George Lucas: The Wizard of Star Wars

Page 6 of 6

The film's success should guarantee some success in the merchandising program you've launched.
One of my motivating factors for doing the film, along with all the other ones, was that I love toys and games. And so I figured, gee, I could start a kind of a store that sold comic art, and sold 78 records, or old rock 'n' roll records that I like, and antique toys and a lot of things that I am really into; stuff that you can't buy in regular stores. I also like to create games and things, so that was part of the movie, to be able to generate toys and things. Also, I figured the merchandising along with the sequels would give me enough income over a period of time so that I could retire from professional filmmaking and go into making my own kind of movies, my own sort of abstract, weird, experimental stuff.

So now you want to sell toys and games, and make esoteric films?
Yes. The film is a success and I think the sequels will be a success. I want to be able to have a store where I can sell all the great things that I want. I'm also a diabetic and can't eat sugar and I want to have a little store that sells good hamburgers and sugarless ice cream because all the people who can't eat sugar deserve it. You need the time just to be able to retire and do those things, and you need to have an income . . .

The Star Wars money . . .
 . . . will be seed money to try to develop a store and do the other things that I want to do. I've made what I consider the most conventional kind of movie I can possibly make. I've learned my craft in the classic entertainment sense as well as I think I can learn it. What I want to do now is take my craft in the other direction, which is telling stories without plots and creating emotions without understanding what is going on in terms of purely visual and sound relationships. I think there is a whole world of film there that has never been explored. People have gotten so locked into the story film – the novel and the play have such a strong influence over film that it has sort of become the weak sister. And if the films work, I will try to get them out and get them distributed by whoever would be daring enough to pick them up. Maybe they will be entertaining, it's hard to know at this point. It is in an area that I have absolutely no way of knowing what would happen and that is what excites me. And I have reached the point now that I can say, well, I am retiring. Because I really can retire now.

I have never been like Francis and some of my other friends who are building giant empires and are constantly in debt and have to keep working to keep up their empires. But he is trying to create an independence that we are all trying to create, an independence from having the studios dictate what kind of films are made.

You keep in touch with Steven Spielberg, Michael Ritchie, Phil Kaufman, Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese . . .
There are several groups. There is what we call the USC mafia – Bill Huyck, Matt Robbins and John Milius – and then there is the New York contingent: Brian and Marty and Steve were at Long Beach State the same time we were at USC. We became close friends and whatever competition there was was very healthy. Francis and I are really much closer because we have been partners. I know my friends by their movies. It's strange, really. Francis is just like his movies and Marty is just like his movies and Brian is especially like his movies. We collaborate on each other's work. They all came and looked at Star Wars and made their suggestions.

You must be getting some pressure from your peer group not to retire.
Yes, I have. The big thing now is that nobody believes it, especially Francis. He refuses to accept the fact that I am going to do it. When I say "retire" everyone thinks that I am going to go and live in Hawaii for the rest of my life. I'm not, I'm starting sort of a toy-store operation. I'm making my own sort of experimental films. At the same time I am going to be an executive producer on the Star Wars sequels, which is really just a way of making a living but at the same time I'm going to follow through on the stuff I've already started. And who knows? Something may come along and I may direct something again but I think I can be more effective as an executive producer.

When does Star Wars open overseas?
It opens in Europe in October. And then I think it will open next July in Japan. I like Japan. I was going to shoot THX there and I spent some time over there. My wife says I am a reincarnated shogun, or at least a warlord. I'll be fascinated to see what happens over there; Star Wars is slightly designed for Japan.

It's not a Toho production; a Godzilla movie.
No, science fiction has reached this very crummy level in Japan. They love it but it is still very crummy. It's been exploited just like they did in this country. The wrong people have been doing science fiction. Science fiction – speculative fiction – is a very important genre that has not been taken very seriously, including the literature.

And there are important ideas there.
Yeah. Why do space suits look the way they do? Why, when we went to the moon, did the astronauts look just like men who went to the moon in Destination Moon?

Which was made in 1950.
Because the art director designed those space suits based on what he thought they would look like in terms of scientific input. But when you get down to it, a bunch of art directors from a bunch of old movies and speculative pulp fiction drew space suits and stuff way back when, and I have a feeling that they had a lot of influence on the way things look today, and the way things are, because the engineers and designers and all those people grew up.

Also, just on a theoretical/philosophical level the ultimate search is still the most fascinating search, what is it all about – why are we here and how big is it and where does it go, what is the system, what is the answer, what is God and all that. Most civilizations, whole cultures and religions were built on the "science fiction" of their day. It is just that. Now we call it science fiction. Before they called it religion or myths or whatever they wanted to call it.

The epic and heroic tradition.
Yes. It has always been the same thing and it is the most significant kind of fiction as far as I am concerned. It's too bad that it has gotten that sleazy comic-book reputation, which I think we outgrew a long time ago. I think science fiction still has a tendency to react against that image and try to make itself so pious and serious, which is what I tried to knock out in making Star Wars. Buck Rogers is just as valid as Arthur C. Clarke in his own way; I mean, they are both sides of the same thing. Kubrick did the strongest thing in film in terms of the rational side of things, and I've tried to do the most in the irrational side of things because I think we need it. Again we are going to go with Stanley's ships but hopefully we are going to be carrying my laser sword and have the Wookie at our side.

So now you have made your bid.
So I made my bid to try to make everything a little more romantic. Jesus, I'm hoping that if the film accomplishes anything, it takes some ten-year-old kid and turns him on so much to outer space and the possibilities of romance and adventure. Not so much an influence that would create more Wernher von Brauns or Einsteins, but just infusing them into serious exploration of outer space and convincing them that it's important. Not for any rational reason, but a totally irrational and romantic reason.

I would feel very good if someday they colonize Mars when I am 93 years old or whatever, and the leader of the first colony says: "I really did it because I was hoping there would be a Wookie up here".

This story is from the August 25th, 1977 issue of Rolling Stone.

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