Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. What level of pressure did you feel upon yourself
given the level of expectation that has existed since you first
unleashed this franchise on the world? Have you felt it regularly?
A. Well, ultimately I had to push that all out of my
life and just say I'm going to continue to make the movies that
I started out to make. Fortunately, the whole thing was written,
the story was written, the style, etc, everything was done before
Star Wars was successful, so I could say that is what I'm doing
and I'll keep my eye on that ball.
Q. But 30 years ago, did you envisage it would ever quite
pan out like this?
A. It's one of those things that happens in life, you
go with what the opportunities are and where your interests seem
to lead you. You have to remember, originally Star Wars was intended
to be one movie - Episode IV, a Saturday matinee serial, you never
saw what came before and you never saw what came after. It was
designed to be the tragedy of Darth Vader, which is that it starts
with this monster coming through the door and throwing everybody
around. Halfway through the movie you realise this villain of
the piece is actually a man and that the hero is his son, and
in the end the villain turns into the hero inspired by his son.
It was meant to be one movie, but when I broke it up because
I didn't have the money to do that movie, because it would have
been a five-hour movie, and the icon of Darth Vader kind of took
over, the tragedy of Darth Vader got diminished. It was harder
to see that it was actually a story about a guy who becomes redeemed.
But at the same time I had written a back story about all of
the characters in order to get to Episode IV. I did a biog of
each character, of what they were, who they were, where they came
from, and an exposition of where The Empire came from and all
that sort of thing. So when I went back to do the back stories,
I didn't really intend to do that, I really intended to do the
one movie, then I determined to do the three movies in order to
get that one movie finished.
So I finished it and said 'ok, that's fine, I'm done now'. The
back story was written as a back story, it wasn't intended to
be a movie. Technically, you couldn't do it, because you were
going to the centre of the universe. Star Wars was designed, for
technical reasons, to be on the edge of the universe, so I didn't
have to deal with that many costume problems, that many special
effects problems, that many design problems.
But then after about 10 years, I began to think about the fact
that the tragedy part of the thing had been lost, basically, and
it would be interesting to tell the people the full story of what
happened and strengthen that part of it.
At the same time, the technology became available for me to actually
tell that story and go into the centre of the universe, to see
Coruscant, to see Yoda fight, to see these things that were impossible
Then I had a long, soul-searching time, when I really stopped
making movies so that I could raise my kids. I did that for 15
years and then when they were old enough I thought it was ok to
go back and direct again.
So was I going to go off and do these kind of avant-garde movies
that I had intended to do, or should I take one last shot at Star
Wars and maybe tell the back story so that the tragedy becomes
I realised that if I didn't do it then, when I was 50, then I
would probably never get around to it. I thought I would regret
it if I didn't do it.
Q. How deep is your sense of loss at losing Star Wars?
A. It's more like having your kids going off to college.
They still come back when they need money. They'll be there for
holidays. We're doing a TV series, I'm not really involved with
it, but we're doing two of them actually. They're not about the
tragedy of Darth Vader saga - one is an animated series about
The Clone Wars; all the characters are in it but obviously there's
not much character arc. And then one is a live action series but
it's about minor characters in the saga. So it's still going to
be around. I'm going to go off and do my thing, the world is going
to go off and do theirs, or the company anyway, but it's like
the comic books, or the novels, or the games that are out there,
it's sort of going to have a life of its own.
So it is sort of like sending the kids off to college, now it's
on its own, it's going to be doing its own thing, but I sort of
reserved the theatrical arena for this saga which, as I say, started
out as a two-hour idea and turned into a 12-hour idea.
Q. We're probably going to see Revenge of the Sith on
DVD before Christmas this year. But how many times can we expect
to see Star Wars on DVD over the next few years?
A. A lot of it depends on the medium. You have to remember
that when Star Wars came out there wasn't even VHS, there wasn't
anything, it was a whole different world. So we are releasing
Episode III at Christmas, but when the six-pack comes out I'm
not sure. We may wait until it gets in high-def and we can release
it as a six-pack in high-def, that's been discussed.
It's hard to know what the next level is. Eventually it's all
going to go online, there's no question about that.
I've seen a 3D process that's quite amazing and it really makes
Star Wars look good. It's a three dimensionalisation of the film,
but it's not like a 3D movie where things are poked in your eye
and everything, but a different way of looking at the movie.
I've never been a big fan of 3D but in this process I've become
quite a convert. So if we can get digital theatres, because it
needs them in order to work, we will probably re-issues all of
the movies in theatres, in 3D, because it's such a cool process.
Q. Legend has it that you like to keep plot twists secret.
What sort of lengths did you go to this time?
A. Well there's no plot twists in this one.
Q. But you do have tremendous secrecy, which is legend
on your sets?
A. Yeah, but everyone does. All pictures have secrecy
on their sets. It's harder now because of the Internet and cell
phones that take pictures, and videos. The Internet, you know,
the movies end up on the Internet before they end up in the theatre,
so that whole thing has kind of disappeared. It used to be that
there were real plot twists, important things that needed to be
held back so that people could enjoy the picture.
In this one, we brought the book out ahead of time, we got the
video game out ahead of time, they all explore the universe completely,
and, as I say, most the story has been told, this is just the
final piece of the puzzle, so it's not like you don't know what
happens. You know he turns into Darth Vader.
Q. Is piracy the single biggest
threat to your industry?
A. Definitely. I'm glad I'm getting out when I can because
it's not going to be the same in the next few years.
Q. So it's going to be even worse?
A. Oh it's going to be very worse. I don't know how they'll
survive, seriously. If it wasn't for DVD there'd be no theatrical
film industry. And as DVD gets widdled away with piracy, there
won't be any income, so you're going to see smaller and smaller
and smaller movies and eventually something else will take its
place. I'm not sure what that will be, whether it'll be straight
to video, but people will always want the theatrical experience,
just like they go to the opera or the ballet.
People will still go to movie theatres just because they want
the social interaction with other people but I have a feeling
that films will be released on the Internet and in theatres at
exactly the same time; there will be some kind of coded pay-per-view
methodology, which is the only way to stop piracy if they're selling
it on the street for $2. In some countries obviously now it's
free and that's going to be an issue. At some point the international
courts are going to have to go along and decide what they want
to do with copyright because it doesn't just affect the film industry,
it affects the computer industry, video games, everything.
Q. Out of the whole saga, which of the characters is
most like you? Who did you model yourself most on?
A. Well I would say probably Luke. He was a farm boy
like I was, who went off to fight in the galactic wars!
Q. Which episode was the most fun to film?
A. Again, the films are like my children, so don't ask
me which one I like the best. But the first one is always the
toughest one because you don't know what's going on, you're confused,
it's up to this poor little baby to teach you how to be a parent,
and sometimes they're better at it and you have to learn as you
go; everything is a drama, you worry about everything that goes
on every day and it drives you nuts. Each little phase is confusing
for you, especially when they turn into teenagers.
Then, you know, you have the next one and the next one, and each
time it gets easier and easier because you kind of know what to
expect. And then you get to the last one and it's really a piece
of cake. You've been through there so many times that the last
one gets spoiled, because it's the last one and it's going away
and all that sort of stuff.
But it's very much like that with the movies, so the first one
was definitely the hardest one and the last one was definitely
Q. Can you tell us a little bit more about The Red Tails?
A. Well Ted Tails is a story about African-American fighter
pilots during World War Two. They're sometimes referred to as
the Tuskegee Airmen because that's where they trained, in Tuskegee.
They were the only fighter unit during World War II that never
lost a bomber, because they were escort fighters. So they were
the best. It obviously involves racial issues but mostly it's
about a bunch of guys who wanted to become fighter pilots. And
it's a flying movie. They went up against Messerchmits, the new
jets, and it's really an exciting story, because they're all 20-years-old,
most of them are college educated. They went on to become the
sort of captains of industry in the United States, and it's a
pretty inspiring story. I've been working on it for about 15 years
and now I'm just going to focus on it along with the next Indiana
Q. This film is one of the most heavily marketed of all
time. In this country, there's a lot about certain food products
being unhealthy for children, so I was wondering what you felt
about seeing Yoda on a Pepsi can?
A. Well the one that we did that was the most heavily
marketed was Episode I, because everyone was afraid it wasn't
going to work. So we backed way off on the last one and with this
we tried to find a medium. Ultimately, products like Pepsi, you
have primarily the issue of sugar. They have Diet Pepsi. Is it
bad for you? I don't know. I don't think it is. I grew up on that
sort of thing and all it did was make me crazy.
We've tried very hard to be careful about the products that we
work with. We do have M&Ms, I love them as it turns out, so
a lot have to do with what we grew up with. We have various breakfast
It does comes down to some fast food franchises. We cut back from
what we used to. I know it makes it difficult for parents sometimes
to control that problem, but I don't know what to say about it
- it's the world of modern marketing. And in the world of piracy,
having movies released on the Internet, it's going to get even
worse because capturing the attention of the audience out there
is getting harder and harder.
Q. The advances in technology allowed you to revisit
the original trilogy and make alterations. Can you see yourself
in 10 years' time returning to these films and making changes?
A. The real issue is that the first trilogy never was
finished. Episode IV was really not finished. I didn't have the
money, I didn't have the time, I didn't have the technology to
actually finish it, and at the time I was kind of upset. People
were going 'it's marvellous, how do you feel about it', and I
was like 'I feel about it's 50 or 60% of what I wanted, I'm really
disappointed, I'm really sad, it bothers me to watch it'. And
to a minor degree, the next two films, partially because I was
financing them myself and they were more complicated. But I did
those films in a special edition to kind of finish them off the
way I meant them to be. If nothing else, I was stubborn, dogmatic
and persistent to get the movie the way I wanted it.
The last three I've pretty much been able to make them the way
I want. I haven't had much interference, I've spent as much as
I've needed to spend to make them work, so now the whole thing
is complete and it's pretty much the way I want it to be, so I'm
not going to bother. The only thing that will happen is when we
get to the high-def DVDs I'll probably go back and re-time them
and clean them up. But it's just technical stuff, not content.
Q. What are your favourite parodies?
A. There's been a lot of great parodies and send-ups,
it's hard to even mention them all. There's been some great ones
over here. It's part of the fun. We used to say we were making
the movies to be parodied in MAD magazine. But it's been all kinds
of programming and even Mel Brooks films.
I always wanted to do two versions of the movie, right from the
very beginning. But I never really got to do it. I always wanted
to do an extra take, which was a comedy take, so then I could
cut together the whole movie as a comedy. But you always get there
and that chance to do that other take never materialised. But
I always hoped to be able to do the goofy version of Star Wars,
so I'm glad other people have been able to do it.
Q. Do you think Scots make the best heroes and villains?
A. We have a lot of Scots working on the film, actually,
we're heavily weighted in that direction. Traditionally, the British
are great actors, as are the Scottish and the Irish. You could
say Great Britain has a great tradition of acting and talent in
that area. Acting is a craft, you have to be diligent and hard-working
and learn your craft, but it's also about talent. It's something
that you're born with and I must say that there is a segment of
this group of islands that is extremely talented. There is a very
good acting gene pool here. I like Scottish actors.
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