In an in-depth interview published by ‘The New York Times,’ George Lucas recounts the difficulty he had getting his new film, ‘Red Tails,’ made. Lucas spent almost $100 million dollars to make ‘Red Tails’ because studios were not interested in producing a film about African-American WWII fighter pilots. The man who brought us ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Indiana Jones’ got rejected by all major studios.
The experience with ‘Red Tails’ is the main reason behind Lucas saying, “I’m retiring. I’m moving away from the business, from the company, from all this kind of stuff.” Lucas has given himself an “out clause” in case he feels the urge to make a fifth ‘Indiana Jones’ film with Spielberg, but ‘Red Tails’ will be the last major blockbuster Lucas makes.
“Once this is finished, he’s done everything he’s ever wanted to do,” said Rick McCallum. “He will have completed his task as a man and a filmmaker.” I suspect McCallum will take over a lot of the day-to-day duties and be responsible for major projects, including the task of bringing the ‘Star Wars’ TV show to the small screen.
Another source of frustration for Lucas is the internet. Lucas has always seen himself as an independent filmmaker. His first major films, ‘THX 1138’ and ‘American Graffit,’ were re-edited by the studios against Lucas’s wishes. Wanting to control his vision, Lucas worked hard toward financial independence from studios so the final cut would be his. “If the movie doesn’t work,” he said, “it’s going to be my fault.”
That mindset is why he has made changes to the ‘Star Wars’ films. The outcry from fans sounded like the studios telling him how to make a movie, a sound Lucas vehemently detests. According to Lucas, “On the Internet, all those same guys that are complaining I made a change are completely changing the movie.” Lucas has nothing against those who are re-editing his films, “I’m saying: ‘Fine. But my movie, with my name on it, that says I did it, needs to be the way I want it.’” All of the changes, from Han shooting first to Darth Vader yelling “No!” is the vision Lucas has had all these years. Technology has finally allowed him to complete his vision, and his vision is what he wants us to see and enjoy.
As for making more ‘Star Wars’ films, “Why would I make any more when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?”
While I am not a fan of the prequels or of the changes he made to the original trilogy, I have never thought Lucas was a terrible person. I have always admired his independent filmmaker philosophy. He is the most successful independent filmmaker, and he has achieved what many filmmakers deeply desire—complete creative freedom. Lucas has built an empire, and he can create a film on his own; he just needs a studio to distribute his final product. Also, his business model should be the standard, not the exception. Lucas routinely takes a huge chunk of the profits and re-invests in his companies and his employees. And he must treat his employees well because I have not heard any negative stories about working for Lucas or any of his companies.
George Lucas revolutionized the film industry, and he made films that have endured for decades. Lucas is responsible for my first cinematic memory. ‘Star Wars’ is the first film I remember watching in the theater, and the experience instilled a love for film I still have today.
Thank you, Mr. Lucas, for all of your contributions to film and your dedication to tell stories your way.