In terms of special effects, do you and your team feel you have to top yourselves with each successive film? I'm thinking of the sheer number of spacecraft in the final battle, not to mention all the new creatures.
We weren't really trying to top ourselves. I was sort of concerned that there wasn't really very much new in this one. It was like the same old space battle, the same old crowd battle, more monsters, more in the cantina scene. But again, the original film was designed with all that stuff in it, and we couldn't afford to do it. When you look at the space battle in the first one, the ships move very slowly, there's not more than two or three ships in a shot, and there's no continuity between shots – the ships don't fly out of one shot and into another. We hadn't done it before; nobody had ever done it before. So it was faked, all done editorially with a lot of quick cuts and a lot of crosscutting to give you an impression that there was this very complicated battle going on when it wasn't.
It was the same with the cantina creatures. Those are just rubber masks stuck over heads, and that was about as far as we could get. We said, let's do as much as we can, given the resources we have available. On Empire, I said, instead of making twenty-five rubber masks, we'll do one really good, articulate monster the way it should be done – which was Yoda.
Which bring us to the Ewoks. Where do they come from?
The idea was just a short Wookie. In the original film, the giant end battle was the crux of the whole movie: a sort of primitive society overcoming this huge technological society. In the early versions of the script, those primitives were Wookies. Since I couldn't do that battle, I took one Wookie, and he ended up being Chewbacca, who became a more technological person. So in this one I said, ''I can't make them Wookies, so I'll make them short Wookies and give them short hair and give them a different society and make them really primitive, the way it's intended.''
There's one major difference, though. They're lovable small creatures, and you haven't done that before. Jawas are small, but they aren't lovable.
Well, they evolved and started getting cute. [Smiles] Dare to be cute. The worst we could do is get criticized for it.
I think you may.
I'm sure we will. A lot of people are going to be offended by Ewoks. A lot of people say the films are just an excuse for merchandising: ''Lucas just decided to cash in on the teddy bear.'' Well, it's not a great thing to cash in on, because there are lots of teddy bears marketed, so you don't have anything that's unique. If I were designing something original as a market item, I could probably do a lot better.
But you are marketing Ewoks anyway.
Oh, yeah, we market everything in the movie. That's what keeps funding the other things we do – the computer research and all the other things. Again, people tend to look at merchandising as an evil thing. But ultimately, a lot of fun things come out of it, and at the same time, it pays for the overhead of the company and everybody's salary.
Who composed the music for the singing group in Jabba the Hutt's compound and for the Ewok victory chant?
John Williams – and it was hard to do. We had contemplated bringing in rock & roll composers to try their hand; we talked to Toto at one point and a few other groups and writers to see if we could come up with something very bizarre or unique. We didn't want something too Top Forty; we wanted something strange but lively. Johnny just felt that he could do it, and he really has first claim. I really trust Johnny to come through; he always has.
It was a similar situation for the end music. We had endless amounts of overlays; various types of Ewoks singing, various instruments . . . and it sort of evolved from a gospel-rock & roll thing to the much more primitive thing that it is now. In both cases, it was a matter of weighing the ethnic realities with something that's musically interesting. It's hard, because you're dealing with a very limited range in terms of what you can use musically to make the thing happen and make it sound unique.
Watching Jedi reminded me of John Williams' importance to all three pictures.
John is one of the key elements of the movies – they improve enormously once the music is put into them. Six hours and fifteen minutes' worth of films, and you're talking about maybe five and a half hours' worth of music. It's the underpinning, a grease that each movie slides along on and a glue that holds it together so that you can follow it. There's always been a scene or a moment in which the music connects so strongly with the visual that it sends shivers up my spine every time I see it. It's happened in all three pictures. Johnny's always gotten that moment for me.
You've stuck to your decision not to direct again. Why, and how, did you choose Richard Marquand to direct Jedi?
You want the best person for the job. Hiring becomes a very long, arduous process. You make large lists of people who could conceivably do the job. The first thing you do is look for someone who's technically proficient and professional and who you think has enough experience to do the job, and then you – in this case Howard Kazanjian – would go through the list and find out who is available. Then you start inquiring as to who would be interested, and that whittles it down to a very small group.
At that point. Howard usually will talk to the directors who are left to see if they are sincerely interested and understand the underlying mythology that's going on and the fact that it's not just a TV show. That whittles it down a little bit further. And in the process, Howard's also looking at the movies everybody has done, and he writes up little sheets and stuff that I go over. And then we get down to ten or fifteen people available who are interested, who sincerely understand the material and who don't look down on it. I go over that list, and I start seeing their movies. We talk to the assistant directors and producers and some of the actors who worked for them. Then, after I see the films, we have this long discussion and usually pare the list down to five or six people. I interview them for two or three hours. I also see everything they ever made.
In this case, we narrowed it down to two people. One of them was Richard. Then I interviewed them again. We spent the day together; it's a matter of getting to know the person: his opinions on politics, life, philosophy and religion. All these things will meld in the movie, so his sensibilities have to be consistent with the sensibilities of the Star Wars movies. There has to be some kind of sympathy between myself and the director. We have to have sort of the same bent on things.
Often, the title ''executive producer'' is an honorarium. Many never visit the set.
Well, in this case, it's a very collaborative situation, and the directors know that going in. I've got to find a director who's willing to give up some of his domain to me and is willing to work with me and accept the fact that he's essentially doing a movie that's been established, that ultimately I'll have the final say. There are a number of directors who just can't do that.
While the picture is being shot, does the executive producer ever get the itch occasionally to direct?
Yeah. It's mostly the itch to move things along: ''Let's do it.'' But most of the directors are fast. Occasionally, there are problems because I've worked with these crews a lot, and sometimes they have tendencies to ask me questions instead of the directors – things get a little confused once in a while. The special effects and the editing are really more my domain than anything else, because I've had so much more experience at it.
Aren't you also involved in art direction and creative design?
I'm involved in a lot of it. Some of the things are a director's prerogative, but in a film like this, it goes beyond what a director can handle. Just to handle the direction is more of a job than he would have on a normal film. And what I end up doing is taking the burden of all the other things a director would have control over but in this picture are a given. I mean, the art department and the monster creation and the costumes and the look of the film, because much of it has been set from previous films. You know, a stormtrooper's still a stormtrooper. Darth Vader looks like Darth Vader – nobody can really come in and say he'd rather have him shortened. The design group that we've got, the various illustrators and designers and production designers, are an extremely talented group of people, and the designs they come up with are very, very good. So it's between me culling what I feel is more appropriate from what is less appropriate. The truth of it is, the director's presented with some very good stuff. Any smart director will say, ''Yeah, this is right.'' [Laughs.]
Do you position yourself a little differently on the Raiders pictures, which Steven Spielberg directs?
It's more of a traditional situation. I do the same thing, only I do less of it. Because ultimately, it's more Steve's vision than my vision, whereas Star Wars is really more my vision because I directed the first one. Steve directed the first Raiders.
But again, the truth of it is that, even for a director like Steve and the directors on Star Wars, it's helpful to have a collaborator.
Of course, the two of you are very simpatico.
He's a perfect director for me to work with. We just think the same way about everything. He'll go a little overboard one way, and I'll go overboard another way, but there's no conflict. There's nobody ramming ideas down the other person's throat. We have a great time together. He keeps saying it's my movie and I'll get blamed for it, and I keep saying it's his movie and he'll get blamed for it.
I have no real desire to go out there and direct. It's not like I'm a producer who's sitting there waiting to direct behind somebody's back. I mean, I have no desire. I can do anything I want to do, and if I wanted to direct, I could go in there and direct. It's great to be able to throw out ideas. If they use them, fine. If they don't use them, big deal.
What's going on at Skywalker Ranch? Where is it, in terms of completion?
It's somewhere in the middle. It's another one of the ongoing projects that started in 1978. It's a year or two away from being done, maybe more. It's also costing lots more money than I expected. You know, there's another media myth: because it's been described as having a campuslike setting, it's seemingly become a film school, or a studio. The truth is, it's just a very elaborate office complex with a library, postproduction facilities, screening rooms, recording studios – those kinds of things. And it's taking forever to build. But I think it's turning out well.
So it's not going to be a Xanadu for filmmakers?
It's for the Marin County filmmakers: Michael Ritchie, Matt Robbins and Hal Barwood are out there now . . . It's really the same as it's always been. It's just the same old office, only it's bigger. And if we ever go into the production business, then it will serve as headquarters for that.
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