Since it was released 30 years ago, director Mel Brooks‘ send-up of the classic Star Wars trilogy, Spaceballs, has become a beloved classic in its own right. Following the adventures of Lone Star (Bill Pullman), his half-man/half-dog Barf (John Candy) and Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) as they team up to fight the notorious Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis), Brooks’ manages to balance a swashbuckling adventure with his trademark humor, resulting in a movie that appeals to fans of all types. Including hardcore sci-fi nerds.
To celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary, here are a few facts about the notorious and revered parody.
It Had The (Conditional) Blessing Of George Lucas
Brooks didn’t necessarily need the approval of George Lucas to make Spaceballs because it was a parody, but out of respect he nonetheless wanted the creator of Star Wars to sign off before he started filming. While Lucas liked the script, there was one condition he insisted on. Brooks told Maxim back in 2013 that “he gave me one incredibly big restriction: no action figures.” Apparently, Lucas feared that any Spaceballs merchandise would look too much like the ones he’d made for Star Wars as a part of the merchandising that Spaceballs and Brooks (as Yogurt) so cleverly lampooned.
It Was The Second Star Wars Spoof
Spaceballs might be the most well-known live-action spoof of the famous space opera, but the first one came courtesy of filmmaker Ernie Fosselius, who put together a 12-minute short entitled Hardware Wars in 1978. It was ultra-low budget, costing just $8,000 to make, and featured props like a flashlight lightsaber and a vacuum cleaner R2 unit in place of what were then high-tech effects.
It also proved to be wildly popular, relative to its budget, making more than $500,000 the year it was released. Even George Lucas called it a “cute little film.” While Fosselius passed on any offers to extend it to a full-length movie, his producer, Michael Wiese was perturbed by Brooks’ spoof. “We always knew it was a one-joke movie and wouldn’t sustain that length. Of course that didn’t stop Mel Brooks from ‘quoting’ us — some might say ripping us off — with Spaceballs,” Wiese told Slate in 2002.