That’s one of the takeaways from the April 17 Tribeca Talk at the Tribeca Film Festival, which paired Lucas with fanboy extraordinaire Stephen Colbert. Among the tidbits: Lucas made “American Graffiti” on a dare, Steven Spielberg was one of the only early believers in “Star Wars” and — in a table-turning moment that saw Lucas doing the interviewing — Colbert doesn’t want to be the guy to take over from Jon Stewart.
Because Lucas is a bigscreen guy, he said he’s holding off on watching the new trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” until he can watch on it on something other than a phone or a computer. He mentioned the possibility of streaming it to his own bigscreen.
“I hope it’s successful. I hope they do a great job,” Lucas said when asked about his hopes — his “a new hope,” joked Colbert — for the new “Star Wars” films. He said the only thing he regretted about making “Star Wars” was never getting to see the films for himself with fresh eyes. “I don’t know anything about it,” he said of the new movie. “This time it’ll be very thrilling.”
In the hourlong talk in front of a packed auditorium in downtown Manhattan, Colbert and Lucas, both bearded, spent as much time discussing Lucas’ overall career and his fierce independent streak as they did talking about “Star Wars.” On that subject, the nuggets dropped by Lucas included the fact that when the filmmaker showed a rough cut of his ideas for the film to his closest filmmaking friends — including Spielberg, Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese — Spielberg “jumped up and said, ‘This is gonna be the biggest movie of all time!'” But no one else agreed.
“Brian said, ‘George, what the hell is the Force?'” Lucas remembered.
He also mentioned that he made “American Graffiti” — the huge comedy hit — because Francis Ford Coppola dared him. To hear Lucas tell it, Coppola said to him, “Look, do me a favor. No more of these experimental science-fiction movies. I dare you to write a comedy.” So he did.
Throughout the conversation, Lucas made it clear that he remains the independent-minded artist who started out making experimental films. He still rails against studio types who think they deserve credit for writing a check: “They refer to it as their movie, but they didn’t have anything to do with it. The guy who sweats blood and tears to write and direct the movie is the guy who really made the movie,” he said, drawing a round of applause from the crowd.
He thinks of “Star Wars” as a silent movie — “It really lies in the art of movement” — but that sound is just as important as the image onscreen. “I believe half a movie is the sound,” he said. “The sound is extremely important. But the dialogue is not.”
That comment led Lucas to acknowledge, “I’m notorious for wooden dialogue.”
“It’s not wooden,” Colbert interjected. “It’s hand-carved.”
Toward the end of the talk, Lucas took the reins to ask Colbert why the heck he wasn’t the guy to take over for Stewart on “The Daily Show.”
“Um,” Colbert deadpanned. Then he went on, “I don’t want to be the guy to take over for Jon Stewart. I worked for Jon Stewart at that show. My memories will always be of him being the keenest, most intelligent, most beautifully deconstructive mind, the clearest thinker I’ve ever worked with or for. I would never get underneath his shadow.”
As for what Lucas is currently up to, he mentioned the word “retired” — although, spurred by a question from the audience, he did mention he’s going back to making experimental films. “These movies, they’ll probably never get released,” he joked. “I’m just tinkering around in my garage.”