The Wizard of 'Star Wars'

Page 5 of 6

Well, then, theoretically there could be a sequel about The Force, there could be a sequel about the Wookies, about Han, about Luke...
Yes, it was one of the original ideas of doing a sequel that if I put enough people in it and it was designed carefully enough I could make a sequel about anything. Or if any of the actors gave me a lot of trouble or didn't want to do it, or didn't want to be in the sequel, I could always make a sequel without one.

Do you have agreements with the principal characters?
Yes. All the actors except Alec Guinness. We may use his voice as The Force – I don't know. One of the sequels we are thinking of is the young days of Ben Kenobi. It would probably be all different actors.

Let's talk about the Cantina sequence. As I remember, there were problems in London.
Stuart Freeborn, the special-effects and makeup man, spent a lot of time and energy on the Wookie and did a fantastic job, and he was rushed to try to create the Cantina creatures while we were shooting in Tunisia. We moved the Cantina sequence up a week in the shooting schedule and I kept adding monsters all the time. So a few weeks before we were going to shoot that sequence Stuart got sick and had to go to the hospital, and so we didn't get all the monsters finished that we wanted to have. The ones we had were the background monsters and they weren't meant to be key monsters. I always knew eventually either Stuart or somebody would come back and shoot more monsters.

So when did you actually finish it?
When we got back to California we cut the film, looked at it and I still didn't think the Cantina scene' worked as well as it should have. So I wanted to shoot a second unit. That can get pretty expensive, and the studio said no way you're gonna spend any more money on this picture, because we were already like a million dollars over the budget. And I said it is one of the key scenes in the movie and we have to have more monsters. And so we did a budget and talked to Alan Ladd Jr. It was really his project, and by now he was the president of the company. Ladd said do it, but the only way we would get away with it was we could do it for $20,000, and so I said, okay, I'll do it for $20,000. So we ended up having to cut out half of what we wanted but it was sufficient. You know, I really wanted to have horrible, crazy, really staggering monsters. I guess we got some but we didn't come off as well as I had hoped.

The band in their black zoot suits is absolutely marvelous. Why were they playing Forties music?
I planned to use Glenn Miller for that sequence originally, but we couldn't use it and Johnny had to come up with something familiar and I think he did a fairly good job. He came up with a really bizarre Sound that was very Forties, yet very odd. The whole thing was originally designed as a big-band number, but it worked out.

The sequence where Han Solo's ship hits light speed – hyperspace – gets a cheer every single time. People just love it.
Technically it was very simple. The actual jump to hyperspace is sort of a pull-back on stars and then a shot of the ship disappearing real quick. I think more than anything else it is fun because the editing and the design of the sequence before it are very good. It's from the point where the troops start shooting at them to the point where the ship takes off and there are about two very good music cues in there.

It's a chase scene.
You're rooting for them to get away. It's a real flashy escape, you know. There's nothing like popping the old ship into hyperspace to give you a real thrill.

I felt one scene didn't quite work: the one where they almost get crushed by the moving walls in the trash bin. That octopus creature was unsatisfying. I believe it was called a Dia-noga in the script.
The Dia-noga was originally supposed to be a giant, sort of filmy, clear, transparent jellyfish kind of thing that came shooting out of the water, with all these jellylike tentacles with little veins running through them. So first the special-effects people came up with this giant 8-foot-high, 12-foot-wide brown turd that was bigger than the set, and that just didn't work. We finally got it down to where it was just one tentacle. That was all they could really accomplish.

And an eyeball.
Well, the eyeball we did later, we did that in California with the second unit; we did that in the backyard. I never really got a monster. They spent an enormous amount of money building these giant things with hydraulics and all kinds of stuff and they looked terrible. And I said, I only want something sort of ethereal. But they kept wanting to build these giant things and I said, you don't need that, let's just put a bunch of cellophane on a string and pull it up out of the water or something. It got so ridiculous, I finally just said look, give me one long tentacle. What I really would have liked to have had was a bunch of tentacles. I have always had a problem with that scene. There was one like it in THX which I cut out. He fell into a trash masher, and there was a giant ratlike creature in there with him. I have never been able to accomplish it, and I don't know why.

The creature is in there to eat the garbage?
Yes, he eats the garbage. The idea was the Dia-noga knows that the doors are going to close and the walls are going to close in and mash the garbage, and he sort of pushes himself against the floor and does whatever he does to survive, and he can't eat the kid right then. It is a slightly esoteric idea. I still want the sequence and someday I will get something on the screen.

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.

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

Movies Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.