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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 November 2007, 18:07 GMT
Road trip to the Star Wars galaxy
Lucasfilm pictures from Making of Star Wars published by Ebury Press
R2D2 in storage on location in southern Tunisia
Just over 30 years ago a road haulier from Kent answered a call that would see him play a vital role in one of the most popular film of all time.

In 1976 Giles Instone from Tunbridge Wells agreed to transport props and set items for a then little-known science fiction production called Star Wars.

Director George Lucas needed to move robots and equipment from Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire to Tunisia.

And the invitation saw Mr Instone tasked with giving the likes of R2D2, C-3P0 and even Luke Skywalker's house, a lift to Africa.

He mobilised trucks from his Edenbridge firm to carry out the task.

'Powerful storm'

He said: "A freight forwarding firm called us up and said they were doing some air freight for a production called Star Wars to take place in Africa and asked us if we'd be interested in doing some of the road transport.

Sir Alec Guinness was interesting to talk to and quite unassuming. I had the utmost admiration for him
Giles Instone

"Being just a small firm in Edenbridge we were thrilled to be involved in it.

"We were carrying all sorts of props from the set in London and of course at the time we hadn't got a clue what the stuff was.

"It looked like something out of a science fiction book and I suppose it was."

The 1,000-mile-plus journey to Tunisia was uneventful but as soon as they unloaded the equipment in the south of the country a powerful storm blew up.

Mr Instone said: "There was no warning that I remember and when we got to the set in the morning the set was pretty well decimated.

Lucasfilm pictures from Making of Star Wars published by Ebury Press
Robots R2D2 and R5D4 and Luke Skywalker's home were transported

"Quite large objects had been blown across the desert, several hundred yards in some cases. We just could not believe it could have blown that hard."

"We must have all been sound asleep since it was our first night in a hotel for some time," he added.

And once the damage had been repaired filming did not always go entirely to schedule.

"I remember watching the robots a lot and they did break down a lot. They [the technicians] kept fooling with them to try and get them to do one thing and then do another because they weren't co-ordinated enough to do both things at the same time," Mr Instone said.

'Slightly frantic'

The 56-year-old, who is now based in the US state of Colorado and runs a company that moves racehorses around the world, also witnessed George Lucas' incredible work rate.

"What I remember about George Lucas was that he was working unbelievably long hours.

"He was working well into the night. On set he was always very busy, very intent on what he was doing, directing obviously, and slightly frantic over the fact we were running quite late by then.

In fact Lucas' stress levels reached such a height that at one point he thought he was having a heart attack.

He was diagnosed with hypertension and exhaustion and told to rest - something the punishing schedule would not allow.

Star Wars was made on a budget of $11m (5.5m)
The opening crawl was co-written by Brian De Palma, director of Scarface
Delays pushed the release date back from Christmas 1976
The film was originally to be called The Star Wars
Sir Alec Guinness negotiated a deal for 2% of box office takings

While he and the other members of the crew could wear shorts and T-shirts members of the cast had to wear hot and heavy costumes in the desert's blistering heat.

"I remember the man in the gold suit [Anthony Daniels playing C-3PO] complaining bitterly about the heat, and in fact whenever he took his helmet off it was like a sauna bath.

"Even in the desert we could see the steam coming up and the thing was cutting him rather badly. He soldiered on and managed to get it done but I could see it was very uncomfortable."

Sometimes Mr Instone and the drivers were asked to do odd jobs on set when there were not enough people to do them.

Acting legend

One time he had to sweep away the tyre tracks from underneath one of the film's landspeeder craft which would have its wheels removed when it appeared on screen - because it had to appear to be flying.

Mr Instone also got to meet acting legend Sir Alec Guinness who was playing the part of Obi Wan Kenobi.

Giles Instone
Mr Instone said his experience on set was a "great adventure"

"I think to this day the bit I remember clearest was Sir Alec Guinness dressed up in all his black robes, sitting under a big sun umbrella on the set, looking very calm and unflustered as he must have been gently roasting.

"He was interesting to talk to and quite unassuming. I had the utmost admiration for him."

And when the film was released in 1977 Mr Instone said he was pleasantly surprised to see what the footage had actually become.

"I paid my seven and six to see the film like everyone else when it first came out and I was amazed at what it had turned into because I couldn't envisage at all the stuff that we were doing in the desert turning into what we were seeing on the screen."

He added: "We looked on it as a big adventure. We were all in our 20s and when we got down to the set most [of the crew] were young, including George Lucas.

"And it was a big adventure driving through the desert into the southern parts of Tunisia and being on a film set, which I'd never been on before."

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