On late Friday afternoon, Stephen Colbert (sporting a gray beard) interviewed George Lucas (always sporting a beard) for the Tribeca Film Festival’s “Tribeca Talks” series. It was interesting because neither men had anything to promote, so it was just Colbert (a well-known nerd) asking George Lucas anything that came to Colbert’s mind. George Lucas has a knack for talking a lot without saying a whole heck of a lot. But, there were some highlights from the discussion, and I will present those now in easy to read, bullet point highlights.
– George Lucas’s biggest regret about making six Star Wars movie is that he never got to enjoy them as a movie. So, having said that, he’s looking forward to watching The Force Awakens.
– Lucas never wanted to be a filmmaker, he wanted to be a race car driver. A terrible car accident (which he’s talked about many times before) “knocked some sense” into him.
– As an aside, George Lucas has a very dramatic sneeze. Lucas had to put the talk on hold as we all waited patiently for this sneeze to happen. Finally, Lucas let out a sneeze that started with a normal pitched, “Ahhhhhh,” then ended with a glass-shattering high pitched, “Choooo!” After, the audience applauded and Colbert added, “May the Force be with you.” (I think this was my favorite moment.)
– Lucas said that he made American Graffiti on a dare made by Francis Ford Coppola because Coppola was tired of Lucas’ “robot” movies and wanted to see if Lucas could make a comedy.
– Lucas has an unflattering “studio exec” voice that he uses every time he relays about a studio executive who didn’t like one of Lucas’ films. And apparently most studio executives didn’t like American Graffiti and Star Wars. At least until they both made a lot of money.
– One of the biggest challenges Lucas had with Star Wars was panning the camera in scenes that were set in space. In other words: getting those quick edited shots of spaceships flying by, as opposed to the way spaceships slowly pan by in 2001.
– Lucas compared Star Wars to silent films, in that the movement is important. When Colbert asked if Lucas thought sound was important, Lucas answered that sound is 50 percent of the movie and is very important. Then adding, “But dialogue is not.” This got some knowing laughter and groans from the audience because of course Lucas doesn’t think dialogue is important.
– Lucas remembered a story in which he was vacationing with Steven Spielberg and Spielberg was frustrated with a proposed sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind because the studio thought it was a children’s movie. That movie became E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. Lucas ended this story by screaming, “Star Wars is a children’s film! Those are the ones that make the money! Wake up!”
– Lucas told the story about how he decided to finance The Empire Strikes Back by himself, which took away the 50 percent of the film that Fox owned for financing the movie. Lucas ended this story by saying, “That’s how I became rich,” which got a nice laugh.
– Even with the good box office numbers Star Wars had its first week, he still wasn’t convinced. Lucas claims he told an optimistic Fox, “They are sci-fi fans, they’ll come to anything the first week.”
– Lucas first realized that Star Wars was a hit when he was in Hawaii shortly after the film’s release and saw a Walter Cronkite special on the enormous success of the movie.
– Lucas claims that he wasn’t totally on board with Howard the Duck, insisting that the technology wasn’t available yet to do it correctly. As a favor for friends, he agreed to still produce the movie.
– Lucas also has a feeling that Marvel will remake Howard the Duck because of Howard’s appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy and, “If you have a digital duck, you can do anything.” I want to get that phrase printed on a t-shirt.
– A member of the audience asked Lucas when he was ever going to make these experimental films that he has been talking about forever. Lucas said his friends want him to buy a yacht (we’ve all been there, right?), but that he’s going to use his “yacht money” to make experimental films.
– Lucas, as he’s said before, has no idea what the plot of the new Star Wars movies will be. But said his original plan was about, “The father, the children, the grandchildren.”
– George Lucas would rather you not watch his movies on your phone, but he really doesn’t care that much if you watch his movies on your phone.
– And, finally, Lucas doesn’t understand why Stephen Colbert isn’t going to be hosting The Daily Show instead of “hosting a show at one in the morning.” A noticeably flustered Colbert had to explain why he would never want to take over for Jon Stewart and how his move from 11:30 p.m. to 11:35 p.m. really isn’t that big of a time shift.
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.