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'The Empire Strikes Back,' and So Does George Lucas

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The ranch?
Yeah, I bought 2000 acres in Lucas Valley, California [no relation] – to build a kind of creative-filmmakers' retreat. The idea for this came out of film school. It was a great environment; a lot of people all very interested in film, exchanging ideas, watching movies, helping each other out. I wondered why we couldn't have a professional environment like that. When you make a movie, it really is a fifteen-hour-a-day thing, and you don't have time to do anything else. If you do it year in and year out, you become a complete nonentity. You need an environment that gets people excited about things, and they don't do that in Hollywood.

What will the ranch look like?
I've always been interested in architecture. [Smiling] This is a way of being [an architect] without doing the work. There will be a main building, a big, simple farmhouse. Behind that, shingled outbuildings for the filmmakers and editors. There will be another big building off to the side, sort of tucked away on a hill, where there will be a screening room, recording studio, computer center and more editing rooms. And then, way over on the other side of the property, will be the special-effects building. There will be one other little section down by the road called the farm group, which is a little guest house for visiting dignitaries or whatever.

How much is this going to cost?
No way to project at this point given the way the world is going. I figure it will take between five and six years and cost in excess of $20 million.

We know you're rich . . . 
That's way beyond my personal resources.

How are you going to do this?
We are taking the profits from The Empire Strikes Back and the next film, Revenge of the Jedi, and investing them in outside companies, then using those profits to build the ranch and maintain the overhead. It's just the opposite of how studios work. Basically, what we're doing is using the profits of other companies to subsidize a film company, rather than a film organization subsidizing a conglomerate. My only interest in life is to make films, explore films and grow as a person – if I can just do that and break even and not be forced to make a movie this year, or if I can make a movie that is not commercial at all, not even releasable. Making a movie is very difficult and painful, and if someone comes along after you've done all this work and says you're a fool and an idiot, it's very hard to pick up and do it again.

What happens if The Empire doesn't make enough money for your ranch?
Well, if it doesn't happen with this one and the next, then that's the end. I'm not going to spend the next fifteen years of my life trying to make hit movies to get the ranch. If it doesn't, I'll fold up shop. I tried, I failed and I'll just make 16-mm movies and live the way I've been living.

Are you ever going to forgive Universal?
[Smiling] I hold grudges. When Warner Brothers cut THX, I held a grudge for ten years. After Star Wars,they apologized. I said, "Okay, I forgive you." I didn't want to be ridiculous. After American Graffiti, Universal tried to be nice to me, but I was really angry and I remain angry to this day.

Are there dangers in working with close friends like Steven Spielberg, who is directingRaiders of the Lost Ark, which you conceived and will be executive producer of? What if he goes over budget? Will that put a strain on your friendship?
I don't think that's a problem. We all have large egos. We can be competitors and still help each other, respect each other. I try to work with only responsible directors, and Steve is a responsible director. He doesn't mean to go over budget. If you've got something that isn't working, the only way to really solve it is to spend more time and money getting it right.

I understand that your automobile accident when you were eighteen had a major effect on your life. Will you talk about it?
It was right before I graduated from high school and I should have been killed but I wasn't. I was driving a little sports car with a roll bar and racer's seat belt. I was hit, the car rolled, and for some reason the seat belt broke in one of the rolls, just before the car pretzeled itself around a tree. If I had stayed in the car, I would have been dead. When you go through something like that, it puts a little more perspective on things, like maybe you're here for a reason. [Smiling] Maybe I was here to do Star Wars and that's it. I'm living on borrowed time.

Coppola seems to have been another big influence on your life.
We respect each other, but at the same time we are totally different personalities. He says he's too crazy and I'm not crazy enough. Francis spends every day jumping off a cliff and hoping he's going to land okay. My main interest is security. It was great when we were together, because we complemented each other. I think we still have that relationship. The fact that he's always doing crazy things influences me, and the fact that I'm always sort of building a foundation, plodding along, influences him. But the goals we have in mind are the same. We want to make movies and be free from the yoke of the studios.

Are you having fun being head of Lucasfilms, a big corporation?
No. I don't want to be a businessman. My ambition is to make movies, but all by myself, to shoot them, cut them, make stuff I want to, just for my own exploration, to see if I can combine images in a certain way. My movies will go back to the way my first films were, which dealt a little more realistically with the human condition.

And how do you feel about the human condition?
I am very cynical, and as a result, I think the defense I have against it is to be optimistic and to think people are basically good, although I know in my heart they're not.

Oh, dear. Let's get back to The Empire Strikes Back for a moment. In the movie, Ben says Luke is the last hope and Yoda says no, there is another.
Yes. [Smiling] There is another, and has been for a long time. You have to remember, we're starting in the middle of this whole story. There are six hours' worth of events before Star Wars, and in those six hours, the "other" becomes apparent, and after the third film, the "other" becomes apparent quite a bit.

What will happen to Luke?
I can't say. In the next film, everything gets resolved one way or the other. Luke won the first battle in the first film. Vadar won the second battle in the second film, and in the third film, only one of them walks away. We have to go back to the very beginning to find out the real problem.

What about the actors? Are they under contract?
Some are, but it doesn't matter. I am not going to force anyone to make a movie. [Smiling] I'm not Universal Pictures.

Do you have story lines for the seven Star Wars movies left to be done?
Yes, twelve-page outlines.

How can you think that far ahead?
[Laughing] Marcia says I either live in the past or in the future, never in the present. I'm always sort of living for tomorrow, for better or for worse. [Shrugs] It's just a personality quirk.

This story is from the June 12th, 1980 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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