© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
The 88.5 FM KMST Rolla transmitter is operating at low power while awaiting a replacement part.

A long time ago, in a place far, far away…Don Marsh interviewed the cast of the original Star Wars

If you’re a Star Wars fanatic, your thrusters are probably already in hyperdrive in anticipation of the release of the next installment of the franchise, “The Force Awakens,” which opened Thursday night. It is hard to imagine the films without the entire subculture of cosplay, props, toys, videogames, books and action-figures that come with them.  But, alas, there did exist a time before wookies and droids and Han Solo. That’s where “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh comes in.

In 1977, while Marsh was working for KTVI, he had the opportunity to interview some largely unknown actors for a little film with a budget of $11 million called “Star Wars: A New Hope” on the scene in Hollywood. Who were those obscure actors? Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford as well as producer Gary Kurtz, who famously professionally split with George Lucas mid-way through the original series during "The Empire Strikes Back." 

Click through the photographs above to see Marsh interview the cast in some particularly dashing plaid sports jacket, we dare say.

Marsh was flown to Hollywood by the production studio before the films premiered to interview the cast in a speed-dating-like format. Here, he recalls what that experience was like and how he could tell it would be a success from the moment he saw it:

You can also listen to the original Star Wars review that aired on NPR in May 1977—it is hilariously stated, to say the least. “Star Wars is eye-popping, mind-spinning, ear-piercing, bubble-blowing adventure,” begins Tom Shales’ review.  “When I saw it in LA, the whole audience actually applauded. They were so excited, they really felt that they were off on a great adventure and they were.”

Credit Wikimedia Commons
The poster for 1977's "Star Wars: A New Hope" and 2015's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"

Today, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was made with a $200 million budget and has already sold over $100 million in pre-sale tickets. It is safe to say the franchise has done much more than simply left audiences applauding.  

St. Louis Public Radio employees may also be the tiniest bit obsessed with the franchise ourselves.

What memories do you have of Star Wars premieres over the years? Have you dressed up? Send us your pictures and share your stories—email talk@stlpublicradio.org or tweet us at @STLonAir. We’d love to include them in this post.

Chris Ward shared this post with us on Friday morning

View post on imgur.com

May the force be with you.

A previous version of this article mis-identified Gary Kurtz as George Lucas, but a friendly Facebook commenter pointed out that was not the beard George Lucas we were looking for. Thank you!

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer, and Kelly Moffitt. The show is sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.   

Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.