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Most science fiction films have backstories that are necessary to understand the plot. For this reason, George Lucas opened Star Wars (1977) with the famous opening crawl, but I wonder if, aside from a title card – as in Flash Gordon - Lucas ever considered using a voice-over for the opening of Star Wars.

The question came to mind after hearing Tom Kane narrate the opening crawl.

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  • Well, the non English versions of star wars do have voice overs like star wars in Hindi
    – shanu
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 5:32
  • I'd guess he would not want to spoil the John Williams score by laying dialog on top
    – alexg
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 9:34
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    He did! He thought “Shall I use a voiceover?” Then he thought “Nah.” Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 9:59
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    It’s worth noting that the Star Wars crawl was modelled on the crawls at the start of episodes of film serials like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, because Star Wars itself was inspired by those serials. (Hence the first film starting in the middle of events, as if it were an episode in a serial.) Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 10:05
  • 1
    And it may or may not be worth noting that episodes of The Clone Wars do (mostly) start with a voiceover, either giving context, or recapping events of a previous episode. Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 10:06

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Lucas seems to have had a text crawl in mind from the beginning. From Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (note that the title crawl is referred to as a "roll-up"):

Like the story itself, the roll-up went through many different permutations. Initially, the first shot of the film showed a vast sea of stars, a planet, and five moons surrounding it. In the third draft, George Lucas simply used the sea of stars as the backdrop to the main titles and the roll-up. Originally, in the rough draft, the roll-up only defined the notion of a new Empire with its ferocious "Knights of Sith" (who became "Legions of Lettow" in the first draft) hunting down the legendary "Jedi Bendu" warriors (called "Dai Nogas" in the first draft). Eventually, the notion of civil wars, the Rebellion, and the Death Star were added to the text, providing the audience with more background information on the plot and the characters.

George Lucas: "The roll-up came out of the serial concept, which was that this was a series of movies and not a single movie. At the beginning, it was pretty long and unwieldy, and I kept paring it down and paring it down. [...]"

(Source: Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (1997), page 6)

This is corroborated by purported rough drafts of the original film:

FADE IN:

SPACE

A sea of stars is broken by the vast blue surface of the planet, Utapau. Five small moons slowly drift into view from the far side of the planet. The main titles are followed by a roll-up:

Until the recent GREAT REBELLION, the JEDI

BENDU were the most feared warriors in the

universe. For one hundred thousand years,

generations of JEDI perfected their art as

the personal bodyguards of the emperor.

[...]

(Source: https://maddogmovies.com/almost/scripts/starwars_rough5-74.pdf)

The same title crawl appears on the first page of the Dark Horse adaptation of the rough draft for The Star Wars:

Screencap of title crawl in space from the comic "The Star Wars" Issue 1

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