It sounds like you woke up one morning and said: ''My God, I just spent ten years on one picture. How did this ever happen?''
Yeah, well, you spend ten years on a picture, and you say: ''Where is my life? Where is the normal – enjoying your weekends and your life and your friends?'' You see everything dropping away, and you sit and say: ''I don't see anybody anymore. I just don't have time for it.'' And when you have a daughter, it changes things. You can't put a kid on hold and say, ''Wait, I've got one more picture to do; you just stay tight.'' You know, she's only going to be two once, and she's great, and I'm not going to miss it.
Can I assume that Marcia shares your feelings?
Yeah. Being married to somebody in the film business helps. She worked on this film, and she worked on a number of the other films. There's a collaboration; we'd never have been able to survive otherwise. I don't know that many people in the film business who have managed to make it work. It's been very hard on Marcia, living with somebody who is constantly in agony, uptight and worried, off in never-never land.
So what are you going to do when Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is finished? Are you going to close down the company?
No, just the production department. Indiana Jones is really done out of the English office. They will shut down after Indiana Jones, and right now the American office is shutting down Jedi. Lucasfilm is not a production company. We don't have a studio, we don't have production heads. We have a producer who produces a movie. And we have an office in London with a producer – Bob Watts – that puts together crews. So we're closing down the production department. That means there are about seven people who are going to be assimilated into other parts of the company or go and do their own thing. The rest of Lucasfilm is really a series of companies; each one somehow grew out of the films or what we were doing. And now they're service organizations for other people who make movies.
Are you saying that you can really take some time off?
Yeah. I'm taking two years off, definitely, and will not do anything. I will get my personal life straightened out, get my mind and body in a better place and then see what I want to do.
Are you going to travel?
I don't know. Whatever strikes my fancy. I'm not planning anything, you know. There are things I always wanted to do that I never really had a chance to do. I'll just start saying this is what I want to do today and start doing it. I always wanted to learn how to play the guitar. I want to go back to driving race cars – whatever. Suddenly, my life is going to be mine. It's not going to be owned by Luke Skywalker and his friends.
The last half-hour or so of Return of the Jedi is a pretty amazing assault on the senses. There's a space battle to end all space battles, intercut with a ground battle to seize the Empire's command post, intercut with Luke and Darth Vader going at it with light sabers while the Emperor eggs Luke on to use the dark side of the Force. It seemed that you were saying to the audience, 'This is it, folks, the whole ball of wax.'
It was designed for all the stories to come together. Stylistically, all the films are designed to have a big climax, and this one's sort of got everything in it. When we started, we said: ''Okay, now we're gonna do it the way we always wanted to do it. We've got the money, we've got the knowledge – this is it.'' The first film was like graduating from high school, the second film was like graduating from college, and this was like getting our master's degree. This is the best we can do, because everyone knew it was possibly the last one.
Whatever little event in history that Star Wars is going to be, at least it's done. If people want to look at it, they can look at the whole piece. That dumb screenplay I first wrote ten years ago is at least finished. It's all in a movie now.
I was always contemplating rewriting the story, making it into more, because it was originally written as just a simple thing. It wasn't meant to be the giant phenomenon it turned out to be. You say, ''Well, now is this gonna live up to the phenomenon?'' But I ultimately decided to stick with it and say: ''Look, that was the way it was written ten years ago, and this is where I was coming from. If it's not good enough, then tough luck. You have to sort of have that attitude. For better or worse, I like it.
That's the first time I've heard you say really positive things about one of your pictures. In the past, you have expressed disappointment for one reason or another.
Each film has accomplishments that I like. It's not that I didn't like the movies, but that if I look at them now, each one falls a bit short of what I had hoped it to be – because I guess I either set my sights a little bit lower, or we actually do get a little bit better.
You look at the Jabba the Hutt scene [in Return of the Jedi] and say, ''Oh, that's what he wanted the cantina [in Star Wars] to be.'' Or you look at the end battle, and you say, ''Oh, that's what the end battle was supposed to be in the first one.'' But we couldn't have done this movie then. I mean, it just was not humanly possible or even financially possible. So, a lot of these things I have finally worked out. I finally got the end battle the way I wanted it, I got the ground battle that I wanted, I got the monsters the way I wanted them.
You know, Star Wars was a success, but I didn't have any idea then what was going on. I didn't know whether I was even going to be able to make the next two films. I had taken two-thirds of the original script and thrown it away. In my mind, I was saying, ''Gee, if this is really a big hit, then I can make a movie out of all the early material that I developed.'' Empire and Jedi were what that first film was supposed to be. And after that, I can tell another story about what happens to Luke after this trilogy ends. All the prequel stories exist: where Darth Vader came from, the whole story about Darth and Ben Kenobi, and it all takes place before Luke was born. The other one – what happens to Luke afterward – is much more ethereal. I have a tiny notebook full of notes on that. If I'm really ambitious, I could proceed to figure out what would have happened to Luke.
Is it safe to assume that the prequel films could be shot much more cheaply or much more simply?
That will be one of the determining factors in whether they get made at all. The way things are going, I couldn't afford to make another one like Jedi. I wouldn't take the risk. Inflation in films is astronomical. There's gotta be a cheaper way. I think if we started the next series, we would probably try to do all three of them at once.
At the screening I attended in New York, all the characters, including Darth Vader, got a big cheer when they first appeared – except Luke.
Luke didn't get an entrance that allows him to get a cheer – which really wasn't done intentionally – but I think essentially this is his movie. He's the most important character. In a way, it's nice that he doesn't get the sort of Saturday-matinee cheer. It sets him apart as a special character. He's gone from being a gee-whiz kid to somebody with problems.
Last night on the local news, the commentator winked at the camera and said there were rumors that Darth Vader might not be such a bad guy after all.
Well, that was published in a science-fiction magazine, and then they called the newspapers, and the newspapers published what Vader does in the end – the whole end of the movie. They bought a story from one of the crew members in London, and then they put it together with the fact that the title had been changed from Revenge to Return. They wrote this whole thing about the plot, and that got published in newspapers.
I think the film works on a better level than Agatha Christie, because if it were an Agatha Christie, it would be in the toilet right now. But I think it does spoil it for a lot of people who would rather be surprised and be caught up in the story. It used to be that you just didn't give away the end of a movie before it opened. Now it's become the thing. I'm sure if they'd gotten who shot J.R. out a week early, they would have splattered it all over.
Jedi seems much faster paced than the previous two films. It's more like Raiders.
It is paced a little bit faster. Each movie moves a little bit faster. Each one has been taken to the brink; it's as fast as you can make it and still be able to tell a comprehensible story.
Jedi is almost incomprehensible in certain areas. It's designed more for kids. It's sort of natural to the way I feel about things. I think it's the most emotional of the three films; at least it is for me. The end of a story, where everything comes together, is always the most emotional part.
Jedi is like Star Wars in texture. The story is told visually and very simply. This one has a little less vision because there's exposition about who belongs to whom. The plot runs along for a five-year-old who doesn't understand any of the machinations of the thing. But you can go back and look at it again and still find it interesting.
Well, anybody who missed Empire will have some trouble figuring out what's happening in Jedi.
The three movies were originally one idea, one big story, one screenplay – a 300-page script, a six-hour-and-fifteen-minute movie. The first one is a very elaborate introduction of the characters. The second obviously sets everything up, and the third is the one that pays it off. I always knew I'd have a problem with Empire because it was the second act, a down movie and didn't have an ending. I had to get from number one to number three. And I knew if I could just get through number two, I'd be okay. In the second film, once we introduce the Other, it creates tension over whether Luke's going to die or not. If he dies, we can replace him; there's another one. That concept was very strong. It was just a little line in the movie [Obi-Wan Kenobi to Yoda], but that immediately set up anxiety that they could kill him. In the second film, there is also the question, is he going to become like his father? That's what the real conflict is.
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