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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: If you could ask one question of George Lucas, what would it be?

Last week I mentioned in passing that Jon Stewart would be interviewing George Lucas at Celebration, the big annual Star Wars convention. That interview happened this past weekend, and IGN has a a report full of the juicy tidbits that came out of the event. Like this:

Stewart asked Lucas about how he had the mental willpower to stay strong and preserve when so many obstacles were in his way making Star Wars, to which Lucas replied, “Well, it helps to be nuts.” He said the trick really was to be stubborn, to the point where you tell yourself, “I’m right. I don’t care what the rest of the world thinks” – a line I’m sure Lucas’ critics will have a field day with.

And this:

Stewart asked Lucas about some of his favorite pieces of fan-made art or items were, and he talked about receiving a small representation of Jar Jar Binks frozen in carbonite – adding that he loved it so much, he had ILM make a full size version, which hangs at the Lucasfilm offices.

And this:

Speaking about Jedi and what they do, he said, “Jedi really aren’t warriors. They’re negotiators. They’re like the mafia.”

As for why the Jedi are told not to have attachments, he said it was about the idea, “Not to be greedy. Once you’re greedy, then you get fearful, because you don’t want to lose what you have. So you have to learn to give up anything.”

While marriage is forbidden, “They can still love people. They can’t possess them,” and had to, “Accept the fact that they’re going to die and that the loved ones they have are going to die.”

There’s lots more, including some funny commentary from Stewart, as you might expect.

If you could ask one question of George Lucas, what would it be?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • Jurgan

    I’d probably ask him why he won’t release a high-quality unedited version of the original trilogy on DVD. I get that he likes the prequels, and while I don’t care for them, I don’t have any problem with others liking them. I understand that he wanted to make changes to the originals- I think it’s a mistake for an artist to obsess over redoing old work instead of moving on to something new, but that’s his choice. My impression is that he was really indecisive when making the original movies and others steered him a certain way, which he spent years regretting.

    All of that doesn’t change the fact that many people loved the original trilogy just the way it was. Part of the charm was how much they were able to accomplish despite the limitations of the time (imagine if Monty Python rereleased the Holy Grail with actual horses- after all, they only used coconuts because they couldn’t afford horses). It would be so easy to release both versions and let people choose, or release both on the same DVD set. I understand that that was done once, but it was such poor quality that it was almost unwatchable. He can release as many special editions as he wants, but he shouldn’t hide the original versions as though they’re something to be ashamed of.

  • When he released the half-assed “bonus” discs of the original cuts of the OT, I sat down and watched Star Wars. It was crude, raggedy and looked like it was made in the 70s. And it was awesome.

    That steps aren’t being taken to preserve these films in their original form is a travesty. Lucas claims now that restoration work on the original trilogy is cost-prohibitive, if not impossible.

    My question to him would be “Really?”

  • Dre in Spain

    Han shot first. Why did he feel the need to change this in the Special edition version?

  • The only question I would want to ask is, “How much of Star Wars was really your idea?”

    But that depends on the venue. If it’s in a big conference with lots of people and cameras everywhere, I don’t think I’d have the guts to ask that. And Lucas would probably not give a straight answer anyway to save face, or give a political answer where he cites the input of general group of people without acknowledging anyone’s ideas specifically. Based on his contradictory description of the Jedi – “they’re like the mafia,” but simultaneously they don’t like to be greedy? wtf? – I’d say he didn’t have anything close to a clear idea of the story in the first place. So, lots of people gave significant input, and that’s what made the films great. Then he did ROTJ based on his ideas and we got teddy bears tripping up AT-STs.

  • JoshDM

    Many questions I’m certain have or will already have been asked, so I’ll go on a limb and ask why did he feel it was necessary to provide a tangible explanation to The Force, and with midichlorians? As a follow-up, were midichlorians to represent some alternate form of mitochondria?

  • Barb

    Why do you feel the need to constantly enhance the original Star Wars trilogy instead of just restoring it and based on overall viewer response, what version do they actually prefer (e.g., original or SE).

  • Orangutan

    Why do you feel the need to constantly enhance the original Star Wars trilogy instead of just restoring it and based on overall viewer response, what version do they actually prefer (e.g., original or SE).

    He already answered that one.

    “I’m right. I don’t care what the rest of the world thinks”

  • They can restore Metropolis, but they can’t restore Star Wars?

  • “Wouldn’t it be great if you died and somebody gained control of your empire that loved these original films and recognized their importance?”

    Ok, maybe they’d call security. :)

    And I used the word “empire” with no pun intended.

  • Oh and as far as the “Han Shot First” dilemma…

    He changed it to Greedo shooting first in ’97, then due to fan pressure either changed it back to Han shooting first or both firing simultaneously, I can’t remember.

    But since when was a classic film still subject to focus group editing 20-30 years later?

  • Dre in Spain

    Bongwater, come over to the dark side..

    OK, here is another question about the remastered editions. If George Lucas felt the need to add on some silly little scene showing what a busy port Mos Eisley was so he could “improve” the film, then why didn’t he take out that bit on the Deathstar when the storm troopers enter into the room where R2D2 and C3PO are hiding out, and one of them accidently cracks his head on the doorframe?
    To be honest the mistake is one of the funniest things in star wars (a new hope)and I would have been seriously annoyed if they had removed it, but it does go against the whole concept of “improving” the film.

    Sigh.. my inner starwars geek is emerging. I usually try to keep her hidden..

  • This has always been a sore subject with me. :) But it’s like a loose tooth, I can’t stop messing with it. There were always two simple things I would’ve like to have seen fixed in a restoration.

    1. Cleaning the matte boxes around spaceships and such (the matte painting integration, to a lesser degree).

    2. There was that shot during the Obi-Wan/Vader duel where Alec Guinness points his lightsaber directly at the camera and the effect disappears and you can clearly see the rod. The best part is they didn’t even bother to fix that one during the first round of SE.

    I was always impressed with what Lucasfilm/ILM was capable of in post-post-production (LOL…). The Cloud City hallway sequences, in particular, were pretty amazing. But, like trepanation, just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should…

  • Sorry.. trephination.

  • My question would be: What would it take for you to allow Chris Nolan, JJ Abrams, or Joss Whedon to reboot the prequels?

    By the way, anyone see the footage of the deleted scene from ROTJ? I’ve always remembered that lightsaber construction scene from when I read it in the novelization, decades ago; and as inconsequential as it was, I thought it was still really cool to see.

  • Dre in Spain

    I definitely agree with you regarding the cloud city additions, they looked good. I think what annoys me regarding the additions to the Mos Eisley sequence were the “comedy” routines regarding the robot and the jawa swinging from the rope. These were unnecessary.
    The clean up of the computer graphic around Luke’s speeder when he takes Obi Wan and the 2 droids into Mos Eisley was much needed, and even the back shots of when the storm troopers first land on Tatooine were good. As you say, it’s not whether they have the ability to add on new set pieces it’s whether or not they should.
    I love how the prequels have barely been mentioned. I think everyone has an unspoken agreement that they were shite and not worth writing about.

  • My feelings on the prequels are that “legends sound good, because they’re legends.” Now that we’ve seen the reality… to quote Bryant Frazer, “the tale of a galactic asshole” wasn’t really worth telling, was it?

  • CB

    Hmm… I can’t actually think of that much to ask him, since I can mostly anticipate the answers, or have satisfying enough theories of my own.

    I think I would ask him this:

    You once said “A special effect is a tool, a means of telling a story. A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.” Was that just some crap you said to make the limited amount of special effects that could be done in the 80s seem like an artistic choice which you never really believed, or did you completely abandon that principle sometime between when you said it and when you decided to cram as many superfluous CGI effects as possible into every damn scene?

    Either way, the transition happened before the prequels even started, as you can tell from the Mos Eisley sequence in the special additions. Yay, pointless nonsense that actually obstructs your view of the thing you care about!

    By the way, isn’t it kinda funny how Empire was the best movie, and the movie with the fewest (but most effective) changes in the Special Edition?

  • Boingo

    “Hey George,” if I may politely call you that-is it
    true your SW was influenced by Kurosawa’s “Hidden Fortress?” Did you buy the rights or was that just a

  • By the way, isn’t it kinda funny how Empire was the best movie, and the movie with the fewest (but most effective) changes in the Special Edition?

    Effective, maybe, but with at least one exception: In the SE, after Artoo gets spat out by the Dagobah swamp monster, Luke tells him “You were lucky to get out of there.” I prefer the original take, where he says “You’re lucky you don’t taste very good.” Why replace a witty remark with a bland one? Completely pointless change. No idea why they did it.

  • Jurgan

    Also, adding in Luke screaming when he falls down the shaft takes away the serenity of the original scene. That’s probably the largest change.

    While we’re on the subject, this is geektastic (might qualify for one of Maryann’s geek of the week posts, or whatever those are called).

  • Victor Plenty

    “Will your fully realized versions of Episodes 4, 5, and 6 each include scenes showing the pivotal role in the downfall of the Empire, comparable to the key role in its rise to dominance, played by the honorable Senator from Naboo, Jar-Jar Binks? And when will you film Episodes 7, 8, and 9 to show the completion of Jar-Jar’s epic character arc, including his rise to become the most powerful Jedi ever known in the history of the Galaxy, and the actual individual truly indicated in the prophecies of the one destined to bring balance to the Force?”

  • Matt C

    I’d probably ask the same question everyone else posted before me.

    BTW, I saw the 1997 Special Editions of the original SW trilogy. It wasn’t until the “2-Disc Limited Edition” trilogy came out on DVD that I actually saw the movies as intended in 1977 and 1980. And truth be told, I preferred those over the Reversioned Trilogy.

    I’d wish Lucas had taken a leaf from Ridley Scott’s book and did a “Blade Runner”-esque treatment for the original trilogy (with the original theatrical version, the 1997 SE, and the 2004 additions). At least Scott let the studio restore all versions of the film, and doesn’t pretend people don’t want the original version.

  • Victor Plenty

    Now wait just a minute, Matt C! I strained my cranium to come up with a question NOBODY else would ask. And next you mosey along and assume everybody posting before you asked the same question. Just can’t win for losing, sometimes.

  • Dr. Rocketscience


    This doesn’t answer your question, but…

    In the most current version, not only did they leave in the shot where the trooper cracks his head on the door, but they foley’ed in the sound effect of a helmet meeting a metal bulkhead. It gets better. When the troopers rush back out of the room, the lead stormtrooper mutters something like “and make sure he’s ok.”

    As to why it got left in, I think George and the crew, like the rest of us, think it’s fucking hilarious.

  • Dre in Spain

    For those who don’t know about the legendary stormtrooper hitting his head scene, I’ve done some searching on youtube, this is the best version I can find…


    And we are all very happy that out of the many things that were modified in the star wars trilogy, they never removed this bit!

  • JoshDM

    I guess he was a little tall for a Stormtrooper.

  • Dre in Spain

    He definitely felt the force.

    (apologies, that was not as good as Josh’s joke..)

  • Heh… Now watch Lucas ruin it by retconning some story about a genetic anomaly that makes some of the clones taller than others…

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