Starlog Salutes Star Wars was the official name of the Star Wars 10th anniversary convention -- and was the first officially sponsored Star Wars convention. It was "A 10th Anniversary Tribute to George Lucas and the Galaxy Far, Far Away Which He Created", held at the Stouffer Concourse Hotel at 5400 W. Century Blvd in Los Angeles, California May 23, 24, 25 1987. It was organized by Starlog Magazine and Creation Conventions. Sadly, I could not attend, but I do have a copy of the official souvenir program:
George by George
Excerpts from the three-part interview with George Lucas by Kerry O’ Quinn—which originally appeared in STARLOG #48, #49 and #50.
"...Star Wars was designed as a film for young people, and very few films are being made like that today. It was done with all the energy and intelligence and thought that I could muster. It was not done like, ‘Oh, this is just a kid’s movie, so we don’t have to worry about it.’ It was done like, This is going to be the best movie that can possibly be made under the circumstances.’ Because of that attitude I think that Star Wars turns out to shine among all the other films that are done in the science fiction genre.”
“One of my favorite things were Republic serials and things like Flash Gordon. I’d watch them and say, This is fantastic!’ I read Tommy Tomorrow and, of course lots of other comics.. .mostly the DC comics: Batman and Superman. But I was also real keen on Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck and that sort, of thing. And I loved Amazing Stories and those other science-fiction pulps that were around at that time.”
“I had this idea for doing a space adventure. In the process of going through film school you end up with a little stack of ideas for great movies that you’d love to make, and I picked that one and said, This space epic is the one I want to do.’ Like American Graffiti, it was such an obvious thing that I was just amazed that nobody had ever done it before. The closest thing was, say, Forbidden Planet. So I said, ‘I’ll make this because I’d like to see it, and nobody else is going to make it.’
“I said, This is the kind of movie we need—the kind of film that expresses the mythological realities of life—the deeper psychological movements of the way we conduct our lives that are evident in fairy tales.’ Nobody has been doing that. The more I researched it, the move I realized how important it was, and the more dedicated I became to actually pulling it off.”
“My feelings about Star Wars are not as awed as a lot of people. No matter what, it is a rather simplistic movie. The underrating and overrating are the same kind of reactions. The people who are saying, ‘It’s nothing. It’s junk food for the mind,’ are reacting against the people who are saying, This is the greatest thing since popcorn.’ Both of them are wrong. It’s just a movie. You watch it and you enjoy it.”
“When you look at Star Wai's it seems extremely simplistic, but it’s like most successful creations—you struggle and you struggle and you struggle—for the obvious! You finally get there, and you say, ‘Why didn’t I think of this six months ago?’ But it requires quite a thought process to get down to the obvious. It’s very difficult because it isn’t that obvious when you start out.
“Now, people look at Star Wars, and they say, ‘Oh, that’s simple. There’s nothing to it.’ They say it’s like this movie or that movie. People have a tendency to think that it was just a formula, ‘Oh, he just took The Wizard of Oz and turned it inside out.’ But if you look at those two movies, they are totally different ideas. I mean, you can- see certain similarities between almost any two movies, but coming up with a basic idea and developing it and making it work is very difficult—-and not to be underestimated.”
“One of the main thrusts in all the films is the Hora-tion Alger concept—the fact that if you apply yourself and work real hard, you can get what you want accomplished. Your only limitations are your own willingness to do whatever you want to do.
“In THX-1138 that’s expressed in the white limbo. The whole film is the analogy that we’re in cages, and the doors are open. We just don’t want to leave. That film is in three parts, and each takes that theme and expresses it in a different way. The white limbo is the most abstract symbol—you can get up and walk out of there at any time, but you’ve got to have the will to do it and not be afraid.
“American Graffiti is saying the same thing. The kids are growing out of a small town, accepting the responsibility of the fact that things change, and that you have to go out into the world and make something of yourself—no matter how frightening that is.
“And it recurs again in Star Wars with Luke wanting something but not wanting it enough to break the rules and say, ‘OK, I’m going to do it!’ The rules end up getting broken for him, but it’s still the same theme.”
“If you’d asked me five years ago what I’d be doing today, you’d never get the answers you’re getting now. So I never predict where I’m going to be in five years. I can’t say things are necessarily better, but they are different.”
“I’m sort of baffled by the movie, I have to admit. I expected it to be a moderately successful film... and the fact that it became such a popular film and appeals to people over 14 years old—it still amazes me!”
“When you know filmmakers very well, and you see their films, you realize how their personalities are imprinted in the films. The director’s personal weaknesses are the film’s weaknesses. His strengths are the film’s strengths. When you look at a series of films, you begin to see what those are, because the strengths are always the same, and the weaknesses are generally the same—especially if he is a very personal director.
“I screened American Graffiti one day, and that night I had to screen Star Wars-—so I saw the films back to back. It was then that I realized whatever unique quirk that 1 have that I don’t think about and was not aware of until I saw the two films so close together. It’s hard to decide in words, but the only thing I could ever come up with to describe the personal quality in my films is ‘a kind of effervescent giddiness.’
“That’s obviously not the way I am as a person, yet somehow or another it came out in those two films—and it’s even in THX-1138, but most people don’t see it. I mean, there’s a whole lot of humor and craziness going on in that movie, but the film is so somber and serious and abstract that it goes right by most people. If you see the other films, and then you go back and see THX, you get a stronger sense of the humor.”
“If you set your goals too high, then they are impossible to reach. You just get frustrated. So you set them as high as is realistic—not impossible but very difficult. As corny as it sounds, the power of positive thinking goes a long way.
“So determination and positive thinking combined with talent and knowing your craft—which means a lot of hard work and homework—and a lot of luck (if you can generate all these other qualities, the luck will come eventually)—that is my philosophy. It may sound like a naive point of view, but at the same time it has worked for me and it has worked for all my friends—so I have come to believe it.”
“The satisfaction is in the movie. So far, every movie I’ve made is the movie I wanted to make, and I’ve been happy with it— THX-1138, American Graffiti, Star Wars, Empire and now Raiders. I look at a film in the rough cut for the first time, and so far it’s always turned out to be what I wanted the movie to be. I mean, I can argue technically about how well or not the film is made—about story points, ideas—but if I get an enjoyment out of it, then I say OK. I’m happy. It does what I wanted to do. And I don’t really care about the premiere or the critics or all the rest of it... ”
“I may still have to be involved through all nine films. I’m hoping to find someone I think is very good—who understands it and can deal with it.”
Star Wars - The Production Story
by David Hutchison
It has been said of Star Wars that “never before in the history of the Universe has so much time, money and technology been spent.. .just for fun.” Since May 25, 1977 literally millions of people worldwide have thrilled to the cinematic vision of George Lucas, while some critics have called the film simplistic and it s success a fluke.
Critics should know better. It was no secret that Lucas was a shining beacon of talent during his student days at the USC film department, producing a string of prize-winning successes. His first commercial film, THX-1138, based on one of his student films, demonstrated his ability to produce a quality film with a miniscule budget of less than a million dollars. American Graffiti demonstrated his ability to appeal to the current movie-going generation.
In retrospect, it seems amazing that Lucas had to spend years trying to convince the studio moguls to say “yes” to Star Wars. After American Graffiti pulled in $117 million, who would dare say no to whatever fantasy the young filmmaker envisioned?
The roots for Star Wars can be traced back at least as far as Lucas’ original story proposal for what eventually became Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now.
But while Coppola’s movie delved into the steamy contemporary jungles of Vietnam, Lucas turned to his boyhood love of Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and adventure serials. He even attempted to acquire the rights to Flash Gordon, but found that the estate had placed Alex Raymond’s cosmic adventures into the hands of Italian filmmaker Frederico Fellini. Lucas would have to create his own universe.
Serious writing on The Star Wars (as it was called then) began in earnest by January of 1973 and continued right through the start of actual shooting in March 1976. Intrigued with the concept of a relatively primitive, agrarian society defeating a sophisticated high-tech empire, Lucas spent years creating a richly detailed fairy tale universe. The apparent “simplicity” of Star Wars is the final distillation of many years spent in the hard, isolated labor of writing.
Eventually, of course, it was Alan Ladd, Jr. who said “yes” to Star Wars. Now, Lucas was faced with the task of assembling a production team who would respond to his direction and vision. Not only was Lucas creating a space fantasy the likes of which the world had never seen, but it was going to be an absolutely first class production. This was going to be a step up from MGM’s lush classic Forbidden Planet (1956) and the later 2001 (1968).
The first Star Wars film required a total of 365 miniature and photographic effects shots. Lucas intended that this film of a long time ago in a universe far, far away look as if it had actually been shot there. In June of 1975, Lucas and his former USC classmate producer Gary Kurtz began preliminary conferences with John Dykstra regarding the photographic effects for the film, most of which consisted of highly dynamic space battles. Dykstra soon learned that Lucas intended to use “photographic effects as you would automobiles in a film of contemporary time setting.” It was a task of mammoth proportions, but one that Dykstra had been (it would seem) in training for a decade. Dykstra’s first major credit was as part of
Doug Trumbull’s effects crew on 2001 and again with Trumbull on The Andromeda Strain and Silent Running, and later with Graphic Films’ Voyage to the Outer Planets.
The basic visual style of the film had been established over the previous three years by George Lucas working through illustrator Ralph McQuarrie, who had worked for NASA animating the Apollo space missions and for Boeing Aircraft. The Millennium Falcon metamorphasiz-ed from a rectangular prism to it s familiar saucer; Darth Vader, wookiees and robots were designed. McQuarrie also produced a series of handsome production paintings measuring 10 inches by 22 inches—matching the ratio of the 70mm Panavision screen.
Dykstra began assembling the men and materials which he hoped would be capable of producing, in full anamorphic widescreen format, the hundreds of highly complex effects shots that Lucas envisioned. Dykstra was impressed with the fact that his effects photography had to match the quality of the live action photography. Up to that time, the only way to insure first generation quality for special effects shots was to rely on in-camera effects techniques. Kubrick had managed to maintain that first generation look on 2001 with lavish use of large format front projection, hand rotoscoped traveling mattes and extensive in-camera effects composites. But with the limited budget and production schedule which Lucas had been able to scrape together, such enormously time consuming methods were out of the question. The limited effects budget precluded use of large format 65mm cameras. Ultimately, it was decided to use the old Paramount large-negative VistaVision format for all effects photography.
The VistaVision format was first developed shortly after World War I, but it wasn’t until the mid 1950s that Paramount adopted the widescreen format for feature film production.
Basically, the format uses a negative area of twice the normal 35mm Academy Aperture. Special photographic effects processes involve a number of steps in which the same image is duped or copied many times before the final image is created. This duplicating process usually results in very noticeable degradation of image quality. However, if the duplicating process can be carried out using a film format larger than the final release format, so that the effects shot must be optically reduced in size, then the resulting image will match the regular live action photography much more closely.
Dykstra set about building up what would be a complete in-house facility designed solely to manufacture shots for Star Wars. Located in Van Nuys, Industrial Light and Magic was born. It boasted a well-equipped machine shop, electronics facilities, model and miniature fabrication plants, a complete optical facility, an animation department, studio space and camera stages, offices and a screening room. Dykstra was aware that the mammoth effects requirements of Star Wars, coupled with the fact that this was an entirely first class operation, would require a single in-house operation in order to maintain close control over the quality and consistency of the shots.
Since the last VistaVision feature had been shot in 1961, and only a few effects houses were still using the format, Dykstra was able to obtain a number of old cameras and printers which were then completely revamped for the Star Wars pioneers. Since the days of 2001, the basic idea for an electronic motion-controlled special effects camera system had been on a number of Hollywood drawing boards. Star Wars was the first large scale trial for the new technology in a feature film, and Dykstra had a team waiting in the wings with ideas which would revolutionize the entire field of special effects.
Dykstra’s team, electronics designer A1 Miller, and such camera and mechanical engineers as Don Trumbull, Richard Alexander and Bill Shourt, among others, began the construction of the first Dykstraflex motion-control camera in July of 1975. Together with an innovative transmission blue screen, illuminated with daylight-corrected fluorescent tubes and blue pylon model support, they were producing effects shots just six months after construction began.
Eventually, special effects shots were produced during two daily camera shifts. Director of Photography Richard Edlund headed up one shift from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., while Dennis Muren manned the second from 3 p.m. to midnight. The optical printer ran 24 hours a day.
In the meantime, another 2001 alumnus, Colin Cantwell had been turning out model ship designs for the film. These were modified for effects requirements and others designed by Dykstra’s artist/designer Joe Johnston and chief model maker Grant McCune.
From the time that John Dykstra first walked into the deserted San Fernando warehouse which was to become ILM until the last final composite rolled out of ILM’s custom-built printer was only 22 months. During that time ILM completed the 365 shots that Star Wars required. The last optical to be shot was the famous title crawl at the beginning of the film. Edlund fitted the Dykstraflex camera with a special tilting lens board so the title art would remain in focus as it appeared to recede into the distance.
Producer Gary Kurtz arranged for Star Wars to be shot in England using all nine sound stages at one of Britain’s oldest studios, EMI Elstree in Borehamwood. Designer John Barry and Art Director Norman Reynolds were ordered by Lucas to make sure the dozens of sets had that dirty, grimy lived-in look. Lucas had no intention of portraying the future as if it had just rolled out of the shop. Equally functional were costume desinger John Mollo’s creations for Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.
Gone were the senseless comic book Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers suits. In their place were functional clothes that looked as if they could actually be worn by people living in the deserts of Tatooine or working on an Imperial starship.
Richard Watts, also an alumnus of 2001, became production manager. His duties included overseeing the construction of the various robots required. As part of his quest for first class quality, Lucas wanted to avoid man-in-the-robot-suit-shenanigans which had colored all previous attempts (with the exception of Forbidden Planet) at android robots in films. But technology had not yet caught up with Lucas’ vision. Anthony Daniels became famous for playing the man in the golden mask, C-3PO, while Kenny Baker did his best to add humanity to R2-D2. In Lucas’ later films, the electronic robots improved, but for Star Wars, effects supervisor John Stears and his crew were constantly busy keeping the little electronic gremlins running. The production schedule for Star Wars was plagued with constant robot breakdowns or robots running into walls or just refusing to go. In desperation, for a number of shots, Lucas'had R2 hauled along with a cable like a child’s toy.
Main unit production photography began for Star Wars in March 1976 when Lucas, cast, crew and two of its stars (Mark Hamill and Alec Guinness) flew to Tunesia for ten days of locations. The Moroccan white-domed architecture of Nefta and Jerba became the settings for the Lars home where Skywalker lived with his aunt and uncle. In Matama, the inhabitants live in vast circular pits, which open into rooms and caves that offer shelter from sandstorms. These locations were made truly alien with the addition of a ninety foot sand crawler, a long spine of prehistoric bones and a series of spiny moisture vaporators scattered over the landscape. Lucas and his crew were alternately frozen or blasted by fierce sandstorms in the late winter African desert.
The Star Wars crew then moved to England and though weather was no longer a problem (since the production was shooting on sound stages), the edge of technology that Lucas was pushing proved to be as great a challenge. By July, Lucas was five weeks over schedule, and most of the opening battle remained to be filmed. In the final two weeks before Fox pulled the plug on his production, Lucas had three camera units going simultaneously with production manager Robert Watts and producer Gary Kurtz each heading up units, while Lucas continued with the shots involving the principal players.
When Lucas wrapped in England and returned to the U.S., a few sequences still remained to be filmed.
Makeup artist Stuart Freeborn’s hospitalization had left Lucas with an unsatisfactory cantina sequence. Several desert sequences involving Skywalker, the landspeeder, banthas and R2 also needed to be shot, and the establishing shot for the rebel headquarters on Yavin was missing.
Fellow filmmaker Carroll Ballard was dispatched to Death Valley for the desert sequences. On the morning that the pickup shots were scheduled to begin. Hamill was involved in an automobile accident which sent him crashing through the windshield of his sports car. Under Lucas’ instruction Ballard eliminated close-ups with Hamill, who was undergoing extensive plastic surgery, and used a stand-in for long shots. Later, the opening sequence of Empire was designed to account for Hamill’s changed appearance.
For the cantina sequence, Lucas squeezed an additional $20,000 from Fox to pay Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, Laine Liska and others to create 20 new creatures for the famous Mos Eisley dive.
Richard Edlund and a camera crew found themselves on an airplane headed for Guatemala and the Tikal National Park to photograph the tropical rebel base for a sequence near the end of the film.
While Lucas supervised his team of editors as they assembled the picture, Ben Burtt was assembling the remarkable sound effects for Star Wars. Not only did Burtt have to create sounds of spaceships, explosions, various laser weapons and futuristic vehicles, but there were the alien and robot languages to be considered.
The score, too, was a first class production and made composer John Williams a household name. Lucas needed 90 minutes of music—symphonic music, recorded in Dolby stereo.
On May 21, 1977, Lucas arranged a special weekend preview screening of Star Wars at a Beverly Hills screening room of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his cast and crew. Just like a Saturday matinee of Lucas’ boyhood, the program began with Chuck Jones classic “Duck Dodgers in the 2AVi Century.” The laughter-relieving-tension halted abruptly when Star Wars came up on the screen. After the opening title crawl, the tilt down through stars and planets and the thundering space cruiser gliding overhead, the only reaction was one of seat-pounding excitement and opened-mouthed wonder at what had been wrought. A few days later, on May 25th, the same experience was enjoyed by millions.
By the next year, Star Wars had been nominated for ten Academy Awards, its only major competition being Woody Allen’s Annie Hall and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Oscars were handed out to Star Wars in six categories: Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (John Barry, Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley, Roger Christian); Best Sound (Don MacDougall, Ray West, Bob Minkler, Derek Ball); Best Film Editing (Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas, Richard Chew); Best Visual Effects (John Stears, John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Grant Mc-Cune, Robert Blalock); Best Music—Original Score (John Williams); Best Costume Design (John Mollo). Ben Burtt was awarded a special Oscar for Achievement in Sound Effects Design. Class II Scientific and Technical Awards were given to John C. Dykstra “for the development of a facility uniquely oriented toward visual effects photography” and to Alvah J. Miller and Jerry Jeffress “for the engineering of the Electronic Motion Control System used in concert for multiple exposure visual effects motion picture photography.”
Within two years after the Star Wars premiere, Lucas was back in full production on The Empire Strikes Back, the second installment of his proposed trilogy. But this time, Lucas had “retired” from the exhaustive strain of directing, preferring to control his productions in the capacity of executive producer—personally overseeing every aspect of production, but removing himself from the front line battles of a director. Irvin Kershner was entrusted with this
responsibility by Lucas, and Gary Kurtz returned as line producer.
On March 5, 1979, the Empire unit went on location some 6000 feet atop a remote glacier near Finse, Norway. The location proved even more grueling than Tunisia. This was the location that Commander Scott had selected many years earlier to train his troops for an expedition to the South Pole. As bad luck would have it, this was one of the worst winters in Norway’s recorded history with blinding gales, deadly bitter cold and blizzards that soon put the schedule predictably behind.
After a few weeks of misery and danger from the cold, the unit moved to England where they would remain through September 24, 1979—a solid six-month production schedule. Empire had over 250 scenes to be shot on 64 sets. A new full scale Millennium Falcon was constructed, as was a new sound stage at Elstree measuring 250 feet by 122 feet by 45 feet high.
Screenwriter Leigh Brackett had died in March 1978, soon after completing the first draft of Lucas’ story for the film. Faced with repeating the agonies of Star Wars by writing the script himself Lucas called in Lawrence Kasdan, who had just finished the script for Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Special Effects Supervisor for the film was Brian Johnson, a 2001 alumnus, who had carved out a reputation for himself on a number of British SF adventure series for Gerry Anderson, and the Hammer Film, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. In order to prepare properly for the Lucas adventure, Johnson was forced to leave supervision of Ridley Scott’s ALIEN, which was not yet complete, in the hands of his associate, Nick Allder.
Other key personnel returning to work with Lucas on Empire were associate producer Robert Watts, production designer Norman Reynolds, editor Paul Hirsch, conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie, art director Les Dilley, composer John Williams and makeup artist Stuart Freeborn—among others.
In order to keep the production of his film close to home, Lucas moved Industrial Light and Magic, his effects facility, to his Northern California base. Six key ILM personnel from Star Wars agreed to move with the company and join Lucas for the remainder of the trilogy. Effects photography at the new ILM facility began in March 1979 and continued through the Spring of 1980 in order to be ready for the May 21, 1980 release date.
While Kershner was in England directing the live action sequences, Lucas personally directed the special effects shots; thereby ensuring that the film would incorporate something from both their visual styles. As revolutionary and ambitious as the effects for the first film had been, Empire was twice as demanding with moré than 605 storyboarded effects shots, most of which were far more complicated than Star Wars had even dared.
Phil Tippett, who with Jon Berg, had created the animated chess men in Star Wars, was faced with the far more difficult tasks of making the Tauntauns believeable and staging an entire battle in table-top miniature with a squad of AT-AT walkers crunching through the snow and ice.
Frank Oz, famous master of Fozzy Bear and Miss Piggy, was called in to create Yoda, the Jedi master, which looked like an 800-year-old green-skinned elf.
The following year the film received three Academy Award nominations. It won Oscars for Special Achievement in Visual Effects (Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Brian Johnson, Bruce Nicholson) and Best Sound (Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Gregg Landaker, Peter Sutton).
The cliffhanger ending to what became known as Episode Five of the Star Wars saga, whetted everyone’s appetite for Episode Six: Return of the Jedi. In January 1982 principle photography began on Jedi with studio photography in England.
Instead of returning to the barren wastes of Tunisia for the deserts of Tatooine, a more convenient but appropriately barren stretch of desert outside of Yuma, Arizona, was stripped of the tiniest vestiges of vegetation, while Jabba’s palatial sand barge was erected on location.
The ancient redwood forests near Crescent City and Smith River in northern California became the locale for the forest moon of Endor with its secret Imperial base and home of those fuzzy little Ewoks, whose combined primitive strength helped topple an Empire.
By May of 1982 Jedi had wrapped principal photography in a mere 17 weeks: 12 weeks in England, two weeks near Yuma, two weeks in the redwoods and a week working with the actors at ILM in front of a blue screen.
Supervision of the complex visual effects for Jedi was divided between Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren and Ken Ralston. Edlund handled miniature and highspeed camera effects for the Tatooine sequence; Muren supervised Luke’s battle with the Rancor, the bike chase through the trees and the animated two-legged Walkers at the end of the film; Ralston supervised the spectacular space battle with the massed Imperial and Rebel fleets. Jedi was nominated in four categories for Academy Awards and brought home Oscars for Special Achievement in Visual Effects to the three supervisors with a fourth Oscar going to Phil Tippett, who expanded his talents beyond miniatures and stop motion to working with full-scale creature design, fabrication and operation.
It is something of a tribute to Lucasfilm that the closing film of the middle trilogy of the Star Wars saga was brought in efficiently on schedule without the nerve wracking budget battles of the first two films. For this installment, Lucas had once again assembled his coworkers with addition of director Richard Marquand and line producer Howard Kazanjian. Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan tied up the story line in a spectacular and satisfying manner, allowing ample breathing space on both sides for the framing trilogies—when they go into production.
Aside from the technical and visionary contributions which Star Wars made to the industry, the greatest contribution came from Lucas himself: in the dedication he inspired among his co-workers and in the incredible enjoyment which he has bestowed upon the world. Star Wars is unique entertainment combining thrills, excitement, dazzle and flash with a solid core of moral heroes fighting for something they believe in... something that makes you feel good about being alive.
Effects Supervisor Richard Edlund added to ILM’s VistaVision camera inventory with a new, custom-built light-weight reflex-viewing camera. It would help considerably to ease the burden of the extensive miniature effects photography that was planned for Empire.
For Star Wars, Lucas had edited together a lot of stock aerial dog-fight footage into a motion picture storyboard to guide the special effects photographers who were creating shots for the space battle sequences. The technique worked so well for Lucas that he expanded the technique with Animatics—quick and dirty video storyboards which Lucas could edit and work with while the shots were coming together.
Meanwhile in England, by mid-July Kershner was going through all the traumas that Lucas had faced the last time around with the agony of special effects filmmaking. Getting the robots to work... getting complex stage action cues to happen on time... getting the robots to work... solving scheduling and logistical problems ... getting the robots to work.... At it’s worst, Empire was costing Lucasfilm $100,000 a day to produce. Delays were forcing the film over budget; Lucas flew to England urging Kurtz and Kershner to economize: speed up filming, trim any sets not absolutely necessary, find script pages which could be eliminated, etc.
Movies are made on credit, by loans from a bank. Interest rates were higher than they ever had been. Lucas was $10 million over budget on Empire, which, with interest charges of 20%, pushed the cost of the Star Wars sequel to $33 million. It was a terrible risk for the young filmmaker, who had only his vision to guide him. If Empire failed, Lucas would spend the rest of his life paying off the banks. Of course, that’s not what happened. Within months of the film’s release Lucas had repaid his bank loans and Empire went on to gross more than $300 million in its first release.
Tributes - Personal communications from outstanding humans
George Lucas brought science fiction on the screen to a new pitch of technical excellence, adding excitement, humor and visual creativity. In doing so, he created numerous new science fiction enthusiasts, and for this he deserves the gratitude of the field generally.
Isaac Asimov (world’s most prolific SF author, according to the Guinness Book of Records)
Personally I salute George for his faith in me as a film director, and his total confidence in and loyalty to me throughout the months I spent making Return Of The Jedi.
As a Star Wars fan, and on behalf of the millions of Star Wars fans on this planet, I salute the man who gave us a new and deep, far-reaching mythology for the twentieth-century—and for ever.
Richard A. Marquand (director, Blue Harvest)
Some of us envision fantastic dreams; some can even make dreams a reality; and a few c$n inspire great dreams in others.
George Lucas is that rarest combination of all three— a superstar dream-maker who has realized his visions & fired up the collective imagination of an entire planet!
First, let me join a few million of you out there and thank George for enriching my life. You did what most of us thought was impossible—you brought our visions to the screen, and so created a new universal myth for our times, with heroes and villains the whole world now recognizes. Of course, you were tapping the pre-existing SF culture—but if anyone criticises you for that, George, point to the excellent precedent of W. Shakespeare, Esq., and remind them: “Talent borrows—but genius steals.”
I don’t want to dampen the festivities by ending on a serious note, but much as I’ve enjoyed your marvelous trilogy, my pleasure has often been alloyed with a subsequent sense of guilt. (St. Augustine, I think, once said something like that in a slightly different context.)
The very week you celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Star Wars, I’ll be receiving the 10th Charles A. Lindbergh Award in Paris—and the title of my address will be: “Star Peace.” I’d like to quote briefly from it.
“We have already met Darth Vader—and he is us. If we are to survive, we must exorcise the demons of our haunted childhood, and grow out of our fascination with ‘technoporn’—gleaming weaponry and beautiful explosions. Whatever new armaments may be needed to preserve peace in the immediate future, in the long run only political solutions can save us... The real problem is not military hardware, but human software...”
No one is in a better position to create that software than we science fiction fans. Let’s go on with the job!
Arthur C Clarke
(satellite communications theorist; author, The Sentinel)
Just after the release of American Graffiti, George Lucas and Gary Kurtz came to my infamously-crowded office to look at some of Alex Raymond’s original Flask Gordon artwork. Although we hadn’t met before. I had bear'd of George when people kept confusing our award-winning student short films: his, “THX-1138;” mine entitled (by pure coincidence) “Item 72-D.”
At that time, George still wanted to make a movie of Flash Gordon, but King Features Syndicate was holding out for the likes of Frederico Fellini to direct, so George went airead, with Star Wars. Although the new script developed along original lines, I suspect that George still loved Flash.
A friend of mine had been hired by King Features to destroy their library of exquisite original comic strip proofs after re-photographing them onto microfilm. We sneaked George up the back stairs into the archives. He and 1 spent hours reading the proofs only days before they were burned. It’s a shame that neither Lucas (nor Fellini) ever brought Rash to the screen, but Star Wars is a hell of a replacement—and somewhere Alex Raymond
must feel honored.
(associate producer, Conan)
A personal Star Wars History:
1967—Most vivid memory of attending USC Film School with George is a lively discussion on comics, science fiction and movies—one afternoon while the crew set up the next shot for his award-winning short THX-1138-4EB. George was passionate about those three subjects, and his work reflects the love and dedication of a fan. 1971—Gary Kurtz, another USC student and dedicated Carl Barks fan (many deep discussions on the merits of the mighty mogul of Duckburg, Scrooge McDuck), took me to dinner and asked what I thought of George’s script on teenagers in the early 60s and the idea for a space fantasy film. The ideas sounded good, and George was definitely the best filmmaker at USC. A short time later, a great production team was born—George Lucas and Gary Kurtz.
1975—1 was working as Unit Publicist on Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot. One afternoon I went over to George and Gary’s American Graffiti bungalow on the Universal lot, and they launched into an impassioned telling of Star Wars. That night I read the fourth draft of the script, and decided it was the best space adventure I had ever dreamed of seeing on the big screen. I told them that I had to work on it. From that day, the three of us talked about how we would get people to see Star Wars. George dreamed that maybe we could turn out some merchandise based on the film and sell it in three stores—one, near him in San Francisco, another in Westwood and the third, upper east side Manhattan. In November I began working as Vice President of Marketing and Merchandising for Star Wars Corporation. 1977—Wednesday, May 25th, the film premiered in select theaters around the country. Gary Kurtz and I were in New York, and. that evening I slipped away from work to go see the theater on Broadway. A long line of people was weaving down the street and around the corner. Suddenly, as the show let out, two teenaged guys staged a mock laser sword fight before the astonished crowd in line. I followed a family as they headed toward the subway, and heard the kids talking to their mom about the movie—all aglow. Like Martha and the Vandellas sang, “They were dancing in the streets.” We had found our audience; the audience had found us. PRESENT—There have been no Star Wars movies for several years. Harrison Ford has become one of our most important and talented actors. Lucasfilm’s last few ventures in TV and film have not been particularly successful, but Star Wars lives on in one of the greatest fun-park attractions in the world—Star Tours at Disneyland. FUTURE—We will have new Star Wars movies. George talks about making the first trilogy (I would like to see the last trilogy), but any new Star Wars movie would be great! George Lucas will direct again. I don’t care whether it is the next Star Wars, a documentary or something else he has always wished to make. He is too talented to stop now!
Happy anniversary, George. Your body of work is small but mighty. I look forward to all the rest...
(drum beater for the Empire)
The personal film...
We hear this and think immediately of Truffaut, Bertolucci, Bergman, Rosselini and Woody Allen. It suggests stories that originate from the deepest parts of a filmmaker’s personna—beyond consciousness, beyond therapy, like great expressionist paintings.
To say that Star Wars is not one of these personal films is to deny what this phenomenon is all about. It is the passion play of George’s life—an intimate look into his heart and his imagination.
Star Wars is the most personal and generous gift any filmmaker has ever given the world.
Steven Spielberg and all of us at Amblin
(producer, director The Color Purple)
I am very much a Star Wars fan and sincerely appreciate the spectacular entertainment you’ve provided all of us.
Gene Roddenberry (sends wagon trains to the stars)
Out of my love and admiration for the films of James Whale and Alfred Hitchcock, came Young Frankenstein and High Anxiety. Spaceballs is my homage to George Lucas and his remarkable Star Wars trilogy.
I am personally indebted to George for his significant contribution to the space film genre and George is indebted to me—I have personally spent over $5,000 on Star Wars toys for my children!
Let me add my congratulations, along with many others this weekend, at this well-deserved salute to George Lucas.
(producer, director, writer, star—Spaceballs)
5tar Wars was my first opportunity to contribute to a feature film, other than poster art and things that did not get onto film. It was the best work experience I’ve had before or since. I had a wonderful time sitting with the script, just doing what seemed right to me at times, and other times working with things that George had discussed in brief meetings we’d have every week of two.
I’d invent all the camera moves, sound, etc. while I worked. In my enthusiasm, I’d talk about this in the meetings with George—who listened, but gently let me know that he’d take care of those matters!
I didn’t realize at that time how important it is to a film that it have one creative director—and that director must have control of everything. It was wonderful to be part of something so many people enjoyed—to have my illustrations published in the art books and portfolios—to be included in the Smithsonian travelling exhibit—to be able to do some covers for the Del Reys at Ballan-tine—to have the cover illustration I did for Isaac Asimov’s Robot Dreams submitted to the Society of Illustrators show in New York by Byron Preiss...
I mean, what do you want!!! Thank you George Lucas.
Ralph McQuarrie (master of future imagination)
P.S. Here’s some sketches made dring the filming of Empire. These have not been published anywhere before.
If the fans return even a fraction of the pleasure you have given them in the last few years, this will be a very special weekend indeed.
I would be there if I weren’t doing eight a week on Broadway in The Nerd. It’s my seventh play since the trilogy and it’s truly hilarious-so when in New York, please make a point of seeing it.
In the meantime, enjoy your tribute. You deserve it!
With best wishes and great affection
(and Maurilotft, Nathan and
Griffin, too) (star of stage, screen and radio)
George, it’s a long way out from talks in the parking lot at Fox to the other end of the Galaxy, but you kept true to course.
In the cosmos of Hollywood, lots of people took a ride on Star Wars, claiming more responsibility than they really exerted to get it made. It was your vision and your accomplishment. You deserve all the “lift-offs” it can provide.
To George, whose imagination and fantasy of Star Wars has entertained us and enriched our theatrical lives.
The expropriation of Star Wars for the militarization of space is a misfortune. Your affirmation to peace could have a strong, positive effect on our whole planet.
Ten years ago this month, I first sat down with George Lucas in San Francisco’s North Point Theater to experience the voyage to “a galaxy far, far away..
And what a visionary trip it was! Now, on the tenth anniversary of the Star Wars trilogy, 1 proudly join the worldwide audience in thanking him for enriching our lives and expanding our horizons.
Alan Ladd, Jr.
(president, MGM Entertainment)
Circa 1935, when I was a shy, introverted, tongue-tied kid, 1 somehow mustered the courage to go to Universal Studios and lay on the desk of a producer some space operas by pioneers like Ray Cummings, “Skylark” Smith and Edmond Hamilton (who eventually married Leigh. Brackett, who was scripting The Empire Strikes Back when she died).
I approached, the producer simply as an enthusiastic fan, hoping he would bring to the screen (albeit in primitive black-and-white, narrowpic, monophonic sound, etc.) one of my favorite interplanetary epics.
He was aghast at my rash proposal. “But. kid,” I can still hear him choking across a gulf of half a century, “a picture like that would cost $500,000 to produce!"
Well, by George, ten years ago you made that miracle come true, I was no longer tongue-tied... but Star Wars made me speechless!
Thanxamillion, George. I know you made it just for me, but I’ve been happy to share it with the world. I’m sure times to come and worlds to come will continue to gaze with awe and wonder on your scientificinemaster-piece!
I guess I said a mouthful...
Forrest J Ackerman (author, editor, agent to SF’s finest)
With the trilogy of Star Wars films, George Lucas has given us a world of dazzling originality.
In one short decade, the family of creatures in these films has become a part of our popular culture, and expressions from the script have crept into our language. Darth Vader is everyone’s favorite villain, and Luke Skywalker is everyone’s hero—and we love them all.
For all of us who love his work, and especially for those of us to whom he is a treasured friend, it is a pleasure to join the STARLOG salute to George Lucas.
(he makes music in space)
Star Wars taught a generation how to see. When it came out, most of this generation were kids, seven to fifteen years old. Now they are seventeen to twenty-five, and they are the bulk of today’s moviegoers. Because Star Wars told its story through pictures, George taught a whole generation to demand visual excellence and wonderful stories and, most importantly, how to watch movies.
As a filmmaker, 1 am glad to have this opportunity in public to thank George for making audiences more demanding and forcing me to meet the standards he set.
(editor, The Black Stallion, director, The Black Stallion Returns)
Maker of myths.
Champion of the innocent.
Defender of the faith—or force—if you will.
Let’s face it—my mentor.
Best wishes on the 1 Oth anniversary of Star Wars.
I haven’t seen George Lucas in quite a number of years, but my memories of him remain strong. Of being shown around ILM (then located in Van Nuys) by a fellow fan who happened to be making a science-fiction film. Of his delights at meeting Saul Bass (the renowned design/filmmaker) and looking on as Bass viewed “dailies” of Imperial TIE Fighters in a screening room right upstairs from models of the Death Star and the Millennium Falcon. Of his openness and unflagging willingness to listen and cheerfully discuss anything and everything relating to his picture—despite the fact that, with the huge success of American Graffiti, he could have played the imperious martinet.
I remember a man in love with what he was doing—working fifteen-hour days, concerned only with making the best picture possible. But most of all I remember this perfectionist, dedicated filmmaker who somehow managed to make tons of money working amidst some of the nastiest, most experienced prevaricators on this planet, who one immediately thought of as a Regular Guy.
After more than a decade of working with a host of Hollywood people, studio executives and producers and writers and money-men—George Lucas remains the single nicest human being I have yet met in the business of filmmaking.
Alan Dean Foster
(master of movie-script novelization)
The first decade of Star Wars marks a milestone for all of us! Your generous, enthusiastic support and encouragement have been a great inspiration to me. Your commitment to the Star Wars saga illustrates that movies unite people around the world, as we share dreams, fantasies, adventures and hopes.
At Lucasfilm we are continuing to explore new realms of entertainment which we hope will amaze and. delight you... for many decades to come!