If you could, imagine watching Star Wars for the first time. After you made it through all of the intricate storytelling, rich imagery, and silly little outfits, you might have noticed that there was one thing missing in the space epic, and it wasn’t a freak alien sidekick, though he did come later. It was a strong Italian-American presence. That’s what the series was lacking: someone who would not put up with Chewy’s constant yelling.
It might seem far-fetched, but there was a time when Al Pacino could have been the rugged space pilot in Star Wars. Of course, that meant he would have taken the spot from Harrison Ford, but Ford had Indiana Jones in his back pocket, so he would have been fine. The only thing Pacino had was a gun, a three-piece suit, and a dream. That’s the perfect type of person to lead a space mission.
Pacino gave a talk at the 92nd Street Y this week where he mentioned that he almost boarded the millennium falcon. “Well, I turned down Star Wars. When I first came up, I was the new kid on the block, you know what happens when you first become famous,” he said, assuming that we all know what it’s like to be a famous person in the 1970s. But he made his point.
He added that he was trying to be more selective with his roles at the time since he was fresh off of the success of The Godfather. “It’s like, ‘Give it to Al.’ They’d give me Queen Elizabeth to play. They gave me a script called Star Wars. … They offered me so much money. I don’t understand it. I read it. … So I said I couldn’t do it. I gave Harrison Ford a career,” he joked. Or at least it was allegedly a joke.
This begs the question: at what point in the script did Pacino decide to pass on the role of Han Solo? Was it when Jabba the Hut showed up, or when he learned that his best friend would be a giant hairy dog? Maybe he just really didn’t want to wear a shirt with such a deep V-neck, even if he embraced said look later on. Who knows? Perhaps one day Italian-Americans will get the space hero we deserve… but not today.
George Lucas even used Italy as a backdrop for Naboo, which implies the existence of olive oil orchards in the Star Wars universe. Surely there could be some Italians roaming around there.