5 little-known facts about Alec Guinness

STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE Obi-Wan Kenobi/Ben Kenobi ( Alec Guinness). PHOTO: Lucasfilm.
STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE Obi-Wan Kenobi/Ben Kenobi ( Alec Guinness). PHOTO: Lucasfilm. /

Obi-Wan Kenobi is undoubtedly one of the most popular characters in the entire Star Wars franchise. From his first appearance in 1977 to the upcoming TV show named after the character, Obi-Wan has always been a fan favorite. And while actor Ewan McGregor is the one who will be reprising the role for the upcoming Disney+ series, for many it’s actor Alec Guinness who will always be most associated with the character.

Alec Guinness was already a well-respected actor when he appeared in Star Wars, and his presence lent an air of importance to what was then simply a small sci-fi movie. Here are five little-known facts about the actor who originated our favorite Jedi Knight.

1. The identity of his father is unknown 

On the birth certificate of the actor, there is no name listed for the father. As an illegitimate child, the name of the father could only be put on the birth certificate if the father was present and consented according to the law at the time. Guinness suspected that a man named Andrew Geddes was his father. Geddes was a Scottish banker who paid for the actor’s boarding school education, and would sometimes visit the family, but it was never confirmed if he was or was not the boy’s father.

2. He is the only actor to be nominated for an Oscar for his work in Star Wars

The Star Wars franchise has been nominated for a total of 37 Oscars across the 11 live-action films. These range from Best Picture, to Best Original Score, to a whole slew of Best Visual Effects nominations. However, across the entire franchise, there has only been one nomination for an acting performance in any of the films. That honor goes to Alec Guinness, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his work in the first Star Wars film in 1977. He would end up losing the award to Jason Robards, who won Best Supporting Actor that year for his performance in Julia.

3. He technically was in five Star Wars movies

While Alec Guinness appeared in all three episodes of the original Star Wars trilogy, his last two acting credits came about after his death thanks to the clever use of archival audio tracks. The actor portrays the great Jedi in both The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker in voiceover. Clever editing even allowed the Alec Guinness version of Obi-Wan to reach out to Rey by name. Editors took a recording of Guinness saying the word “afraid” and edited off the “a” and “d” sounds at the beginning and end of the word so that it would sound like Guinness was speaking directly to the new lead of the Star Wars franchise.

4. He appeared in six movies that were nominated for Best Picture

Beyond Star Wars, Alec Guinness is one of the most successful actors of his generation, with Oscar, BAFTA, Tony and Golden Globe awards all to his name. But what might be even more impressive is how well-received so many of his movies were. Alec Guinness appeared in Great Expectations (1946), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope (1977), and A Passage to India (1984), all six of which were nominated for Best Picture. Other than Star Wars, all of the films were directed by David Lean, who frequently collaborated with the actor on many projects.

5. He was paid 2.25% of the royalties of Episode IV… but it was almost more 

According to an interview that came out shortly after the release of the original Star Wars in 1977, the actor’s agent had negotiated that Alec Guinness receive 2% of the royalties that the movie made. After shooting wrapped on the film, George Lucas contacted Guinness and said to thank him for his work on the film as well as his suggestions that improved the final product, he would like to give Guinness an additional half a percent for a total of 2.5% of the royalties.

Guinness thanked the director, but when he contacted the producer of the movie, Gary Kurtz, to get something about the new payment in writing, Kurtz amended the offer to an extra quarter of a percent instead of an extra half a percent. Still, even with the end result being 2.25% instead of 2.5%, the success of Star Wars still ended up making this one of the biggest paychecks of the actor’s career.

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