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  #1  
Old 05-28-2005, 01:29 PM
Dunderman Dunderman is offline
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Star Wars-related Alec Guinness stuff

We've all heard and read how much Alec Guinness hated working on the Star Wars movies. So why did he do it? It's not like he needed the money. It's not like the first one could even have paid that much, even if he had needed the money. If he signed on without really knowing what he was doing, why did he come back for Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi?

Related question: I just noticed that he died in May of 2000. That means he may have seen The Phantom Menace. Does anyone know if he did and if so, what he thought of it? For some reason I would really like to know how he liked it.
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  #2  
Old 05-28-2005, 02:03 PM
FriarTed FriarTed is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Priceguy
We've all heard and read how much Alec Guinness hated working on the Star Wars movies. So why did he do it? It's not like he needed the money. It's not like the first one could even have paid that much, even if he had needed the money. If he signed on without really knowing what he was doing, why did he come back for Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi?

Related question: I just noticed that he died in May of 2000. That means he may have seen The Phantom Menace. Does anyone know if he did and if so, what he thought of it? For some reason I would really like to know how he liked it.

Two anecdotes, probably apocryphal, the latter even more probably...

Little boy & Mom see Alec, proudly approach him to tell him that little boy has seen SW many many times. Alec asks him to promise him not to see it again but do find other activities. Boy & Mom kinda miffed about that.

Little boy sees Alec, asks him to tell him about the Force. Alec, a devout Catholic, replies "I don't really know about the Force, but I do know about Jesus."
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Old 05-28-2005, 02:20 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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Priceguy writes:

> It's not like the first one could even have paid that much, even if he had needed
> the money.

Guinness was enormously well paid for _Star Wars_. Lucas didn't want to pay him what was Guinness's minimum salary for doing any film back in 1977, even one like _Star Wars_ that was expected to make very little at the box office. So Lucas agreed instead to give Guinness a share of the profits. He did quite well by that film.
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Old 05-28-2005, 02:22 PM
rjung rjung is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Priceguy
We've all heard and read how much Alec Guinness hated working on the Star Wars movies. So why did he do it?
From Empire Building: The Remarkable Real-Life Story of Star Wars, my favorite unauthorized book for Star Wars insider dirt:
Quote:
Like Laurence Olivier, also passing through an uncomfortable Hollywood phase in the twilight of his career, Guinness was faced with the harsh, fiscal facts of life. For all his miraculous contributions to British cinema, perhaps the most gifted screen actor of his generation could not afford to resist the occasional fat payday in America. (To his disgust, television's endless repeats of the classics in the Guinness canon ... earned him no residuals at all. "Don't get a penny. I'm damn annoyed every time they're shown.")...

"As he recalls, [Guinness] was on the penultimate day of filming when a script arrived, unsolicited, on his dressing table accompanied by a letter from Lucas. Guinness showed little interest at first. "I thought, 'Oh, crumbs, science fiction, I can't be bothered with that.'" ... Holed up in his dressing room, with little better to do, however, he began reading. Guinness found Lucas's florid, breathless sci-fi babble embarassing. Yet he read on -- and on. "I started reading it and althought it was painful reading in lots of ways it made me turn the page," he said. "And that is an indicator."
Quote:
Originally Posted by Priceguy
It's not like the first one could even have paid that much, even if he had needed the money.
More Empire Building:
Quote:
Alec Guinness had negotiated a two and a quarter percent share of the profits in advance, the most astute financial move of his entire career. It would earn him around $6 milion.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Priceguy
If he signed on without really knowing what he was doing, why did he come back for Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi?
It seems mostly due to his respect for Lucas' directoral skills.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alec Guinness
[Lucas] is not the same sort of (magesterial) director (as Sir David Lean) ... There was none of that 'The director is on the set.' Yet he has the same sort of precision in what he saw, a great appreciation of visual detail.
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Old 05-28-2005, 02:48 PM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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While Guinness was well paid as an actor, he lived in England, where the income taxes were terrible in the 1970s. (It wasn't uncommon for wealthy actors and singers to pay more than 90% of every they earned to a combination of agents, publicists, lawyers and the tax man.) Guinness's last few screen projects before STAR WARS had been a supporting role in Murder By Death (he gave a hysterical performance as the blind butler, Bensonmum, but the payday wasn't anything you could retire on), the lead in Hitler: the Last Ten Days (a great performance and a very underappreciated [imo] film, but also very low budget- mostly no-name actors on soundstage sets [it was a bunker, so that helped]), so he wasn't really an A-List actor in projects or in salary. He could make a comfortable living but I seriously doubt he could have retired and he was in his sixties.

In one interview he mentioned that Star Wars, for all of his problems with it, did keep him from having to do Vampire Lesbian Hookers From Sodom style dreck (I believe he used that exact example) like John Carradine, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Trevor Howard and other very prominent actors who just couldn't get quality roles in major pictures anymore. He could get primo stage roles but theater pays absolutely nothing compared to film; Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick were each paid about $75,000 per week for The Producers and were by far and by leaps and by bounds the highest paid actors on Broadway; most stars, even of Guinness quality, earn a small fraction of that and then there's the issue of taxes, agents, etc..
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Old 05-28-2005, 02:55 PM
Dr. Kenneth Noisewater Dr. Kenneth Noisewater is offline
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I read that he hated it in retrospect, as he was recognized often for it (you know, by folks on the street), and not particularly proud of it.

Like, imagine if that's all Liam Neeson was recognized for. It'd suck.
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Old 05-28-2005, 03:04 PM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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Some totally unrelated trivia about Guinness that I just think interesting (and Guinness threads aren't going to be very common soon):

His wife, Merula Salaman, was from an extremely wealthy family whose fortune came from ostritch plantations. (Ostritch feathers, leather, meat, eggs, etc. were fad items in the late 19th/early 20th centuries.) The name Merula is an old Italian word meaning "blackbird" because one flew through the window and perched on the bed while she was being delivered. Her family accused Guinness (who was illegitimate, the son of a penniless bipolar actress mother, about as wrong-side-of-the-tracks as you could get) of being a golddigger (which perhaps it was an incentive, though they loved each other) but when they lost most of their fortune as Britain lost its empire and went through recessions and increasing socialism while Guinness became one of the most in-demand actors in the UK, he ended up being far wealthier than they were and supporting his in-laws.
His wife survived him by about a month and probably committed suicide by overdose on her medications. She was in her late 80s and very ill health and devastated by the loss of her husband. Both Guinnesses were bisexual, but other than to mention it here I'll let that be their bidness.

My favorite Guinness roles include "the Tom Hanks role" in the original The Ladykillers and the nebbish storekeeper in Situation Hopeless but Not Serious. In the latter he played a German Mama's boy who risks his life hiding two American airmen in the basement; unfortunately he grows attached and never gets around to telling them the war is over, so years later he's faking bombing raids and gestapo visits to keep them as pets. (One is played by a very young Robert Redford). Not as funny as it sounds or as it could have been, but his performance was great.
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Old 05-28-2005, 09:12 PM
Mahaloth Mahaloth is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rjung


It seems mostly due to his respect for Lucas' directoral skills.
But Lucas didn't direct either of the two sequels.
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  #9  
Old 05-29-2005, 02:07 AM
rjung rjung is offline
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Hey, Sir Guinness said it, not me. Maybe he just liked American Graffiti a lot...
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  #10  
Old 05-29-2005, 02:08 AM
foolsguinea foolsguinea is offline
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Wow. Guinness was bi & married? I didn't know this. I had sort of concluded he was just another stereotypical British gay actor. Then again, I don't know much about the culture.

Um, was he, seriously now, seriously religious, or did some propagandist make up that story Friar Ted referenced?
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  #11  
Old 05-29-2005, 02:14 AM
ISiddiqui ISiddiqui is offline
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Well, according to Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alec_Guiness

Quote:
In 1954, during the shooting of the film Father Brown, he converted to Roman Catholicism and became devout, attending church regularly for the rest of his life.
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