George Lucas Rips Hollywood, ‘Stupid’ Cat Videos at Sundance

George Lucas

"Star Wars" creator talks future of film with Robert Redford

George Lucas offered a bleak assessment of the current state of the film business during a panel discussion with Robert Redford at the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday, saying that the movies are “more and more circus without any substance behind it.”

However, the “Star Wars” director hit back at critics who said his role in kicking off the blockbuster film business has watered down cinematic storytelling.

“If you go into ‘Star Wars’ and see what’s going on there, there’s a lot more substance than circus,” he argued.

In its day, “Star Wars” represented a major breakthrough in technology, and it’s easy to discern a throughline from the galaxy far, far away to the comic book movies and special-effects driven productions that dominate today’s movie screens. The tools he helped popularize were all in the service of plot, he argued.

“All art is technology,” said Lucas. “That’s the one thing that separates us from animals.”

Redford, who is best known for character-driven films such as “The Way We Were” and “Out of Africa,” praised Lucas’ decision to finance his “Star Wars” films and maintain a tight grip on their creative and commercial future.

“What I admire about what he’s done is he’s been able to control his own universe,” said Redford.

The panel discussion was ostensibly about storytelling, but it covered a wider array of topics, from the pair’s origins in the entertainment industry to the economics of the movie business.

Lucas also let the audience in on the secret to his enormous wealth: “All the money is in the action figures,” he said.

The men are two of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood history, but both Lucas and Redford stressed that they saw themselves as rebels.

Positioning themselves outside of the studio system were the key to their most enduring successes — Lucas’ space fantasy “Star Wars” and Redford’s founding of Sundance, the indie gathering that marked its third decade this year. And both men stressed that they came of age during the hippie movement, a time when youth was king and no one trusted any authority figure over 30.

“All of us in film school hated the establishment,” said Lucas. “It was the ’60s.”

That anti-establishment drive led him to maintain a geographical remove from the major studios. He made his home base in San Francisco as opposed to Los Angeles. That in turn forced him to create Industrial Light and Magic and Lucasfilm, twin poles of a pop culture empire that not only fielded “Star Wars,” but also the Indiana Jones franchise.

“Studio executives generally are not the most sophisticated people in the world…you do not want to be oppressed by people who are not as smart as you are and I’m dumb,” said Lucas.

As for Redford, the studios shift away from the darker, more personal dramas of the 1970s and ’60s into broader and more mainstream fare in the 1980s prompted him to create a haven for emerging artists who wanted to remain true to their artistic voices.

“We thought if we had a festival at least artists could come together and see each other’s work,” said Redford.

Moral complexity defined many of Redford’s most enduring works, such as “Downhill Racer” and “The Candidate,” both of which examine the limitations of the American dream. Those are the kind of films he loved and the type of challenging fare that frightens studios.

“I see an America that’s more in a gray zone, where things are more complex,” said Redford. “I wanted to tell those stories.”

This year’s festival has been praised for its range of voices, with roughly a third of the films in Sundance’s U.S. dramatic competition directed by women. That’s the future of independent film, Redford stressed.

“Independence and diversity go hand in hand in my mind,” said Redford.

He noted that beyond the movie theater, the world faces a series of economic and environmental challenges, but he remained optimistic about the future.

“Young people are really, really smart — years ago it seemed like they were disenchanted with the system,” said Redford. “Now they want the reins.”

Lucas seemed more puzzled by the current state of culture. The man who took bigscreen fantasies to bold new worlds said he never could have predicted the smallness of popular entertainment options on platforms such as YouTube.

“I would never guess people would watch cats do stupid things all day long,” said Lucas.

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  1. Joe says:

    The only person who was a film excutive whom George has thanked publicly has been Alan Ladd Jr, the creative man at 20th Century Fox who gave the Star Wars Screenplay the money to get done. and he is right about You Tube, it’s just television and stupid programs in another form.

  2. Linda Hyde says:

    Thank God for George Lucas and Robert Redford! I believe both of you and everybody else should catch up! Happy Sundance next year!

  3. cats,not ets????well they could be the same!!!!!!!!my movie about a dentist and his secretary,and a belly dancer????but no cats.a funny 30 minit movie!

  4. Newshound24 says:

    Sounds to me that old Georgie-poo is bitter because people aren’t flocking out in droves to see his stupid “Fern Gully” rip-off.

    Note to Lucas: The whole ‘fairy princess saves the forest from the eeeeevil loggers’ thing has been done to DEATH. People don’t want to go to the movies to be lectured and sneered at about Global Warming, or racism, or any of Hollywood’s other stupid pet liberal social issues. We go to be ENTERTAINED. Try and remember that, and spread it around to all your director buddies because we’re SICK of you trying to ram your ideologies down our throats and charging us money for it.

  5. Ian Rosen says:

    I love watching cats do stupid things on youtube. Because it’s a relief from all the negativity that seems to be going on all day long. One film that really hit it on the head is Nightcrawler, about the public’s seemingly endless thirst for seeing people getting killed or mutilated.

  6. Jordan Horowitz says:

    Substance in the original Star Wars trilogy? Seriously? Compared to what? 2001: A Space Odyssey? The original Planet Of The Apes? Any single episode of ST:TOS or The Prisoner? Truffaut’s Farenheit 451? Solaris? The original Star Wars was as substantive as Lost In Space, Land Of The Lost or Scooby Doo. Yeesh, what pompous hubris!

  7. Veri P says:

    He really thinks there is more substance than circus in the most recent Star Wars films??? At least he admits he is dumb ;)

  8. urshoozuntyd says:

    With all the money he has he can’t get that turkey neck taken in a bit? I only pray jj Abrams will be allowed to go back and re-do 1,2,and 3 The right way. George, I think you’re a panzy.

  9. Kyle Tingle says:

    Interesting views, I have enjoyed Lucas films since “American Graffiti” and most of Redford’s work, political views aside. Lucas is spot on with the “circus” aspect where the technology becomes more important than the story (looking at you Michael Bay). As for Sundance, let’s appreciate the outlet for filmmakers that don’t have to worry about world wide gross box office. So many good stories that wouldn’t translate overseas don’t get the movie treatment they deserve.

    It did make it a challenge to continue reading when the author said Redford was “best known for character-driven films such as “The Way We Were” and “Out of Africa,”” I guess that is why the most popular films repeated on cable are “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid,” “The Sting,” and “The Natural.” Ask anyone under 40 “who is Robert Redford” and they are not referencing “The Way We Were” or “Out of Africa,” and I suspect most people over 40 would not instantly think of those movies either.

  10. Sardondi says:

    Heh. You ARE Hollywood, George. How incredibly lame. George Lucas is now officially a Crotchety Old Curmudgeon. Hearkening back to “Star Wars”? That was 38 years ago, George. Why didn’t you go all the way and say, “In my day…”, or talk about how deep the snow was on the way to film school.

    It’s just sad. It’s as if John Huston in 1981 had said, “In my day we knew how to write great scripts, like ‘Casablanca’ !” Except John Huston didn’t say that, because he was too busy even into his 80’s making fantastic movies. He didn’t retire in place in his 40’s after a handful of swashbucklers, only to try every few years to catch the lightning in a bottle again. And fail.

    Please stop embarrassing yourself.

  11. Tim says:

    Focus on what he’s saying instead of looking for openings to shout Hypocrite.

    He’s right in many ways. Too often Action films now are redundant special effects and circus noise. There’s no great stories!
    I look at the old and new ninja turtles and think what garbage the new movie is. I could feel the old turtles. Special Effects don’t impress me. A movie that moves impresses me. If that makes me high horsey, whatever!

    • WKS says:

      Thank you Tim… jeez people some of these comments are ludicrous…

      • I don’t think films are any more spectacle-oriented than they always have been. It’s always been a visual medium. Sometimes, that creates thoughtful commentary, but more often, audiences just go to be entertained. The loud and noisy blockbusters earn the cash that makes the small and intelligent indies possible. They can coexist.

        I also think that in this case, Lucas’ body of work is very much relevant as context for his statements. This is not a guy who is good at producing anything but spectacle, so it’s a little bizarre for him to criticize the same genre of film that made him famous and rich.

  12. zenobia says:

    From the guy who’s main talent is ripping off Akira Kurosawa?

  13. Mick Stewart says:

    The problem with Hollywood is not the lack of substance, its the grotesque, barbaric Tarantino-esque violence presented on celluloid: the execution of police officers, brutal raping and murdering of women, torture, “fun, spree killing” like Kick Ass – with young kids cheering ( as they did in Natural Born Killers ) while the main character was in the process of being beaten to death with a baseball bat. Not only does the American viewing public like it, want more of it, they show by mirroring what they see on film, in high schools and movie theatres with firearms, knives, chemicals. John Grisham was correct when he stated NBK was responsible for a multitude of mass murders, representative of a film culture that will give the animals in the seats exactly what they want: gore – while telling us these gruesome images are protected as virtuous and artful. Its laughable. Seattle has an 18-ton bronze statue of Lenin, gloriously standing in a busy intersection. When the neighborhood association was asked why on Earth they have the Godfather of Modern Terrorism, the Inventor of Human Extermination on display ( and not in a trash heap in Kiev, from whence it was revived ), were told “… because its art.” NBK and other torture-porn murder films are protected by Redford, Lucas and the far left-right as principled expression, artistic license. Hollywood is now in gladiatorial combat for our senses. Abject torture, barbaric murder of children, the execution of police officers and the wholesale raping of women, while people clap, crunch popcorn and swill soda’s. Entertain Me. More, please.

  14. wacojoe says:

    Space Opera is “substantive.” Who knew?

  15. Matt Tran says:

    He says it’s stupid to watch cats on YouTube all day long. This from the creator of Jar Jar Binks.

    • John says:

      Matt, I found your comment verbose. You could have just typed Jar-Jar Binks. (Really I’m upset you – and probably a few others – beat me to it.)

  16. Mikey says:

    Isn’t his arrogance ironic? He has become “the establishment”(like all the other Baby Boomer dopes). But somehow now it’s different. When will this spoiled, self aggrandizing boomer generation just please shut up about how exceptional they think they are?

  17. Bully says:

    Lucas makes infomercials for action figures that he then sells at WalMart. It’s just commerce – nothing to see here folks.

  18. Any person that had anything to do with “Jar Jar Binks” should keep his mouth closed.

  19. Can O'Korn says:

    Ah yes. The Baby Boomers are “special” because they grew up in the 60’s.
    They were “rebels”….
    Yet reality is they ushered in the end of what was a great country by shirking responsibility and embracing Communism.
    These fools were born on third base and they keep trying to tell us they hit a triple. It’s all so very old.

  20. Les says:

    I’d rather watch cats do stupid things all day than watch Jar Jar Binks do stupid things for 2hrs, Mr. Lucas.

  21. ThatsMr2You says:

    There are still good movies coming out of Hollywood. I think all the Coen brothers movies are excellent. Ted was one of the funniest (and sophomoric) movies in years. And Guardians Of The Galaxy was great. In my opinion all of these are better than any of the Star Wars movies.

  22. Beano says:

    George.. You are so right !! what the film industry needs is more JarJar Binks characters..

  23. Sam says:

    Jar Jar Binks Daddy and his CGI nerds at ILM destroyed film as it has become one big rampant 2 dimensional Looney Tune of pixels falling over a cliff and going POOF again and again and again. If JAWS were made today Spielberg would have that cartoon shark doing back flips 300 feet in the pixilated air while singing about Charlie Tuna and his old buddy Quint that escaped his teeth at the sinking of the Indianapolis. “It looks SO real”….. It doesn’t George and That’s ALL Folks!

  24. Will says:

    Hypocritical if you ask me… This guy Lucas is The Father of ‘The Circus’…

  25. kelly says:

    He stole the whole character plot and music from the TV series Lost In Space for Star Wars,and I could prove it in court if I had to…I will cut him some slack though..the re-write was better than the orignal,so lets hope the re-write of the new star wars will be better also..

  26. Sal Ronnie Governale says:

    Hollywood liberal hypocrite made his zillions through nonsensical trash and now has the temerity to criticize others who are following his path.

  27. Steve Quinn says:

    99% of the films made by Hollywood these days are pure, unadulterated garbage. “Unbroken” and “American Sniper” the exceptions.

  28. Eddie says:

    Jar Jar Binks. Enough said.

  29. AG says:

    Well he’s right…. “Hollywood” films are all about explosions and action and one-liners… Very rare you get any depth of story from the major studios.

  30. fred says:

    When Star Wars came out, the only people in my HS that liked it were complete Dweeby Nerds.,

    • sailordude says:

      What Star Wars was that? Because when the first one came out it was revolutionary and everyone loved it. I was only in the 7th or 8th grade though, not high school yet.

  31. 1313hole says:

    Ewoks and Jar Jar. That’s all I have to say.

  32. Commentarycat says:

    LoL – Lucas is trashing Kitty Videos – what a complete tool. Cat videos – all of which are far and away superior to the worst character to have ever to have been created – Jar Jar Binks. Talk about being completely removed from reality. No wonder he sold off Star Wars – he’s devoid of any supplemental original ideas – only credit I can give him is “At least he knew he was potentially the cause of ruin to the franchise – and it was time to leave”.

  33. tommyboy25 says:

    It’s simple: LIBTARDS run Hollyweird.

    • kaplanmike says:

      Sad Tommy — six giant corporations run Hollywood. Trust me, they’re just as ruthless as other megacorporations out there. You really think Comcast is run by “Libtards”? Fox? Sony?

      Grow up.

  34. JJ says:

    Lucas has a valid point in that his films were great stories first and used innovative effects to support them. Lucas was detail oriented while Hollywood … who knows what they are.

  35. Pocho Basura says:

    …………this robert redford, george lucas moment brought to you by Geritol

  36. Robin Grace says:

    Love all of Lucas’ movies. Always will. And my children do, and my grandchildren do. Thank you

  37. Esteban Posada Duque says:

    …. bla bla bla … He & Spielberg began the circus : E .T the worst movie ever : pure cheesy waste …

  38. Esteban Posada Duque says:

    …Clint Eastwood has remain to artistic driven cinema … a true Knight in todays CGI driven blockbusters … and RR´s Sundance made a hit with his t.v outlet cable broadcasting …

  39. Odd isn’t it that the pioneer builders of the anti-establishment studio vessel, sound precisely like the executives they hold in such disdain as they polish its golden fenders. Art isn’t technology. Art is hunger. And hunger dies a little with each success. These two men made some terrific films in their hunger times. Redford’s stint on the S.S. Minnow last year shows he’s still capable. Lucas….uh…should stick to financing hungry people. His decisions took a sharp left at Ewok village. Maybe try something smaller George. Do an indy film on a $30k budget. Get back to basics. Start anew.

    Try that stranded on a boat thing. It works.

  40. I’d rather watch ten hours straight of my cats doing stupid things than ten seconds more of Jar Jar Binks. Ever.

  41. Whats wrong with watching cats do stupid things? Most of the crap coming out of Hollywood is less entertaining than cats doing stupid things. The last two episodes of Star Wars were horrible. male that three, Ewoks? Come on, the costumes were horrible! The last two episodes the acting was atrocious.. They sucked Lucas!

  42. Mike0oSS says:

    My time is far too valuable to waste in a theater watching cgi. I just enjoyed a movie from 1951 about Enrico Caruso. In my livingroom, It was great!!

  43. valeriewagner3 says:

    I do believe Mr. Lucas protests to much. Ironical me thinks.

  44. Baldwin says:

    I don’t have to see all of them. It’s called never ending previews and adds on television. I’ve seen a few–enough to get the plot line. I don’t have to sit my butt in every movie to know what they are about.

  45. AC says:

    The worst is when a director/writer goes back and ruins old works with ill-conceived special effects, and/or incompetent editing – ee Star Wars III, IV, and V, and THX1138, for instance – and makes empty claims of having ‘improved’ the works. Right, Lucas?

  46. Montague Chase says:

    George Lucas made a great character driven movie in Star Wars which drove tech in movies forward on a scale never to be repeated. I LOVE his independence, but to say that his later Star Wars movies are not circus over substance is a misreading of history. I stopped watching the franchise at the 3rd one. Too many visual effects shock-and-awe (boring) sequences.
    P.S. I have watched a series of Japanese cat videos, but none other. I am sorry Lucas is creatively frustrated, but he could easily finance a whole slew of King’s Speech, Napoleon Dynamite, Grand Budapest Hotel type movies that would make handy profits and give everyone story instead of action figures.

  47. Cyndy Martin says:

    Oh it’s all right for George Lucas to have “enormous” wealth but not for Mitt Romney. Hmm.

  48. Joe says:

    All this from the guy who Brought us Jar Jar Binks.

  49. Computers Making Movies says:

    “All art is technology?” You mean technology based movies make easy money. No need to
    create art, or any meaningful substance, which gets expensive and takes from the bottom line.

  50. Hilton Perproezack says:

    Irony: The best and most beloved of the Star Wars installments, ‘The Empire Strikes Back” was the most ‘hollywood studio’ and ‘film industry’ enabled of all of them. In fact, as I recall, not directed by Lucas at all.

    What a mellon head.

    Shortly, we may come to have a new embarrassing epitaph for cutting-room floor George:
    “Disney Did It Better”

    oh… speaking of lacking in creative substance, George…. did you mention that the whole Star Wars formula is a direct rip-off of Flash Gordon serials from the 30’s and 40’s? From cloud cities, bog planets, dogfights, and right down to the Emperor and his breath-masked right hand man.

    You bloated hack.

    • kaplanmike says:

      From the very beginning, Lucas acknowledged Star Wars’ roots in the very pulp serials you mentioned. But his original (brilliant) vision was to also include mythic overtones, samurai epics and a host of other influences. The original Star Wars was truly a breakthrough, and the next two films (indeed, directed by others) were magnificent achievements.

      But success did something to Lucas’ artistic vision, and his creative output (and creative choices) were never the same after that first rush of success. Lots of filmmakers (and other artists) have suffered the same fate: a blinding success early in their career, and then failure after failure trying to recapture the magic. But it doesn’t take away their initial accomplishment. Lucas has nothing to apologize for.

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