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DVD Is Hardly End For 'Sith' Producer McCallum

Filmmaker Promises All 'Star Wars' Questions Will Be Answered

POSTED: 6:14 am PST November 1, 2005
UPDATED: 3:24 pm PST November 2, 2005

Perhaps not a day has gone by in the past 13 years that Rick McCallum hasn't heard the words "Star Wars" at one point or another. And while some filmmakers take umbrage to constantly being associated with one project, the producer and Lucas' greatest confidant doesn't mind in the least.

"When you make a lot of movies, some of them don't work. So when something does work and people are genuinely moved and you have 150 million people worldwide seeing a movie, believe me, it feels good and you want to snatch those victories from the air and hold onto them as long as you can," McCallum told me in a recent @ The Movies interview. "It just doesn't happen very often in the film business no matter whose career it is."

Of course, McCallum's latest triumph is being the producer of "Star Wars" creator George Lucas' worldwide blockbuster "Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith." Chronicling the events leading up to Jedi Anakin Skywalker's (Hayden Christensen) climactic battle with Obi--Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin's final transformation into Darth Vader, the film made its hotly anticipated debut on DVD (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) Tuesday.

McCallum, who first teamed with "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" in the early 1990s and then produced the "Special Editions" of the classic "Star Wars" films in 1997, produced all three prequel trilogies. But despite the enormous success of the saga, he and Lucas very well know there are limitations to what they can do in the window of a film production -- which explains why they had to painfully cut six scenes from the film.

Those scenes appear on the DVD, and to whet the appetite of fans, the necessary digital effects were added to them to make them complete.

Accompanied by introductions by Lucas and McCallum, some of the scenes were cut for pacing purposes, and some just didn't feel right in the context of the film. The one that was most painful for McCallum to let go was Yoda's voyage to take exile on the swamp planet of Dagobah, where we meet him again as the Jedi trainer of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in "Episode IV -- The Empire Strikes Back."

Lucas said on the DVD that the one he least wanted to cut was the first scene where Senators Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) and Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) secretly meet with leaders of the Rebellion when it becomes clear that Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is corrupt.

"The others I felt all didn't work within the context of the movie," McCallum explained. "Personally, I felt they held things up and I was bored by them. At the end of the day, all anybody wanted young and old was to find out how Anakin turned to the Dark Side. We were already on dangerous ground as to how and why. Basically because he's in love with his wife and wants to protect her."

At first, McCallum said, he thought that the thought of love turning Anakin to the Dark Side would be a difficult concept for the hard-core "Star Wars" fan base to accept.

"I'm amazed nobody's had a problem with that whatsoever," McCallum observed. "They can all identify with that. It's like your mother having cancer or your sister being hit by a car -- there are so many things subliminally in people's lives that make them relate to him, but it was a very tough concept on paper to get through."

When Christensen finally donned the Vader's attire on the film's Sydney, Australia, set, it was a moment McCallum will never forget -- and a moment he's happy to share on one of the DVD's documentaries.

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Producer Rick McCallum with Hayden Christensen and Ian McDiarmid on the set of "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith"
""The very first day Hayden walked out on the set with the Darth Vader suit was about two or three weeks before we finished shooting," McCallum recalled. "About 1,000 people from all over Sydney came to watch it because it was like a seminal iconic moment in their life. We tried to let as many people on the stage as we could."

What you won't find among the deleted footage, however, is Qui-Gon Jinn, the fallen Jedi master so masterfully portrayed by Liam Neeson in "Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" and briefly heard in "Episode II -- Attack of the Clones."

McCallum said, in fact, that there was never really a consideration of implementing him in "Revenge of the Sith," at least in a physical form.

"We thought about it," McCallum said. "One of our assistant editors did the dialogue that George wrote for him. It was one line. It was never during shooting, but in post-production. He did a little Liam sound-alike but it just didn't work, (the scene) was more powerful without it. There was so much buzz about it on the Internet that Liam actually called me to find out if there was any truth to it. I said, 'No, we're going to do it without you this time.' You could feel that there was a presence of him there."

A Special 'Sith'?

As evidenced by his work on the "Special Editions" of the classic trilogy, the door is open for those scenes to appear in an extended edition of "Revenge of the Sith."

"Knowing George, there will be another version of this film, because he loves to tinker," McCallum told me. "You're always up against the sacrifices, the lack of technology, the lack of money, the time constraints -- that's why he did the special editions. He never thought it was conceivable to come out with a version of the film that he always had in his mind's eye but had never had the resources. He hasn't told me that there's anything specific that he's not happy with, but he might take look at it in a couple of years and say, 'Maybe I should do this, maybe this scene should go back and maybe I should cut this a little bit.'"

Of course, McCallum knows that he and Lucas will be up for criticism for putting special editions out in the marketplace again, but he insisted that it's not about money.

"There are a group of people out there who are fascinated by the very creative process of what it's like to put all this s--- together, to change things and see the impact those changes have," McCallum mused. "It's like the extended versions of 'The Lord of the Rings.' One of the great things about having conversations with Peter Jackson about it, was finding out, that, people who didn't like 'Lord of the Rings,' particularly, liked it a lot more in the extended versions because everything made more sense for them. Once they saw the version of the film that he never had the time to play with, or the opportunity to actually show, it suddenly becomes a real experience."

There's no question that with the inclusion of some of the deleted scenes, "Revenge of the Sith" would have felt more political in nature. To some, it felt political as it was: from film critics to conservatives, the feeling was, in some way, the film was partly bashing President George W. Bush for his war policies.

"That's such s---, I promise you," McCallum told me. "I know there's one line -- 'You're either with me or you're against me' -- that echoes something. But that was actually in the script way before it even became a nightmare that it was possible that Bush could become president. That line has been echoed since the beginning of time."

In fact, McCallum added, if the film echoes any war, it's Vietnam.

"George is a product of Vietnam, not a product of Bush," McCallum said. "That feeling has been in the context of every script I've ever read -- every draft -- way before Bush became president."

As it stands, without the deleted scenes, McCallum insists the film isn't about partisan politics so much as it is about power.

"It's not political in the sense of left or right or anything else, it's just about power," McCallum said. "It's just an action-adventure film for kids. At the end of the day, no matter how you look at it, that's who we make it for."

And while he first and foremost wants the younger audience to be entertained, McCallum hopes in some way, they're informed about the theme addressing the abuse of power.

"It's trying to say, 'Look, if you lie to your parents, if you lie once, it gets easier. If you lie again, there are consequences to everything you do," McCallum said. "You must not take fame, celebrity and power too literally because there's nothing worse than see kids being seduced by some person they see as powerful. We're all alike. And you see the beginning of the end of any person success and talent when they wake up one day and think they're better than somebody else and think they are beyond the law. That's when everything happens. That's when all hell breaks loose."

In a nutshell, McCallum says the "Star Wars" saga is "the story of a guy who thinks he's doing the right thing," but the repercussions are far reaching.

"He loves his wife so much that he thinks he is doing something to protect and save her," McCallum said. "But what he's really doing is he's getting addicted to power. The more power he gets the more he wants and then once you do that, there's nothing left because you're willing to sacrifice everything. At the end of the day, Anakin sacrifices his family. He does fulfill his destiny after another 25 years and lets his son live and basically dies redeeming himself. But he goes through a lot of s--- and causes a lot of pain to people for a long time."

Exploring More Of The Galaxy Far, Far Away …

While the film saga is over (possible special editions and planned 3-D versions of the film notwithstanding), there are plenty of more questions to be answered about the "Star Wars" universe. One I posed to him was about what went wrong in the relationship between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Uncle Owen between "Revenge of the Sith" and "A New Hope." The two appear to have parted on good terms at the end of "Sith," but clearly Owen has no love for Obi-Wan in "A New Hope."

Enter the "Star Wars" television series, which McCallum said will be set between "Revenge of the Sith" and "A New Hope."

"We're hoping that in three or four years time, we'll have to never have to answer another question regarding 'Star Wars,'" McCallum said. "With the series, we're trying to do 100 hours worth and answer every single thing anybody has ever dreamed of, thought of, imagined or hoped for."

Contrary to initial reports, McCallum said the series will definitely include primary characters in the saga, but the "who, why and where" are things yet to be determined.

"We know we want it to be darker, edgier and have fun sense of humor, but it will be more character--based," McCallum said. "But George and I -- until the "Sith" DVD is out -- won't really sit down and actually to think and plot out what the stories are going to be, who the writers will be and where we are going to shoot it."

Basically, McCallum said the series has really just been a notion up to this month. Besides, the producer added, Lucas has been working on the script for that other classic film saga he created -- "Indiana Jones IV" -- which will re-team him with Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford.

"Hopefully he'll do it by the end of this month and hopefully Steven and Harrison will be happy and then they're going to go off and make it," McCallum said.


What did you think of "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith?"


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