Q&A With Director George Lucas (Continued)
QUESTION: American Graffiti which has been on DVD for some time, for anyone who has read about what you had to go through with Universal to make that film, seems to be one of your most personal. So I was just curious why you chose to record your first feature commentary for Star Wars? Is this a film you're more proud of if that's possible? I mean because I know you're probably proud of all your features, but why did you start now?
(Jim Ward & Rick McCallum)
GEORGE LUCAS: Well I don't know. I didn't have a lot to do with the DVD of American Graffiti, it was actually a Universal project. And I think when they were doing that I was actually shooting Phantom Menace or something so I wasn't even around to do it. I'm not quite sure what happened on that, but this one, we did ourselves. The American Graffiti DVD was put together and released by the DVD Department at Universal. They don't actually ask whether you want to do it or not. They just go ahead and do whatever they want to do.
QUESTION: Would you possibly like to revisit it sometime and do a commentary?
GEORGE LUCAS: I don't know.
QUESTION: In the documentary we saw you in a lot of challenging and stressful situations, and you seemed very calm and unflappable. Is that your general style making films, or do you think we didn't see, and if so how do you remain so calm?
GEORGE LUCAS: Well, I'm not very calm about raising my kids. But I've done this for a long time now. And I lose my temper every once in awhile just like anybody does under those kind of conditions, especially when they go on for months. But generally, 90% of the time that's the way I am. And it's just my constitution I guess. It's the way I work. I don't like a stressful set. I don't think yelling at people really accomplishes too much.
QUESTION: I just wanted to raise something that came up earlier, which is the question now that you've got all the responsibility for the DVD to release, three insert scenes, you know show extraneous material. You said earlier that what used to be called the Director's Cut is now called the DVD, but do you think in some sense that film it's quite difficult to say at what point a film is finished, or that there's a final version or a definitive version? And particularly your decision to finish scenes that you'd set aside and think about putting some of them back, putting one of them back. It muddies the waters in a way. This may not be a bad thing, maybe you think that's a good thing. But there's no, there's a fuzzy sense of when a film is finished, no?
GEORGE LUCAS: Yeah. Now it's not unlike all other art forms. All the other art forms have that advantage, improvised additions and you know for things to be touched up or redone. You know an artist especially, you go into any studio and you'll find a lot of paintings sitting on a wall that were finished five, 10 years ago that the artist is just sitting with until he's really happy with it. And even sometimes they sell the paintings come back and revisit it. Not that often. But I think with film, like anything else as far as I'm concerned, the film is finished when the Director is gone. So to speak.
GEORGE LUCAS: And you know it brings up another issue that a lot of us have been campaigning for in the last 10 or 15 years which is artists' rights, because more and more it's going to get to a point where people can re-cut each other's movies and studios can re-cut your movies and do the same thing that now is essentially left to the director to do. And then you're going to get some very distorted views of movies. It's like what happened in the theatrical experience. And you know you hear all the complaints from the directors, that's not my cut, that's not what I wanted, you destroyed my movie. And right now we're sort of getting that back through the DVD process of actually making it more the way we, the filmmaker actually originally intended it.
GEORGE LUCAS: But then there's always this danger that the studios take it back and say well I don't care what he wanted I'm going to do the new DVD which is the better cut. You know, the executive/middle management cut. The corporate cut. And we're looking to try to see that there is some protections about who actually gets to re-cut these movies. And then as far as I'm concerned the artist should always have the right to re-think what he's done because that's ultimately what people are interested in.
QUESTION: Expanding on the idea of commentary, how did you enjoy, what was it like sitting down revisiting the film and talking about it and would you want to do that again on your future work?
GEORGE LUCAS: Yeah, I'll do it again. I mean again at this point, I don't know I've seen some (?) actually not a great deal of time and sort through it in a very comprehensive fashion, generally what happens is you sit down and watch the movie and just talk about it. So you know it's whatever sort of comes off the top of your head at that particular moment. My feeling is that in the future they will become more prepared in terms of there will be a theme going through it or some kind of issue that is being dealt with or many issues. Because there's so many things you can talk about that it's a kind of an arbitrary amount of information that comes out at any given moment. And (?) usually you're doing well when something is right so you don't have enough time to second guess what you've said.
QUESTION: There's only seven cut scenes on the DVD and there's numerous other cut scenes from the film. Was it difficult for you to make a decision on which scenes to complete?
GEORGE LUCAS: I picked the seven that are actual scenes. I mean we can just sort of go through and cut random dialogue or you know we tried to get things that actually developed into a real scene that went on for at least a minute. You know sometimes a little bit less but you know we tried to get substantial things, in the end you cut out an enormous amount on a movie. You know there's another ½ hour of bits and pieces and things that are kind of not really relevant to anything. And they're not relevant to an entity that was taken out, it's just trims and cuts and lines that are lost and that sort of thing.
QUESTION: One of the scenes I was hoping to see, that I've seen pictures of, is Obi-wan being lectured in the (swamp?) by Qui-gon (?) saber burned out.
GEORGE LUCAS: In the end you know it's like four lines. I mean the scene is there, it just would be longer. And it's the kind of thing that overall in looking at the movie I felt that that discussion didn't really fit into the movie. It's relevant in a more grand scheme of things, which is relevant to the movie that I'm making now and kind of things, it's a kind of minor version of what Jabba the Hutt was in New Hope. Which is is it's not really relevant to A New Hope but it is relevant to Return of the Jedi. And, you know, (?) in the second one too but mostly when you go back to see the last film. And this is just a couple of lines that sort of resonated against similar kinds of lines that are going on in this movie. But you know in the end it's a shading, it's not really a big issue.
GEORGE LUCAS: And in a lot of cases you're sort of trading off shadings that might be appropriate in the grand scheme of six movies, but not appropriate in the individual movie as it exists. Unfortunately I'm writing a novel and I'm writing it a chapter at a time. And one chapter comes out every three years. So each chapter has to kind of work unto itself. And it's kind of tricky, because you don't want to do things that bring the whole thing down just because if you saw the whole thing at once it'll all make sense but it doesn't individually. So I have to kind of weigh those two things against each other all the time.
QUESTION: You were talking a minute ago about some of the things that we saw on the documentary that were interesting, and one of the things that surprised me and I'm imagining it's going to surprise a lot of people to see it, is that scene when you're sitting in the editing room and the editor is like, you're pulling material from one take and from another take to combine it into something that you want. And I don't think a lot of people realize that that's even possible, the technology that you can combine such disparate things maybe. And I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on, it's now possible, I mean you're able to do something if somebody moves the wrong way you can fix it.
GEORGE LUCAS: Well it's an advance. Again, it's sort of the technological side of the craft of filmmaking. You know people usually don't go into long discussions about editorial tricks and things that we use all the time to get performances out of people or to try to make sense out of scenes that inherently don't make sense. And so this just moves that whole toolkit further along. It's like word processing being able to move paragraphs around and do things like that. Or Photoshop, where you can touch up photos or you can move things over, or you could take things out. You know in the digital world these things are kind of old hat. You know they just haven't been applied that much to film, at least not to feature films but you know in a lot of commercials and video. Let's just say it's more of a film school issue than anything else I think, and most of the students do already understand how you can slice and dice a frame and make it be what you want it to be. Especially if they've had any experience with animation.
QUESTION: Were there parts of the DVD included for more hard core Star Wars fans? Was it meant for a general audience? Both?
GEORGE LUCAS: Well I think it was meant for both. I mean we tried to have a little something in there for everybody, but a DVD is like everything else, it's designed really for everybody. It's not designed for a specific group.
QUESTION: Was there any parts that you put in for the hard core fans?
GEORGE LUCAS: I don't think so.
JIM WARD: Well I think it depends. Certainly some of the aspects of the deleted scenes are, as we talked about the Rats Tyrell family, that you've got to really be hard core to know who Rats Tyrell was and that inside joke. But it's really funny just if you looked at it in general. So it's a blend. And that's what's wonderful about Star Wars.
GEORGE LUCAS: Well we put in there, you know I put in there, mostly things that we all liked and all of us that had worked on the movie and people who were involved in the movie kind of the things that got added in and what the documentary was about and all that sort of thing. So in a way it was for the hard core fans because it was for us.
QUESTION: What kinds of movie experience does watching DVD represent to you? Do you enjoy renting a DVD rather than going to a movie theatre?
GEORGE LUCAS: I generally go to the movie theatres. I mean I go to the movie theatres to see what's happening now and then I watch DVDs for older movies that are no longer in the theatres. So I don't really choose one or the other. If I want to see Dr. Strangelove I can't go to the movie theatre. But if I want to see something more contemporary, Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back I have to go to a movie theatre.
QUESTION: I was just wondering, Rick had said earlier that right before you went to Australia to film II, that you hired the crew for the DVD. Were you going back and forth in terms of working on each project? Were those simultaneous?
GEORGE LUCAS: Yeah, in this particular case the crew that worked on the DVD some of them had worked on the film and I gave a lot of instructions when I left. And then they'd come and visit every once in awhile in Australia. But I didn't check in at the same level that I would on the film that I'm working on now. I sort of let them have a little more freedom because they knew pretty much what to do, they'd worked on the film, they knew how it all went together. And there wasn't a lot to get on them about because there weren't really a lot of decisions that had to be made.
JIM WARD: Time for a couple more questions, and I want to make sure that I get people that haven't asked one yet. So you've not asked one? OK. I trust you.
QUESTION: Is it hard for you to come here and talk about the DVD, should your mind be preoccupied with Episode II?
GEORGE LUCAS: Well it is actually. I'm over there editing right now, had to deal with a particular scene. But I sort of let the editors fend without me for a few minutes and hopefully they'll have things sorted out by the time I get back.
QUESTION: With each film pushing the edge of technology, do you think people will be surprised that you actually write the scripts with pencil and paper as opposed to using word processing?
GEORGE LUCAS: I don't know. I mean people I guess have a tendency to think you're one way or the other, and people come out here and they see this is all sort of Victorian and they say oh my God I thought this was all going to be really fancy and high tech and look like some Frank Gehry museum or something. But you know, that's not what my personality is at all. I'm not a techie. And I've never really claimed to be.
QUESTION: As a movie lover I grew up in an era of the first Star Wars films. There was no real "making ofs", there was no DVD. I'm just wondering as a filmmaker do you ever worry that you might be showing too much and therefore destroying the magic of the process of movie making?
GEORGE LUCAS: Well I think it's like anything else, and especially like the writing process or anything else. I think especially for young people it's important to let them know how all these things go together because I'm hoping a lot of them will get into it and do it themselves. So it becomes a kind of an educational process. It's not something that was available when I grew up. You know we couldn't even see movies unless we went to school and actually it was showing that night. And you were just stuck. Now you can pretty much see any movie you want at any time you want. It's an amazing transformation that's taken place. I think the other end of it is that by doing the documentaries, there's a lot more revealed, a lot more going on with the filmmaker.
GEORGE LUCAS: When I also went to school nobody really knew who directors were except film students. You know maybe Hitchcock or some of the people that have been on television, but you know generally it was a pretty quiet behind-the-scenes job. Now it's not. And we're obviously allowing more and more entry into the creative process of exactly what we do and how we do it and what it's like on the set every day when you're actually doing it. Because for the most part there's cameras around all the time, recording almost everything that goes on. And that's a little intense. I mean it's like a space station, you're in a zoo. I guess if lions and tigers and bears can stand it, directors can too.
QUESTION: With the DVD release you've really seemed to have embraced the online world with communicating with your fans, and you mention earlier that you were pressured to release Episode I. To what extend do people on the internet get together and talk about your movies and communicate, influence both you as you're looking at the Star Wars franchise on DVD but also as the story continues and you create the Star Wars films.
GEORGE LUCAS: When I did Phantom Menace and rather than doing Phantom Menace which is two or three years ago, I started to read some of the internet stuff for the first time. And you know I found it rather disturbing in its complete fantasy life. I mean about 2% of what I read that had any credibility whatsoever in terms of being true. And the rest of it was just complete BS that had been created by somebody somewhere. And at first you sort of say well they can't say that, and this is crazy, why would they, what are they talking about? I was doing it pretty much when I was editing, because I didn't have anything else to do and sort of in between I'd sort of read the internet. And then, because it's the only thing I don't have time for.
GEORGE LUCAS: And after I finished that movie and everything I stopped reading the internet. And I haven't really gone back because it's not, in a way it's just not relevant to what I do, in any way. So I just stay away from it. It's like reading reviews. People expressing their opinion for whatever reason and that's fine, but in the end I've got too many other things to do to spend my time sort of listening to 10,000 opinions.
JIM WARD: George, thanks a lot.
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