Why Did Lucas Make the STAR WARS Prequels?

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Vidiot, May 11, 2020.

  1. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR! Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    This article just popped up on The Wrap, and I thought it had some interesting tidbits:

    Why Did George Lucas Do the 'Star Wars' Prequels?

    While I think Kathy Kennedy is a very smart lady who knows the film business (and George Lucas) very well, the article omits some interesting facts. What I've been led to believe by several insiders (including some ILM people) and also the various Lucas biographies is that the truth is that Lucas was crushed, financially and somewhat emotionally, by his June '83 divorce from wife Marcia Lucas. Reportedly, she got about $50 million cash plus their house, some of George Lucas' real estate (including one of the ILM buildings), and some other personal assets. This left George pretty devastated, though he had primary custody of their adopted kids and did not have to share future royalties on the films and merchandising.

    Normally, if you have the kind of money George Lucas had, you'd be able to handle this kind of loss. Bear in mind that he was trying to finance digital film editing with EditDroid, digital sound mixing and editing with SoundDroid, digital visual effects with Industrial Light & Magic, and digital images with Pixar. All of these were an enormous financial drain, and he wound up shutting down or selling all of them at a loss, with the exception of ILM. I think it was always his intention to make the prequels, but he didn't want to be beholden to the studios in financing them, and he didn't want to cede any creative control, which meant he'd have to completely finance the productions by himself.

    Lucas spent the rest of the 1980s and 1990s making some films and TV shows (including the final two Indiana Jones films and the Young Indiana Jones series) and raising his children. He didn't have the money to start making the films, so he bided his time, letting his crew figure out new money-saving production techniques on the TV show, and jotting down ideas as they came to him. A funny thing happened in the early 1990s: the Star Wars toys unexpectedly started selling extremely well again, and Lucas found himself cash-rich by the mid-1990s. Suddenly, he now had the ability to completely finance the prequels entirely by himself. His first step was to revise the first three 1970s/1980s films with new VFX (a controversial move, as has been discussed many times elsewhere), and the second was to write the script for what he would call Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. And we all know what happened after that.

    Kathy Kennedy's side of it sheds some new light on the process, and whatever you think of those films -- I think they're pretty awful, but they have interesting moments here and there -- I think the story of their production is fascinating. If nothing else, it's a cautionary tale about what happens when a very powerful filmmaker gets to have free rein on a production and lacks anyone around him to tell him "no," give him honest feedback, or judge his ideas. I actually think the films are interesting technologically -- they broke a lot of new ground in terms of effects and cameras and editing and so on -- but if you ever wanted an example of great technical work with not-great scripts, the prequels are it.
     
  2. hyntsonsvmse

    hyntsonsvmse Johnny Guitar

    Location:
    northumberland
    It's a good question. I think they are dreadful. He shouldn't have needed the money but who knows
    I can only really watch the the three proper sw films. They are sublime.
    Number 7 showed promise and it was shot on celluloid, hence the superior PQ. Sadly the 8/9 are unwatchable
    I imagine money was a major factor in his decision. When quality drops as it did, then its usually the reason
    It's the same reason bands such a genesis get together. Easy money.
    If it was for artistic integrity they would play the small halls and not the arenas and charge obscene prices.
    Money is the root of you know what
     
  3. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR! Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    I don't think he necessarily made the movies to make more money (although that's always a part of it). I think Lucas genuinely believed he had more stories to tell. In hindsight, it didn't work out well and I think it might have been a lot better if he had hired a team of writers and also a hired gun as a director and let them make the film under his supervision (as was done with Empire and Jedi). If you believe the story in The Secret History of Star Wars, Lucas did approach several major writers and directors (including Lawrence Kasdan, Ron Howard, and Steven Spielberg) to work on the sequels, but all of them begged off, saying they were all "busy." One theory is that they actually knew it would a huge burden to try to top the original three Star Wars films and just didn't want that pressure.
     
  4. Jord

    Jord Forum Resident

    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Between the original movies and the VFX rereleases Lucas also worked on the Shadows of the Empire project which was basically a Star Wars movie release...without a movie. It was a side-story set between the Empire strikes back and Return of the Jediand deals with Dash Rendar who tries to get Han Solo back from Boba Fett while on the Empire's side, Darth Vader has a power struggle with the new Prince Xizor. So, since there was no movie, we did get the story in different forms including video games, a novel and a comic book. It also got action figures and even a soundtrack. It has some very interesting ideas story wise.
    It's just too bad they didn't make a Shadows of the Empire movie. I can see how it would be hard to get the whole cast+sets and stuff together for this one-off but an animated movie would be perfect for this kind of project.
     
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  5. CraigBic

    CraigBic Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Zealand
    I have mixed feelings about the Prequels, I think Kathleen Kennedy's reasoning is sound but over the years the prequels started to feel a little bit like tech demos to me rather than George's desperate desire to tell these stories. George is constantly talking about the technology is "just a tool" etc. but in the Phantom Menace BHS, he's also saying stuff like how he wants them to develop the tech that all the other films are going to want to use in their movies. I think George wanted the Prequels to be this major game-changer in cinema in the way that the original trilogy was in the 70s and 80s. The Lord of the Rings trilogy came around at the same time and I think stole a lot of that thunder, Weta became the hot new name in movies and ILM suddenly became I guess the old guard or something.
     
  6. Drew

    Drew Senior Member

    Location:
    Columbus, OH
    I don't know how many times I've seen interviews with George Lucas where he said, "Someday I'm going to be done with Star Wars and I'm going to go back to making more personal movies like American Graffiti". And far more interesting question is why didn't Lucas make lower budget personal movies in the 80's and 90's.

    George Lucas made the prequels for the money. Just like the Mouse House did with the sequels.
     
  7. hyntsonsvmse

    hyntsonsvmse Johnny Guitar

    Location:
    northumberland
    indeed
    Truth is that only one person knows the answer. he may never share his real reasons. and that is his prerogative. it also adds to his mystique. Lucas is a clever chap and knows how to stack a deck in his favour.
     
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  8. vince

    vince Stan Ricker's son-in-law

    ...for fun, and profit!
     
  9. CraigBic

    CraigBic Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Zealand
    I think part of it at least is that much like the book the secret history of Star Wars suggests, those "personal films" are just a crutch he uses much like "They're for kids". I also wonder if on some level George is just someone who wants to be loved and Star Wars is sort of his way of getting there. I think this new Disney era may just be heaven for George because it's diverted all the fan rage away from him and he can sort of hanging out on set like a local guru doling out advice to the directors making the new Star Wars films. I certainly wouldn't be above wandering over to George and saying "What do you think of this scene" or "this shot" and have a chat about filmmaking.
     
  10. $$$$$$$$$$

    /thread
     
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  11. Bingo Bongo

    Bingo Bongo Music gives me Eargasms

    $$$$$$$$$$$

    /thread
     
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  12. FredV

    FredV Forum Resident

    For Duty and Humanity!

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Slackhurst Broadcasting

    Slackhurst Broadcasting Forum Resident

    Location:
    Liverpool
    I think once people reach a certain level of success, there’s no going back. It’s like a millionaire rock star wanting to return to playing in bars.
     
  14. The Hermit

    The Hermit Wavin' that magick glowstick since 1976

    I do think George was genuinely interested and intrigued by the backstory and certainly wanted to tell it, it wasn't solely a money play for him... from all accounts, he was working on ideas for it (off and on) throughout the 1980's and 1990's and it continued to fascinate him... he clearly had a longstanding distinct and specific vision for it for quite a while, judging from numerable interviews over a twenty-year period - that it would be very different from the OT in overall aesthetic, themes, pacing, acting, dialogue, etc - and that some fans would likely hate them once made and released... he told Rick McCallum this in 1989 at the beginning of their partnership, and boy was that prescient!

    I do wish George had ceded the writing of the final screenplays and directing duties to other people, remaining as an executive producer like on Empire and Jedi, but I also think he felt a greater emotional connection and investment to that story than he lets on... and that is ultimately why he made them, both as sole writer and director... he was still distilling a lot of ideas in his head about them even as they were physically being made.

    I'm glad they were made (there's a great and compelling story to be told there), it serves as a nice companion trilogy to the OT, even if I do wish they had turned out better than they largely did, alas... but with all their innumerable flaws and faults, I'll still take 'em over the worthless sequel trilogy.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2020
  15. razerx

    razerx Who me?

    Location:
    The East
    Maybe I am cynical but when I watched Episode VI with the Ewoks I thought Lucas had licensing deals in mind. When I watched the prequel with the racing sequence and other action sequences I thought Lucas wanted to license video gaming rights. The movies were mere products, shameless plug for merchandising. Mel Brooks got it right.
     
  16. dmiller458

    dmiller458 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midland, Michigan
    Why Did Luca$ Make the $TAR WAR$ Prequel$?

    I'm not $ure. :rolleyes:
     
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  17. mBen989

    mBen989 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Scranton, PA
    The prequels got better (well, maybe not Hayden Christensen's acting) as they got along and also got a boost with the rise of Machete Order which makes Clones and Sith an extended flashback.
     
  18. dmiller458

    dmiller458 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midland, Michigan
    I've seen Christensen in other films and he was fine. Was it his acting or was he playing the role as it was written? The interviews with Lucas make me think it was the latter. There's only so much any actor can do with a bad script.
     
  19. MekkaGodzilla

    MekkaGodzilla Forum Resident

    Location:
    Westerville, Ohio
    This is INCORRECT. There were literally NO Star Wars toys on the shelves from 1986 to mid 1995, when The Power Of The Force action figures started showing up, and even then it was just 9 TOTAL figures. There were other "waves" of this toy-line released but it was nowhere near the scope, range or popularity (sales) that was experienced in the 1970's or even today.

    Force Throwback: 1990s Star Wars Figures by Hasbro | StarWars.com
     
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  20. acdc7369

    acdc7369 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Pittsburgh
    Return of the Jedi could have been great but it feels more like a summer blockbuster film than a serious movie like IV and V. It's pretty obvious that George Lucas stopped caring sometime around 1982.
     
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  21. BwanaBob

    BwanaBob Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland, USA
    I don't get why the existence of these prequels shocked anybody. I distinctly remember a big article on SW (Newsweek?) that came out when Empire hit the scene and they laid out the whole 9 movie plan that we ultimately saw, but they had them coming out every other year, no gap after VI. When Phantom came out I kept thinking why did it take 12 years; this should have been out in 1987.
     
  22. S. P. Honeybunch

    S. P. Honeybunch Presidente de Kokomo

    Location:
    California
    The Tattoine/Jabba scenes are serious, as is Mon Mothma describing many Bothans having died to bring the new Death Star/Endor information. No one would want to have to face that Rancor beast. That is a serious beast.
     
  23. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR! Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    Worldwide. Read the book:

    [​IMG]

    https://www.amazon.com/Secret-History-Star-Wars/dp/0978465237

    Yes, he definitely said that because I think he was keenly aware that many of his old 1970s friends (DePalma, Coppola, Scorsese) quietly whispering that Lucas had "sold out" and was now just making commercial films. I think the first time I read Lucas' quote about how he was going to make "quiet, introspective, non-liner political films" was in a Rolling Stone interview around 1980 or 1983. My guess is that he actually meant it when he said it, but the problem was the divorce took away most of his liquid assets, plus he had several big producing bombs in a row (Howard the Duck, Willow, etc.), which did not help. And then factor in the financial strain from the failure of EditDroid, Pixar, and so on.

    It's also clear the George Lucas of the 1970s was philosophically not the same guy in the 1990s. I've long said that the reason why the original Star Wars films were so good is that Lucas had circulated the scripts to a lot of his friends, who pitched in and helped critique, edit, and rewrite them. By the late 1990s, I think the same friends a) were genuinely busy and b) were reluctant to tell a billionaire that he was a terrible writer and that there were awful problems in the prequels. (By his own admission in the Making of Phantom Menace documentary, he says he dislikes writing and in particular struggles with dialogue, and those are clearly the worst problems in that film. The People vs. George Lucas documentary also covers this territory.)

    I have dealt with Lucas in person before many times, and it's made very clear that he's going to get what he wants, by any means necessary, and it's not a discussion. He's quiet and non-threatening when he does it, but nonetheless very single-minded and insistent. You can tell "this is a guy you don't say no to." That kind of life can't help but change you over time. I don't think I ever saw anybody argue with him even once. I was the guy who sometimes suggested a compromise, "well, what if we do X instead?" But he was very focused on seeing his vision through. I don't see this necessarily as a flaw, because I know from experience that if a director acquiesces too often, the film winds up being "nibbled to death by ducks" and it gets changed drastically from what they originally wanted.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2020
  24. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR! Thread Starter

    Location:
    Hollywood, USA
    I think he did care, but his tastes and sensibilities changed. I agree that the original Star Wars was a light-hearted, fun romp (albeit with a few dark moments), as was Raiders, but then Empire took a turn and became a very dark and dramatic film, and Temple of Doom even more so. Lucas and Spielberg both admitted years later that their marriages began to unravel in 1984, and that's part of the reason for the very downbeat, depressing overtones of that film. (In particular, Spielberg said he wished there had been a PG-13 rating when Temple had been released, and it barely escaped getting an R.)

    To this day, Lucas insists he didn't add the Ewok characters to Jedi for toy and merchandising reasons, and that the original idea was an entire planet of Wookies. When he realized that doing that would have added $10 million+ to the budget, he basically said, "well, what if we have very small Wookies that provide the same thing for the plot?" knowing that smaller creatures = smaller budgets, so they got away with that. I can tell you in 1983, I winced at the crass commercialization of the film, and I thought it was a much slicker, more cynical kind of Star Wars than what we had seen before. I don't know how much of that was intentional, but that was at least my reaction.

    So I think he did care, but the George Lucas of 1976-77 went from a very laid-back, not-that-famous director to a rock star, which actually made him uncomfortable. Having a life like that is bound to change you, no matter how good your intentions and no matter what your ethics and morality are. And I think any success of this magnitude is going to be bound to go to your head, no matter how much you resist it.

    Exactly. Well-said.

    I actually think all three of the prequels look just fine, mainly because of DP David Tattersall. He's a genuinely nice man who does brilliant work and never gets enough credit for his great lighting and camerawork. I think Tattersall got the best out of the early digital cameras for Episodes 2 and 3 and actually broke a lot of new ground in doing so. It's no coincidence that just about every movie ever made since 2010 or so was shot on digital or at least finished digitally, and Lucas is 90% of the reason for that. I'm a longtime film guy (and still work on actual film every single day of the week), but you have to recognize Lucas for seeing years ago the changes that would hit the filmmaking community, particularly in digital editing and digital production.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2020
  25. Stratoblaster

    Stratoblaster A skeptical believer....

    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I do think he always wanted to tell more of the Star Wars story but that wasn't an all-consuming primary need...IMO he did the prequels motivated mainly by $$$ (a sure bet they'd do very, very well and it sounds like he needed a cash infusion to maintain his various interests) and adding more worth/utility to his various VFX/production properties from the technical innovations that were sure to be created by doing so. Like a poster said above, tech demos, and the Star Wars property was an ideal vehicle to showcase and develop new tech.

    I've always had a sense that his tweaking of the original movies was more to do with 'let's see what I can do with the current tech and up the game' vs 'fulfilling his original visions for them that were limited by the tech at the time' to see if he could go all out on a new series of movies with a heavy reliance on VFX and digital innovations. Adding to that sense was that he continually tweaked the original versions a few times and there are several revisions...the original movies, at that point, were more of a 'tech/development playground' to him vs any 'burning artistic desire' to 'correct' them.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2020
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