Third-grader crushes Carrie Fisher in Star Wars trivia contest

6 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Flashback: What George Lucas told us about making ‘Star Wars’ in 1977.

Before the first-ever “Star Wars” premiered on screens across America, Los Angeles Times writer Paul Rosenfield sat down with the creator of a galaxy far, far away.Some fans have voiced their displeasure at the diversity of the upcoming ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens,’ but it serves as a cultural corrective to the original, overwhelmingly white ‘Star Wars.’ Like most Star Wars geeks, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the December release of The Force Awakens.

Then 33, George Lucas was just a few days shy from the release of his “space opera,” prophetically claiming that “Star Wars” was the movie he thinks “Disney would have made when Walt Disney was alive.” Who knew decades later the droids and the mouse would reside in the same castle. Abrams told US show Good Morning America earlier this week that by focusing on female characters such as Daisy Ridley’s Rey, female cinema goers will warm to the films in a way they have not done in the past. “Star Wars was always a boys’ thing, and a movie that dads could take their sons to,” Abrams said. “And although that is still very much the case, I was really hoping this could be a movie that mothers could take their daughters to as well.” The director was criticised by fans of the franchise for these comments and he has subsequently moved to clear up what he was trying to say. Then he remembered an academic text he’d been assigned to read back in college: Joseph Campbell’s deep exploration of universal mythologies, The Hero With a Thousand Faces.

Generations of black kids grow up rooting for Luke Skywalker and Han Solo—would it be difficult to imagine generations of white kids becoming obsessive Star Wars fans if the main character was a black guy? Impossible to know for sure yet, but we’ve gotten some indicators that speak to the racial divide that’s come to define Hollywood and pop culture, in general.

Lucas had to make Star Wars an example of what Campbell called “the monomyth.” It was a decision that would make Campbell, not to mention Lucas and his stars and the fictive universe they created together, famous. Rub’ al Khali is the world’s largest contiguous desert, a sea of sand stretching from Oman to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (of which Abu Dhabi is the capital) to Yemen. Abrams has recently revealed that Carrie Fisher’s Leia will not be referred to as “Princess” in the film, but has instead been given a new, more military-sounding title. Presumably lured by the planet Jakku-like landscape — and the 30% cash-back rebate the government offers to those who shoot in the emirate — the “Star Wars” crew spent six months filming key scenes on a secretive closed set that was said to resemble a small city. Never mind the fact that no one really knew the film’s plot at that point and any number of factors could lead to a black Stormtrooper in a movie set thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi—which itself was set 30-plus years after the prequel trilogy that depicted the Stormtroopers’ origin.

The Motion Picture Association of America has given the film a PG-13 rating based on its “sci-fi action violence”, which makes it only the second Star Wars film not to be rated PG. And yet the most striking aspect of the run-up to December 18 has been not the low-grade hum of anticipation for the new Star Wars tale, but something much more palpable: the stuff. In the works was a Time magazine cover story, an incalculable profit and prestige boost for any film. (Remember “Love Story”?) Lucas would have been the first of the new tribe of directors to be so singled out. The guide finally stops our vehicle in an area of the desert known as Liwa, adjusting his head scarf before stepping out of the air conditioning and into the heat. “See this hill?” he asks, pointing off into nowhere. “Behind that is where ‘Star Wars’ was shot.

A month ago, the hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII began trending on Twitter, started by racist fans objecting to the realization that Boyega’s Finn is the film’s lead character and accusing the film of serving as “anti-white” propaganda. Alongside Adam Driver and the returning trio of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, the film’s cast includes Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o and Andy Serkis. Stormtroopers, of course, borrow their name from Nazi stormtroopers, or the Sturmabteilung; the uniforms of Imperial officers like Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin resemble the Wehrmacht; there are entire planets named after famous Germans, like Hoth (see: Hermann Hoth, panzer commander in the German Army) and Kessel, a German term referring to a trapped military force with little chance of escape.

A search for “star wars the force awakens” on Amazon will net you more than 15,500 results. (Change that to “star wars” alone, and you’ll get nearly 1.5 million.) Target has dedicated a section of its website to Star Wars merch (“here, your favorite Star Wars gear is”). She picked up the latter from a prop store in the U.K. “Even with the government we had to use code when speaking about it,” she says. “When I asked, ‘Why is the code word Avco?’ they said it was the name of the cinema in Los Angeles where J.J. The Great Jedi Purge is akin to the Holocaust, and the medal ceremony at the film’s end is lifted straight from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. director J.J. Within that mini-store you can buy not just Star Wars bedding and a Star Wars-themed pizza cutter and an R2D2 thermos, but also “Chewbacca-spiced latte”-flavored Coffeemate and Yoda-branded Kraft macaroni and cheese and a can of Campbell’s ‘Star Wars Dark Side’ soup (10.5 oz, heat-and-serve, $1.04).

So sentimental, right?” According to reports from regional papers, a “whole world” was erected in the desert and it included a “shuttle-like” spacecraft, “fast buggies” powered by jet engines, and giant craters made with explosives. In discussing how his baddies are related to the fallen Empire, Abrams told Empire magazine, “That all came out of conversations about what would have happened if the Nazis all went to Argentina but then started working together again?” Lucas (sort of) took Landis’s criticism to heart, casting Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian in sequel The Empire Strikes Back. The universal story here may involve Luke and Leia and the Galactic Empire, but it involves just as much the commercial products of Luke and Leia and the Galactic Empire. Mythology and merchandising have become tied up into one another, so intricately that it is impossible to tell where the one ends and the other begins.

And once they did settle on a location, there was the question of how to provide access — i.e. building roads where none had been before. “Our contractor said, no, you can’t build here because these are all preserved sands,” Al Kaabi says. “Luckily the head of the environment agency is a good friend. Jackson), Senator Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits), and Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison), an actor of Maori descent who served as the model for the clone troopers (there were also several racially problematic aliens, but that’s a talk for a different day). Which makes Star Wars, on the one hand, like pretty much any recent Hollywood blockbuster out there, successful-at-the-box-office or sadly-not-so-much. Movies have a long and lucrative relationship with the tie-products they sell (and vice versa), such that the most blockbustery films out there are not films so much as they are, more properly, franchises.

Cast and crew from the U.S. were given detailed packets on how to survive shooting in such brutal, albeit beautiful, surrounds. “The heat was so — ahh, my God — so intense,” says actress Daisy Ridley, who plays the fighter pilot Rey, by phone. “Like sweaty and gritty, we were filthy in it.” Still, she adds, “It was amazing to start on location, everyone was together, everyone was bonding. Star Wars’ historic lack of diversity is held in even harsher relief when you compare it to Gene Roddenberry’s rival franchise, Star Trek, whose TV series debuted in 1966 and prided itself on the Starship Enterprise’s diverse crew—with noteworthy members George Takei and Nichelle Nichols—and even featured television’s first interracial kiss. “Roddenberry’s idea was ‘infinite diversity and infinite combinations’—the Starship Enterprise is a metaphor for Earth, and he wanted to have that represented in the make-up of the cast,” Takei told The Daily Beast. Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner features a famously foreboding urban landscape of the future, where grizzled cops try to control humanlike bio-android replicants, aka “skin jobs.” The replicants represent an oppressed minority in this society, but they’re all aggressively white—though the film does feature Edward James Olmos as a Japanese character with a penchant for origami.

Running through sand is really difficult.” These desert scenes were originally slated to be shot in Jordan, another Arab country that’s a short flight from Abu Dhabi. And there’s an automation to all of it: an assumption that the stuff of the silver screen will be converted, via capitalism’s alchemy, into, simply, stuff.

We’re off to the sun.” Luke Skywalker, the Lucas-like hero in “Star Wars,” left more than his uncle’s moisture farm on the arid planet of Tatooine. Audiences have gotten very used to these kinds of stories featuring white people at the center of the conflicts, and are very used to caring about white protagonists.

As we saw with the first Hunger Games back in 2012, the conditioning that white supremacy has wrought has rendered many resistant to any storytelling that demands the emphasis of non-white actors. Situated off a winding road in the middle of towering sand dunes, the resort is also constructed like a set from another place and time, its stonewalls, turrets and gurgling fountains an oasis. Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, via their spoof Star Wars: The Farce Awakens, converted Star Wars mania into an advertisement for a totally different movie (Sisters, which also premieres on December 18).

But “Star Wars” might have never come here if it weren’t for an aggressive push by Abu Dhabi over the last decade to establish the emirate as a media and film hub in the Arab world. The racist tweets from moviegoers subsequently made headlines, revealing just how disgusted (and disgusting) these “fans” were, with tweets that read “why is Rue a little black girl?” and “Call me racist but when I found out rue was black her death wasn’t as sad.” In Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games books, the character of Rue was written as having “dark skin and eyes,” but apparently these fans hadn’t quite paid attention. Upcoming are Marvel comic books, inflatable laser swords, miniature ape-like Wookiees, T-shirts, a gilded C-3PO (the movie’s homage to the Tin Man), computer games, posters, a mock-up Imperial Death Star spaceship, and Obi-Wan, perhaps the first-ever senior-citizen doll. The film authority is enticing Hollywood productions with healthy rebates to shoot here and a technologically advanced infrastructure (something many of the neighboring countries lack).

The past two years of unrest in American society is rooted in a generation recognizing how badly we bungled race relations in America post-Civil Rights era. Its more recent successes have been “Furious 7,” “The Bourne Legacy” and “Deliver Us From Evil.” The only requirement is that these productions — including “Star Wars” — hire a small percentage of local interns so they can receive training on the job. The government has set a goal to have its own fully independent studio system up and running by 2030. “Star Wars'” desert set has since been disassembled despite rumors that say otherwise. It is simply past time that the films that go on to make billions around the world more accurately reflect the audiences who flock to them—and that means asking the audience to invest in non-white characters, not just recognizing those characters as window dressing or reducing them to facilitators for the main characters.

The store is currently running a charity event, in collaboration with the organization Force4Fashion, that is auctioning off Star Wars-inspired pieces designed by the likes of Rag & Bone, Ovadia & Sonds, Timo Weiland, Halston Heritage, Diane Von Furstenberg, Todd Snyder, Parker, and Cynthia Rowley. And not a heavy intellectual trip like ‘2001.’ Think of this as ‘The Sting’ in outer space.” Lucas had been urged after “Graffiti” to tackle something deep. Instead he went for what he wanted: pure entertainment. “ ‘THX’ was my 20-year-old consciousness; I used my head as a filmmaker. ‘Graffiti’ was me at 16 using my heart. The hero may have a thousand faces; as Star Wars’s force awakens, though, a good portion of those faces may soon be obscured by the plastic Vader masks that can be had for just $12.45 plus shipping.

The Lone Ranger and Long John Silver. ‘Star Wars’ is hopefully a feeble attempt to make up for that lack, without goriness or violence. “It’s a hard genre to pull off. Two males who don’t hate each other, who don’t go off blowing up stadiums.” A Super Bowl heist would surely have been easier than the Lucas undertaking. “I was very broke after ‘Graffiti,’” the director said, when asked about the genesis of “Star Wars.” “I’d spent four and a half years trying to get ‘Apocalypse Now’ off the ground.

The studio said $7.5, and we said, ‘We’ll do it.’ Gary Kurtz [Lucas’ producing-partner] and I figured somehow we’d get the extra money.” As budgets go, this one went eventually to $9.5 million. A bargain among this summer’s releases. “We’re the rock-bottom,” claims Lucas. “ ‘The Deep’ is $14 million. ‘A Bridge Too Far’ is $22 million. And Francis [Coppola], who finally did ‘Apocalypse Now’ [of which Lucas is part owner], will come in at $25 million. “How do you do a synopsis of this movie for a board of directors?

Imagine saying, ‘There is a Wookiee named Chewbacca and …’ The company was going through a bad period anyway. [Fox Chairman] Dennis Stanfill decided to go with it, and then fortunately didn’t ask a lot of questions. “For four years George and I have been talking — though he and I together don’t make one-half an extrovert — and only a week before release did I see the film. All I can say is that the man got a performance out of a robot.” Somehow. “There is no magic in moviemaking,” says the director who masterminded 363 special effects. You go around disgusted and give up being a free person — that’s what directing a major movie is like.” Steve Spielberg, Lucas’ friend and director of “Jaws,” remarked recently, “Oh, he complains.

Like we all do.” Painter (his oils are reminiscent of Keane, yet original), furniture builder, owner of a sci-fi shop in New York, Lucas is as adept with cars as with cameras. “I don’t know if even he knows where his talent comes from,” Verna Fields says. And foreign films — never.” “I wanted to go to art school, but my father would only send me to a real university.” Cinematographer Haskell Wexler, for whom Lucas built a race car, steered him to USC. “I was interested in photography, so the only thing to major in was cinema. But, yes, the talent was recognized very early.” Lucas began his association with Coppola on the ill-fated “Rain People.” With some backing from Warners, the teaming led to the San Francisco-based American Zoetrope, an ambitious film factory.

Later, Coppola used his bankability to help get “Graffiti” made. “The way I make movies I learned from Francis,” Lucas says. “I was his right hand for 10 years. You need that in this business.” Still headquartered at Zoetrope, the men are part of a tribe of Marin County filmmakers that includes John Korty, Philip Kaufman and Michael Ritchie. And I’ll executive-produce to make a living.” Lucas seems to mean it. “If there’s a recurrent theme in my work it’s about taking responsibility. I call it ‘simplistic positivism.’ But the point is, it’s me.” He claims he won’t direct the “Star Wars” sequels himself. “There should be at least three or four, but I won’t direct them.

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