When I was a teenager the story was going round that the design of Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon was inspired by a cheeseburger George Lucas was eating while thinking about how the space ships in his new movie should look.
He took the cheeseburger, stuck an olive on the side, and the Millennium Falcon was born… or at least the idea was.
I don’t know how these stories spread in a pre-Internet age but somehow that seemed to be the widely accepted understanding of how the Falcon came to be. But is it true? Michael Heilemann at Kitbashed has done some extensive research into the early stages of Star Wars’ design, and come up with an interesting alternative. He mentions the same story I heard, and then rapidly moves on to more believable versions of the Falcon’s origin story. Rather than replicate his material here, why not head on over and have a read of it on the Kitbashed site?
There’s no better source on the subject of design than one of the actual designers, and it’s great to see that Joe Johnston, visual effects pioneer and director, has given some of his own reflections into working on the design of Star Wars. You can find that on his Facebook page, and it both lends weight to some of Heilemann’s article and corrects a few things.
But back to the original question: did a cheeseburger really inspire the Millennium Falcon? Well, perhaps on a subconscious level, but not directly. It certainly doesn’t look like there was a lunch-time moment when the design crystallised. As with most things, the story is a little more complex than that.