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)Link
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)Link
George Lucas and Steven Spielberg on the Sri Lanka set of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" in 1983. (Lucasfilm)Link
George Lucas, Akira Kurosawa and Steven Spielberg at the 62nd Academy Awards. (Los Angeles Times archives)Link
George Lucas, R2-D2 and Jake Lloyd on the set of "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace." (Keith Hamshere / Lucasfilm)Link
George Lucas on the set of "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones." (Lucasfilm / Associated Press)Link
George Lucas in 2009. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)Link
George Lucas and Steven Spielberg in 2009. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)Link
George Lucas is escorted by stormtroopers at the British premiere of "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" in 2005. (Richard Lewis / EPA)Link
George Lucas poses in front of a stormtrooper exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston in 2005. (Winslow Townson / Associated Press)Link
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.”
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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