Celebrity Obituary: A Tribute to Sir Alec Guinness
Alec Guinness is dead has long been a standard line by trolls on Usenet newsgroups who sought to confuse people and generally start trouble. However, early on the morning of Monday 7th August 2000CE this dreadful prediction finally took place.
As a tribute, BBC2 broadcast an interview of Guinness by Michael Parkinson from 1977, just after Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope had been released. That year was a turning point in Guinness' life,
Guinness, born in 1914, had been a serious Actor since well before the 1950s when he made some of his most famous films. Indeed, he won an Academy Award [or Oscar] for his part in David Lean 's Bridge on the River Kwai in 1959. As well as Lean's films he worked on a number of Ealing Comedies, most notably The Lavender Hill Mob and The Ladykillers, but to today's audiences he is known mainly for the role of Obi Wan Kenobi.
After having Sir Alec regale him with some background on his previous films, Parkinson turned the topic of discussion to the newly-released Star Wars film. Guinness had been eager to work with George Lucas , but almost changed his mind when he realised the script was a Sci-Fi movie! However, he found he couldn't stop turning the pages, and knew the movie would be a good one. Some of the dialogue was a bit ropey , Sir Alec commented. He was not the only cast member to think this; Harrison Ford told Lucas You can type this shit, but you sure can't say it!
Guinness went on to describe the Star Wars script - it had a marvelous healthy innocence ... like a breath of fresh air ... so invigorating ... simple stuff for all ages. This is true enough; ANH is a very basic story, but exceedingly well-told.
I've been getting some pretty strange letters lately, Guinness said - as if to hint at the fact that he would later come to despise Star Wars fandom. Not to speak ill of the dead, this writer's comments on the late actor's relationship with his devoted followers can be found in a previous edition's review of Yes Admiral [the autobiography of Michael Sheard].
On the night of Friday before his death, BBC radio broadcast a comedy programme featuring the voice talents of a number of celebrity impersonators. The most memorable sketch started with an impersonator of Patrick Stewart performing a scene from MacBeth, then adding some Trekkie technobabble to liven things up a bit. Shakespeare's so boring, it needs more space-ships.
The exasperated director asks the next actor, Sir Alec, to continue the rehearsal. A familiar-sounding voice rasps we know that Malcolm plots ... he is constructing his Death Star. Yes, the line is rather predictable - but hilarious nontheless.
The bottom line is that however much Guinness resented it, Star Wars made him part of our popular culture. Guinness may have been an ungrateful old bastard, but he was a hell of an actor and he will be sorely missed.
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