George Lucas Wants to Play Guitar as ‘Star Wars’ Takes a Vacation
It’s been more than ten years since George Lucas began shopping around the idea for what he would later call ”my little children’s movie” to a generally unresponsive Hollywood. It wound up taking three movies to get the whole idea on celluloid. Star Wars (1977) has sold $524 million worth of tickets worldwide. Its successor, The Empire Strikes Back (1980), grossed $365 million. They’re second and third on the all-time domestic-rentals list, behind Steven Spielberg’s E.T.
Then there’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, for which Lucas was executive producer. It’s fifth on the rentals list. There’s the Star Wars merchandising: $1.5 billion in gross retail sales. There’s Lucasfilm Ltd. and its profitable subsidiaries, Industrial Light and Magic (special effects) and Sprocket Systems (postproduction services). There’s research in state-of-the-art postproduction equipment, in computers and in interactive videogames that both teach and entertain. And finally, there’s the ongoing construction of the 3000-acre Skywalker Ranch, which Lucas insists is only a larger and more elaborate version of what’s been perched in the hills north of San Francisco – in one form or another – for the past ten years: a place where the Marin County film community can congregate and work.
And now there’s Return of the Jedi, the $32.5 million closing chapter of the middle trilogy of a proposed nine-part epic. As in the past, not all film critics went with the Force. Weekly Variety, the show-business newspaper that attends to such matters, noted that the New York critics were basically split: ten reviews were favorable while seven were negative, either branding Jedi a merchandising vehicle or contending that the human actors were overwhelmed by the special effects.
Criticism aside, Jedi is something more than a sequel. When people start lining up more than twenty-four hours before the first show, as they did across the country on May 24th, it’s not just to learn how Luke Skywalker works out his father problem. The arrival of a new Star Wars picture has become a social and cultural event, not to mention a box-office bonanza. In the first full week of release, the picture pulled in $45.3 million, or about $20 million more than the previous one-week champ, E.T. It set an opening-day record of $6.2 million on May 25th and went on to establish a single-day record of $8.4 million the following Sunday. By mid-June it had grossed $70 million.
The rush of numbers accompanying the release of a Star Wars movie tends to obscure a couple of interesting facts. Lucasfilm nearly went broke independently financing Empire; a last-minute bank loan was necessary to ensure completion. And the eventual profits from Empire led to another problem: Lucas’ company, based chiefly in Los Angeles, began to mushroom. Says George: ”We went from two people in merchandising to eighty, and the eighty were doing the same job as two.” The staff was radically pruned, and the survivors were relocated in northern California. Lucasfilm’s primary aim now is to consolidate everything at the ranch.
Two weeks before Jedi opened, we sat in George Lucas’ spacious, quiet office behind his home in San Anselmo and talked while he slowly and thoughtfully ate his breakfast: an Egg McMuffin and a glass of milk. He mentioned offhandedly that he’d lost some weight during the hectic final months of postproduction work on Jedi. In fact, he looked like a stiff breeze might blow him across the bay to San Francisco. He had just returned from executive-producer chores in Sri Lanka, where his friend Steven Spielberg was shooting the Raiders sequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
I first met Lucas on the set of Star Wars in 1976, and as we talked this past May, I became convinced that what his longtime friends have been saying in the press is true: the guy hasn’t changed. Sure, slacks and polished loafers have replaced the sneakers and jeans, and a Mercedes has replaced a ’67 Camaro, and, except for distribution, Lucasfilm has virtually severed any ties it had with the rest of the motion-picture industry. It doesn’t need them anymore. But Lucas remains soft-spoken and self-effacing, with a subtle sense of humor that doesn’t quite come across in print.
Another Lucas constant might best be termed a kind of genuine ingenuousness. For example, he can discuss the lifestyles and cultures of the various creatures he has brought to life on film like an anthropologist who’s just returned from the field. Yet he can talk about the drop in attendance between the first and second Star Wars pictures in such a somber tone that you half expect him to say it’s curtains for Lucasfilm if Jedi experiences a similar drop and winds up, say, only fourth on the all-time list.
But Lucas is now looking to shake this peculiar intensity and rearrange his priorities to put his personal life back together. As this issue was going to press, he announced that he and his wife of fifteen years, Marcia, have parted amicably and would soon divorce. Lucasfilm spokesman Sid Ganis said Lucas would retain custody of the couple’s two-year-old daughter, Amanda.
Even though you’re no longer directing, I get the impression that making a ‘Star Wars’ picture, even the third time around, isn’t getting any easier.
Jedi almost killed everybody, every department, from costumes to building monsters to the sophistication of the mechanics to the special effects. Everything was very, very hard on everybody.
This one was grim for me, just as bad as Star Wars, just as bad as directing. I don’t know how I got into it. It’s the demands, the amount of time one has to spend, and the anxiety, the worrying: ”Is it going to be good? Is this going to work? Why is everything going wrong all the time?” And it’s my personality. I’m very emotionally involved in it, and I’ve made a big commitment to it. It’s been ten years, ten years, since I started this. I started on April 17th, 1973, and I turned in the first story treatment May 20th. From about May 1st, 1973, until next week, there hasn’t been a day in my life where I haven’t gotten up in the morning and said, ”Gee, I’ve got to worry about this movie.” Literally. Not one single day, even when I was on vacations and even when I had Saturdays and Sundays. After Star Wars, I was doing other things and thought I was out of it, but I wasn’t. I was in it just as deep as ever. I was doing Raiders and More American Graffiti, building a company and a ranch and doing all these other things on the side, thinking I had the time to do it. But I didn’t.
Part of the problem is that success has made it so that I don’t have any life of my own. I was ready to quit after Graffiti. I said: ”Well, I’ll do one more movie. I’ll do this Star Wars thing.” And if Star Wars had gone in the toilet, I’d have been okay. But it became this giant success, and success more than anything else just dominated my life. You end up not being happy anymore and working yourself to death. Star Wars became a priority; it was one of those things that had to be done: ”We have to get finished. What if something happens to one of the actors? We can’t afford to keep the sets around any longer; it costs a lot of money.” It put me in a bad place personally. I have a little daughter, and she’s two years old, and I see her a couple of hours a night and maybe on Sundays if I’m lucky, and I’m always real tired and cranky and feeling like, ”Gee, I should be doing something else.” I sort of speed through everything.
But now it’s done. I have to decide one way or the other about doing another trilogy. It depends on how well this one does, what the economics of the situation are and what my personal life is. Can I rearrange my life in such a way that my priorities are correct? My family should be first and the movies second. If I can’t make that work, then there won’t be any movies. I’ve put up with Star Wars taking over and pushing itself into the first position for too long. I’ve been trying to shove it back. Every time I kick it down, it comes rearing its ugly head back up again. This time I’ve kicked it down for good, I think.
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.
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.
Well, it may be the same, yet bigger. But hasn’t the overhead gotten bigger, too?
So, will Skywalker Ranch be expected to generate its own capital?
In theory, that’s what the merchandising does. It’s not that much money, to be quite honest with you. The ranch is being financed, more or less, with cash. There’s not some giant loan we’re paying off to do it. The cost is the cost of operation, which probably will be several million dollars a year. At the same time, it’s not something that I think the merchandising can’t handle, even for the next ten years.
So you’re closing a chapter of your life. Is this one of the reasons why you agreed to cooperate on the biography that’s been written? [Skywalking: the Life and Films of George Lucas, by Dale Pollock; Harmony Books.]
Yeah, well, I didn’t really want the biography to be written. I think it’s stupid to write a biography about somebody who’s only thirty-nine. But media have certain control over your life whether you want it or not. I’ve always resisted it, I’ve always disliked it. But ultimately, it’s a pervasive force that you can’t ignore. And you either learn to deal with it or not. They were going to write the book whether or not I cooperated. The implied threat is always that the book is going to really trash you if you don’t cooperate, and they will use a lot of uninformed sources and have a lot of erroneous information. And you look at that and say, ”Well, it would be nice if you can get something that is semiaccurate, so people would not constantly be printing the wrong thing all the time.” And there’s all these myths that have evolved about me that have never been . . .
What myths? I don’t know any myths. Or am I one of the mythmakers?
[Laughs] You’re one of the mythmakers, so you’re one of those who is creating myths.
I didn’t create George Lucas in quotation marks.
There’s much less in between the quotation marks. But I decided to do the book interviews to see if I could have some kind of impact on at least getting things as accurate as one possibly could. And I looked at it as, ”This is the end of an era for me, and this book will be a capsule of what my life has been up to this point” – at least as perceived by 100 of my most intimate friends and relatives [laughs]. And so, I did it. And you know, there’s never an interview, be it in a book or a magazine or anything, that turns out well. Somebody always gets upset, no matter what you say or what you do; somebody always gets his feelings hurt.
You’re also essentially a private person. Some people enjoy doing interviews.
All it does is bring more kooks and scripts to my door, and waiters in restaurants ask me for jobs. These are the last interviews I’m going to be doing for a long time, and now that I’m not doing movies, hopefully I won’t have to do any more interviews. The book is out there. It tries to be accurate with the facts, but it obviously has a pervasive point of view, which may or may not be sympathetic. But certain facts are there, and you can look them up in the book.
What do you see yourself doing when your two-year break is over?
I’m still very interested in film, but who knows? Two years is an arbitrary figure. It may take longer. I’m going to sit down at a point when I feel very good about myself and do a lot of hard thinking. I may move on to something else or find out after a while that the only thing I really love to do is make movies. And I’ve always been interested in doing my strange little experimental films.
That’s what you said after Star Wars. I’m not going to hold my breath.
I haven’t had a chance yet [smiles]. I could have a real motion-picture company like Steve’s got, where you’re doing three or four pictures a year. Then there’s the computer end of it, which is videogames and interactive videodisc technology; different kinds of story-telling using educational processes and systems. Other areas are more research than anything else, primarily in social psychology. I may move in that direction completely, or I may just end up being an ex-workaholic sailing a boat around the world.
Could you tell me a bit more about your interest in social psychology?
It’s an area that’s always fascinated me, and there’s a lot more that I need to learn about it. I’m too old to go back and get my master’s degree or even worry about having one, but there’s a lot of people I’d like to talk to and learn things from, maybe even put a study group together to do research in certain areas. It’s fascinating. Large issues loom in our modern society: we’re on the brink of a technological breakthrough, and we’re living and surviving in the nuclear age. Certain issues should be addressed, I think.
Are we talking about the private Lucas or the public Lucas?
Sort of the in-between Lucas.
Because you’re in a position now where you can create a forum if you want to.
Well, I don’t want to create a forum. Again, I get letters inviting me to every single conference on everything you can possibly imagine. Part of it is a personal thing, just myself wanting to learn more. Just being curious, a curious social scientist. And part of it is being able to bring in a few other people who might be able to help and, between us, maybe come up with . . . not some answers, but maybe some more coherent revelations that other people with less resources might not have been able to put together. I mean, it’s not activism or anything. It’s more like trying to find some answers.
In the past, you’ve stressed the importance of regional and independent filmmakers to the health of the business. A friend of mine recently attended an American Film Institute reception and came back with the dismaying news that all these bright young people with AFI grants could only talk about one thing: how to get a Hollywood deal.
[Smiles] A lot of people complain about film students doing that. I think that the strength of the independent industry is going to rise as the corporate entities begin to get more and more ensconced in the studio system, because the independents are closer to what’s happening. Once you get into independent, regional filmmaking, you drop away from deals and it’s more of a survival thing. There’s always going to be a group that’s interested in the money and the power, and then there’s going to be a group that cares about making the movies, cares about the stories and the characters, about getting an idea off their chests. Those are going to be the people who are going to end up making the movies and making the money, and the other people are going to end up becoming agents or studio heads.
Well, you’ve pulled off a neat trick. You’ve made the stories, you’ve made the money, and you’ve also got the power.
Yeah, and now I’m quitting. I don’t like any of it. [Laughs.]
This story is from the July 21st, 1983 issue of Rolling Stone.
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