Lord of the Rings
2001: Space Odyssey
The Wizard of Oz
E.E. "Doc" Smith
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Other Science Fiction
LEFT: Hugh Griffith, the actor who played Sheik Ilderim in the 1959 version of Ben-Hur. RIGHT: Watto from The Phantom Menace, almost certainly based on Griffith's portrayal of Sheik Ilderim. Notice how Watto's fleshy eyelids give the impression of thick eyebrows.
The memorable pod race from The Phantom Menace is probably not the only riff Lucas borrowed from 1959's definitive epic, Ben-Hur.1 Charlton Heston's star-making role is widely considered one of the great classic films, in the league of Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, The Wizard of Oz, and Citizen Kane.
1 LucasFilm has often acknowledged that the pod race in Phantom Menace is based on the chariot race from Ben-Hur. The rest is speculation from watching both movies... um... a number of times.
2 Mike Tibbetts wrote in: "The background to the celebration sequence is directly copied from Anthony Mann's film The Fall of the Roman Empire. They digitally added some decorations to the Roman buildings but I've checked my library and it's definitely the same footage." Wow!! Can anyone send in some comparative screencaps?
Star Wars: Origins © 1999-2006 by Kristen Brennan,
part of the Jitterbug Fantasia webzine.