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George Lucas and the Last Blockbuster?

01.18.2012

The short story: HappyLucasGeorge Lucas is retiring...

The summation of the long story: ... from making big-budget movies, and told The New York times in a recent six-page interview here that he is instead devoting "the rest of his life to what cineastes in the 1970s used to call personal films. They’ll be small in scope, esoteric in subject and screened mostly in art houses. They’ll be like the experimental movies Lucas made in the 1960s..."

Now I've heard tell in the past of how Lucas had enormous trouble getting RED TAILS financing and distribution, but I never realized it was so bad that studio executives flat out refused to even see the film at all. So when the film opens this Friday, "it will be because Lucas paid for everything, including the prints." Yes, I know the man is in the money like Scrooge McDuck, and $100 million is still just a chunk of change for him, but I'm still impressed by his effort.

OnceUponALucas

There are, of course, many fascinating bits of observation and facts and small side stories that litter the interview, but that which I found the most telling about Lucas' very character was the "entertainment/'pop corn movie'" approach to the making of the film.  "'I can't make [the heavier side of this story]' Lucas recalled thinking when he read the [first scripts he commissioned in the late 90s].  I'm going to have to make this kind of... entertainment movie... 'We made movies like this during the war, and everybody just loved them,' he said. 'I said, ‘There’s no reason why that idealism, that kind of naïveté, can’t still exist.’  [Lucas] slipped into a kind of Socratic conversation with an imaginary studio head:

Studio Head: 'Now, who are you making this for?'
Lucas: 'I’m making it for black teenagers.'
Studio Head: 'And you’re doing it as a throwback movie? You’re not going to do it as a hip, happening-now, music-video kind of movie?'
Lucas: 'No, that’s not a smart thing to do. There’s not really going to be a lot of swearing in it. There’s probably not going to be a huge amount of blood in it. Nobody’s head’s going to get blown off.'
Studio Head: 'And you’re going to be very patriotic — you’re making a black movie that’s patriotic?'
Lucas: 'They have a right to have their history just like anybody else does.  And they have a right to have it kind of Hollywood-ized and aggrandized and made corny and wonderful just like anybody else does. Even if that’s not the fashion right now.'"

TwoFeetOntheGround

It might be said "pshhh, Lucas isn't going to retire, he's talking prequels and sequels and every which thing!"  And yes, that's true, but what he seems to be saying to me is that he doesn't think they can or will get made.  Incidentally, his ideas for said prequel and sequel? In the words of the article's author: "Imagine the opening scenes in segregated Alabama, where one of the original Tuskegee instructors takes Eleanor Roosevelt for a spin; then picture the airborne dogfights over Europe, with slick visual effects from Industrial Light and Magic; and finally, in an irony worthy of Ralph Ellison, envision the war heroes returning home to find that the country they fought for is still in the clammy hands of Jim Crow."  It's almost too bad that those movies, the sides of the story that would bookend this middle "entertainment movie" with the kind of vibrancy and resonance it needs, will probably never happen.

RedTailsExplosions

And, you know, regardless of good reviews or bad reviews, there's one last story from the interview I want to share with you, because it serves to illustrate what George Lucas' big-budget work has tried (and of course sometimes failed, as does everything) to be all about:

"Lucas got one report from the early “Red Tails” test screenings that struck him. Three or four white kids had been spotted yelling, 'I’m Easy!' 'No, I’m Easy. You’re Lightning!' They’d become 'Red Tails' heroes: Easy and Lightning, Malcolm and Martin. 'The ultimate line was to have a bunch of 10-year-old white boys say, I want to be like those guys,'  Lucas says. 'Which is what you get with sports. Which is what you get with music. I wanted to do it just with being an American citizen.'"

BrothersInArms

Extra Tidbit: So is RED TAILS part of your plans this upcoming weekend?

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