So today is May 4th, which is Star Wars Day, which is nice because Star Wars doesn’t get much attention. So, in honor of this important day, I want to address something that’s been gnawing at me for years. A strange detail, an obvious mistake hidden in plain sight for years and years, mocking me. Something that makes no sense. Something within that famous picture you see above.
Before I talk specifically about what the mystery is in that image, I want to establish the character of Lucasfilm, the company that’s behind the whole Star Wars universe, and has been since the start in 1977. You might remember this story from our sister site iO9 in March:
Just to recap, the story was about this picture of Mark Hamill in his Luke Skywalker costume. This particular photo was, for many years, unreleased by Lucasfilm because the T-shirt under the tunic was visible, and the leggings/leg wrap things Luke normally wore were not present.
Since these details differed from Luke as he was seen in the movie, Lucasfilm decided they did not want this picture released.
So, based on that, we can pretty easily conclude that Lucasfilm is a company that is very, very focused on the details. This picture wasn’t even intended for use in posters or anything large-scale like that, and yet they still made sure nobody had to endure the horror of seeing Luke’s undershirt or unbound calves.
That brings us to the mystery of the famous photo of R2-D2 and C-3P0. This image is used all over the place in official Star Wars branding and promotional materials. Hell, it’s even the main image in the Apple TV splash screen for Star Wars:
Lucasfilm clearly has no problem using this image, and yet it has an error far more glaring than some glimpse of T-shirt. Look at R2-D2 in the image:
Notice anything weird? I’m sure you do; it’s pretty obvious: his whole body is unpainted.
Look, you can see the difference here; the R2-D2 that appears in every movie is the one on the left:
This isn’t exactly a tiny detail; there’s a lot of difference here. R2 as shown on screen has blue-painted upper arms, the bezel of that center double-vent thing is blue, and there’s a couple of other areas that don’t have paint.
The picture is clearly from some early, preproduction stage of shooting Star Wars back in 1976 or 1977. There’s a number of other pictures of the same scene, and I assume these must have been some test shots for costumes, maybe?
What I can’t figure out is why Lucasfilm, which has proven to be so incredibly careful and detail-oriented, is somehow fine with this glaring visual error, and has used this image for decades without any seeming concern?
It’s not like the unpainted R2 body shows up in other Star Wars materials, either. Even in things like the original movie poster, which managed to get Carrie Fisher’s face totally wrong and gave Mark Hamill an insane superhero chest, managed to get R2's paint scheme just right.
It’s also strange that I can’t seem to find any other OCD geek like myself bitching about this; does nobody notice? Am I the jerk here? What’s going on?
I reached out to Lucasfilm a couple months ago to ask about this, and, not getting a response, managed to get someone on the phone today. They weren’t aware of the issue, but they promised to get the question to the right people, and I could expect an answer in a few weeks.
I didn’t want to wait to address the issue, but I promise that if and when I hear back from Lucasfilm, I’ll let you know the reason why this odd discrepancy is somehow okay to use for all kinds of materials and advertising when other ones are not.
Until then, I suggest we all speculate wildly and concoct many conspiracy theories, ideally involving the Illuminati.
May the fourth be with you.