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 a re 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".
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