At last week’s ShoWest convention in Las Vegas, George Lucas took the stage to introduce the movie industry to his latest Star Wars creation, the animated summer flick Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The feature film (which opens Aug. 15) builds upon the Clone Wars shows that have aired on the Cartoon Network; the footage Lucas presented included glimpses of familiar characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, C-3PO, and R2-D2, as well as more talk of Jabba the Hutt. All the while, naturally, Lucas was flanked by a platoon of stormtroopers — ”I never go anywhere without my army,” he quipped.
But does the Jedi master expect to ever retire his Star Wars soldiers? What’s going on with that live-action TV series he announced, anyway? How excited is he for the debut of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? What’s the status of his longtime promise to direct artier films? And which movie prompted him to say, ”I wish I had made it — I don’t think I’m talented enough to do that”? In an extended conversation, EW.com found out the answers to those questions and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You explained a little bit in your ShoWest presentation about why you decided to come back and make this film. Do you feel like there’s even more to tell in the Star Wars universe?
GEORGE LUCAS: Yeah, you know, I sat down and said, ”Okay, the Luke Skywalker story” — or the Anakin Skywalker story, actually — ”is done.” But whenever you create a universe, there’s just vast areas you’ve never touched, and part of that was this. Which is to say, ”Well, gee, I did the movies about everything but the Clone Wars, so wouldn’t it be fun to do a TV series that is nothing but the Clone Wars, and we could just have all the adventures?” And that, with: ”Gee, it would be fun to go back to animation.” And: ”Gee, it would be fun to do a sort of 3-D animé film, which people haven’t done — it would be an interesting experiment, and we should have a good time.”
Is Star Wars: The Clone Wars going to be shown in 3-D?
No, no, it’s not 3-D, it’s basically CG — I’ve gotta stop using ”3-D”…
Right, they’re not interchangeable.
It used to be that 3-D was considered CG, and then 3-D actually came to be, so now we have to change [what we say]. [Laughs]
You’ve talked a lot about 3-D, so why didn’t you do this project in 3-D?
Well, you know, it’s expensive. And we felt that everybody kind of looks at the downside: It would cost twice as much to do it in 3-D as it did to do the movie in the first place. So you say, ”Well, gosh, do you think we’re going to get that much more out of it? And is it going to be worth it? And we can always do it later if we really want to.” So that was really the logic behind it. You know, [the Clone Wars movie] was almost an afterthought — we were doing the TV series and looked at some of the episodes on the big screen and said, ”This is so beautiful, why don’t we just go and use the crew and make a feature?” So we did.
NEXT PAGE: Lucas on his planned live-action TV series, and how it fits in the Star Wars universe
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How does it dovetail with the live-action TV series that you’ve announced?
GEORGE LUCAS: I’m just starting to work on the scripts now for the live-action TV series. We finished the first year of Clone Wars, [and] we’re in the middle of working on the second year. I’m finishing the scripts for the third year. And now I’m working on the scripts for the first year of the live-action show. [Smiles] So it’s a lot of scripts.
Where is the live-action one going to fit into the overall Star Wars narrative?
It’s completely separate. This one has all of the characters that everybody knows — everybody from Yoda to Anakin to Mace Windu to Obi-Wan — everybody’s there. The live-action has nobody there, because it’s after Episode III, so everybody’s dead, basically, or hiding somewhere. You hear about the Emperor, just like you do in Episode IV, but it’s mostly about a whole different world. I mean, there are a million stories in the big city — you’ve only seen one of them. [Laughs]
Yeah, but I guess there is stuff that you could imagine coming in between parts III and IV — for example, we never saw a young Han Solo.
No, well, this has nothing to do with those series. Some of the characters from the features find their way in there, so it’s not completely divorced. It’s as if we just went down the street and told a different story. You know, we were doing, I don’t know, 24, and now we’re going to move down the street here and do The Wire. Same thing, it’s just different people doing the same thing in the same city.
With the same Emperor.
And the same rules.
Yeah, all the same rules, all the same places, all the same stuff, and a lot of the same species. So it’s a familiar world, it’s just that you’re seeing a completely different side of it.
Do you have a network yet?
Are you still hoping for 100 episodes?
Yeah, I’m going to 100 episodes no matter what.
No, we haven’t gotten there yet.
Have you built any sets or done any mockups?
No, what we do in our TV series is we write the entire first year and finish it as a script. Then we start getting ready to shoot it, then we start casting, and then we do it. We know where the whole first year is before we even start to work on it. I mean, I can do that because I’m financing the whole thing. So I’ve got it pegged out for 100 episodes, and I know exactly what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it and what the risks are.
How long will the episodes be?
They’re an hour. It’s a regular live-action TV series — you know, Law & Order. [Laughs and waits a beat] I hope.
NEXT PAGE: Lucas on the progress toward 3-D versions of the Star Wars films, and when his Tuskegee Airmen project will finally get off the ground
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When you were here at ShoWest three years ago, you talked about converting all six of the Star Wars films into 3-D. Is that something that’s still going forward?
GEORGE LUCAS: It’s still on. It’s just that, technically, it’s a much harder thing to pull off than we thought. So we’ve been working on how to get it done — we’re still in the middle of R&D, so to speak. But we’re getting closer now. The field [of 3-D] is opening up a little bit. It’s a hard thing because it takes a lot of talented people — like, 100 or 150 — and since it’s a craft that nobody’s been trained to do before, it’s a little tricky. So it’s hard. But it’ll get there.
Do you see any end to working on Star Wars?
[Vigorously shakes his head]
No. I mean, I’m doing it just for fun now. You know, I’m an executive producer now — I don’t do the day-to-day work. I check in once a week, maybe, and it’ll be the same thing on the live-action show. I’m also [producing] Red Tails [his long-in-the-works project about WWII’s Tuskegee Airmen] — I’m producing all these things now. And then, hopefully, in a year or two I’ll be completely removed and I’ll just be able to go off and do my own movies again.
Star Wars feature films are over, though, right?
No more, no more. I mean, except for this kind of stuff, which is sort of spinoffs of TV shows.
The other thing that you talked about three years ago was going off to do your own movies…
I’m going to do it. [Chuckles]
You probably have scripts sitting around that you’ve had for 40 years.
I have ideas, but I don’t have scripts. The last of my scripts is Red Tails, which I’ve had for a long, long time — about 15 years. When I get that done, I’ve cleaned off the boards — everything I’ve ever developed I’ve made. So now I can start fresh and say, ”Okay, now what do I want to do?” And hopefully, by then the TV stuff will be cranking out on its own and doing its own thing and I can sort of [just] check in once in a while and say hi.
So we’re talking a couple of years?
Yeah, it should take another couple years. The live-action TV series probably won’t go on until around 2010. It’ll take this year just to get through all the scripts and then another year to get them all shot.
NEXT PAGE: Lucas’ candid thoughts on ”personal” filmmaking, and the prospects for the new Indiana Jones movie
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Was there anything in Francis Ford Coppola’s experience on Youth Without Youth [which received poor reviews and made just $244,397 in a very limited domestic release] that made you think about your plans to do your own movies?
GEORGE LUCAS: No, I mean, we both had our plans. He’s actually executing his now — and thumbing his nose at me. Because he’s always been saying, ”When are you going to do those movies? When are you going to do those movies?” [Chuckles] He’s been saying that ever since I started working for him, back 40 years ago. And I’ve said, ”I will, I will.” I think part of it is he’s just doing it to shame me, saying [affects snarky tone] ”I’m doing it, what are you doing? You’re still making all those.”
Have you talked about it with each other?
Yeah, we talk about it. And I said, ”I have fun doing this, and I’m going to do it for a while, and then I’m going to go off and do these weird things.” Because when you’re doing personal films, they disappear real fast — I don’t care who you are. There’s a world of personal films and then there’s a world of popular films, and occasionally one will cross over, but 99 percent of the time it’s not going to do that. And you just have to accept the fact that you’re going into a different kind of moviemaking and [will] probably lose all of the money that you put into it. A few people, esoteric fans, will enjoy it, [but] that’ll be it. Especially if you’ve been successful, you’re suddenly faced with: ”Oh, well, he can’t do it anymore, he’s a has-been.” All that kind of stuff. What was interesting about watching Francis [was that he] did the closest thing to what I’m going to do, and I can see what the response is. I mean, I liked his film, but people don’t rush out and say, ”Oh my God, he’s made a new movie and it’s so wonderful!” They’re just not going to do it. They aren’t going to do it. No matter what you do.
How are you feeling about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? Feeling good?
Oh, yeah, we had a great time making it.
Are you nervous about it in any way?
No, no, it’s a great film. Will it beat [The Dark Knight]? I don’t know. But we’ll certainly give Batman a run for their money.
Are you going to do another Indiana Jones movie after this one?
That I don’t know. We do these one at a time and we do them purely for the fun of it, which means that if we’ve got too many other things going on — Steve [Spielberg]’s got a couple more movies, he’s got Chicago Seven, he’s got all this stuff backed up for years — who knows? At least I’m at a point now where I can just enjoy myself and be creative and not have to worry about people getting crazy or trying to make decisions around me or anything. And I’m to a point now where if it isn’t successful, it’s not the end of the world. It’s always a disappointment when it doesn’t turn out, but sometimes you know it’s not going to turn out. I’ve [also]] seen other people’s movies that I had really high hopes for — I said, ”Oh, this is going to be great” — and I’d see it and it is great, but it falls flat and nobody goes to see it. You know, I loved Across the Universe, it’s a brilliant film. I wish I had made it — I don’t think I’m talented enough to do that. But at the same time, it just [motions like it blew away] pffffff. It’s too bad. That’s the saddest part right there: Something that you think is really good and should work and people should enjoy it, and they don’t.
But you’re confident that Indiana Jones will work?
Yeah, well, this one, we know that for the fans it won’t be the movie that they have been making in their minds for the last 19 years, so they all get bent out of shape. A lot of the critics forget that they didn’t like the first three, and so they get off on this one, too — or it’s not the Second Coming. And, yeah, we didn’t make it bigger and better, we made it exactly the same. So if you loved the other ones, you’ll love this one. But if you expect to have F-14s flying under freeways — that isn’t there. It’s just another period adventure movie with this wacky archaeologist. It’s funny. I think it’s funnier than the other ones, and it’s exciting. So it’s got all the stuff that all the other ones have. And Harrison’s great in it.