Alec Guinness overwhelmed by force of publicity

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The Independent Online
Alec Guinness overwhelmed by force of publicity

May the Force be with you - but I won't. This is the message from Sir Alec Guinness to the organisers of tonight's royal premiere for the re- release of Star Wars.

The veteran actor, who is reported to have made millions from the film, is refusing to join the Prince of Wales at London's Odeon in Leicester Square. The hype surrounding the film's 20th anniversary celebrations, he said, has become too much. Asked for an interview, Sir Alec responded in writing: "I am afraid the answer is no. The hype over the reissue of Star Wars and the constant demands for interviews from the press, magazines, radio and TV have got me down and my only refuge is to refuse everything."

As Obi-Wan Kenobi (right), the wise Jedi knight, Sir Alec captured the imagination of a generation. In 1977 he agreed to act in the film for 2 per cent of the profits rather than for a straight fee, a trend-setting deed copied by many Hollywood stars. His gamble certainly paid off. Star Wars and its two sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, have earned pounds 1.33bn worldwide.

Sir Alec could make more than pounds 1m from the re-released and digitally remastered Star Wars, which has taken more than pounds 60m in the US since 31 January. A spokesman for 20th Century Fox said of the 82-year-old actor, who lives a reclusive life with his wife, Merula, in Hampshire,: "George Lucas [the director] invited him but we received a note saying he had a previous engagement. It is a shame."

Only reluctantly did Sir Alec attend the unveiling of a plaque in London last year to mark his contribution to film. At the time he said: "The idea makes me feel rather fraudulent, my contribution to film has always been negligible, my first love has always been the theatre."

Star Wars opens across the country on Friday. Clare Garner