7 million dollars for 20 minutes on screen: Alec Guinness hit the jackpot with Star Wars!

Twenty minutes of screen time, but maximum pay on arrival. Alec Guinness, unforgettable Obi-Wan Kenobi in George Lucas’ original trilogy, had a hollow nose to negotiate his contract…

If Alec Guinness was David Lean’s favorite actor, crowned with the Oscar for Best Actor for his extraordinary composition as Colonel Nicholson in the absolute classic The Bridge on the River Kwai, the actor also knew how to widely seduce a whole new generation of spectators.

The one who discovered his exploits as a Jedi knight in Star Wars, in the guise of Obi-Wan Kenobi. A memorable composition also hailed by a new Oscar nomination, this time for Best Supporting Actor.

Although enthusiastic about the filming of George Lucas’ film, the person always said that he did not very well understand this story of Jedi knights and the Force in ancient but futuristic times.

Obi-Wan has a hollow nose

It’s not just George Lucas who’s been on the fence about Star Wars; he who had asked Fox to maintain the same salary he had received for American Graffiti, i.e. $150,000. Against the ownership of the rights to any future Star Wars merchandising; and the ownership of rights to possible sequels. A deal that gave Fox pundits nightmares for years…

Although Lucas wanted the majority of his cast to be made up of unknown actors and actresses, he still wanted to have at least one lead. For the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, he therefore chose the English actor Alec Guinness.

Lucasfilm Ltd.

In January 1976, Fox offered the actor a fee of $176,000. Guinness did not even try to negotiate his salary, but instead asked for 2% of Star Wars revenues. Clever, he had in mind the juicy deal that his friend William Holden, his partner in The Kwai River Bridge, who had asked for a percentage of the Box Office receipts of Lean’s film.

Good prince, as a gesture of goodwill, George Lucas added a small bonus of 0.25% to this agreement. The rest is history: Star Wars was a huge success. And a jackpot for the actor, who received 7 million dollars; or, adjusted for inflation, the equivalent of $33 million today.

When he died in 2000, at the age of 86, Alec Guinness received the equivalent of $95 million for his participation in Star Wars. Not bad, for a screen presence of barely 20 minutes. But largely passed into posterity.

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