George Lucas, Episode II: Star Wars Strikes Back — on TV
Clone Wars and George Lucas
In Part 1
of TV Guide executive editor Steve Sonsky's in-depth Q&A with George Lucas, the discussion encompassed the Starz documentary Fog City Mavericks
(premiering Monday, Sept. 24, at 9 pm/ET), Lucas' advice for aspiring filmmakers and why Sean Connery turning down Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
might be a good
thing. Here in Part 2, the conversation turns to Lucas' pair of TV-bound Star Wars
projects, the power of the Internet and the television series he was distraught to see go off the air.TV Guide: Can we talk about the two Star Wars television series you're working on...?
There's Clone Wars
, and we're in the middle of that. TV Guide: Tell us about it.
Well it's basically like Star Wars
[in that it] takes place between, obviously, [the films] Episode II [Attack of the Clones
] and Episode III [Revenge of the Sith
], but it's the same kind of action. Unfortunately, it doesn't fall into the realm of what animation [typically] is, which is either adult, kind of off-color humor or kiddie stuff. This is, like Star Wars
, sort of in between those two things. It's a lot of battle stuff, and it's obviously the Clone Wars, so it's a war picture. So it's kind of a PG-13 animated TV series, which is something that has never been done before and obviously doesn't fit in any of the conventional slots that these things fall into. In that, it's very different, and I think it's very exciting. It's got a very, very sophisticated look to it. It's very much like the features. We're still trying to figure out how to put it on the air. TV Guide: And you're going to do a hundred episodes?
We're going to do a hundred episodes. I think we're on [No.] 40 right now. We'll probably end up with 50 to 60 episodes before we start to put it on the air. We'd like to put it on next fall, in about a year from now, but we'll see what happens. TV Guide: Where do you see it living? How do you see this playing? Obviously it doesn't sound like a Saturday morning cartoon.
Right now, we don't know. It's out there to people, and people are talking about it, but so far, everybody's got the same conundrums — "How do we program it? Where does it live? Where can we put something like this?" You know, it has to go after 9 o'clock and it can't be on a kiddie channel. TV Guide: So you see it on a more mainstream channel or the Sci Fi Channel or something like that?
Well, it's one of those things. Television is sort of bifurcated up into small niches and unless you fit in one of those niches, no one knows what to do with you. And, of course, I'm always outside the box, so it's like, "Uh-oh, we don't have a box for you." [Laughs
] But it's Star Wars
and it's really good, so I'm sure somehow or another, people will also start thinking outside the box and it will find its home. TV Guide: What about your Star Wars live-action series for TV?
Yes, I'm working on that. We're just going to start writing it in about a month from now, start doing scripts for it. TV Guide: And where will that live in the Star Wars continuum relative to Clone Wars and relative to the films?
Well, Clone Wars
has got all the characters in it — Yoda and Anakin and Obi Wan and the Emperor and all that — so it's basically the movie. The live-action [series] is not the movie. It's the Star Wars
universe, but it's characters from the saga who were [previously] minor, and it follows their stories. It's set between [movie episodes] III and IV, when the Empire has taken over. It's like Episode IV in that the Emperor and Darth Vader are heard about — people talk about them — but you never see them because it doesn't take place where they actually are. There are storm troopers and all that, but there are no Jedis. It's different, but I think it's very exciting because I get to explore a part of that universe that I haven't been able to explore. Once you have a saga, it's got a lot of requirements because it's about a particular [thing] — in this case, Darth Vader — and so it's his story from the time he's 10 to the time he died. You really can't go off that track because that's the story. Whereas now, I can make a left turn on 10th Street and go down there and see what's going on. TV Guide: And how are you going to produce this one? Are you going to film a certain number? Are you going to have a deal with a network before you go ahead with filming?
No, we'll do it just the same way that we're doing the animated series, which is we usually write a whole year first, and then we'll start shooting, and then we'll shoot the whole year and then once we've got [something to show], we'll see where we can put it. We're going to do a hundred of them, too. [It should be] easier [to place] than the animated one because it's live-action. TV Guide: So you'll film before you get a commitment? Or how will that work?
Well, we're doing these before we get a commitment, so we're just doing them on the faith that we're going to [sell them]. I mean, we're doing them ourselves, so we can finance them, we don't need to have a commitment of any kind. We're simply going to sell them. TV Guide: Will you be looking for a network like an HBO to say, "We'll take all hundred"?
Yeah, but they probably won't do that. [Laughs
] Somebody might, but usually what they'll do is they'll take 13 or 26 and then see what happens and they'll take the next group.... If that group doesn't work, then we'll move to another place. Lucasfilm is basically acting as the production company. TV Guide: Yeah, but usually a network will commission a single pilot off a script or pick.... Well, you know the process.
Right — but I have enough confidence that this is good, and I'll make it really
good, so I'm not too worried about that part of it. And if worse comes to worse, I'll end up with a lot of library product. [Laughs
] TV Guide: A whole lot of DVD stuff.
Yeah. It's the San Francisco way of doing things: This is something I want to do, and I'm going to go ahead and do it. And how the system copes with it or how I mesh it into the system or how I manage to end up earning my money back and all that kind of stuff is a whole different problem that I don't think about at this stage. I just go and do what I want to do. I mean, even when I did the very first Star Wars
, I was doing it, and I had three of them, and I assumed that the [first] film wouldn't be successful, and I assumed that I would have to somehow struggle very hard to get the other two made. But my job was to get all three of them made, you know, and that's why I took the sequel rights and everything because I didn't want anybody else to control that because I wanted to control that. And the assumption was if [the first one] didn't make any money, the studio would just sit on it and it'd just make it that much harder for me [to make the rest]. TV Guide: As many have noted before me, you had the foresight to know what to ask for early — sequel rights, merchandising rights....
As I've said many times, it's not that I was smart, it's just that I was desperate. My whole point of view was that I went out to make a movie, and it was called, basically, "The Tragedy of Darth Vader." And it was one movie, and then it got too long and too expensive, and so I cut it into three movies. But then I made a vow at that point and said I'm not going to let these sit on the shelf. I'm going to get these made somehow. No matter what, no matter what it takes, I'm going to get them done. And it's not because I wanted to do sequels — it was because I wanted to see this thing be finished, and so I did everything I could to try to ensure that I could get to do that.
TV Guide: You've loosened the shackles on what you allow people to do with Star Wars material. The Internet has given everybody a forum, but there was a time when you didn't want people to do that, and now, obviously, you've changed your mind.
Lucas: It's not a matter of changing your mind, it's a matter of before, basically I had everything at stake with each one of those movies, and I didn't want to jeopardize that. And so, when these last three came out, we were much more lenient about that sort of thing and now that they're finished.... It's just part of the culture now. You can't not [let people] do it. I especially like the comedy. There's a lot of people doing funny things and parodies of Star Wars online that are just hysterical.
TV Guide: It makes them live on, too. I mean, my daughter discovers things that way that she might not have otherwise discovered. Like, "Here's a satire of something, what is it satirizing? Dad, what was this movie like?"
Lucas: That's why I'm having fun now. I mean, I love animation, and I've always wanted to do this and at the same time, I've always wanted to explore other parts of the Star Wars universe that I never really got to go to. So television's going to be the perfect opportunity to do that. I can move around more freely and have more experimental time. We did the same thing with [the 1992-1993 ABC series] The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. And the Young Indiana Jones DVD set finally, the first one of three is coming out this fall, and that'll be a big thing for us because there's hours and hours of documentaries put in there and it's a very rich set of material.
TV Guide: It's kind of a golden moment in TV for sci-fi and fantasy right now. It seems like a good moment for you to be doing some of the things you love doing.
Lucas: Yeah! I'm excited about it. I mean, I can't wait to — I'm very excited about the animated series because it kind of, I think, pushes a whole different direction of 3-D animation. And then the live-action is going to be a real hoot to do because conceptually, it's so much more interesting than anything I've ever done before.
TV Guide: And just to be clear for people, when you say 3-D, you don't mean actual 3-D like with glasses....
Lucas: No, no, 3-D animated, which is sort of like Toy Story. The only thing out there that's sort of like it [on TV] is Jimmy Neutron.
TV Guide: Right. So to talk about TV again for a second, is there any particular TV you enjoy watching?
Lucas: I watch a fair amount of TV, not a huge amount. Mostly the news and stuff, and the History Channel, to be honest with you. I like Law & Order and some shows like that. I love Jon Stewart. [Laughs]
TV Guide: Lost or Heroes, those kinds of things people might think of as George Lucas kinda shows?
Lucas: I've watched those. The kind of continuing shows, I have a tendency to wait until they're all over and then watch them on DVD, because those are the kinds of shows where you miss an episode and you're kind of lost, literally. So it's just too bothersome for me. But I have loved some things in the past that are kind of like that that sort of have forced me to be there every Sunday night, like Rome and Deadwood. I loved those shows.
TV Guide: I'm still pissed off at HBO over ending Deadwood.
Lucas: Well that's the way I feel about Rome. [Laughs] I mean, I love Deadwood, but Rome! I mean, for god's sake, they just were starting to get going! Augustus was the greatest emperor of all time, and nobody's ever told his story. Oh, they'll say, "Well, he's a bad guy," which I don't.... Well, let's not get into reviewing it. But I think they short-circuited themselves by changing actors for Augustus halfway through that thing because he was only 19 when he took over. He wasn't the big evil guy that they made him out to be. And the 50 years he was on the throne were the greatest 50 years in Roman history in terms of civilization, and that was when the empire actually existed. It was building up to that moment, up until Caesar, and then after Augustus died, it went downhill.
TV Guide: Rome and Deadwood were hugely expensive shows for them. Deadwood was partially owned by Paramount.
Lucas: I know, but they're so good. [Laughs] They made money! Part of the problem I have is that I own pretty much 100 percent of everything I do, so that makes it less attractive to studios, to networks. But they can still make a lot of money out of it because their primary business is selling ads. [The first] Indiana Jones got turned down everywhere — by every single studio in Hollywood — because the deal was too rich [and] they weren't going to make any money on it at the time. And you know, Paramount's made a fortune, an absolute fortune on it.
TV Guide: George, thank you. It was a pleasure.
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