In a recent interview with Charlie Rose, George Lucas opened up about how Hollywood has deteriorated.
While he created two of the biggest franchises ever in Star Wars and Indiana Jones, Lucas criticises what he sees as a move toward brainless blockbusters and sequels. Lucas and Steven Spielberg have previously warned that this shift will lead toward an implosion if more of those big-budget movies start failing.
Talking to Rose at Chicago Ideas Week, Lucas described how things were good in the late 60s, then got worse, and how he escaped:
GEORGE LUCAS: Now the problem has always been with the studios, although at the beginning of the studios the entrepreneurs who ran the studios were sort of creative guys … but when I grew up it was the first time they allowed film students in.
[T]he day I arrived at Warner Brothers lot for this scholarship, Jack Warner left. And then they sold it to Seven Arts which was in Canada and then another one sold to Sony and Coca-Cola, and suddenly all these corporations were coming in. They didn’t know anything about the movie business. So they said, “Maybe we should hire kids from film schools. They supposedly know how to make films.” So suddenly we could get jobs which was a fantastic thing, and for two years they kind of let us do our job. … All of my movies came in on budget and on time and they made money, and all my friends that whole gang of people made successful movies.
But then the studios went back to saying, “We don’t trust you people and we think we know how to make movies. You know, I took a script course at San Diego State and so I am going to tell you how to make these movies.” …
I fortunately got through before that really happened. By the time I got “Star Wars,” I said, “I’m out of here.” I was still in San Francisco so I never got bugged by the L.A. industry because all the executives had to fly to San Francisco to talk to me. … I just said “I’m going do the worst thing you can do which is to finance own movies, but then nobody can touch me.” …
[B]ut for the guys that stayed behind it became almost intolerable that the studios changed everything all the time, and unfortunately they don’t have any imagination. And they don’t have any talent. So what are you selling? So they are going to make the same movie over and over and over again. …
And of course, in our world we were doing stuff that was all over the map. … [T]here was a good studio executive at Fox when they did “Star Wars.” He believed in me because he loved “American Graffiti.” He said, “You’re a talented guy. I will do ever whatever you want to do.” But you never hear that today. And he had to fight the board of directors and everything, he kept them at bay, but he said, “I don’t understand what this thing is about big dogs flying spaceships around. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Are you sure this is going to work?” And I said, “I know it’s different but I believe in it.”
But you can’t do that today. You just can’t. And certain directors have gotten away with doing kind of crazy things but they are very few and far between. And you kind of wonder how they got to do, but if the studios keep doing the same cookie-cutter movie over and over and over and they cost a lot of money …
CHARLIE ROSE: It’s going to be an implosion.
Given Lucas’ opinion on Hollywood, you might wonder why he sold sell Lucasfilm to Disney for a reported $US4 billion in 2012.
The Star Wars creator has previously said that he trusts the people at Disney to protect his baby rather than ruin it.
“I wanted to get into sort of another stage of life where I’m not in the film business anymore, where I don’t have to run a corporation. It occurred to me one day that the perfect person to run the company was [Lucasfilm co-chair] Kathy [Kennedy]. It’s just such a perfect fit, and I felt that I really wanted to put the company somewhere in a larger entity that would protect it. Disney is a huge corporation; they have all kinds of capabilities and facilities. There’s a lot of strength to be gained by this,” Lucas said in 2012.
He has also spoken highly of “Star Wars: Episode VII” director J.J. Abrams, saying in a 2013 statement: “I’ve consistently been impressed with J.J. as a filmmaker and storyteller. He’s an ideal choice to direct the new Star Wars film and the legacy couldn’t be in better hands.”
As for the future, Lucas told Rose he wanted to make more “little experimental films”:
GEORGE LUCAS: [M]y whole life centered around me doing these avant-garde experimental films, films that you don’t know whether they are going to work or not. You’re kind of playing with the medium which is what I wanted to do. All my student films are like that; everything I did for a long time was like that. Even THX was vaguely like that. And I’d always say, “If this fails I’m going to go back to doing my experimental films.”
And all my friends, you know, Marty, Francis, Steven, and everybody say, “When are you going to do your experimental films?” I said, “Well, I got caught in this tar baby called Star Wars and lots of opportunities, lots of things, so I said ‘well, I like Star Wars. I fell in love with it, and I want to complete it.'” And then after I completed it, I produced films and did things and at the same time I came back, did another, the backstory to the whole thing, and then I felt, well, at some point there are three more stories, but it takes ten years to do that — to do all three of them — and I said, “I don’t think I can do that. And I want to go do my little experimental films.” …
I said I am going to take my life and make it so I can live in Chicago, live in San Francisco, make my little art films, build a museum, take care of my daughter. I said that’s what is important to me.
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