FROM THE PHOTO ARCHIVES
Here’s another fanboy treasure from the stacks of the Los Angeles Times photo archives: Henry Grossman of the Associated Press took this photo of the incomparable Sir Alec Guinness in April 1987, the same month the Oscar winner turned 73.
Guinness is joined at his table at Tavern on the Green in New York by the beaming Skywalker brood, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill (that was a big year for Fisher, by the way, with the publication of her novel "Postcards from the Edge"). As the smiles and formal wear suggests, it was a festive occassion — later that night, Guinness was honored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center at its 16th Annual Tribute to Film Achievement.
Guinness, of course, was the only actor to earn an Oscar nomination for a "Star Wars" film and one of the few early believers in the commerical viability of the George Lucas epic, which is why he negoitiated a deal to get 2% percent of the gross in lieu of a set salary. He never was comfortable, however, with the relentless fan fixation on his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi, especially with it overshadowing a long, brilliant career in films such as "The Bridge On the River Kwai," "Dr. Zhivago," "Our Man in Havana," "Lawrence of Arabia" and "The Horse’s Mouth," which also earned him an Oscar nomination for writing the screenplay.
A man of sophistication and an actor of nuance, Guinness reportedly groaned when he read the stilted scripts that Lucas handed him for this strange new kind of space opera. Late in life, he told one interviewer that the death of Kenobi in "Star Wars" was a manuever to escape all the Jedi nuttiness. "I just couldn’t go on speaking those bloody awful, banal lines," he said in 1999. "I’d had enough of the mumbo jumbo." Guinness died in 2000 still receiving "Star Wars" fan mail, most of which he reportedly threw away without opening.
– Geoff Boucher
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Credit: "Star Wars" photograph courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.