Only one Lucas won an Oscar for Star Wars.
December 11, 2017 7:05 PM   Subscribe

David Welsh breaks down how Star Wars was saved in the editing room during the three months leading up the the release in May 1977. In February of that year, George Lucas had screened a rough cut of his new science fiction epic for some of his closest friends including Brian DePalma and Steven Spielberg. The reviews were bad, very bad. Lucas and his editing team headed by his wife Marsha Lucas went back and massively re-cut for the next ninety or so days to produce a coherent and exciting film from what had been confusing and flat.
posted by octothorpe (97 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite


 
Wouldn't it be interesting to run onto that workprint!
posted by sammyo at 7:20 PM on December 11, 2017


Pity that Marcia Lucas didn't direct the prequels.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:25 PM on December 11, 2017 [60 favorites]


Quality. Editing is the most amazing thing. I have seen my own random shots turned into utter brilliance by a skilled editor, dramatically enhancing my own reputation...
posted by bookbook at 7:34 PM on December 11, 2017 [6 favorites]


I take umbrage to Welsh's assertion that George should get any credit for the edit. Look at his other editing work.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:35 PM on December 11, 2017 [7 favorites]


I first heard the theory that Marsha was responsible for the success of the original Star Wars several years ago. I have always believed it. How can you not believe it after viewing the prequels? Or even after watching Return of the Jedi? The Empire Strikes back I (perhaps uncharitably) attribute to director Irving Kurshner and screenwriters Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan. The proof is in the pudding. His subsequent work speaks (poorly) for itself.
posted by seasparrow at 7:38 PM on December 11, 2017 [45 favorites]


"Confusing and flat" does seem to describe the problems with his later output, yes.
posted by Artw at 7:44 PM on December 11, 2017 [6 favorites]


I knew about some of this but had no idea about the fact that the Deathstar count-down during the final battle was added in so late and constructed out of bits and pieces and voice-overs.
posted by octothorpe at 7:54 PM on December 11, 2017 [5 favorites]


I knew about some of this but had no idea about the fact that the Deathstar count-down during the final battle was added in so late and constructed out of bits and pieces and voice-overs.

same

star wars was a success in spite of george lucas, not because of him
posted by entropicamericana at 7:58 PM on December 11, 2017 [15 favorites]


Eeeeh, it absolutely would not exist without him. But some creators need collaborators to make their work shine, and some fall utterly flat without them. Just look at the empty husks Ridley Scott produces when not paired with a decent screenwriter.
posted by Artw at 8:02 PM on December 11, 2017 [17 favorites]


I literally just finished re-watching ESB and was super perplexed to not see Marcia’s name in the credits. But ESB has always been the episode where I go, ehhhhhh, kind of off but okay... Wheras whenever I see ANH I am like THIS IS STAR WARS and nothing can take that away
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:03 PM on December 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


empty husks would be an improvement, prometheus and covenant were offensively bad

(but very pretty)
posted by entropicamericana at 8:03 PM on December 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


But ESB has always been the episode where I go, ehhhhhh, kind of off but okay

I know those words, but that sentence has no meaning.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:05 PM on December 11, 2017 [33 favorites]


After approx 1,000 viewings I subliminally noticed some of these things -- like the reused footage of the Death Star laser, the fact that no one talks at the rebel base during the battle, and that the last scene before the big explosion is a side view of Tarkin stroking his chin plaintively. Nice job making lemons out of lemonade --- errr, or the converse.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:12 PM on December 11, 2017 [9 favorites]


When you’re talking about the technical side, such as production and effects etc., Lucas is extremely gifted and may be one of the best to do this kind of work. But when it comes to story, he’s always needed help.
posted by azpenguin at 8:24 PM on December 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


She has a helluva run of quality work in the 70s -- wonder why she quit the business?
posted by Big Al 8000 at 8:31 PM on December 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


Who does that stand-up bit about films directed by men but edited by women--which means that the film is actually directed by the woman?
posted by tzikeh at 8:35 PM on December 11, 2017 [4 favorites]


Well, this does a pretty good job of answering my question.

Also, this is funny:

“She was a knockout,” filmmaker John Milius recalled. “We all wondered how little George got this great looking girl. And smart too, obsessed with films. And she was a better editor than he was.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 8:46 PM on December 11, 2017 [18 favorites]


I know those words, but that sentence has no meaning.

We’re talking like 0.00001 of a difference here for ESB vs ANH and RotJ, whereas the prequels live so far out of my likability radar it’s ridiculous

Please don’t look upon me as a Star Wars heathen, it’s too close to The Last Jedi for that
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:46 PM on December 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


See also this biography of Marcia Lucas.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:01 PM on December 11, 2017 [7 favorites]


Nice job making lemons out of lemonade --- errr, or the converse.

Making lemons out of lemonade is impressive enough, but making lemons out of shoes is legit magic!
posted by jason_steakums at 9:03 PM on December 11, 2017 [18 favorites]


Wikipedia has Marcia Lucas working on V (uncredited) and VI, so I can believe that George did the prequel trilogy in a failed attempt to prove to himself and others that he didn't need Marcia. (She also did Martin Scorsese's early work; Thelma Schoonmaker was Scorsese's later collaborator, and won three Oscars for her work on his films.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:35 PM on December 11, 2017 [4 favorites]


The longform Making of Star Wars documentary that came as an extra on some DVD set or another was eye-opening for me. I could finally understand why so many of the people involved at the time thought they were making some kind of comical farce. Seeing some guy in a black plastic outfit covered with visible fingerprints while shouting almost incoherently in a West Country accent through a mask made me pee my pants a little because it was so ridiculously hilarious. It was through watching that doc that the prequels made sense to me in context. Lucas is an awful, awful filmmaker. He is terrible at directing actors, he has no sense of pacing, and his audience is poorly defined in that he's aiming at kids with robots making fart jokes but intercutting with serious adult drama full of romance and betrayal and opaque situations involving taxation and trade routes.

To me, the genius of Lucas will never be about Star Wars as a franchise or a set of movies, but as an innovator in film technology. Ages ago Wired had a giant pullout that displayed a flowchart of all of the companies and industries and technologies spawned by Lucas' approach to filmmaking, and it's in that space he deserves recognition. That the movies themselves were successful at all is largely due to his instinct to use a mythology template for story construction and his ability to hire a large talent pool willing to work themselves into the ground in order to fulfill his technological requirements.

Great post, thanks so much for making it.
posted by xyzzy at 9:42 PM on December 11, 2017 [38 favorites]


Wheras whenever I see ANH I am like THIS IS STAR WARS and nothing can take that away

Referring to it as ANH betrays you and your foul apostasy!
posted by hippybear at 9:48 PM on December 11, 2017 [26 favorites]


Honestly, just the creation of Industrial Light And Magic is worthy of some form of veneration, perhaps Catholic Sainthood. Or something, I dunno. He deserves a Feast Day for ILM.
posted by hippybear at 9:50 PM on December 11, 2017 [4 favorites]


He is terrible at directing actors

"Faster, more intense."
posted by Chrysostom at 9:51 PM on December 11, 2017 [7 favorites]


And Skywalker Sound. Two feast days, one for each.
posted by hippybear at 9:55 PM on December 11, 2017 [4 favorites]


Oh, and THX theater systems. Yeah, that too.
posted by hippybear at 9:55 PM on December 11, 2017 [3 favorites]


Oh, and Pixar. I always forget, Lucasfilm spawned Pixar which Jobs later purchased.
posted by hippybear at 10:05 PM on December 11, 2017 [3 favorites]


Honestly, just the creation of Industrial Light And Magic is worthy of some form of veneration, perhaps Catholic Sainthood. Or something, I dunno. He deserves a Feast Day for ILM.

Just don't ask them to host it; He was quickly hated around there. Nothing could align with his vision versus any other client that was all Wows and Ooos. He was dreaded. That's what the coffee-table books read as, anyway. I'm totally with xyzzy's take on contexts and fish perceiving water. I relished Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, maybe a little too much. Lucas, the longer I live, having seen StarWars when I was ten, and discovering his earlier work in college and processing it with his work after...

He's very conventional and earnest in many ways. Such as the importance of cars in American Graffiti and the pod races. He reflects. He's personal. It's all good I guess. But...

Jobs, Lucas, Gates, these Titans of Industry are as hollow as Edison and Ford three generations before and that is an extreme reduction and not wholly true, but by what proportions visionaries are mythologized and collaboration is ignored plays into a suspicion of propaganda is a balance I don't readily sum. At least the 70s didn't produce a straight up nazi, but then history rhymes more than repeats.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 10:07 PM on December 11, 2017 [15 favorites]


Well, Lucas's views toward sex and women has long been evident and problematic. And yeah, he's not a saint, even if I do think he should have a feast day or two or three. He created things out of whole cloth that have had mighty and deep influence. That doesn't mean he himself was particularly skilled with any of those ventures, just that he had the vision to create a thing and could put a team in place at the beginning that started a thing. I don't think Lucas himself is actually responsible for any of the achievements of ILM or Skywalker Sound or THX Ltd. But without him, none of them would exist.

What I can't answer is whether without him any of those things would have been imagined by someone else. That is an unanswerable question because once a thing has been imagined and realized, it's impossible to undo that imagining.
posted by hippybear at 10:18 PM on December 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


I wonder how many potentially great movies suffered the Star Wars fate and didn't have Marcia Lucas (and the other editors) to save them?
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:30 PM on December 11, 2017 [8 favorites]


What I can't answer is whether without him any of those things would have been imagined by someone else. That is an unanswerable question because once a thing has been imagined and realized, it's impossible to undo that imagining.

Me neither, and I'm relieved others wrestle with the same framing. I spent five years around LA and became acquainted with so much talent it produced this musing:

Success is conflated with ability. Hollywood teems with the imminently capable. The demand simply isn't sufficient to afford but a tiny portion. Were tomorrow a hundred top billed actors vaporized by lightening, their immediate replacement could be achieved before any arriving thunder. Producers and their means are simply risk averse and audiences fetishize familiarity and its lineage. I assert this with knowledge and awareness of what confidence the vast majority of those auditioned are rejected by a camera test. Los Angeles and New York are vast ship wrecks to which hundreds of thousands of souls pilgrimage to bob about a flotsam wearing life buoy rings reading: USS Me.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 10:31 PM on December 11, 2017 [7 favorites]


Turns out the infamous Star Wars Christmas special was George's blueprint for the future.
posted by juiceCake at 10:41 PM on December 11, 2017 [6 favorites]


Who does that stand-up bit about films directed by men but edited by women--which means that the film is actually directed by the woman? -- posted by tzikeh

Patton Oswalt

Marcia Lucas is also responsible for flagging Marion Ravenwood's odd disappearance from the narrative in the original Indiana Jones cut. The scene with Marion and Indy on the steps, at the end of the movie, was added after she campaigned for it.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:52 PM on December 11, 2017 [28 favorites]


I can't search for it right now because everything comes up sexual harrassment, but somewhere, sometime, several years ago, NPR did a thing on how movie editing used to be primarily women's work, like computer programming.
posted by rhizome at 11:20 PM on December 11, 2017 [7 favorites]


I've been watching the Star Wars movies since I was little. Back then I was enthralled with them but I think it was mostly because the music and lighting demanded that you be enthralled as well as the whole culture. That Marsha fished into the trash and barely managed to fixed her husband's mess is no surprise. But if she hadn't so what? Not having Star Wars would have been no great loss. They aren't great movies, they trick you into thinking they must be good, like con men. Something as good or better, or MORE things would have taken its place.
posted by bleep at 11:51 PM on December 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


It also reminds me of a thing I learned about the wave of women welders during WWII and how they found that the women's welding work was always strikingly better, neater, and more precise than the men's basically because they gave a shit and had been taught how to give a shit (such as how to do complicated intricate work that requires concentration, like sewing). Look at all the things that started out low and rote but took off in importance because women were there to give a shit doing the hard concentrating like editing, the math and computers to get to the moon, etc.
posted by bleep at 11:56 PM on December 11, 2017 [35 favorites]


They aren't great movies, they trick you into thinking they must be good, like con men. Something as good or better, or MORE things would have taken its place.

I’m not sure I follow. They’re movies that people love and still enjoy watching, but they’re not actually good, because they only trick people into enjoying them?
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:06 AM on December 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


I knew about some of this but had no idea about the fact that the Deathstar count-down during the final battle was added in so late and constructed out of bits and pieces and voice-overs.

I'm not surprised, but I love the idea that Star Wars itself is, like the Auralnauts re-cut and redub of Star Wars, a recut and redub of Star Wars.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:46 AM on December 12, 2017 [5 favorites]


I could finally understand why so many of the people involved at the time thought they were making some kind of comical farce. Seeing some guy in a black plastic outfit covered with visible fingerprints while shouting almost incoherently in a West Country accent through a mask made me pee my pants a little because it was so ridiculously hilarious.

I think Star Wars would have seemed schlocky, if not farcical, if it weren't for the music of John Williams.
posted by straight at 1:54 AM on December 12, 2017 [8 favorites]


That was the issue with Rogue One for me - no John Williams score. When the Empire did something evil a Michael Giacchino temp track played. When the Rebels soared in to assault the shield generator off-cuts from his Star Trek work played. The only scene where music and picture were aligned and actually felt Star Warsish was the embrace between Jyn and Cassian on the beach at the end.

For me at least.
posted by Molesome at 2:13 AM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


It's Space Opera for a reason I guess.
posted by Artw at 2:28 AM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


That the movies themselves were successful at all is largely due to his instinct to use a mythology template for story construction

While we're at it, that "monomyth" hero's journey idea is crypto-Jungian crap too. It works simply by ignoring everything that doesn't fit it, like the Iliad.
posted by thelonius at 3:19 AM on December 12, 2017 [6 favorites]


Is the original cut available anywhere?
It'd be really interesting to see the difference.

There's a bit more here. My favourite bit of all Star Wars is that scene where the Millenium Falcon flies in, with the sun behind it at the pivotal moment. Another bit apparently creditable to Marcia.
She warned George, 'If the audience doesn't cheer when Han Solo comes in at the last second in the Millennium Falcon to help Luke when he's being chased by Darth Vader, the picture doesn't work.'
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:22 AM on December 12, 2017 [8 favorites]


Lucas had perhaps planned to have a flashback to Red Leader's flight training days there
posted by thelonius at 3:43 AM on December 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


For years, I've had a working theory that part of what was going on with the plethora of cuts of Star Wars was that George wanted to erase Marcia's fingerprints off the film.

I assume the original working print would be even harder to recreate than the original theatrical cut.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:50 AM on December 12, 2017 [6 favorites]


I can't search for it right now because everything comes up sexual harrassment, but somewhere, sometime, several years ago, NPR did a thing on how movie editing used to be primarily women's work, like computer programming.

It wasn't considered a creative job during the studio age of Hollywood and was primarily a women's job for a long time.
posted by octothorpe at 4:22 AM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm not exactly his biggest fan, but it's a little frustrating that the narrative people are getting from this video is that talented editors managed to pull off a great movie in spite of George Lucas' best efforts. They didn't do this behind his back. He was present for all of this and agreed to their decisions because - as the video says - he recognized that these editorial decisions would make a much better movie. They were brilliant editors, and they deserve credit and recognition for how much they did, but it makes no sense to turn that around and say that it all proves how incompetent George Lucas really is. Tons of movies are fixed in post-production, with scenes deleted and rearranged. It doesn't mean they were all directed by slobs, it means that we shouldn't imagine every director to be the brilliant auteur, single-handedly crafting magic. No, it's usually a long process with crucial creative input from many different people. We shouldn't be surprised that Star Wars was no exception.

I know George Lucas has made a lot of stupid decisions over the years, and his constant edits to Star Wars are infuriating and awful. I almost wonder if that's not really an issue of him really being a bad filmmaker, but rather because he's horrible at handling success. At some point he stopped listening to people and started making all the edits and awful scripts he wanted to make. This is the most successful movie franchise of all time, and I don't know, maybe it got to his head, or maybe he just lost whatever it was that kept him restrained enough to do good work. But the franchise didn't become as successful as it was in spite of him, even if it's easy to look back and say "ah, of course, he was always terrible."
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 4:33 AM on December 12, 2017 [9 favorites]


His willingness to accept criticism does speak well of him here
posted by thelonius at 4:38 AM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


Can we dial it down a bit on the George hate here? It's not like Star Wars is the only film saved by an editor (it's kinda what they do) nor is George the only director to shoot far more footage than was actually needed (it's kinda what they do).

That's not taking away from Marsha - a phenomenal editor is integral to a great movie. But George is being piled on here for simply being what he is - a poor director with some great ideas.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:49 AM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


To me, the genius of Lucas will never be about Star Wars as a franchise or a set of movies, but as an innovator in film technology. Ages ago Wired had a giant pullout that displayed a flowchart of all of the companies and industries and technologies spawned by Lucas' approach to filmmaking, and it's in that space he deserves recognition.

I mean, yeah? His willingness to try new things and new techniques speaks well of him and helped spawn new companies. But at the same time, it's not [AFAIK] like he designed the dykstraflex or wrote ray-tracing code. I'd recognize him less as an innovator himself and more as someone who was able to see the potential in young techniques and technicians around him and work the system in ways that gave them the resources to build their things.

As distinct from, say, Cameron who likewise has real problems with storytelling but really is a kind of polymath with his hand much more directly in the technical side.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:53 AM on December 12, 2017


> "While we're at it, that 'monomyth' hero's journey idea is crypto-Jungian crap too. It works simply by ignoring everything that doesn't fit it, like the Iliad."

I was never under the impression that anyone was claiming it was the only storytelling template, only a common one.
posted by kyrademon at 5:00 AM on December 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


If you're interested in the heroic acts of editors, Ralph Rosenblum's (slightly self-aggrandizing) book When the Shooting Stops talks about his work saving the other big movie of 1977 in the editing room. As shot, Woody Allen's Annie Hall was a plotless mess of disconnected sketches and monologues that Rosenblum managed to stitch together into something like a linear narrative.
posted by octothorpe at 5:02 AM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


I think the George hate is a bit overblown but is a reaction to him supposedly trying to erase Marcia's contribution.
I think it probably says a lot about both the industry and the audience that (for example) George Lucas and James Cameron are household names whilst Marcia Lucas and Gale-Ann Hurd are comparatively not.

Apparently the original Trench run can be found near the end of Deleted Magic.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:35 AM on December 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


Well, this does a pretty good job of answering my question.

That is an excellent link and filled in a lot of gaps for me. I'm glad she had $70 million to show for it at the end of all that, because if you're going to be ignored and erased by history, having fuck-you money so you can live whatever life you want is a pretty good consolation prize. She deserved more, though.

I think the George hate is a bit overblown but is a reaction to him supposedly trying to erase Marcia's contribution.

Yeah, that. I've personally witnessed a few times in my life the phenomenon of people with good ideas who needed to be reined in by those around them. The result was always much better than what they could have done on their own with few to no restrictions. Even just the technical limitations of the '70s and '80s were a benefit to George. I'll go to my deathbed arguing that CGI was one of the worst things that happened to him, even though I appreciate how he went all-in to push it forward and laid the groundwork for a lot of later films that did it better. Ahmed Best awhile back said something like "Jar-Jar walked so that Gollum could fly", and there's a lot of truth to that. But it was too big of a toy box for him to play with. Lucas needed to have his hands tied.

I really don't agree with the narrative that Lucas has no talent for execution, though. I think the problem is that he has no patience for it. Lucas is an idea person, and idea people have absolutely no tolerance or patience for the grind of implementation and perfection of craft. They want their ideas made manifest now, now, now. If you ask them nitpicky little questions like "How is that supposed to work, exactly?" they get pissed off. And they tend to minimize the contributions of those who are good at implementation and shape those ideas into something better and more workable. Because those people were just following my idea and instructions, right? I did the hard part.

We as a culture tend to lionize idea people, and when I was young and inexperienced, I did too. A career in software pretty well beat that out of me, because I've seen people get the Marcia Lucas treatment again and again and again, and when the wars they fought made the half-formed ideas of the bosses into something that actually worked, the bosses reaped the credit and the bonuses, and they got an attaboy in a meeting and a 5% pay bump at the end of the year. Nowadays I tend to regard idea people as monkey wrenches waiting to be thrown.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:00 AM on December 12, 2017 [17 favorites]


Lucas is an idea person, and idea people have absolutely no tolerance or patience for the grind of implementation and perfection of craft.

Yep. See also: Elon Musk, who announced two new Tesla models even while he was having trouble getting the Tesla 3, the model that holds the best hope of being his Model T, out the door.

We as a culture tend to lionize idea people

Also true. See also: just about any author who tells stories about people who come up to them with ideas for novels, and if the author does all the hard work of turning it into a story, they'll split the royalties 50/50.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:13 AM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


I get that with app ideas. "Hey, I got this idea for an app, you code it, I'll help with testing and we'll split 50/50." Uhhhhh, no. I'm going to need either a substantial up-front monetary investment from you or at least a 70% cut.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:18 AM on December 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


I was never under the impression that anyone was claiming it was the only storytelling template, only a common one.

Critics argue that the concept is too broad or general to be of much usefulness in comparative mythology
posted by thelonius at 6:19 AM on December 12, 2017


I think Star Wars would have seemed schlocky, if not farcical, if it weren't for the music of John Williams.

My wife love John Williams, but never saw the Star Wars movies until her 20's. I made her watch them soon before episode I came out, and she never really got into them. The new John Williams music is pretty much the only way I can get her into the theater to see any of these films. She has casually referred to The Last Jedi as the new John Williams film, and then had to explain when she gets funny looks from people.
posted by Badgermann at 6:38 AM on December 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


rhizome: I can't search for it right now because everything comes up sexual harrassment, but somewhere, sometime, several years ago, NPR did a thing on how movie editing used to be primarily women's work, like computer programming.

'Star Wars' Editors Defy Hollywood Conventions (NPR, February 13, 2016) -- no mention of computer programming, but it's an interview with Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey, which touches on how editing is behind the scenes, generally without accolades, and generally more women than men can tolerate that.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:12 AM on December 12, 2017


It wasn't considered a creative job during the studio age of Hollywood and was primarily a women's job for a long time.

And now we can better interpret Frances McDormand's role and gag in the greatly maligned Hail, Caesar!
posted by lazycomputerkids at 7:29 AM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


Can we dial it down a bit on the George hate here?

Uh, no. He's part of a long tradition of men hogging the glory for work that would not have been respected were in not for the largely uncredited labor of women, from authors whose wives actually did much of the writing (Dick Francis) to playwrights whose wives or lovers made massive uncredited contributions to the work (Bertolt Brecht) to artists who actually stole their wives' work (Walter Keane).

We can credit Lucas for his original idea, derivative thought it may be, but film is a collaborative art, and his films were cocoreated by a lot of women, including Marcia Lucas and screenwriter Gloria Katz, who helped shape the original script even before it started shooting, and Leigh Brackett, who wrote the second film (and has been treated as someone whose contributions were largely discarded when Lucas rewrote the script, which she couldn't dispute, having died.)

Lucas blithely accepted plaudits thanks to an Americanized version of the auteur theory, which placed him, along with Scorsese, Spielberg, Coppola, and others, as rebel American geniuses. He's a billionaire as a result.

But if we had a more equitable system of giving credit, he might be a little less rich, but a lot more people, including women, would be a lot better off.
posted by maxsparber at 7:31 AM on December 12, 2017 [20 favorites]


But George is being piled on here for simply being what he is - a poor director with some great ideas.

I don't hate George; I think he's a creative genius with a tremendous imagination. But he's had the same problem a lot of other creative & successful people who have become successful have had - no one left who can say "no" to their excesses. For the first films, George was limited in his reach by his lack of fame and resources, along with the technical limitations of the time - having to do every effect in a practical way. Those limits made things better - he (and a host of other talented, wonderful people) got creative and daring and did amazing things. By the time of the prequels, George is unfettered in pretty much every way and I don't think it did him any favors.

What bugs me with the story about Marsha is that her work and contribution to the success of the movie - and thereby the franchise - has been ignored. John Williams will get a nod for the musical score, Carrie/Harrison/Mark will be acknowledged for playing their roles, and then the rest of it is apparently the genius of George. And I know not everyone involved can be acknowledged to the appropriate level, but this one seems egregious...Marcia put in long, hard hours to salvage the film her husband made; the film that made his career. That contribution is virtually unknown and unacknowledged. And George has been ok with that being the case. He deserves some opprobrium for that.
posted by nubs at 8:21 AM on December 12, 2017 [6 favorites]


I remember, I think in a documentary about American Graffiti, that George had two, and only two, different comments / guidence for this actors after each take: "Do it again" and "Do it again, faster"
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:28 AM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Hi Sally!
posted by Molesome at 8:32 AM on December 12, 2017


Lucas blithely accepted plaudits thanks to an Americanized version of the auteur theory, which placed him, along with Scorsese, Spielberg, Coppola, and others, as rebel American geniuses. He's a billionaire as a result.

He's a billionaire because he was smarter than 20th Century Fox about how he would get paid for Star Wars.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:32 AM on December 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


I remember, I think in a documentary about American Graffiti, that George had two, and only two, different comments / guidence for this actors after each take: "Do it again" and "Do it again, faster"

I recall it from Empire of Dreams:

Carrie Fisher: George never talked. We sort of... we felt he wanted us to hit our marks and magically accommodate our dialogue. And he lost his voice at one point. We didn't know that for days. And we wanted to get him a little board where it said, um... "Faster and more intense." That was his main direction. He just wanted us to speed through it.

Anthony Daniels: George is notorious for saying, after a take, you know, "Do it again. Faster, more intensity." He certainly said to me was, you know, "Terrific, Tony. Can you do it again faster?". But I didn't get "more intensity." I don't think Threepio with more intensity would be bearable. Do you?

Mark Hamill: We all had to fill in a lot of the blanks. It was more a matter of if we did something he didn't like, he'd tell us, rather than telling us what to do.

posted by nubs at 8:36 AM on December 12, 2017


Hi Sally!
posted by Molesome at 8:32 AM on December 12 [+] [!]

Well that made me go look up the story and ... it's sad.
posted by chavenet at 8:56 AM on December 12, 2017


(Dick Francis)

I didn't know that!

Via Wikipedia: "When Dick Francis sits down each January to begin writing another of his popular mystery-adventure novels, it is almost a certain bet that his wife, Mary, has developed a new avocation... For instance, in Rat Race, [the protagonist] operated an air-taxi service that specialized in carrying jockeys, trainers and owners to distant race courses. Before that book came out in 1970, Mrs. Francis obtained a pilot's licence and was operating an air-taxi service of her own. Francis' newest novel, Reflex, is built around photography, and sure enough, Mary Francis has become accomplished behind the camera and in the darkroom... And, in their condominium, they have set up the subject of his 20th novel [Twice Shy] - a computer. While he is touring the country, she is working on new computer programs."

Heh. The last Francis book I read (Decider) was about an architect obsessed with reviving Roman hypocaustic heating for use in modern homes; the obligatory horsey mystery, when it appears, comes across as an unwanted distraction. No prize for guessing what Mary was reading up on in 1993.
posted by Iridic at 8:57 AM on December 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


He's a billionaire because he was smarter than 20th Century Fox about how he would get paid for Star Wars.

No. He's a billionaire because he was in a position to be smarter, and he was wedged into the position largely by a bunch of women who didn't let Journal of the Whills, Part 1 get to screen.
posted by maxsparber at 9:28 AM on December 12, 2017 [7 favorites]


I thought he was a billionaire because 20th Cenury Fox thought the film would flop and had no problem assigning him 100% of the ancillary merchandise rights.
posted by Devoidoid at 9:34 AM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Lucas is an idea person, and idea people have absolutely no tolerance or patience for the grind of implementation and perfection of craft.

Yep. See also: Elon Musk


Also, Ed Wood!
posted by Devoidoid at 9:35 AM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


I thought he was a billionaire because 20th Cenury Fox thought the film would flop and had no problem assigning him 100% of the ancillary merchandise rights.

I'm not sure what's going on here, but, again, the film would have been a flop had it not been for women acting as handmaidens to Lucas's weird raw material.
posted by maxsparber at 9:36 AM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


Lucas blithely accepted plaudits thanks to an Americanized version of the auteur theory, which placed him, along with Scorsese, Spielberg, Coppola, and others, as rebel American geniuses. He's a billionaire as a result. -- maxsparber

To his credit, he's also a billionaire because he told a confused Fox he'd take a pay cut if was given all rights to the residuals (Star Wars themed products, action figures, etc). No one before him quite realized how much money there was to be made.
posted by eye of newt at 9:37 AM on December 12, 2017


That's a fair cop, Max .
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:38 AM on December 12, 2017


I mean, it can be two things.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:45 AM on December 12, 2017


To his credit, he's also a billionaire because he told a confused Fox he'd take a pay cut if was given all rights to the residuals

I heard that Peter Cushing turned down a similar deal. Which made sense at the time, I guess - why not take cash on the barrelhead, over some speculative revenue from collectibles, for what he probably thought was going to be an ephemeral B-movie?
posted by thelonius at 9:46 AM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what's going on here, but, again, the film would have been a flop had it not been for women acting as handmaidens to Lucas's weird raw material.

Maybe we can smoosh these sentiments together? "20th Century Fox thought it would be a flop because they didn't know a woman was editing it."
posted by rhizome at 10:18 AM on December 12, 2017


That the movies themselves were successful at all is largely due to his instinct to use a mythology template for story construction

I think "The Monomyth" is just pretentious version of Save the Cat.
posted by straight at 10:23 AM on December 12, 2017 [5 favorites]


I can't search for it right now because everything comes up sexual harrassment, but somewhere, sometime, several years ago, NPR did a thing on how movie editing used to be primarily women's work, like computer programming.
posted by rhizome


Huh. Hence Hidden Figures.
posted by yoga at 10:30 AM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


From Big Al's link: “Anyway, I was rewriting, I was struggling with that plot problem when my wife suggested that I kill off Ben, which she thought was a pretty outrageous idea, and I said, ‘Well, that is an interesting idea, and I had been thinking about it.’"

Of course you had, George. Of course you had.
posted by queensissy at 10:51 AM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


I thought he was a billionaire because 20th Cenury Fox thought the film would flop and had no problem assigning him 100% of the ancillary merchandise rights.

I think it was something like this - he thought the film would take about $18 million to film; 20th Century Fox offered him like $7.5 million. One of the ways he cut costs was by not taking a director's fee; instead, he took merchandising rights.

It's easy to look back and ascribe genius or failure to any of the business moves (I mean, how many studios passed on the film?). The fact is, at the time it was being made, no one knew what they had their hands on and it became the thing it has because of a lot of inspired work by a lot of people. I give George the credit for having the initial vision and doing the legwork to sell that idea to enough people to get the project going (all of which is important, vital stuff); but he also had people around him who could take that vision and make it something grand.
posted by nubs at 10:58 AM on December 12, 2017


The real genius regarding Star Wars and merchandising was Stephen Spielberg, who got a 2.5% cut just for winning a bet.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 11:35 AM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure what's going on here, but, again, the film would have been a flop had it not been for women acting as handmaidens to Lucas's weird raw material.

You might be able to say this about every movie. Wonder Woman kicked ass, right? Biggest earning live action movie directed by a woman. How much of that credit goes to the editor (a Mr. Martin Walsh). Beats me. Maybe lots. Maybe not much. It's entirely possible that this film would have been a complete disaster if it hadn't been edited by his genius hands. Or it's possible that this was monkey work that any idiot could have done.

I can state with near certainty that The Avengers would have been a mess without the editing. The final battle scene is brilliantly done. It's long and a lot of stuff goes on, but at no point in time was I confused about who was doing what, where they were doing it, and why they were doing it. It takes no imagination to see how that could have been screwed up.

It was edited by two people, a man and a woman. I think it's safe to say that they contributed a lot to the success of that movie and no-one knows their names.

I think part of the problem the editor has is that the better they do their job, the less obvious it is that they did anything at all.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:41 AM on December 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


You might be able to say this about every movie.

Yes you might, mightn't you. Makes you wonder why we don't.
posted by maxsparber at 11:55 AM on December 12, 2017


I have to think Wonder Woman was storyboarded within an inch of its life, and that the editor was mostly simply implementing that, perhaps adjusting cut points or camera angles from time to time.
posted by rhizome at 12:02 PM on December 12, 2017


Hard to know considering they literally improvised an entire Iron Man movie.
posted by maxsparber at 12:13 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Lucas' biggest problem was that as his marriage to Marcia began to crumble and his professional relationship with longtime-producer Gary Kurtz fell apart after the troubled production of Empire, he lost not the only two people whose advice and criticism he respected enough to listen to but also the only two people left in his orbit who felt they could give him advice and criticism without fear of losing their job/status if he disagreed with their candid assessments of his work.
posted by KingEdRa at 12:33 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


he lost... the only two people left in his orbit who felt they could give him advice and criticism without fear of losing their job/status if he disagreed with their candid assessments of his work.

yeah. i'm avoiding YouTube until after Thursday night to avoid TLJ spoilers, but if i weren't, i'd dig up a link to the documentary somehow included with the TPM DVD called "The Beginning" that shows the reaction after thew first screening that is nothing but awkward silences and uncomfortable looks.

look it up, it's a hoot.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:43 PM on December 12, 2017


yeah. i'm avoiding YouTube until after Thursday night to avoid TLJ spoilers

A real fan would want to know how and why JarJar impregnated Rey.
posted by rhizome at 12:49 PM on December 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


rhizome: "I have to think Wonder Woman was storyboarded within an inch of its life, and that the editor was mostly simply implementing that, perhaps adjusting cut points or camera angles from time to time."

It really depends on the working style of the director. Some like to plan every shot in advance, some would rather start with just a vague idea of what they need to cover and improvise on set.
posted by octothorpe at 12:53 PM on December 12, 2017


"I have to think Wonder Woman was storyboarded within an inch of its life, and that the editor was mostly simply implementing that, perhaps adjusting cut points or camera angles from time to time."


I mean, even if every shot was storyboarded out precisely, it’s still up to the editor to put everything together and make it flow seamlessly, which is not a simple hint by any means. A big action scene like that is never going to be just a matter of implementing what’s already been planned.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:58 PM on December 12, 2017


A real fan would want to know how and why JarJar impregnated Rey.

a surprise, to be sure...
posted by entropicamericana at 12:58 PM on December 12, 2017


well that explains one particular continuity glitch that's bugged me in Star Wars... in Obi Wan's house, Luke's working on C-3PO while they talk about the Force, and C-3PO shuts down... then they play the message from Leia, and C-3PO is awake/active... then "we've got to save the princess", and he's powered down again... but of course it makes far more sense in the original cut...
posted by russm at 2:06 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


It was edited by two people, a man and a woman. I think it's safe to say that they contributed a lot to the success of that movie and no-one knows their names.

Whedon praises the crap out of his favourite editor (a woman) and his favourite DP (a man) in every commentary I've ever heard. Me, I couldn't name an editor of any film if you put a gun to my head.

Star Wars is based on extremely terrible source material and its success is disproportionately due to great craft by everyone except the director. I suspect if he was a better and more thoughtful writer/director then the overall product might have been worse - when you know it's a slow motion disaster, sometimes you surprise yourself. I'm glad Marcia eventually got the credit she deserved.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:53 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Reminds me a bit of Robert Evans' memoir when he says 'The Godfather' was just crap until Peter Zinner edited it into genius. Maybe true, but you have to have something interesting to work with to get to that point.
posted by ovvl at 4:06 PM on December 12, 2017


I thought he was a billionaire because 20th Cenury Fox thought the film would flop and had no problem assigning him 100% of the ancillary merchandise rights.

Lucille Ball was the best at this style of canny negotiating with wavering studio execs... which eventually leads to... Star Trek.
posted by ovvl at 4:13 PM on December 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


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