Archive for ‘Behind The Scenes’
As someone who has made films and written stories, it’s almost impossible for me to completely contain the influences of the cinematic art I consume. Some might shy away of such influence and homage, worried too much about words like “originality,” but others have embraced those influences and created truly breathtaking works of art.
When I was young, I always thought Star Wars was created in a vacuum. Something so impressive had to be completely new, fresh, and original, right?
I had no idea about the long history of films that helped shape it into what it became as it formulated in the head of George Lucas. From old Flash Gordon serials to the works of Akira Kurosawa, Star Wars is a vibrant tapestry of what has come before it. Sometimes it’s not so apparent, but when you spot those influences, you can see how much the minds behind Star Wars, The Clone Wars, and everything else with a Star Wars logo, care passionately about what they do.
This one’s going to be short, as I’m on little sleep these days. Mornings and weekends, I continue to do the book map of The Making of Return of the Jedi, and am up to the ILM chapters. I’m really trying to use photos as large as I can. I feel that The Making of The Empire Strikes Back had too many photos on a page and the result was, often, a lot of clutter. Some of these photos for Return of the Jedi are so great, I want readers to be able to dive into them: George Lucas and Dennis Muren at ILM; Harrison Ford and Lucas together for the Ewok location shoot; Carrie Fisher on Jabba’s throne room set, etc. And as they say, a picture is worth…
Without a doubt, the most often asked question I’ve been asked since The Clone Wars started four years ago is, “How does The Clone Wars fit into the existing Expanded Universe Clone Wars timeline?” The first seasons of The Clone Wars were peculiar in that episodes didn’t air in chronological order. You would have episodes in Seasons 2 and 3 that were actually prequels to episodes in Season 1. Here are a few of my notes regarding the timeline to help sort things out.
On Saturday at Star Wars Celebration Pablo Hidalgo and creature expert Tom Spina hosted a panel that focused on the aliens of the cantina seen in the original Star Wars movie. They were joined on stage by Nick Maley who was part of the UK creature team and Jon Berg who was part of the US creature team. Pablo said, “We conspired to create a panel that would be the ultimate panel that we would want to see if we were attending Celebration and I think we have come up with something special.”
We are on the very eve of Celebration VI. I’m writing this post in between tech rehearsals at the Behind-the-Scenes stage, looking ahead to what Saturday, August 25th holds (Here’s Day 1, and Day 2). It’s a very full day with a lot of great panels on my stage, but there’s one in particular I want to highlight. Sculptor and cantina-expert Tom Spina and I have been collaborating to make this one a must-see event. You will find out more about the creation of the Mos Eisley Cantina aliens than you could ever imagine possible, I promise you that! This panel boasts never-before-seen pictures and footage, and a chance to leave your mark on the Expanded Universe.
In writing these making of Star Wars books, I’ve become more or less adept at interviewing people: actors, heads of department, producers, directors, craftspeople, visual effects supervisors, et al. I’ve had a few people determined not to say a single thing, for fear of offending someone or of letting a secret out of the bag. I’ve spoken to others where all I needed to do was to ask a single question—and then lean back and listen to the stream of consciousness.
There are two things I’ve learned: You don’t need a lot of questions to fill up your time allotment; and, two, it’s important to follow the conversation, regardless of what your questions might be. If Carrie Fisher says something interesting, but doesn’t quite complete the story—and I’ve seen this in lots of published interviews—you can’t just skip to the next question. Simple rule, but it’s important to get to the root of whatever it is they’re talking about. It helps the conversation flow and those tangents often lead to the interview equivalent of El Dorado: an emotional moment or incident heretofore unknown.
And you don’t want to ask so many questions that they get bored or you run out of time. A good interviewer will sense how things are going and tailor their questions accordingly.
In these archival projects, like Making of Jedi, I still prefer interviews done back in the day, preferably while they’re making the film. Under duress people are more honest, in general. I’d say the single most important moment of research occurred about a year ago. I was rummaging through the boxes in the Skywalker Ranch research warehouse—and stuffed on the side of one banal box was more than a hundred pages of interview done with Richard Marquand. After reading it and a little sleuthing, I’ve dated it to November 1982, a few months after principal photography wrapped.
John Philip Peecher wrote the first Making of Jedi book and, as far as I can tell, did only two long sit-down interviews: one with the director, Richard Marquand, and one with the producer, Howard Kazanjian. But when I started researching I didn’t know of the existence of either. Only thorough rummaging, examining every freaking bunch of papers, brought the documents to the light of day—and into the book! Luckily for all of us. Only a fraction of these interviews made it into the first book.
Here’s a fragment from Marquand’s, where he talks, amusingly, about Star Wars and his first meeting with George Lucas: “What I liked about STAR WARS at that point was that it was a totally believable, but absolutely all encompassing myth. It was unlike science fiction where you can always cut holes in it. Also, I just adored the way the story was told. I just loved that way George told the story as the director. If I hadn’t liked it, I would have not said I didn’t like it, but I certainly wouldn’t have told him that I liked it, which I did.”
So a big thank you to whoever stuffed these interviews into a box nearly 30 years ago. At least they weren’t thrown into the trash.
Next blog: I have no idea…
Lucasfilm executive editor J. W. Rinzler is the author of The Making of Star Wars and The Complete Making of Indiana Jones. He is now writing The Making of Return of the Jedi (and really looking forward to finishing it) for a fall 2013 release. You can visit jwrinzler.com for more info.