied about these movies.In 1977, after the huge initial success of the first Star Wars movie, the public... More »

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Friday, July 25, 1997

Well, now that the Caserta press conference has come and gone, we should have more information about the first of the new Star Wars films, right? Wrong.

George Lucas and Rick McCallum didn't answer any of the pressing questions, such as what Episode One's title is, what the name of Natalie Portman's character is, or where the Caserta footage will be seen in the film (Coruscant?) What we got to read about is George Lucas' thoughts about shooting on digital means rather than film (he's looking into it), the standard Indiana Jones IV response (they're still working on it) and some vague answers about what's going to be in the new movie (some digital creatures.) In our eyes, only two significant answers were addressed about the new film and its storyline:

  1.  A rumor started that got repeated on Harry Knowles Ain't It Cool page a while back: the much-anticipated lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin over the lip of an active volcano will be filmed nearby the Royal Palace, at the edge of the Vesuvio volcano. Lucas denied that this will be taking place during their shoot.

  2.  Lucas denied that his friend Steven Spielberg will be directing any of the following prequels. This would kill the rumor Entertainment Weekly printed in their recent Star Wars Special magazine.

Absolutely nothing was mentioned about other characters, their names, or additional scenes showing up in the prequels. We're starting to get the impression that if anyone else wants to cover the prequels and you're not Leonard Maltin or involved with Entertainment Tonight, you're not invited inside.

So leave it up to a Mr. David Letterman to break the weekend's only really good Star Wars news nugget. On his Friday program, actor Samuel L. Jackson stopped by to talk about his new feature, 187. At the conclusion of the interview, Letterman asked him what he was doing next. Jackson answered that after completing his work on Tarantino's Jackie Brown picture he'll be working on the new Star Wars film.

Remember, Lucasfilm has only bothered to officially confirm three actors involved with the prequels: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and Jake Lloyd. Even though they have a photograph of Liam Neeson up on their site and he's in the running for the Jedi Mentor role, he hasn't been confirmed.

- Scoops sent in by 'Sundrift ', 'malexand', J. Clark, 'nuvs', 'cwl', 'eeilerts', and a big thanks to Samuel L. Jackson for actually telling the fans something solid. Hope it doesn't jeopardize your gig, man. Comment on this Scoop (0)
Friday, July 25, 1997

Another person reports that actor Ahmed Best has joined the cast and that the character Terence Stamp will portray will be a younger Emperor Palpatine. Ewan McGregor will as well play Obi-Wan in the second prequel. By the way, the scooper also lets it slip that the second and the third prequel may not be shot back-to-back.

- Scoop sent in by Jeff. Comment on this Scoop (0)
Tuesday, July 22, 1997

As filming continues at the Italian Royal Palace of Caserta, Lucasfilm has announced that Star Wars creator and Episode One director George Lucas, producer Rick McCallum and actress Natalie Portman will be in attendance during a scheduled press announcement this coming Friday, July 25th at 11:00 local time (that means it will be at least 12 hours ahead of North American time zones.) Here's the candy: the organizers of the press conference are taking questions via email at a Web address. Some questions will be chosen and Lucas will answer them himself.

We have no idea as to what the press announcement will focus on, but we're hoping that at least the name of the first prequel will be announced, along with the Queen's first name.

- Sent in exclusively by Brent Lynch. Comment on this Scoop (0)
Monday, June 30, 1997

The production's worst-kept secret, today Ewan McGregor was officially announced to have secured the young Ben Kenobi role.

- Lucasfilm. Comment on this Scoop (0)
Tuesday, June 24, 1997

It's official: negotiations are final between Lucasfilm and the owners of the Royal Palace of Caserta (known in its home language as La Reggia di Caserta), situated in southern Italy and now a national museum. Designed by Italian architect Luigi Vanvitelli around 1700, filming will take place between the dates of July 22nd and July 27th. And what exactly are they shooting there for? There are only two cryptic words written at the top of the public request form seeking authorization for the shoot: Coronation Scene.

A local newspaper, La Repubblica, reports that the production plans to utilize the building's great stairway and the royal hall in the upper level, as well as exterior shots in the palace's external park and miniature waterfalls. Preparations have already started on the grounds. The entire complex will be cordoned off during the dates leading up to the shooting date, and security will be abundant. Little do they know we have access to a spy satellite flying high above the Mediterranean about that time.

- Reports sent in by Widgett and 'baldas'. Comment on this Scoop (0)
Tuesday, June 10, 1997

The first official casting announcement is made. Natalie Portman and Jake Lloyd are confirmed for roles in the first picture.

- Sent in by 'Mandalore', Jan, Marc, Uncle Ro, 'saundert, 'bmoshe'. Comment on this Scoop (0)
Tuesday, June 10, 1997

Some CA readers point out that producer Rick McCallum never directly answered the question raised about Charlton Heston's involvement in any of the prequels. Instead, McCallum jovially pointed out that Heston would not be voicing Yoda in the films. This leads some to speculate that Heston may indeed be in the running for a unknown role.

- Point made by 'JHenson105', 'carv', 'ghentz', 'Extreme', 'gt9340b', 'kivlehan'. Comment on this Scoop (0)
Tuesday, June 10, 1997

At a recent Australian convention, Lucasfilm representative Steve Sansweet made it clear that the character names will not be made public until they are registered for copyright worldwide. This apparently only just happened a few days ago.

- Sent in anonymously and 'funkster'. Comment on this Scoop (0)
Tuesday, June 10, 1997

Because of the swelling amount of "inside knowledge" anonymous emailers claim to have, we try to sort out which ones may have a kernel of truth to them...or just sound plain interesting. This one fits one of the two:

We're told that Neeson's character will not be the mentor to Obi-Wan as Yoda was to Ben (which would end the questions that have already begun from Star Wars sages who point out that Kenobi trained under Yoda, not Neeson's character as the early press reports hinted at...) According to this scooper, Neeson's character is is a mature Jedi, who has a "shade of gray" perspective of the force. This "grey" ability is not to be confused with a Dark Jedi, but this would seperate Neeson's Jedi from other Jedi who walk in the Light Side. Neeson would be the one who influences Obi-Wan to train Anakin prematurely. This would contribute a major factor to Anakin's fall into the Dark Side.

Also, the scooper reports that we'll see Krayt Dragons in the first prequel, and Neeson's Jedi Mentor will slay one to save others. The scooper also adds that the title(s) believed to be accurate are not. "I know George is definitely more creative than this," the scooper said.

In the early scripts to A New Hope the origin of the Force is explained. Thousands of years ago, a man discovered the Force, and in turn, taught his twelve sons, who in turn passed on thier knowledge. There is a lot of evidence that the entire Star Wars saga has parallels to the bible.

- Scoop sent in by 'The Gatherer'. Comment on this Scoop (0)
Saturday, June 7, 1997

Breaking the news first, the Friday June 6th Entertainment Tonight features an interview with Lucas and McCallum. In the report you can see two sets being constructed for 'desert scenes' (these may be scenes set on Tatooine, which would give strength to the slaver rumors that arose earlier.) Next week's Entertainment Weekly reports that Ewan McGregor has been officially cast as a younger Obi-Wan Kenobi. According to ET's report, McCallum only confirmed that McGregor was being considered (calling him a "mercurial" actor). The official Star Wars Episode One web site at Lucasfilm only lists him as as being "considered" (we think he's got it - but the gang at Lucasfilm are waiting for the official announcement before confirming this.) 1,500 special effects shots will be seen in Chapter 1, and the production will build over 50 sets for 100+ scenes.

- Many special thanks to Lucasfilm for confirmation and providing some much-needed rumor control. Additional reporting done by Nat, Nick Corporon, 'widgett', 'Honest Soul' and Robert Nyberg. Comment on this Scoop (0)
Saturday, June 7, 1997

In the coming weeks a crew of about 700 artists at ILM will begin work on the first prequel. An inside source has told us that bluescreen and plate photography are nearing the final requirements to move into the greenlighted stage. The source also revealed that due to cutting edge nature of digital sets and characters for the prequel, ILM will labour on the project for at least eighteeen months. As of today, over a dozen sets have been completed at Leavesden.

- Thanks to an anonymous source. Comment on this Scoop (0)
Saturday, June 7, 1997

Confirming some of the scooper's above info, while attending the premiere of the Star Wars Special Edition in Japan on Thursday June 5th, Lucasfilm producer Rick McCallum disclosed that many of the alien characters who will appear in the forthcoming prequels will be completely computer generated. He mentioned that the "...form of the prequels is more like an animation film rather than a live action one."

- Sent in by Al; taken from an interview conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun. Comment on this Scoop (0)
Saturday, June 7, 1997

London's Daily Mail newspaper mentions the involvement of Neeson, McGregor, Freeman, and Portman, and then go on to generate a whole new wave of rumors. They list Neeson's character as a Jedi knight who plays mentor to Kenobi (ok, that's confirmed by many sources), while Portman plays a rebel princess that Kenobi joins forces with in the second installment (she's a Rebel already?). The Daily Mail also reports that in the third film the Jedi will be forced to leave their 'homeland'. They list the three films as: Balance of the Force, Rise of the Empire, and Fall of the Jedi, respectively. (Note: these three titles were sent in and reported to CA last April, and are not confirmed by Lucasfilm...yet.)

As our scooper says, "My question is: Is there anyone who has NOT been at some point rumored to have a role in this trilogy? They go through casting rumors like the Red Hot Chili Peppers go through members..." Usually we'd make a off-the-cuff remark about the Spice Girls being cast as a group of ace fighter pilots...but we don't want to see that in the paper next week

- Submitted by Widgett. Comment on this Scoop (0)
Saturday, June 7, 1997

In the special Star Wars Entertainment Weekly, the magazine reports that Samuel L. Jackson will make a cameo in the prequels. This may be further speculation from Jackson's earlier 1997 interview where the actor spoke about his desire to be in the prequels.

- Sent in by Mark Stewart. Comment on this Scoop (0)
Saturday, June 7, 1997

The rumor about Charlton Heston being considered for a role in the prequels is denied by producer Rick McCallum.

- Sent in by Brent Lynch; later called into doubt (see below). Comment on this Scoop (0)


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