Imagine my excitement when I discovered George Lucas
, the original Jedi Master himself, hanging around the bar at an elite cocktail party in Pacific Palisades, trading quips with fellow Hollywood titans Ron Howard
and Brian Grazer
, and accepting compliments from celebrity well-wishers including Ellen DeGeneres
and Portia de Rossi
After putting the finishing touches on Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
, the legendary director had taken a well-deserved week off in Hawaii--a post-production ritual which years ago resulted in a brainstorming session with fellow vacationer Steven Spielberg
that produced the storyline for the Indiana Jones films--and was preparing himself for the grueling onslaught of promotional duties for the new film.
Luckily, the Force was with me: I discovered Lucas
before media burnout could set in, and--even battling a bout of bronchitis--he graciously agreed to chat exclusively with me for Hollywood.com. You'll have to wait in line with the rest of the Padawans to learn the secrets of Episode III
, but he delivered the exclusive scoop on Star Wars
' future on TV, his plans to release 3-D versions of all six films, his next non-Star Wars
project and the challenges of bringing digital projection to the mainstream multiplexes. Oh yeah, and some breaking news about a guy called Indy.
Are you ready for all the attention and hoopla for Episode III?
Are you ever ready?
What's more exciting for you, to unveil the new movie or to unveil Lucasfilm's new high-tech campus on the Presidio?
"They're different. They're both finished. The movie and the Presidio were started at the same time, so it's like a completion. They were started at the same time, I was doing both of them simultaneously, and it be great that they're both done."
What are you going to do now that you're done with both?
"We're doing a couple of Star Wars
TV shows that I'm getting sorted out. One is called Clone Wars
, which is a cartoon [on the Cartoon Network] and we're going to expand it to a half an hour, and the other's a live-action 'Star Wars' with spin-off characters. Not with the main characters."
Is that where the future of Star Wars is, on television?
"Yeah, we're not going to do any more movies."
And what will be your involvement? Will you be overseeing everything?
"No, I just hire the guy that does everything. And then I step away and let him do his job. I'm not going to have anything to do with it at all."
Is it true that starting in 2007 we're going to see all the Star Wars films again in 3-D?
"Well, we're hoping so. It really depends how fast the theater owners finally get on the stick and put digital cinema in their theaters, because it won't work without having digital projectors. So we're hoping it's a way of pushing digital. I've been trying for six years to get digital--we did Phantom Menace
digitally in four theaters, we did Attack of the Clones
in about 115 theaters, and now a lot of people have sold their theaters so we're only going to be in about 80 theaters now. But in Europe it's gone from about 20 theaters to now there's about 300. So we're now, depending on the rest of the world. In the United States, the film industry has kind of gotten together and formed organizations to make sure this doesn't happen in the foreseeable future."
Is that frustrating for you?
"Yeah, it's very frustrating for me. They're doodling on purpose for various reasons, to see how they can control it, but they're not going to be able to and it'll all work itself out. They deny that they're stalling, but six years is a long time to wait for this stuff to happen. They'll say 'Oh, no,' but we've been shooting this way for six years, we've been projecting this way for six years, the equipment's all there, everything's ready to go, the quality's better than film, and they're just still arguing among themselves about nothing."
What do you think is the main reason they're doing that?
"Fear. Fear of the unknown. They just don't know what's going on, and they haven't actually taken the time to actually study it, so they skirt it over to people who's job it is to deal with film, and of course those people say it's bad. If you go digitally, then those people wouldn't have their job. So you're going to people who are going to lose their jobs and asking them their advice on what they think of digital cinema. It makes no sense whatsoever."
Will you always continue to use Star Wars as a way to introduce technical advancements, because you know people love the films and will always come back to them?
"No. The only reason I would release these in 3-D is I saw the 3-D process--I've seen LOTS of 3-D processes over the last 30 years--and this the first one that actually works. This is brilliant. It changes everything, it's easy to watch and I saw it and said 'This is great!' And it works very, very well with Star Wars
. So, you look at it and say 'Well, yeah, I want to see the whole thing in 3-D.' We have some sections of it done, and I want to see the whole thing that way."
What other film projects do you have in the works?
"I'm producing a film that I've been sort of working on for 15 years, and it's time I finished it. It's about African-American fighter pilots during World War II."
Have you written it, or do you plan to direct it?
"I'll be producing, and hopefully we're going to do it sooner than later. As I said, it's been going for a long, long time. I've still got to get a script out of it."
Are there any actors attached or that you'd like to see star in it?
"No, it's about kids. All those fighter pilots were all like in their twenties, young twenties--20, 21, 22 years old--so it's going to be all young kids."
And what's the status of the new Indiana Jones?
"I talked to Steven
while I was in Hawaii, and he said the script is done and he was going to send it to me when I got back, which was yesterday. It isn't on my desk today and he's coming up tomorrow to see Star Wars
, so I assume he'll bring it with him."
You guys do well when you collaborate in Hawaii. Things tend to work out there.
"Yeah. We're frantically trying to finish War of the Worlds
at the same time. We'll see. I look forward to reading it and seeing if it's what we laid out in the first place. You never know."
Is there anything we can reveal about it?
You had an idea of what was planned before they wrote the script?
"Oh yeah. I came up with this idea doing Young Indy
, which has got to be about seven or eight years ago, and we've been through a number of scripts--six or eight scripts. Six scripts, two rewrites. So it's been down the path. There were certain aspects of it that Steven
and Harrison [Ford
] didn't like, and so we changed those, and then we laid out a version and it didn't come out the way it was supposed to, and then we did another version and it didn't come out, so we've just been going through this development hell, which happens once in a while. We'll see. When it comes out, it'll be different. Different, but the same."
And Harrison's staying in shape all this time, right, in case he has to take his shirt off?
"No, he's plays an older person in this."
Is it true that there may be a younger person in this, poised to take over?
"It's possible. Not really to take over."
But someone to create new movies with?
"No, it wasn't meant to be that way. But I guess that's a possibility. It's really to wrap it up. Just desperately trying to put things together that work. You need characters to make the film work. It's not just an adventure story. There's actually got to be human relationships in it."
Are you still planning on bringing back some of the other characters from the previous films?
Can you say who?
Mrs. Spielberg, perhaps?
"Well, there are a lot of rumors out there. Some of them are true. True-ish."
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
opens in theaters May 19.