A/V Room









Star Wars Episode III - George Lucas interview

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?
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?
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 before.

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 more apparent?
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?
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 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?
Well there's no plot twists in this one.

Q. But you do have tremendous secrecy, which is legend on your sets?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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 the easiest.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit more about The Red Tails?
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 Jones.

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?
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 cereals.
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?
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?
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?
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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