February 09, 2012 1:21pm PT by Alex Ben Block
5 Questions With George Lucas: Controversial 'Star Wars' Changes, SOPA and 'Indiana Jones 5'
With yet another re-invigoration of the massive Star Wars franchise —hello, 3-Delirum! — the Star Wars creator confronts the controversy of content changes (again), shares his views on SOPA and gives an update on Indiana Jones 5.
The Hollywood Reporter: In this 3D conversion of what is Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace, were there any changes made to any characters or the plot, or was it just a conversion?
George Lucas: Changes are not unusual — I mean, most movies when they release them they make changes. But somehow, when I make the slightest change, everybody thinks it’s the end of the world. That whole issue between filmmakers and the studios with the studios being able to change things without even letting the director of the movie know … I’m very much involved in that [so that’s not happening here]. … My job is to try to make the best possible movie it can be — and the current version is the Blu-ray version. That’s the one that’s been made into 3D. But it’s just a conversion. We haven’t made any changes other than the 3D.
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THR: People can get fanatical about the movies — how does that make you feel? The puppet vs. CGI Yoda ruckus, and the who-shot-first, Han Solo or Greedo furor come to mind.
Lucas: Well, it’s not a religious event. I hate to tell people that. It’s a movie, just a movie. The controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo, in Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo [who seemed to be the one who shot first in the original] to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t. It had been done in all close-ups and it was confusing about who did what to whom. I put a little wider shot in there that made it clear that Greedo is the one who shot first, but everyone wanted to think that Han shot first, because they wanted to think that he actually just gunned him down.
It’s the same thing with Yoda. We tried to do Yoda in CGI in Episode I, but we just couldn’t get it done in time. We couldn’t get the technology to work, so we had to use the puppet, but the puppet really wasn’t as good as the CGI. So when we did the reissue, we had to put the CGI back in, which was what it was meant to be.
If you look at Blade Runner, it’s been cut sixteen ways from Sunday and there are all kinds of different versions of it. Star Wars, there’s basically one version — it just keeps getting improved a little bit as we move forward. … All art is technology and it improves every year. Whether it’s on the stage or in music or in painting, there are technological answers that happen, and because movies are so technological, the advances become more obvious.
THR: Did you see Hugo?
Lucas: Yeah, I loved Hugo. I thought it was great. It’s an interesting thing because I kind of resurrected the visual effects business, or the special effects business, but you know, [film subject Georges Melies] started it all. Visual effects aren’t where it’s at with dramas, but all the same problems that people think about exist, and he started the magic of movies.
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THR: A political question: SOPA, PIPA and piracy — what are your thoughts on that?
Lucas: If we had an intelligent system for writing law, everybody would get together and write the best possible answer to that. I mean, putting the digital world up against the traditional world and saying it’s one or the other is not a wise decision. Because what you’re saying is, do you want movies to exist, or do you want everything to just be on the Internet and see cats watching television or something? Everybody wants movies, everybody wants television shows, and everybody wants digital media. It’s just up to the government to sit down with both sides and write a reasonable bill. I think what they’ve got now is a flawed bill, which is not unusual, but that’s all it is: sloppy legislation. Which has to be fixed. If we go much longer without [good] laws, most people won’t pay attention [until] they arrest somebody who’s making $50 million a year — and then you realize that there’s hundreds of millions of dollars being siphoned off, and it does affect the music business, the film business, and eventually, the software business. Everybody’s in this together.
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THR: What’s the status of Indiana Jones 5? Steven Spielberg says he’s waiting to hear from you.
Lucas: I know, and I’m supposed to be working on it right now, but I’m talking to you instead (Laughs).