Who was George Lucas until 1977, before Star Wars was released? A brilliant but misunderstood young director, visionary but introverted. How did this avant-garde man manage to bring the “Star Wars” project to fruition when no one in Hollywood – studios, technicians, actors, projectionists, etc. – believed in it? The Wars of Lucas (Deman éditions) tells this “forbidden” story. The book immerses the reader in the process of creating the saga. We also meet the George Lucas before the glitter. It is finally a part of Hollywood history, at the dawn of this science fiction revival. Laurent Hopman, screenwriter, and Renaud Roche, designer, deliver in-depth work, for Star Wars fans, but also (and above all) for others.
LE FIGARO. - If George Lucas, then a young director, had succeeded in adapting the adventures of Flash Gordon to the cinema, Star Wars might never have existed...
Laurent HOPMAN. - After his very first success, American Graffiti, he wanted to make a film that reconnected him with the wonder of his childhood. His imagination was nourished by serials, soap operas broadcast in cinemas in the 1930s and 1940s, rebroadcast on TV in the 1950s and 1960s, notably Flash Gordon... He was unable to obtain the rights. He then said to himself that he could create his own universe.
The gestation of the first Star Wars was long and painful. The Fox studios didn't believe it. They even tried to derail the project along the way. Why was George Lucas so misunderstood?
First, George Lucas was not a great communicator; he had difficulty sharing his vision with Fox executives. The film relied heavily on special effects. However, throughout the filming, he had nothing concrete to show them. People at the studios had difficulty visualizing what Star Wars was going to become: they saw sets, actors reading B-movie dialogue. And then they were above all businessmen; the artistic vision took second place. The only movie they could compare Star Wars to was 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, it was a very intellectual work which never brought in any money. For Fox all the signals were red. But in these people's defense, it was difficult to trust a young man of 32, who had only made one big hit, American Graffiti, in a very different genre. George Lucas faced the same problem that all visionaries face: being the first to show the path that everyone else can then follow.
To top it all off, we learn that writing was not George Lucas' strong point. The dialogues were sometimes even questioned by the actors, notably by Harrison Ford...
The others didn't do him any favors, but he was the first to be hard on himself. Originally, he wanted to be an editor. He wanted to be alone in the editing room and freely shape films. But to do that, you also have to be a director... And to be free behind the camera, you also have to have scripted the film yourself. So that’s why he had to decide to write.
Why was Star Wars so successful when it was released?
I would say that firstly the special effects really amazed the audience. At the time, there was no equivalent in cinema. Then there is, of course, the overall quality of the film. But there is also an adequate context. In the 1970s, there was no segment dedicated to teenagers in cinema. There were Walt Disney cartoons and then adult films. At that time, American society was ready to welcome family entertainment with universal values, well-defined good guys and bad guys. It set the tone for pop culture. George Lucas' influence has been immense on other filmmakers. It was after seeing the film that James Cameron decided to quit his job as a truck driver. You can be introverted, discreet and still have a phenomenal influence on the world, that's what our book is about.
What did it mean for you not to have had the approval of Disney or George Lucas to write this comic?
We never took the step. It was important for us to be independent. It would have been impossible to tell this story with Disney or George Lucas having a say. They want to control the legend. There are characters, interactions, that cannot be part of an authorized biography. Marcia Lucas, for example, has a key role. She even won an Oscar for Star Wars (best editing, Editor's note). She was Lucas's great love, but after their divorce, she was completely erased from the official version. It was important for us to rehabilitate it. The love story between Harrison Ford and Carrie Ficher, too, could not have been part of an official biography.
Do you know if George Lucas read the book?
We will wait for the English version to come out (16 foreign translations have already been signed, Editor's note), to send him the work officially. We know that people around him have read it. We think he will understand that it is above all a declaration of love for his work, even if he would certainly have wanted to erase certain passages.
You have carried out impressive documentation work. You made a point of listing all your sources at the end of the book. Many of the documents used date from the 1970s or 1980s…
We wanted to use what people said at the time the events took place. There was spontaneity then. Because after years, with the success and the work of the press officers, there was much more control. It was therefore necessary to find the oldest sources.
The drawing is sober but very dynamic with a certain sense of staging. What guided the graphic choices?
Renaud Roche, the designer, knows how to do very realistic, very advanced things. He is strong on the expressiveness of the characters. They have a lot of nuances. This is important because there are a lot of scenes in offices, which could be a little frozen, and yet he manages to make them dynamic.
Is this a black and white or color album?
Colorization only occurs in a few key boxes. The idea is to favor sobriety to highlight the story, but also to include touches of color. For example, there is the yellow “destiny”, each time there is a decisive encounter or a key element. Red also plays this role. Colors are mainly used to punctuate the narrative.
The Wars of Lucas, Deman éditions, 208 pages, 24.90 euros.