Star Wars Day memory: When George Lucas wasn’t feeling The Force

May 04, 2012 | 3:06 p.m.
c3po Star Wars Day memory: When George Lucas wasnt feeling The Force

George Lucas and Anthony Daniels, dressed as C-3PO, on the Tunisia set of "Star Wars" in 1976. ("The Cinema of George Lucas" by Marcus Hearn)

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George Lucas on the Tatooine set of "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones." Lucas returned to the same site in Tunisia where he shot the original film 25 years earlier. (Lisa Tomasetti / Lucasfilm)

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George Lucas and Steven Spielberg on the Sri Lanka set of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" in 1983. (Lucasfilm)

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George Lucas, R2-D2 and Jake Lloyd on the set of "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace." (Keith Hamshere / Lucasfilm)

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George Lucas on the set of "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones." (Lucasfilm / Associated Press)

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George Lucas is escorted by stormtroopers at the British premiere of "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" in 2005. (Richard Lewis / EPA)

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George Lucas poses in front of a stormtrooper exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston in 2005. (Winslow Townson / Associated Press)

Are you a Jedi fan who wishes that Star Wars Day felt a little more special? Well, good news — this year the date arrives with “New Hope” and The Force of history.

The May 4 tradition (“May the Fourth be with you” — see what they did there?) gives fans yet another occasion to dust off their lightsabers, don their stormtrooper suits and bask in the Blu-ray glow of Jedi films. But more than that, this month marks the 35th anniversary of the first “Star Wars” release, later labeled “Episode IV” and called “A New Hope.” And it was 29 years ago that “Return of the Jedi” closed out the original trilogy of the space saga that defined cinema for a generation of moviegoers and future filmmakers.

Fans today can’t get enough of the imaginative universe George Lucas created, but in May of 1983, with “Jedi” finished and in theaters, a reflective Lucas seemed eager to put “Star Wars” behind him.

“There hasn’t really been one day in the last 10 years that I haven’t had to wake up in the morning and say, ‘God, I’ve got to worry about this movie,’ ” Lucas said in a 1983 story by Los Angeles Times reporter Dale Pollock, who interviewed  the filmmaker at his Marin County office. “Now I feel as if this huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders …. If I had to do it all over again, I’d have to think about it, especially if I knew what I was going to have to give up in order to get it.”

withcamera Star Wars Day memory: When George Lucas wasnt feeling The Force

George Lucas stands next to a digital camera used to shoot “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” on the film’s set. (Lucasfilm / Associated Press)

In the interview, pulled from Times archives, Lucas compared his “Star Wars” success (which amounted to some $70 million at the time) to being stuck on a speeder bike for 15 years, and he longed to touch ground, his films “finished and perfect,” and take some time off.

“The movie sort of grabbed me and threw me down and stomped on me,” said Lucas, then 39 (he turns 68 this month). “It’s like walking into the ring with Muhammad Ali without realizing what you’re doing. ‘Boxing? Sure, I punched around in college.’ But suddenly Ali is up against you. ‘Star Wars’ was the first punch — it knocked me across the ring and out the door and into the next field. I was stunned and knocked out cold and I still had to go 15 rounds. Well, now those 15 rounds are over, and I feel great. It’s like ‘Rocky’ — I survived it, but Muhammad is still the champion.”

Pollock asked about the two remaining trilogies Lucas was rumored to have in his back pocket.

“The reason I had to keep going on these three was because I had sets gathering dust, I was paying rent [on facilities], and my actors were getting older and were vulnerable to accidents. Over such a long period of time, anything could happen,” Lucas said. “So there was a lot of tension there — all the time. Now I don’t have that. I could start the next series two years from now, or 10 years from now. It’s a whole new mind-set, starting from scratch. There’s no strong pull. The film cannot demand my time any more. I will decide when I’m ready.”

Lucas did return to the “Star Wars” universe 16 years later when the much-maligned prequels began to hit theaters. But in 1983, with his space opera in the rearview mirror and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” on the horizon, the young director was happy to leave “Star Wars” — and all the pressure that came with it — in a galaxy far, far away.

“I definitely would give back the success, or trade it, if it hadn’t been for the joy that some people have gotten from ‘Star Wars’ — that’s the valuable part,” Lucas said. “That part is worth whatever I had to pay. I want to trade all the money and fame and bull. Now I’ve done my little bit, and I get some time to myself. I hope I can get back some of the joy I managed to put out there.”

Read the complete May 29, 1983, Los Angeles Times story, “George Lucas comes back to Earth” by Dale Pollock.

— Noelene Clark


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11 Responses to Star Wars Day memory: When George Lucas wasn’t feeling The Force

  1. Dana S. says:

    Huge Star War's fan!

  2. Vader says:

    Happy star wars day

  3. SuperRichMo says:

    Star Wars. Pure awesomeness! Nuff said.

  4. Eric Tan says:

    I recently had the chance to see "Red Tails", about the World War II Tuskegee pilots. Although it wasn't directed by Lucas, he was the executive producer and it's been known as a project that he spent many years developing. I was actually surprised at how amateurish this movie turned out to be. From the opening titles, and all the way to the end, it felt like a made-for-TV movie. The effects of course were fantastic, but it was predictable and the acting left a lot to be desired. It's no wonder it came and went without leaving a single mark. I'm looking forward to future George Lucas' projects but if they're anything like "Red Tails", I can't say I'm optimistic…

  5. drib says:

    want some cheese with that?

  6. obaroajeke says:

    I really think star wars is a great movie,and George Lucas was a good director.

  7. jon says:

    Star Wars was, is & will remain the Greatest sci-fi movies ever.& im talking to u 2001spaceborefest

  8. Guest says:

    George Lucas is probably the luckiest man in the film industry. He's received far more credit for Star Wars than he honestly deserves.

  9. RorshachLives! says:

    Interesting article, and intriguing to read Lucas back in 1983, it's just a pity he didn't leave 'Star Wars' alone after the original Trilogy, although the backstory could have made for one unspeakably epic, visually breathtaking, and emotionally charged new trilogy, but Lucas was fat. old, rich, comfortable, and complacent, and simply didn't have what it took to do it right, if he was going to proceed with the prequels, it would have been preferable had he took a hands-off approach to them in the same way he did for 'The Empire Strikes Back' and (to an extent) 'Return of the Jedi', but alas, his ego was over-inflated, he was surrounded by paid employees and a yes-sir producer, and thus had no proper objectivity, and we got the films we got – dull, lifeless, bloated, overwhelmingly stuffed with excessive CGI, and even contradictory to some points in the original Trilogy – and to make matters worse, he won't even give fans the original Trilogy's theatrical versions in a remastered and anamorphic presentation, Lucas can do what he wants, he has the money, but just like James Cameron in recent years, he's become an isolated and out-of-touch figure, drunk on his own success and legacy, cannibalizing his previous output, soiling his legacy and his creation's reputations in the process, sad really…

  10. Mike says:

    Wow, why don't you tell us how you really feel.

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