Star Wars has inspired countless parodies since its premiere in 1977, including full episodes of Family Guy and Robot Chicken dedicated solely to the blockbuster space opera. Many Star Wars fans, however, are too young to remember the original Star Wars parody: Hardware Wars, a short film by Ernie Fosselius, a filmmaker from San Francisco.
ah yes I remember Hardware wars and of course the iron!— davidclowery (@davidclowery) February 13, 2018
Hardware Wars featured household appliances like vacuums, irons, and toasters, flying through space in the now-familiar style of the Star Wars franchise. The 13-minute film, which plays in the style of an extended movie trailer, used to air on HBO.
You can now watch the entire short on YouTube!
If you went to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi in theaters, you may have even noticed an allusion to Hardware Wars while our heroes were aboard a star destroyer. In one shot, for just a moment, a large spaceship appears to be landing in a dark field. Another quick cut reveals the "spaceship" was, in fact, just an iron, smoothing out the wrinkles on a baddie's uniform. Director Rian Johnson has confirmed the shot was a tongue-in-cheek reference to Hardware Wars.
Fosselius wasn't especially pleased by his film's inclusion in the Star Wars canon, however. He told Huffpost:
This is the phrase that got me: ‘Aren’t you happy that you finally got into a “Star Wars” film?’ No, I’m not. I did the parody. Why would I want to get into an actual ‘Star Wars’ film?
So, Episode VIII's been out long enough now that I can ask about that scene on the big ship...— Momentum J. Rabbit (@Momentrabbit) February 12, 2018
... was that a blatant call-out to "Hardware Wars"?! O.o
But Fosselius has an even larger problem with the reference, one which goes back decades. He doesn't see himself as a Star Wars fan, and doesn't seem to like it when fans of Star Wars embrace his parodies as "fan art." He commented:
That’s how things work. You get absorbed into the thing you’re spoofing because it’s revised. Your intentions are revised.
Look, you got to understand. ‘Hardware Wars’ was a parody. It wasn’t a fan film. Oh, god. I’m never going to live it down. It was turned into a fan film.
It really sort of pissed me off. Because I spend my entire life trying to make a name for myself in a very obscure profession, because it’s what came naturally to me, and I consider [my parodies] art. I thought everyone was going to have fun with it.
A classic. Not going to say Hardware Wars is worth anyone's time to track down and watch or anything. But I remember it fondly.— Rick Creest 🍺🐜 (@SuperRick213) February 5, 2018
Hardware Wars was produced on a reported budget of $8,000 and grossed around $500,000 the first year of its release, making it one of the most profitable independent films of its time. It was beloved for its shamelessly low-budget approach, including characters such as Wookie Monster (Chewbacca), Auggie "Ben" Doggie (Obi-Wan Kenobi), and Artie Deco (R2-D2).
My introduction to Art Deco was in the Classic Star Wars spoof Hardware Wars, which renamed R2D2 “Artie Deco”— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) February 5, 2018
One cast member remained the same, however! Paul Frees, the legendary voiceover artist who worked on the original Star Wars teaser trailer, was convinced to record a few lines of dialogue in exchange for some equipment repairs. The work was so inconsequential in Frees' mind that he later forgot he did it and called up Fosselius:
I answer the phone and [Frees] says, ‘Are you Ernie?’ And I go, ‘Oh no, he found out something. The unmistakable voice of God!’ And I was like, ‘Yeees, sir.' [He goes], ‘How did you get my voice?’ I said, ‘Well, remember Walt Kramer fixed your machines and you agreed to read a couple of lines?’ ‘Oh right. Never mind.’ Click.
He’d forgotten about it. But it scared the crap out of me. I thought I was gonna get sued.
Fosselius deeply regrets that his film is now revered as a fan film rather than the belittling parody he intended it to be. George Lucas himself has commented on the film fondly.
One can imagine how Fosselius felt about that:
It was upsetting. Because it wasn’t like Lucas was saying, ‘Oh, that was fun and everybody likes it, and no harm done. That was a parody. It was a spoof. It was fun. It was satire,’ No, he has to make it that I did it because I love the film so much I had to imitate it. That’s how I took it. And if George says that, then that’s the law, and everyone is now thinking that’s what happened.
Is it wrong that my favorite part of the new Star Wars movie was the homage to Hardware Wars?— Dan Hinds (@Flashinghast) February 3, 2018
The next time a filmmaker wants to send up Hardware Wars, Fosselius has a better idea:
You can call it a tribute, but a real tribute would pay my rent for a month, or buy me some art supplies, or say something nice about me in the press.
It seems art isn't always viewed the way it was intended. Sorry, Hardware Wars fans!