During filming, Ewan McGregor made lightsaber noises as he dueled. George Lucas explained many times that this would be added in by the special effects people later on. Ewan said "I kept getting carried away."
During the first week of the first trailer's release, many theaters reported up to seventy-five percent of their audiences paying full price for a movie, then walking out after the Star Wars: Episode I trailer was shown.
According to Star Wars canon, Obi-Wan's hanging braid is a Jedi tradition common to all Padawan Learners. When his Master feels that he has reached proper maturity, he must face a series of trials. If completed, he cuts the braid with his lightsaber, signifying that the student is now a full Jedi Knight.
Twentieth Century Fox released the first trailer with strict instructions that it not be shown before a certain date. When a Canadian movie theater accidentally showed it a day early, they lost the rights to show the movie.
The word "lightsaber" is never used in the film and is ultimately the only Star Wars film that does not have a single character to speak the word. When Anakin talks to Qui-Gon, he calls it a "laser sword".
Jake Lloyd has said that he retired from acting because of the trauma he experienced after playing Anakin Skywalker. According to Lloyd, other children constantly teased him about the role. For example, they would make lightsaber sounds whenever he walked by. Lloyd also said that the situation was made worse because, in his opinion, the film did not meet the fans' expectations. Despite this, Lloyd has reprised the role of Anakin in several video games and has appeared at Star Wars conventions and events.
At the time of the film's release, the producers ran a disinformation campaign to suggest that Natalie Portman played both Padmé and The Queen at all times. In fact, they are not always the same person. For many sections of the film, notably those where The Queen is wearing the black outfit with the huge feather headdress, she is actually a decoy, played by Keira Knightley. The real queen, Portman, is actually disguised as a handmaiden. Various conflicting public statements make it extremely difficult to figure out who is who. Whole websites are devoted to figuring out which actress is playing which handmaiden or The Queen at any given point.
According to Jake Lloyd, there was a six-hour cut of the film that was screened for several people before the film was released, with those who saw it proclaiming it to be "mindbogglingly good". Like the later "Lost Cut" of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), this cut has never been released publicly.
Liam Neeson convinced George Lucas to keep a scene where Qui-Gon Jinn puts his hand on Shmi Skywalker's shoulder. Lucas felt this might be out of character for the monk-like Jedi, but Neeson thought there should be an emotional connection between the characters. In an interview with Premiere Magazine, Neeson defended his action, saying, "It may be 'Star Wars', but we've got to have something in there for the adults."
In the Galactic Senate scene, when Queen Amidala is asking for a vote of no confidence, and the whole Senate are on their feet shouting, in the lower left corner you can see that there are E.T. species (as in movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)). George Lucas included them as a tribute to his long-time friend, Steven Spielberg, as well as showing them existing in the same universe.
Benicio Del Toro was originally set to play Darth Maul. Del Toro left the film after George Lucas took most of Maul's lines out of the film. He finally joined the Star Wars franchise when he played DJ in Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017).
The sound of the underwater monsters growling near the beginning of the film was made by the main sound technician's three-year-old daughter. The sound of her crying was recorded, and the frequency lowered to obtain the sound heard in the film.
In 1997, a fierce sandstorm destroyed several of the Tatooine sets in the desert outside Tozeur, Tunisia. Filming resumed two days later. George Lucas considered this a good omen, as the same thing had happened during filming of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
George Lucas made a similar deal as he did with Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). Lucas and Twentieth Century Fox agreed that he would forego his salary as a director, provided he owns the entire negative of the final cut of the film, as well as ancillary rights of all toys and commercial tie-ins.
Tupac Shakur (a Star Wars fan since childhood) expressed interest in reading for a role, even lobbying mutual friends of his and George Lucas' to get them in touch with each other to set up a meeting so he could read, but his tragic murder in September 1996 prevented any such meeting from taking place. It has been speculated that he was up for the part of Mace Windu, but the character's name was not publicly known before filming started, and it was not specifically written for an African-American until Samuel L. Jackson was cast. In early concept art, Windu was drawn as an alien and also with the likeness of concept designer Doug Chiang.
The script explains that the reason Watto is always flying is that he is crippled. Look closely, and you can see that one foot is longer than the other. He also talks out of the side of his mouth because the broken tusk slurs his words.
A few USC students took the Japanese LaserDisc and made their own edit of the movie. Contrary to popular belief, it does NOT cut out all scenes featuring Jar-Jar Binks, but does remove many of his sillier and more distracting moments, and makes many other minor tweaks. It became known as the "Phantom Edit". George Lucas requested to see a copy, and then Lucasfilm issued a press release reiterating that it is illegal to copy and/or edit a Lucasfilm property.
According to the Blu-ray commentary, the scene where Padmé and Anakin first talk is the one that was used to audition potential Anakin actors. The crew also states that Jake Lloyd did not like filming this particular scene.
Tests were conducted to see if Yoda could be realized digitally, but it was determined that the technology was not up to scratch yet, and a puppet was used. A CGI model of Yoda was nevertheless created, but only used in one long shot, near the end, where Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda discuss Anakin's future. Yoda was finally realized as a fully digital character in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002), and for the 2011 Blu-ray edition of this movie, the puppet was fully replaced by a digital Yoda.
Palpatine's line "There is no civility, there is only politics" is a corruption of part of the Jedi Code which consists of a negative assertion followed by a positive one. For example: "There is no fear, there is only calm. There is no death, there is only the Force."
Scenes of straightforward dialogue may be comprised of up to six layers of computer-composited imagery, as the following example shows. In one scene, Natalie Portman's best take had been take seven while Jake Lloyd's was take one. The two takes were spliced together. However, Lloyd's mouth at the end of the scene is still gaped open, so the same segment from take fifteen (in which his mouth is closed) is patched in. Furthermore, when Portman appears to look down from Lloyd instead of up, those few seconds were run backwards, which unexpectedly caused steam in the background to rise in reverse. The problem was fixed by flipping the steam backwards. All these fixes resulted in a seamless scene.
Earlier drafts of the script placed more emphasis on the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Originally, he was already a fully trained Jedi by the start of the movie, and also the only Jedi negotiator sent to Naboo. In this same draft, the character of Qui-Gon Jinn was not introduced until the characters reached Coruscant, and that character was of the same age of Obi-Wan, not his mentor.
According to Ahmed Best in a Rolling Stone article, Michael Jackson "campaigned" for the role of Jar Jar Binks, but George Lucas decided against casting him, because his star status would "compromise" the film. At one point, Lucas took Best and Natalie Portman backstage at a concert, and introduced Best to Jackson to gain the singer's approval.
In the original trilogy, light-saber activations and deactivations happened off-screen most of the time to prevent the "jumps" that would occur when the film was stopped to allow the "activated" light-saber props to be substituted for the deactivated handles. This no longer poses a problem, and every activation and deactivation occurs on-screen in this film.
In the Senate scene, one of the pods contains creatures that resemble E.T., an obvious tribute to George Lucas' friend, Steven Spielberg. Author James Luceno fleshed out this group of aliens in his Star Wars novel, "Cloak of Deception". They are from the planet Brodo Asogi, and they are represented by Senator Grebleips (Spielberg spelled backwards.)
Regarding some rumors saying that he "felt like a puppet" while working on the film, Liam Neeson said, "That's simply not true", and that he had "absolutely no misgivings" about being in it, adding that George Lucas was "very good" to work with. "He was clear about what he wanted", said Neeson. This largely parallels Sir Alec Guinness who played Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). Guinness was often quoted as saying that he hated the making of the movie, yet both cast and crew members have praised his professionalism and courtesy on-set, and he was largely positive of the finished film.
In both of his identities, Darth Sidious/Palpatine makes his first appearance as a hologram. This is in keeping with the original trilogy, when his first appearance was a holographic communication with Darth Vader in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
The announcer at the Pod Race welcomes people, "...from all the Outer Rim Territories". This is a reference to the galaxy's grouping. The Star Wars galaxy is organized in concentric circles. Starting at the center and moving outward the circles are, The Deep Core, Core, Colonies, Inner Rim, Expansion Region, Mid Rim, Outer Rim, Wild Space, Unknown Regions.
Natalie Portman worked extensively with a voice coach on what kind of dialect Queen Amidala would have. They settled on a classically imperious kind of tone, the type that Katharine Hepburn or Lauren Bacall would have used in their heyday. Portman's voice was then electronically lowered in post-production to make her sound more Queenly.
On his way to England to be fitted for the suit of Jar Jar Binks, Ahmed Best suffered severe burns when hot tea was spilled into his lap. Best endured great pain while a cast of his body was made, but told no one about his injury, unwilling to take any chance that might jeopardize his role.
Qui-Gon Jinn identifies the Queen's starship as a Nubian model J-327. "327" was the number of the landing bay where the Millennium Falcon landed on the first Death Star in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) as well as the number of the landing platform in Cloud City in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980). During the introduction of the pod racers, one of the pods is "327".
George Lucas' first draft of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) began "This is the story of Mace Windu, a revered Jedi-bendu of Opuchi who was related to Usby C.J. Thape, a padawan learner of the famed Jedi." Both the character of Mace Windu and the concept of padawan learners make their first appearance in this movie.
The interiors of the palace on Naboo were shot in an Italian palace, the Reggia Reale (Royal Palace) of Caserta (now used mostly as a museum). However, the palace had candelabras on the wall which had to be removed prior to shooting. One of the curators, there to watch that the crew doesn't make damages, played one of Amidala's counselors.
"Phantom Menace" was the name of a villain in the "Flash Gordon" comics. The same name used by NASA to refer to the fact that so few of their attempts to send a probe to Mars were successful, to the point that the missions seemed cursed.
George Lucas originally wanted to cast an American actor as Qui-Gon Jinn, but cast Liam Neeson because he considered that Neeson had great skills and presence. Lucas said Neeson was a "master actor, who the other actors will look up to, who has got the qualities of strength that the character demands".
The Neimodians were originally to be computer-generated creatures, but to save costs, a mere twelve weeks before shooting was about to commence, they were changed into men wearing masks. Animatronic model designer John Coppinger quickly recycled animatronic masks of the Mangalores from The Fifth Element (1997) that creature effects supervisor Nick Dudman still owned to use as the basis for their facial movements.
Anakin has two model ships on his bed in Tatooine. These are models of early designs considered for the Naboo Starfighters. In the documentaries on the DVD, we see these models being rejected by George Lucas.
As Sofia Coppola prepared the script for her directorial debut on The Virgin Suicides (1999), she heard that George Lucas would make a new Star Wars film, and asked him if she could accompany him during filming. Lucas, a good friend of her father Francis Ford Coppola, offered her a role in the royal entourage, which she accepted because it "seemed like a good vantage point to watch without getting in the way".
Jake Lloyd retired from acting in 2001, citing bullying on the part of classmates, and the stress of doing up to sixty interviews a day, as his reasons for doing so. He stated in a 2012 interview that being in the film ruined his childhood and his acting career, and that he destroyed all of his Star Wars memorabilia out of anger toward the film. Lloyd also struggled with schizophrenia which was finally diagnosed in 2015. However, an interview with a Star Wars fansite has confirmed, that he's mellowed out since then, and contrary to popular belief, he does not hate Star Wars after all the bullying.
While Liam Neeson did the majority of his own stunts, he did have three stunt doubles on hand to do everything else. Andrew Lawden doubled for Neeson for part of the Darth Maul duel on Tatooine, while Joss Gower played Qui-Gon for some shots in the main duel near the end. Rob Inch did everything else.
Andy Secombe based his vocal performance of Watto on Sir Alec Guinness' performance as Fagin in Oliver Twist (1948). So essentially, Anakin is passed from one Alec Guinness impersonator to another through the course of the film.
Ewan McGregor once stated that before filming began, he and Liam Neeson were taken to a private room where two Lucasfilm employees approached them with a long, locked wooden box. When opened, they saw twenty various light-saber hilts that they would be allowed to choose from to be their character's official weapon for the movie. George Lucas only wanted to allow them a rushed ten minutes to decide, believing that the actors should connect with their hilts through feeling and not through study. And once they had finished deciding on the hilts they wanted, everything was put back in its place, the box was re-locked, and it was taken away from the room.
Early treatments of the film did not have Qui-Gon Jinn, and simply had Obi-Wan by himself as a Jedi Knight. Qui-Gon was added as Obi-Wan's master, to flow with the generational "passing the torch" theme found throughout the whole saga.
George Lucas described Sebulba's design as "a spider crossed with an orangutan crossed with a sloth", with a camel-like face, and clothing inspired by medieval armor. Part of the challenge was to create a creature that used its hands as feet, and its feet as hands.
A re-release of this movie in 3-D was released to theaters in February 2012. In Sweden, it was decided that the movie would also be dubbed into Swedish, despite that no other Star Wars live-action movie had been dubbed into Swedish before. Swedish actress Pernilla August, who played Shmi Skywalker, did the voice-over of herself in the dub.
In the German language version of the film, the collaborating Trade Federation leaders have a French accent, while in the Italian language version they have heavy Russian accents. They also have Russian accents in the Czech version, except for the Viceroy, who speaks fluent Czech for reasons unknown.
Ray Park once gave an interview with Wizard Magazine where he stated that he changed the intended original design of the double-bladed light-saber without meaning to. Originally, the hilt was going to be the same size as a single bladed light-saber's hilt, as this design was thought to be the standard because of years of Star Wars Expanded Universe and Legacy comic book drawings (most notably based on Exar Kun comics). But when Ray finally received his prop saber, he was quick to tell the Lucasfilm prop masters that if the hilt was going to be so small that he wouldn't be able to twirl it and spin it around his head and neck without the Darth Maul character hurting himself in the process. With nothing more said, the prop masters returned to him a week later with the now franchise standard "long hilt" design.
The Galactic capital planet of Coruscant was first mentioned in the first Expanded Universe tie-in novel "Heir To The Empire" by Timothy Zahn, set five years after Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983).
The words chanted during the "Duel of the Fates" are from Robert Graves' poem "The White Goddess". "The White Goddess" is a translation of the original version, "Cad Goddeu" or "The Battle of Achren", an early Celtic work of great antiquity also known as "The Battle of the Trees," which was originally composed by Gwion and is found in the "Book of Taliesin", a Thirteenth Century Welsh manuscript . John Williams had the lines "Under the tongue root a fight most dread, and another raging, behind, in the head" translated into Sanskrit. The translation sung in the movie is as follows: "Korah Matah Korah Rahtahmah Korah Rahtamah Yoodhah Korah Korah Syahdho Rahtahmah Daanyah Korah Keelah Daanyah Nyohah Keelah Korah Rahtahmah Syadho Keelah Korah Rahtahmah Korah Daanyah Korah Rahtahmah Korah Daanyah Korah Rahtahmah Nyohah Keelah Korah Rahtahmah Syadho Keelah Korah Rahtahmah Korah Korah Matah Korah Rahtahmah Korah Daanyah Korah Rahtahmah Nyohah Keelah Korah Rahtahmah Syadho Keelah Korah Rahtahmah Korah".
A puppeteer dressed in a color matching the background (in a manner similar to the Japanese puppet theater Bunraku), manipulated a skeletal C-3PO figure attached to his front, while Anthony Daniels read his lines off-camera. The puppeteer was erased from the film during post-production.
George Lucas has said that there are a couple of shots in the movie that were "filmed" on digital video instead of 35 mm film. He also said that he dares anyone to try and figure out which shots these were.
Editing took two years; Paul Martin Smith started the process in England and focused on dialogue-heavy scenes. Ben Burtt (who was also the film's sound editor) was responsible for action sequences under George Lucas' supervision. Non-linear editing systems played a large part in translating Lucas' vision; he constantly tweaked, revised and reworked shots and scenes. The final sound mix was added in March 1999, and the following month the film was completed after the delivery of the remaining visual effects shots.
The crew was considering giving the Neimoidians an alien language with subtitles, translating this into English (similar to other alien species in the franchise), but decided not to, since the Neimoidians carried the "political element" of the film, and did not want to detract from this.
After discovering he'd gotten the part of Obi-Wan, Ewan McGregor had his first ever light-saber duel with Noel Gallagher using prop light-sabers owned by Noel. The duel took place in the back garden of Noel's house in Belsize Park after Ewan had attended an all-night party there the day before.
The lights in Queen Amidala's dramatic red throne-room gown were powered by a car battery that had to be worn under the heavy costume during filming. (Per the "Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen" exhibit at the EMP Museum in Seattle, Jan-Oct 2015)
George Lucas approached David Hare to write the screenplay and even co-direct the film. Lucas confessed he had reservations about working with the actors, and hoped that he could focus on the action while Hare focused on the acting. Hare declined.
During the near-fight between Sebulba and Jar Jar, a background character can be seen with light skin, dreadlocks, and yellow paint over his nose. Expanded Universe writers were inspired by this to create the character Quinlan Vos, who was later mentioned by name in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005).
The "visual theme" of the planet Naboo is heavily influenced by Italian Renaissance design and architecture. While, on Tatooine, the stadium where the pod race takes place is based upon Roman designs of the early Christian era.
Theaters receiving the first trailer and posters were warned in writing to return them to the distributor (Twentieth Century Fox) on time or risk not receiving further media, and possibly the film itself. This was done to attempt to prevent the black-market sale of the incredibly popular trailer.
In the summer of 1998, the movie Godzilla (1998) was released amongst a whirlwind of media hype as part an ambitious studio campaign called "Size Does Matter", featuring massive signs and banners meant to emphasize the size of the monster. After its release, the movie was the subject of an intense backlash by both critics and audiences. The programmers of www.StarWars.com put up a temporary webpage with mocking the "Godzilla" campaign with a poster lettered with the green glow reading "Plot Does Matter - May 1999", in reference to Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999).
Adrian Dunbar was originally cast as Bail Organa, and made a brief appearance in the Senate sequence. When his performance was cut, the character's name was changed to Bail Antilles (mentioned on-screen by Captain Panaka). A picture of Dunbar still appeared in two publications: The Ultimate Star Wars: Episode I Sticker Book (as Senator Bail Organa) and Star Wars: Episode I Who's Who (as Bail Antilles).
Before Samuel L. Jackson expressed his interest in joining the cast, Mace Windu was to be an animatronic character. This alien was later identified as an "Anx" and can be seen sitting in Watto's box during the pod race (as Graxol Kelvyyn) as well as during the Senate scenes (as Senator Horox Ryyder).
Despite the rumor that Anakin's alien friend is a young Greedo, he is actually known as Wald. There is a deleted scene, however, showing the alien getting into a fight, and being told off: "Stay out of trouble, Greedo, or you'll come to a bad end".
Terence Stamp disliked working on the film. He clarified that he had been looking forward to his scene with Natalie Portman, but was dismayed to find out that Portman wasn't on set that day; he was asked to act towards a piece of paper taped to the wall instead, which he described as "very boring". He declined to reprise his role in the sequels, saying that "Actors prefer to work with actors".
A few days before the scene on the Royal Starship that introduces R2-D2 was to be shot, George Lucas decided that he wanted to have a "barrel" domed droid (an R5 unit) added to the group, which was originally made up out of units with a dome similar to R2-D2. Years earlier, Lucasfilm had given away all the original R3, R4, and R5 domes to Disneyland for their Star Tours (1987) ride, and being on-location at Leavesden studios in England, Don Bies only had a single image to work with, as he quickly made an R5 dome over the weekend. Because of the rush job, it turned out looking slightly different from the original prop, but this same dome was repainted and used for every other R5 unit seen in all three Star War prequels.
Peter Serafinowicz criticized George Lucas' poor direction to him when voicing Darth Maul, which just amounted to "Make him sound evil", and he was not happy that only three of his lines are in the movie, and that he only got a meager salary for those lines. On top of that, he was annoyed that he wasn't even invited to the film's premiere, and had to pay for his own tickets and travel expenses, and he didn't think the film was very good on top of that.
Chroma key was extensively used for digital set extensions, backgrounds, or scenes that required cinematographer David Tattersall to seek powerful lamps to light the sets, and visual effects supervisor John Knoll to develop software that would remove the blue reflection from shiny floors. Knoll, who remained on set through most of the production, worked closely with Tatterstall to ensure that the shots were suitable to add effects later.
Ewan McGregor's lightsaber prop stick was green instead of blue, because the bluescreen would have made it look different if he used a blue lightsaber stick prop, the color for his lightsaber was later added in digitally.
Two conflicting stories have come out of Lucasfilm on the origin of the Nemoidians' name. One version says that the the aquatically-evolved aliens were named as an allusion to the fictional naval character Captain Nemo. According to other sources, however, the race was named for science fiction icon Leonard Nimoy.
Nine R2-D2 models were created; one was for Kenny Baker into which to be dropped, seven were built by Industrial Light & Magic and featured two wheelchair motors capable of moving 440 pounds, enabling it to run, and be mostly used in stage sets, and the British studio produced a pneumatic R2-D2 that could shift from two to three legs, and was mostly used in Tunisia because its motor-drive system allowed it to drive over sand.
It appears that the other head of the podrace announcer is simply saying the same thing as the first head, but in Huttesse instead of English. This isn't so. Originally, what the second head said was supposed to be subtitled, and the screenplay of the movie contains a translation of all of his dialogue.
To research for the podrace vehicles, the visual effects crew visited a jet aircraft junkyard outside Phoenix, Arizona and scavenged four Boeing 747 engines. Life-sized replicas of the engines were built and sent to Tunisia, to provide reference in the film.
Silas Carson was cast as Nute Gunray because another actor was uncomfortable with the costumes used by the Trade Federation characters, which were hot, exerted a lot of pressure on the bearer, and took about fifteen minutes to apply.
Keira Knightly claimed that although they tried to be consistent having her play only Sabé when she is decoying for Queen Amidala, there are a few long shots of her standing in for Natalie Portman when Padmé is supposed to be in-character as the Queen.
Jar Jar Binks, the computer-generated character voiced and motion-captured by Ahmed Best, quickly drew the ire of long-time Star Wars fans who reacted very negatively to the character's clumsiness and voice, something which they claimed was meant to represent a subservient Afro-American stereotype. Jar Jar went on to become one of the most hated characters in movie history, something which almost completely obscured the fact that Best was the first actor to play a completely computer-generated supporting character (that credit usually goes to Andy Serkis as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) instead). Haters devoted entire websites to their animosity for and ridicule toward the character, and some even created re-edits of the movie that omit most of Jar Jar's scenes. According to Best, the backlash against Jar Jar got so bad that he briefly considered committing suicide, but decided not to for the sake of his young son.
Darth Maul is the only Dark Side apprentice who was not previously a Jedi. Count Dooku was once an apprentice to Yoda, and Master to Qui-Gon Jinn. Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker is an apprentice to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Kylo Ren was an apprentice to Luke Skywalker.
Brian Blessed originally auditioned for the role of Sio Bibble, the Governor of Naboo, for which he was considered "too loud". Casting director Robin Gurland approached him to play Boss Nass, because it was a "bigger than life" character, with "a kind of bravado".
The beginning and end of this film also parallel the beginning and end of Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). Both films begin with a smaller ship asking to board a larger one. Both end with the death of a Sith Lord, and the death of a Jedi, with the Jedi being given a funeral by cremation.
Contrary to popular belief, the city where Qui-Gon discovers Anakin is not Mos Eisley, but Mos Espa. When Darth Maul lands on Tatooine, he identifies two settlements in the area. One of them is later revealed to be Mos Espa, which implies that the other settlement could be Mos Eisley.
John Knoll previewed 3,500 storyboards for the film. George Lucas accompanied him to explain factors of the shots that would be practical, and those which would be created through visual effects. Knoll later said that on hearing the explanations of the storyboards, he did not know how to accomplish what he had seen. The result was a mixture of original techniques and the newest digital techniques to make it difficult for the viewer to guess which technique was being used. Knoll and his visual effects team wrote new computer software, including cloth simulators to allow a realistic depiction of the digital characters' clothing, to create certain shots.
Before the look of Darth Maul was set, it went through a number of designs. Initially, George Lucas asked concept designer Ian McCaig to draw his worst nightmare. McCaig recalled one where a dead yet alive figure was pressing its face against a window during a thunderstorm, staring at him. He used that as a basis, and the result was a portrait of a black dressed demonic character with light blue skin, dark eyes and with long red strands falling from its head. Lucas found the picture too disturbing and said to McCaig "Okay. Now draw me your second worst nightmare..."
George Lucas decided to make elaborate costumes because the film's society was more sophisticated than the one depicted in the original trilogy. Designer Trisha Biggar and her team created over 1,000 costumes that were inspired by various cultures. Biggar worked closely with concept designer Iain McCaig to create a color palette for the inhabitants of each world: Tatooine followed Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) with sun-bleached sand colors, Coruscant had grays, browns, and blacks, and Naboo had green and gold for humans, while Gungans wore "a leathery look, like their skin". The Jedi costumes followed the tradition from the original film; Obi-Wan's costume was inspired by the costume that was worn by Sir Alec Guinness. Lucas said he and Biggar would look at the conceptual art to "translate all of these designs into cloth and fabric and materials that would actually work, and not look silly." Biggar also consulted Gillard to ensure the costumes would accommodate action scenes, and consulted the creature department to find which fabrics "wouldn't wear too heavily" on the alien skins. A huge wardrobe department was set up at Leavesden Film Studios to create over 250 costumes for the main actors and actresses, and 5,000 for the background ones.
Every film in the franchise except for Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) begins with a shot of a star field moving to a ship that is flying towards or away from the camera. This movie opens with a transport ship headed for a Trade Federation ship.
Greg Proops and Scott Capurro, the voices of the two-headed podrace commentator, originally recorded their scenes (both in English) in full make-up in front of a greenscreen. It wasn't until the film came out that they discovered that they had been digitally replaced. This was also when Proops realized that Capurro had separately re-recorded his lines in Huttese.
The only Star Wars movie to be re-released in 3-D. It was however initially planned to re-release all the films in 3-D on an annual basis. However, Star Wars was sold to Disney in 2012, and they did not continue the project.
The bullfrog in the underwater Gungan City is based on Jabba the Hut, since Jabba eats bullfrogs. He's seen in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) eating a bucket of bullfrogs and opens the pod race in this movie by biting the head off a frog and spitting it onto the gong to start the race. Their skin tones also match the environment in which they live.
In late 2015, Liam Neeson stated that he enjoyed making this film so much, saying that George Lucas was a good director with whom you can talk easily and knows what he wants, he also said that he is open to reprise his role as Qui-Gon Jinn if asked.
Except for Jake Lloyd inside a hydraulically controlled cockpit, and a few practical podracer models, the entire podracing scene, which the effects crew designed to be as "out of this world" as possible, is computer-generated.
One of the first casting rumors for the "Star Wars prequel" came from a science fiction magazine called Starblazer. In their Summer 1985 issue, they published that Sybil Danning was to possibly portray the "sexy witch" that seduces Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side. In 2012, Danning confirmed on her Facebook page that the rumor was indeed true, and that many discussions took place at that time.
The character of Finis Valorum appeared again in Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) season six, episode ten, "The Lost One", which the deposed former Supreme Chancellor is visited by Yoda, who speaks to him about the light-saber that belonged to Jedi Sifo-Dyas.
For this film, light-sabers underwent a redesign for a more streamlined appearance. As the props for the original film were made from old camera pieces, they proved unwieldy, and the actors suffered injuries from their awkward design.
Concept designer Ian McCaig experimented with the Rorschach technique (adding ink blobs on a sheet of paper and fold it to create a symmetrical pattern) to create Darth Maul's characteristic tattoos. He also envisioned him to have a crown of feathers on his head as an ornament. The latter was replaced by a set of horns, which made it into the final design.
Although the striking image of Darth Maul (Ray Park) was often used in promoting the movie, leading to many people's assumption that the title was referring to him, "The Phantom Menace" is really referring to Senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) whose involvement as a menace, Darth Sidious, is "elusive" like a phantom to all other characters but Darth Maul. The Viceroy of the Trade Federation is unaware of the identity of his special acquaintance, Lord Sidious, who while communicating with the Viceroy only appears in the form of a teleconferencing hologram, which is like a phantom. The heroes of the story are further unaware that the Viceroy even has such an acquaintance, as they question the motives of the Trade Federation. As Palpatine is the puppetmaster of the whole movie (and the entire prequel trilogy, for that matter)--orchestrating the Naboo invasion whilst befriending the Queen, playing both sides against each other for his own political gain, and introducing Darth Maul from the shadows--it is he who should be considered the chief villain of the piece, the true phantom menace. Of special note, at the ending of the movie, while Yoda (Frank Oz) and Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) discuss the Sith affiliation of "the mysterious warrior," the music ends on an unresolved chord while the camera pans to the newly selected Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.
Queen Amidala's ship was originally designed to be a yacht powered by a solar sail. When this idea was rejected, it was later recycled for Count Dooku's Solar Sailer in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002). The final chrome look of the Queen's ship was inspired by 1950s-style automobile hood ornaments.
A sequence was written and partially filmed in which R2-D2 leaned too far over the Coruscant landing platform and fell off, only to fly back up using his own previously unseen booster rockets. Outtakes of this scene have appeared in behind the scenes footage, and the idea of Artoo having rockets was eventually used in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002). Interestingly, an action figure of R2-D2 from the 'Phantom Menace' toy line featured those rockets.
George Lucas cast Jake Lloyd and Natalie Portman as Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala because he wanted to cast actors whom physically resembled Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher whom played their children Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa.
When young Anakin starts his pod racer for the first time, the ignition buttons on the panel are the same model of the Fiat Uno, an Italian car launched in 1983. One of the car's characteristics is that it featured ergonomic "pod" switchgear clusters on each side of the main instrument binnacle.
The Hutt behind Jabba during the podrace is Gardulla the Hutt, the original owner of Shmi and Anakin before losing them to Watto in a bet. She later appeared in Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Hunt for Ziro (2010).
During filming, security on set was so tight that everybody had to wear a name-tag. George Lucas wore a tag that read 'Yoda'. This name was also listed as the director on the Episode I clapperboards as seen in behind the scenes photos of Rick McCallum holding it up prior to the first take which was shot on Thursday, June 26, 1997.
Alan Harris, who played several background characters in the original Star Wars trilogy, including the bounty hunter Bossk, served as Terence Stamp's double during the arrival on Coruscant scene. This sequence was shot on Wednesday, 2 July 1997, which was the first day on which the entire cast was assembled to film.
The UK DVD version is rated "PG" instead of "U" because of the deleted scenes on the supplemental disc. The making-of documentary was edited (thirteen seconds) to remove all sexual expletives (a "15" rating was available).
The character design of Watto was an amalgam of rejected ideas; his expressions were based on video footage of Andy Secombe's voice acting, photographs of animation supervisor Rob Coleman imitating the character, and modeller Steve Alpin saying Watto's lines to a mirror.
Future Academy Award nominee Sally Hawkins was an extra while attending drama school. She was on set for one day, as a friend was able to give her access. She was paid one hundred quid for playing an extra during the celebration scene at the end, and wore a chiffon costume. On set she saw Ewan McGregor while he was playing football, but didn't talk to him. Years later she co-starred with him in Cassandra's Dream (2007) but has never told him they had previously "co-starred".
This is the only film in the Star Wars film franchise not to involve the Death Star at all. It is alluded to in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) with a hologram given to Count Dooku. It is shown being built in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005). It is a major plot point in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983), and it is mentioned in the script of Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980). The plans for it are discussed in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), and the Death Star is compared to Starkiller Base in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015).
The fact that Anakin is not always in control of his contribution to blowing up the space console, ending the war, is a reverse of how Luke is always in control when destroying the Death Star in Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
The opening sequence has parallels to both Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). Like Jedi, it begins with a small ship approaching a big one, and asking for permission to board. Like A New Hope, the two main characters end up in a firefight. Qui-Gon tries to melt through the door to the bridge, just as the storm troopers cut through a door to board the Tantive IV. One major reversal is that Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are high-ranking Jedi, while R2-D2 and C-3PO are mere droids.
It has been long debated among fans as to the inspiration for the character name of Anakin Skywalker. One often most cited reason is that its a reference to the film director Ken Annakin. Another more cerebral possibility is that the name is a contrived wordplay on "akin" = alike. An akin Skywalker, a similar member of the Skywalker family, becomes then "corrupted" into the name Anakin. George Lucas, as of february 2019, has not officially confirmed if the name originated from either, or a combination of both sources, or if its in fact from a completely different inspiration.
In the scene before the near fight between Jar-Jar Binks and Sebulba, Jar-Jar is about to eat some food from a stand and the owner shouts at him in Huttese, and Jar-Jar repeats sounds that sound like the food stand owner's words, even, with his mouth full. He even reacts to it by spitting out the food, obviously being told by the food stand owner that he has to pay for food if he is going to eat it. This small scene hints that Jar-Jar knows and understands other alien languages and was probably a Gungan linguist in Naboo, though it has not been said or proven throughout the movie.
Both Natalie Portman and Samuel L. Jackson would later join the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Natalie Portman as Jane Foster and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Lucasfilm Ltd. was later bought by Disney which would also own Marvel Studios.
In the underwater scene, where a giant "goober fish" monster attacks the Gungan transport containing Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon and Jar-Jar, only to be attacked by a bigger sea monster, Qui-Gon mutters, "There's always a bigger fish." This foreshadows how Palpatine is the "bigger fish" in the revival of the Sith, and his plot to take control of the galaxy, and make fools out of the Jedi.
Queen Amidala says to Senator Palpatine that she will "pray" he can restore sanity and compassion to the Senate, which is uncharacteristic of a society that makes contact with "the Force", and hopes that it "will be with you".
Ron Howard whom declined the offer to direct the movie would later direct the spin-off movie Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) which was about how Han Solo first met Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian and which he first became the captain of the Millennium Falcon.
In the 1999 book "Star Wars The Making of Episode I The Phantom Menace by Laurent Bouzereau & Jody Duncan, it is revealed that John Williams began writing the score in the middle of the film, as he wanted to get to the human aspects, specifically the scenes between Anakin and his mother, before he got into the action sequences. He then moved to the end of the film, because he wanted to know where he was riding to, so he could work toward that.
Two of Padmé's handmaidens predict film references from later in the series. Keira Knightley (and Celia Imrie) appeared in the 2002 remake of Doctor Zhivago. The original 1965 film served as the inspiration for much of Anakin and Padmé's relationship. Sofia Coppola appeared in The Godfather, as the baby in the infamous Baptism sequence. Episode III copied this sequence in the part where Anakin kills the separatist leaders.
The film is the first film franchise to star Natalie Portman. Natalie Portman later joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe which she appeared in Thor (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013) as Jane Foster.
John Knoll: The visual effects supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic plays the Naboo pilot who gets killed during the space battle with the Trade Federation. It happens after Ric Olié says "The deflector shield is too strong."
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Ian McDiarmid was surprised when George Lucas approached him, sixteen years after Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983), to reprise the role of Palpatine, as he had assumed that a younger actor would play the part in the prequels. In fact, he was initially told by Lucas that he would play a senator. McDiarmid found out that he was about to play Palpatine when he arrived on set.
Darth Maul only blinks once throughout the film. This is mostly because the contact lenses that Ray Park wore made it difficult to blink, and Park liked the idea of a villain who never stops staring. He blinks when he is sliced in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The sound effect when Obi-Wan Kenobi's light-saber is kicked down the reactor shaft towards the end of the movie is the same sound effect heard when Luke Skywalker throws his light-saber away in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) when he tells the Emperor that he is a Jedi.
According to revised Star Wars canon, Darth Maul did not die when Obi-Wan sliced him in two. While falling down the pit, Maul grabbed at a maintenance hatch and swung into a disposal tube. The impact of landing knocked him out. Later, garbage collection droids dumped him into a trash bin, which was shipped to an offworld refuse dump. Maul existed there for twelve years, a broken half-mad cripple, until he was eventually rescued by his brother, Savage Oppress.
This is the only film in the franchise in which the top-credited actor (Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn) plays a non-recurring character, and in which the top-credited character dies (until Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)). Also, the only film in the prequel trilogy that does not give Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) the top credit.
One of Darth Maul's few lines is "At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have our revenge." It is never mentioned in this or subsequent films why they are hiding, and for what they are seeking revenge. In official Star Wars canon, the Sith Order emerged from a group of Jedi who challenged the old doctrine that self-sacrifice and restraint were the way to access the Force. Due to the believe that their (violent) passions were the way to harness its power, these Sith Lords were exiled from the Jedi Order. The Sith subsequently banded together throughout the centuries with the goal to conquer the Galactic Republic, and to exact their revenge against the Jedi Order for once expelling them.
During the battle between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi against Darth Maul, a total of nine strikes are landed without the use of the light-saber blade. Darth Maul lands a kick on each Jedi in the main hanger, Darth Maul lands a kick against Obi-Wan, causing him to fall to a lower platform, Qui-Gon lands an elbow and punch combination to knock Darth Maul to a lower platform, Darth Maul uses a kick as a counterattack after Qui-Gon jumps from a lower platform, Darth Maul uses the hilt of his light-saber before fatally stabbing Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan lands a kick on Darth Maul after breaking his light-saber in half, Darth Maul lands a kick on Obi-Wan causing him to completely flip over and land on his feet, and Darth Maul uses a force push to knock Obi-Wan into the chasm.
Obi-Wan's character has many parallels to Luke in the original trilogy. Both men see their mentor cut down in front of them, and scream out "No!" in protest. Obi-Wan holds the dying Qui-Gon in his arms, just as Luke does his father. Qui-Gon makes Obi-Wan promise to train Anakin, just as Yoda implores Luke to pass on what he has learned. Neither of the two men are successful in that mission: Anakin turns to the Dark Side and becomes Darth Vader, while Luke's apprentice, Ben Solo, turns to the Dark Side and becomes Kylo Ren.
Qui-Gon's death forces Anakin to deal with two other Jedi: He becomes apprentice to Qui-Gon's former apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi. He later fights Qui-Gon's former Master, Count Dooku, loses a hand to him, then defeats him in a rematch. This is a reversal of the original trilogy, in which Obi-Wan's death forces Luke to receive training from his former Master, Yoda, and fight two duels with his former apprentice, Darth Vader.
When Anakin first meets Padmé, he asks her if she is an angel and claims that he had heard angels that came from the moons of Iego. This foreshadows Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Mystery of a Thousand Moons (2009) which Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi travel to the planet of Iego to obtain a cure to the deadly Blue Shadow Virus. On Iego, both Anakin and Obi-Wan encounter a mysterious winged Angel whom reveals to them that she came from Millius Prime, one of the moons of Iego, but was driven away from her world by the Separatists.
Although this trilogy culminates with Anakin becoming Darth Vader, the main villain of the trilogy is Palpatine. That makes this trilogy the only one in which the villain is not related to the Skywalkers. The original trilogy had Darth Vader as the primary villain, while the sequel trilogy is about his grandson, Kylo Ren.
The opening of Episode IV reverses in Episode I. Episode I opens with four characters approaching the spaceship, where a female version of C-3PO greets the Jedi. Soon, an explosion occurs, where white smoke in another room emerges, contrasting the dark interiors of the spaceship, where the Jedi do battle with robots. Queen Amidala sends a message. In Episode IV, C-3PO is the first character talking, and soon Stormtroopers start blasting characters with guns, leading to an explosion of black smoke, contrasting the white interior of the spaceship, from where Darth Vader emerges. Princess Leia sends a message, and two characters (C-3PO and R2-D2) leave the spaceship.
This is the first Star Wars movie where Yoda and Obi-Wan appear together in life rather than death, since their spirits appear next to each other at the end of Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). The two characters are counterparts. Obi-Wan is tall, human, and talks forward. Yoda is short, non-human, and talks backwards. Their movements and where they appear on-camera are deliberately polar opposites of each other.