R Burke: Are you going to miss it?
George Lucas: I am not going to miss it. I love doing it, but it is 20 years of my life. I am anxious to get on and do other things. We are still doing a TV series, two TV series, one animated and one live action, so I am not going to do it myself, but I'll peek in from time-to-time. So I won't completely have lost the Star Wars experience..
Is there a character you are going to miss?
Well, because he's the hero of the whole thing. He's the one that always comes through and saves everybody. I'd like to have a pal like that that would come and save me once in a while..
Now is the TV series a prequel to this?
No, the TV series, the animated TV series called 'Clone Wars' is about the clone wars. Some of it has been on the Cartoon Network, but we're making it into an actual half hour, 3D animation series, and the other one deals with minor characters. And the time period is between episode 3 and episode 4, that 20-year stretch, but the characters aren't any of the main characters that are in the movies..
Do you have to sometimes remind yourself, as I think some of the more die-hard fans also have to be reminded, that it's a movie, that it's entertainment, or do you think of it as something more than that?
No. I always think of it as a job and, you know, my job is to entertain people. They pay a fairly sizeable amount of money to see the movies and I want to make sure that they get their money's worth..
And to those who consider it a religion?
Well, people consider all kinds of things to be a religion and I won't comment on that..
But, that said, I'm sure you have encountered, you know, the Internet buzz saying, "well, this is so important because" and they read all the psychological inferences and things about your own background and what it means to society in general. Is that really too much, or are you glad that this mythology has developed around this?
I'm not, I mean, it's not that I have a feeling one way or another about it. That's just what happens. It's a cultural phenomenon that happens. It happens with any kind of art. I mean, have you ever been to a museum? They do the same thing. Have you ever been to a, you know, I won't go there. But there's lots of organizations that get fixated on something and people live their lives that way and it's where they, you know, that's where they maintain their sustenance, their actual capacity is through believing in something and focusing on the minutia, and taking things literally.
Most, I mean all, art, all mythology is a metaphor. It's not about that. It's not about the words written on the page. It's not about the paint on the surface or how they got there, it's about your impression, your emotional impression of being there. It's about how does it renew your faith. How does it renew your spirit? How does it, you know, art is communicating to the emotions of human beings. That is what art does and whether it's music or writing or graphics or cinema, all you're doing is telling a story that is meaningful to people in one way or another and that you're striking their emotional chord that you couldn't do with a set of instructions or, you know, some kind of scientific analysis or some mathematical equation that is relatively unemotional..
Well, if I were one of these guys, say one of those storm trooper guys who go 500 bursts, and I march in there and I took off my helmet and I said, "I love Star Wars, but I hated The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, what would you say?
I'd say, "More power to you!" I mean, the films are liked by half the people, they're hated by half the people. You know, it's the same thing with the critics. I mean, all the Star Wars
films have been trashed and all the Star Wars
films have been praised. So, it's very hard to say, "Well I'm going to take this group and say, you know, they don't like it therefore I am going to change it." I mean, I am making the movie that I think is appropriate to what I am doing. It's not market research. I am not like a studio. I do what I want to do. I don't check it with an audience. I say this is the story. This is the story I'm going to tell for very personal reasons and I'm going to go ahead and do that.
When I went and decided that I would tell the back story, it was a very difficult decision at the time. I figured I was done with Star Wars
. I didn't want to do Star Wars
any more, but then it technically became possible to do it and I had this back story. The back story intrigued me because it kind of turns the whole series on its head. The series was really about Darth Vader. People thought that it was about Luke, but it's not and never was. People would ask me back then, what's it all about? I said, "It's about Darth Vader." In the first film, they didn't even know who Darth Vader was. Is he a monster? Is he a man? What is he? You have to remember that originally, the first three were actually one movie.
So, you would sit down in one piece and that whole thing, that is now three movies, would be told in one piece. You wouldn't have it broken up. A lot of things, you're my father and the fact that he kills him, that is the climax of the movie, and it's a movie. And, uhm, in order--and I wanted to start in the middle.
I never intended for the back story to be told. Then later on I said, "Well, if I went and did the first three, then it would sort of give you a stronger sense of where all this is coming from." I kind of told it backwards.
You don't feel sorry for Darth Vader until the very end. If I tell you the back story, then you're sorry for him right from the beginning, practically, because it's his story and the relationship with the kids is very different."
When I said I'm going to go back and do this back story, even though it's not a real story, it's basically a character piece with a lot of exposition, which is what back story is. I mean you just break down the characters, you say who they are, where they came from, you have to get to the point where we're starting the movie, which is different than a plot. A plot actually is constructed. I said, "Well, I'll do this. I will dare to do a character piece without much plot because I think it will be interesting to see if I can turn the other films on their head." When I started out I said, "Well, I am going to do more I." Everyone said, "Oh, this is great. This is going to be fantastic!" And they said-- "because we're going to have Darth Vader running around the universe killing everybody."
I said, "No, that's not what the back story is about. It's about a little kid, the first movie is going to be about a 10 year old kid." And they said, "We can't do that. It's going to destroy the franchise. We'll love everything. It's a Disney movie. Nobody will go for it. The fans will hate it." And I said, "Well, no I'm going to tell my story." I'm sure if I were not financing the movies and the studio was, they never would have let me do it. They would have said no.
The issue is the story starts with that 10 year old boy. That's the story. I kept telling them, these are not sequels. This is like one story that goes from beginning to end. Starts with the young Darth Vader and ends with Darth Vader dying. And that's ultimately why the first film actually ended up getting so hyped. You know, everybody panicked and said, "Well, we have got to get every kind of promotional marketing thing going. We have to cover the fact that George has made a movie that's going to fail here." And you know, I felt that I would probably get my money back. I thought, well, I think there's enough people, we won't lose our shirts on this thing. A lot of people didn't believe that. They were thinking a lot of other things and it did all right. And then I told them the next one is a love story. They said, "Oh no, here we go again. You already destroyed everybody's faith in the movies in the first one. You got away with it because we did such superior marketing, but we can't do it again." I said, "I'm sorry, but this is the story." I said, "I can't go to the end without them getting married and getting pregnant. There is a story involved here."
And they said, "Well, but you can't do that." And I said, "You know, I'm not going to immediately jump to Episode III
because you have to have Episode II
in between them." So, that was discouraged rather vehemently. Now everybody's happy because this is the one that has all the story in it. This is the one that pays everything off. It works by itself, but I think in the end, if you sort of start with him as a 10 year old boy and follow him all the way through the end, it is a much more provocative story. It's more emotional. I'm glad that it's all finished because I think some of the fans will see it as one piece. They won't see it as six different movies. They will see it as one movie that has some good parts and some not so good parts, but that it's a complete story. I didn't have the luxury of say, Lord of the Rings
. If you read the book, you knew that that isn't the end of it. The first film didn't have much of an ending to it. It just sort of stopped and that was because it wasn't written as a movie. It wasn't even written as a book. It was written as the first third of a book. When Tolkien originally wrote it, it was just one book. I mean, he - Tolkien, had the same problem I did. He wrote a book that was too big. The publishers had to break it into three parts. I had the advantage of doing it over time and I knew each one was going to be a movie, so I could actually write it to have a climax. It worked as a movie unto itself, but it was a bigger picture and in making each one work unto itself, the bigger picture kind of got lost as opposed with Tolkien. Everybody was sort of focused on the bigger picture and they didn't worry about the fact that each one in itself kind of had loose ends and kind of drifted into nowhere.
Since making Darth Vader the star, what was it like for you when he put the helmet on, put the costume on, and was kneeling and was called Darth Vader - what was that like for you when film ended?
It was satisfying to be able to tie up all the pieces because I knew there was a lot of things that I'd been holding back on. Just as with Anakin, or I should say Hayden, when he did the second movie. He was hired basically to be Darth Vader and here he was playing a whiny, petulant teenager. He said, "I want to be Darth Vader," and I was basically holding him back from being the Darth Vader character. I wanted him to be a teenager. And so, in this film, you get all the satisfaction. Hayden gets the satisfaction of being Darth Vader. We get the satisfaction of seeing Darth Vader.
The other part of this was just as things changed in the last, I mean in the first three movies, four, five, and six, um, I evolve things, and you change on the spot.
You've got the big picture of the story in your mind, but I do things. I kill Obi-Wan off and turn him into a ghost, but then I got stuck in the second film because I still had that character to deal with and so I created Yoda to sort of be the alternate Obi-Wan. If Obi-Wan had lived, that was his part. But then it gave me a problem. There were things in this one where when I went to do the back story, you know, it's very much, like, seven or eight pages, the first film. I decided since I already started with four, I sort of was obligated to do another trilogy. I decided, well I'd do book one, book two - book one is the father, book two is the children and they are slightly different - one is darker and one is funnier and one is more childlike, one is more adult like - but I would keep the style the same.
I would keep everything else the same. But I did run into the reality of the first film. Basically, he is a slave kid. He gets found by the Jedi and he becomes part of the Jedi order and that he loves his mother. You know, that's maybe a half hour movie. And so I did a kind of jazz riff on the rest of it and I said, "Well, I'm just going to enjoy myself. I have this giant world to play in and I'm going to just move around and have fun with this because, you know, I have to get to the second part." So, then I got to the second part, and it was kind of the same thing. They fall in love, they can't and they're not supposed to, and, you know, little bits of trivia in terms of, you know, setting up the empire and how all that stuff works.
That's about another twenty percent of this story treatment. The first film is twenty percent, the second film is twenty percent and I then ended up with a third film. The problem was the third film was actually more like eighty percent of the story. So, I was sitting there with a lot more story to tell than I actually had time to tell it. It was the reverse of what I had in the first two films. I constantly had to cut it down and cut it down. I had a lot of extraneous stories going on that I could have tied up, but when you really got down to it, it was really Darth Vader's story. I focused in on Darth Vader and Darth Vader was the key element.
So, Padme starting the rebel alliance. A lot of these other things with Obi-Wan and some of the other characters, Yoda and the Jedi counsel, all these other things had to go by the wayside and I just focused on everything that was Anakin related. When I did the first script, I ended up kind of where I was in Episode IV, which had way too much script. Instead of saying, "Well, I'm going to make these into other movies," I just started dropping stuff out and then brought it down to where it was a manageable film and it focused on the one character that we needed to focus on. And then I made that the movie. This one has the entire story in it really, except you don't get the background of that story, which is what Episode I
is. I feel strongly that those stories need to be there in order for the whole thing to work. And for some people, they wanted to have it be just, you know, Indiana Jones II
and it's not. You know, there's actually a real story depending on how thin it is stretched or how far it is compressed. It's still one big, long story.
Speaking of Indiana Jones, is that still cranking along?
Yep. I got a script last week and I'm going to work with the writer next week and you know, we have a ways to go on it.
You mentioned, you know, the 'Clone Wars' and the upcoming series, any hesitations about going into TV since that special from 1978?
The special from 1978 really didn't have much to do with us, you know. I can't remember what network it was on, but it was a thing that they did. We kind of let them do it. It was done by... I can't even remember who the group was, but they were variety TV guys. We let them use the characters and stuff and that probably wasn't the smartest thing to do, but you learn from those experiences. I had a wonderful time on Young Indiana Jones
. It was a great series. We did it for four years. I spent those four or five years actually working on it. That's really all I did during those years. It was really a great experience and I love television.
How rewarding would it be to see these three films honored come Oscar time, like Lord of the Rings? How rewarding would that be for you to see these films honored?
I'm not that much into awards to be very honest with you. Obviously it's nice to be honored. It's a nice thing, but I don't take that stuff very seriously. It's not a passion in my life to win an award. I doubt very much if it will get nominated for anything.
Are you submitting Ian McDiarmid for Oscar Consideration?
We don't submit. You know everybody thinks you submit people for consideration. You don't. They are picked. It all really relates ultimately to how much advertising you do. It's like a political campaign. You know, those that spend the most money get the award. It's not a--we're going to give you an award because you do great work. You sent me the press kit, you sent me the movie. You sent me this. You sent me that. You gave me this big dinner. You did all this stuff. That's why you get the award. They pick it. It's always a nice thing to have. If you don't get that one, there's a thousand other ones out there that you can get. I think Ian did a fantastic job. He's an extremely talented actor and it's always an honor to get an award, but we are not Miramax. We don't spend a lot of money to get awards. It's not like that is what we are here for. We just, you know, we are very pleased with the creative talent we have. We are very proud of what they've done. I think the work speaks for itself regardless of whether they get nominated or not.
Bai Ling was very enthusiastic talking about working with you, she described you as being like a Chinese calligrapher and now we hear she's ballistic. What happened?
Well, we told Bai Ling about nine months ago that that scene had been cut out of the movie, which my daughter is also in. That's part of that Padme story which is the development of the rebellion. She was in one scene. She had about four lines. She worked for one day. It wasn't like it was a major thing to begin with and I just cut that whole secondary story out of the movie quite a while ago. It was a year ago, so I'm not sure why that was a surprise. I think maybe she that was to be her big entrance into big time movie making and, you know, it's basically a small part that got cut out.
What do you think about this Spielberg/Lucas movie that A&E is going to do?
I don't know. We're trying to find out. It's a weird thing because they keep saying it's going to be like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, but those guys hated each other. You know, Steve and I have never had an argument in our lives. We've always been best friends. We've always helped each other. If you read any of those books, those trash books that people write about movie people and all their lothario problems and drug habits and whatever, they always get to the chapter on Steve and I and say, "Well I hear some boring guys have to get through this because they don't do anything." There's nothing interesting to talk about because they simply are nice guys that make movies. They like to have a lot of friends and there's nothing controversial about them. I'm not quite sure how they're going to turn that into anything.
John Williams has played such a big role in the Star Wars movies with the music he has written for the movie. Talk about your collaboration with him.
John Williams is extremely important. The films are done as silent movies and the music and sound track is a very, very important part of the whole experience. So, he is the secret to the whole thing. I do nothing. I just make something visual for him to put into music to.
Can young children see this movie?
Well, it's up to the parents to decide but you've got to remember the part that's disturbing is not the arms getting cut of and everything. That happened in all the movies. It's not that Anakin gets his face burned off and everything because that's in Return of the Jedi and people have seen that before. The real issue is that the father turns bad, you know, this guy that you sort of--Anakin Skywalker, that he becomes a bad person and it's very quick sandy for little kids to see, and the mom dies. So, you know, if you want to, most children, their biggest issue is abandonment. Well, if you really want to feed into that, you know, say I'm going to turn into a murderer and your mother is going to die. That makes them feel real good.