E.T. is in Star Wars? 12 little-known facts about the beloved space saga.

A scene from The Empire Strikes Back - does the same snow feature in The Shining?
A scene from The Empire Strikes Back - does the same snow feature in The Shining?

With The Force Awakens due to hit screens on December 18, excitement over Star Wars is reaching fever pitch once again.

Now, with only 12 weeks to go until the big day, here are 12 little-known facts about everyone’s favourite space saga ...

• The first Star Wars film, which was released in 1977, is known as Episode IV: A New Hope, but it wasn’t always this way. It only gained its episode number and sub-title when it was re-released in 1981, after the second film in the series, The Empire Strikes Back, had been released as Episode V in 1980.

• Star Wars and toys go together like Tusken Raiders and gaffi sticks, but the success of the original film came as such a surprise when it was released that there were no toys based on the movie ready for Christmas 1977. So, in a bid to not miss out on the holiday season, toy company Kenner sold an empty box with a promise that the action figures would be delivered later. (Those empty boxes are now worth around £1,200!)

• The Star Wars films already star one famous princess, but if things had turned out differently they could have featured a real-life royal. Koo Stark, an old girlfriend of Prince Andrew before his marriage to Sarah Ferguson, shot scenes for the first Star Wars film playing a friend of Luke Skywalker named Camie. Unfortunately for Koo, the scenes were left on the cutting room floor and have yet to re-appear in a special edition (so far).

• Star Wars is full of strange creatures with bizarre languages and accents but it was the warm West-Country tones of Darth Vader actor David Prowse that caused the most hilarity on set. The well-known Vader voice was overdubbed by James Earl Jones but on set the lines were provided by Bristol-born David. The American actors in the film found this so funny they dubbed him Darth Farmer!

• What do The Empire Strikes Back and The Shining have in common? Apart from both being great films, they both feature a lot of snow ... in fact, they feature a lot of the same snow! The movies were both filmed at the same studio at the same time and ended up sharing some of the fake white stuff. So next time you watch Jack chasing Danny through the maze at the end of The Shining, you could be watching them run through snow from the ice planet Hoth.

• You might know that Return of the Jedi was almost called Revenge of the Jedi, but they aren’t the only names that the film went under. Security was so tight during the making of the third Star Wars movie that it was filmed under the fake name Blue Harvest to keep snooping fans and reporters off the scent.

• The Force is strong in Ewan McGregor’s family. Not only did the Scottish actor portray the young version of Obi Wan Kenobi in the Prequel Trilogy, his real-life uncle Dennis Lawson played hotshot X-Wing pilot Wedge Antillies in the three original Star Wars films.

• Bickering droids R2-D2 and C-3P0 are the only characters to have appeared in every Star Wars film (so far), but you might not know that they’ve turned up in some other films that aren’t Star Wars, too. If you know where to look, R2-D2 appears as part of a spaceship in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and they both pop-up briefly as hieroglyphics in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

• Speaking of the plucky little robot, R2-D2 got his name when a sound editor on an earlier film by Star Wars creator George Lucas asked for “reel 2, dialogue track 2”, abbreviated to “R2, D2”. The director, who was waking up from a nap, thought that it sounded like a good name and the rest is history. Lucas also got the name for another of his famous characters from an unlikely source - the whip-cracking archaeologist Indiana Jones was named after his dog, Indiana. The same dog also inspired Han Solo’s Wookie co-pilot Chewbacca due to its habit of sitting next to George as he drove his car.

• The Millennium Falcon might have made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs but its origins are far more humble. The spaceship’s iconic design was inspired by a hamburger with a bite taken out of it with an olive on the side. And it’s not the only Star Wars ship inspired by an every-day object - Boba Fett’s Slave I got its unique look from a street lamp and the TIE Fighter got its name because it looks just like a bow tie!

• The lightsaber - it’s an elegant weapon for a more civilised age - but it’s also made up from items found in a photographer’s camera bag. While constructing the iconic laser swords for the first Star Wars, the prop department used antique camera flash battery packs for the handle and other old camera parts. The famous sound was created by the hum of the motor in an old film projector and the noise of TV interference picked up by a microphone.

• Everyone knows that E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial comes from outer space, but could he come from a galaxy far, far away? If you watch closely in the Galactic Senate scene in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, you can see a pod filled with creatures of the same species as E.T. If that’s not enough proof, in the film E.T., the alien with the famous glowing finger gets very excited when he sees a youngster dressed up as Jedi master Yoda on Halloween - they’re old pals from back home, obviously.