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Interviews with George
|By DAVID GERMAIN, AP Movie Writer
SAN RAFAEL, Calif. -
George Lucas never figured on a 30-year career as a space pilot. Once "Star
Wars" shot into hyperspace, though, he found it hard to come back down to Earth.
Making its DVD debut Tuesday, Lucas' original sci-fi
trilogy — "Star Wars," "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" —
began as an experimental foray into old-time studio moviemaking for Lucas, whose
first two films had been far removed from usual Hollywood sensibilities.
Lucas' sci-fi satire "THX 1138" had been a commercial
dud, but the energetic "American Graffiti" with its driving soundtrack and
multi-character point of view scored with audiences, giving the director clout
to try something bigger that had been on his mind.
"I'd already started this other idea, which was to do a
kind of a classic action adventure film using sets," Lucas said over lunch at
his 2,600-acre Skywalker Ranch. "I'd never worked on a set, I'd never worked at
a studio. Never made a traditional movie. So I said, `I'm going to do this once,
just to see what it's like, what it's like to actually design everything, work
on a soundstage, do an old-fashioned 1930s movie.
"And I'll do it in that mode from the 1930s Saturday
matinee serials, using kind of 1930s and '40s sensibilities, and I'll base it on
sort of mythological motifs and icons. I'll just put it together in a modern
form, and I'll have fun. That's how I got into that. I did it because it was an
interesting move into an area that I thought I'd never go into."
Three decades later, Lucas is preparing to launch the
last of his six "Star Wars" films. Next summer brings "Star Wars: Episode III —
Revenge of the Sith," completing the prequel trilogy that tells the story of
young Anakin Skywalker's metamorphosis into the villainous Darth Vader of the
original three films.
Fans have eagerly awaited the first three "Star Wars"
films on DVD, a release Lucas initially intended to delay until he finished
Some will be miffed that the original theatrical
versions are not included in the "Star Wars" boxed set, which features only the
special-edition versions Lucas issued in the late 1990s, with added effects and
footage, including a scene between Harrison Ford (news)'s
Han Solo and crime lord Jabba the Hutt in the first "Star Wars."
AP: Why did you change your mind and decide to put the
original three movies out on DVD now?
Lucas: Just because the market has shifted so
dramatically. A lot of people are getting very worried about piracy. That has
really eaten dramatically into the sales. It really just came down to, there may
not be a market when I wanted to bring it out, which was like, three years from
now. So rather than just sit by and watch the whole thing fall apart, better to
bring it out early and get it over with.
AP: Why did you rework the original trilogy into the
special-edition versions in the late 1990s?
Lucas: To me, the special edition ones are the films I
wanted to make. Anybody that makes films knows the film is never finished. It's
abandoned or it's ripped out of your hands, and it's thrown into the
marketplace, never finished. It's a very rare experience where you find a
filmmaker who says, "That's exactly what I wanted. I got everything I needed. I
made it just perfect. I'm going to put it out there." And even most artists,
most painters, even composers would want to come back and redo their work now.
They've got a new perspective on it, they've got more resources, they have
better technology, and they can fix or finish the things that were never done.
... I wanted to actually finish the film the way it was meant to be when I was
originally doing it. At the beginning, people went, "Don't you like it?" I said,
"Well, the film only came out to be 25 or 30 percent of what I wanted it to be."
They said, "What are you talking about?" So finally, I stopped saying that, but
if you read any interviews for about an eight- or nine-year period there, it was
all about how disappointed I was and how unhappy I was and what a dismal
experience it was. You know, it's too bad you need to get kind of half a job
done and never get to finish it. So this was my chance to finish it.
AP: Why not release both the originals and special
editions on DVD?
Lucas: The special edition, that's the one I wanted out
there. The other movie, it's on VHS, if anybody wants it. ... I'm not going to
spend the, we're talking millions of dollars here, the money and the time to
refurbish that, because to me, it doesn't really exist anymore. It's like this
is the movie I wanted it to be, and I'm sorry you saw half a completed film and
fell in love with it. But I want it to be the way I want it to be. I'm the one
who has to take responsibility for it. I'm the one who has to have everybody
throw rocks at me all the time, so at least if they're going to throw rocks at
me, they're going to throw rocks at me for something I love rather than
something I think is not very good, or at least something I think is not
AP: Do you pay much attention to fan reactions to your
Lucas: Not really. The movies are what the movies are.
... The thing about science-fiction fans and "Star Wars" fans is they're very
independent-thinking people. They all think outside the box, but they all have
very strong ideas about what should happen, and they think it should be their
way. Which is fine, except I'm making the movies, so I should have it my way.
AP: After "Episode III," will you ever revisit "Star
Lucas: Ultimately, I'm going to probably move it into
television and let other people take it. I'm sort of preserving the feature film
part for what has happened and never go there again, but I can go off into
various offshoots and things. You know, I've got offshoot novels, I've got
offshoot comics. So it's very easy to say, "Well, OK, that's that genre, and
I'll find a really talented person to take it and create it." Just like the
comic books and the novels are somebody else's way of doing it. I don't mind
that. Some of it might turn out to be pretty good. If I get the right people
involved, it could be interesting.
Lucas on Truth in Fantasy & Sci-Fi
Wired Magazine 5/05)
thing I like about fantasy and
science fiction is that you can take issues, pull them out of their
cultural straitjackets, and talk about them without bringing in folk
artifacts that make people get closed minded.
People went nuts. The folk aspects of that film were George Bush or Iraq
or 9/11 or -- intense emotional issues that made people put up their
blinders and say, "I have an opinion about this, and I'm not going to
accept anything else." If you could look at these issues more
open-mindedly -- at what's going on with the human mind behind all this,
on all sides -- you could have a more interesting conversation, without
people screaming, plugging their ears, and walking out of the room like
And you do that by --
By making the film "about" something other than what it's really about.
Which is what mythology is, and what storytelling has always been about.
Art is about communicating with people emotionally without the
intellectual artifacts of the current situation, and dealing with very
Life and death, or "I really want to kill my father and have sex with my
mother." It's hard to talk about that kind of thing in a family situation
without somebody getting upset. But in art, you can deal with those
issues. You begin to realize that other people have had the same
experience or go down those same paths deep in their minds. Most stories
are really told for adolescents, which is why Star Wars was
aimed at adolescents. Societies have a whole series of stories to bring
adolescents into adulthood by saying, "Don't worry, everybody thinks that
way. You're just part of the community. We don't quite talk about it, but
if you act on some of your notions, here's what will happen: Zeus will
reach down and smash you flat like a bug or the entire Greek army will
come and crush your city and burn everybody inside of it, including your
heroes." These lessons are continually handed down from generation to
generation. I love history, so I create an environment -- in the past,
present, or future -- that allows me to tell the story, but in a way
that's not incendiary.
"the idea is that over
time, there were new clone strains introduced, and then they even
conscripted guys to be Storm Troopers. So it's not just purely clones: It
started out as clones, but then it got diluted over the years as they
found out they could shanghai guys [more cheaply] than they could build
The nine-film saga:
was sort of a figment of the press' imagination. I sort of played
into it, but I probably shouldn't have. The joke I said was, 'It would be
fun to come back when everybody's 70 and make a sequel.' But I realized
when everybody's 70, I'd also be 70. That idea, now that I'm 60, isn't
quite so appealing."
The Fate of Jar Jar:
"He goes back to Naboo and
he's a representative," Lucas said of the controversial character, who is
barely glimpsed in "Episode III." "He probably stays on the council, he's
probably in the senate, because it becomes completely worthless. Senators
are just for show, which they talk about in 'Episode IV.' Actually, in
'Episode IV' they get disbanded, so Jar Jar probably goes home to his wife
The above quotes were part of an interview conducted