Saturday, 24 November 2012


A superb creative pairing: George Lucas and Gary Kurtz on the set of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK at Elstree-1979.

Note: This is a classic blog from our older site reprinted.

Yep, the Thirtieth Anniversary of STAR WARS has proved to be a considerable success this year- and George Lucas's "little space movie for young people" is still as superb as ever, continuing to find new fans of all ages across the globe in whatever medium it breathes life in: be it books, movies, TV or comics.

From where it all began, Lucas is the corner stone, the lit blue touch paper from where it all began like a supernova- the story, the characters, the look and feel of it all, the entire universe-it all comes from him-and we'll all be eternally grateful of the day that he put pen to paper to come up with the film on those handwritten notes he outlined in May 1973, and for the amazing imagination within that fertile mind of his that, even now, continues to spur on into new heights of creativity. STAR WARS (or STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE-whatever you want to call it!!), in this writer's mind, is still the best film of the saga and has yet to be equalled, primarily because Lucas is there at the beginning in every way, and nothing has equalled it's raw power of enjoyment, in my eyes, since...

It was a struggle for Lucas to get the film made- a struggle that would last for five years. It was a risk, but one that ultimately paid off. To get this film made, for it to leap from the imagination of Lucas's mind onto the celluloid screen, the young director needed help, assembling some of the best people working in the cinema at that time to achieve his goal. On this thirtieth anniversary, we quite rightly continue to celebrate talents like George Lucas, Ralph McQuarrie (whose wondrous creative and artistic insights launched a visual style that hasn't bettered), Alan Ladd Jr., John Williams, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Joe Johnston, Ben Burtt-all amazing people and all quite rightly congratulated for their work.

In this anniversary year, however, let us also remember the great talents that are no longer with us-the brilliant Production Designer John Barry, who helped realise Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie's superb environments into practical set reality (making any visitors to the ELSTREE Studio's in 1976 amazed by the uniqueness of the upcoming movie). Let's not forget John Stears and his practical UK team (of which only Stears would be credited for his contribution to STAR WARS-none of his UK team mates were credited in the end titles, event though all of the rising star ILM team members were) for their hard work in bringing the many droids like Artoo Detoo to life, realizing the Landspeeder, the lightsabers and all of the other iconic effects -all of which might have seemed impossible to create to other film-makers in 1973- that, though they have been improved upon since, started with this movie. 

Let's also not forget Gilbert Taylor. His long experience and film-making style may have regrettably clashed with the young independent film-maker (years later, apparently, he would even be banished from being allowed in for the premiere party for THE STAR WARS SPECIAL EDITION in London in 1997!!), used to doing his own camera-set ups and changing lights (the veteran cinematographer, unbeknownst to Lucas, also being under orders from FOX to have his work adhere to their own visual requests for the film), but lets not forget the beautiful clean and sharp look he brought to  the Death Star scenes, as well as the wild beauty of Tatooine, the grimy criminal atmosphere of the cantina and the organic green and brown colour scheme of a growing Rebellion on Yavin IV. Again, the artistic palettes for cinematography may have changed and improved over the years, but STAR WARS still looks fantastic from a photography vantage.

And in particular, on this important anniversary year, if there's one person still being overlooked for his contributions to the STAR WARS universe, let's also not forget the film-maker still continually active in today's tough world of the movie-making environment-Gary Kurtz-producer of STAR WARS and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.
Despite the problems of getting STAR WARS off the ground, and despite the complex nightmares of the even more ambitious EMPIRE, the majority of which were unforeseen and could not ultimately have been avoided, Gary Kurtz would be the further important under-pinning that made the STAR WARS SAGA the success it is today. With a talent for character and storytelling, a strong eye for direction, film-making and photography, and in the areas of special effects photography, Kurtz would help Lucas shape the films into the success they have become today. And as Producer, let's not forget his contributions-on EMPIRE, it was Kurtz who selected Kershner to direct the important sequel (a superb choice to helm the film), it was Kurtz who chose Peter Suschitsky (whom many think gave the STAR WARS saga its best cinematography with EMPIRE). It would also be Kurtz who maintained a strict quality control on all areas of the films, especially EMPIRE, from the way the film was marketed, to the escalating toy creation and promotion, to the dailies film footage being shot at ELSTREE and ILM, to the help, protection and support he gave the films young stars, this producers talent and hard work on the films should not be overlooked. 

With the takeover of the STAR WARS INSIDER by TITAN MAGAZINES, let us hope that the magazine one day returns to its glory days of the mid-nineties in terms of content. Lets find out more behind the scene material on our favourite films, in particular, more interviews, with decent questions rather than the same old same old, with the cast and crews that made these films, and a reduction in the toy marketing content. So many people who have contributed to STAR WARS have died in the last few years and none of their stories or anecdotes have been recorded or detailed (an example being David Tomblin- when did anyone talk to him about his extensive work on EMPIRE and JEDI-I don't recall him ever being interviewed for a STAR WARS magazine). LUCASFILM has the access-lets talk to these people. Let's talk to Gary Kurtz in depth about both films- I don't think I've seen an interview with Kurtz in an official STAR WARS magazine since 1980!!!- let’s talk to Gilbert Taylor again (rather than a re-hashing of a ten year old interview!!). And what about Richard Marquand on JEDI-his contributions to the final film of the CLASSIC SAGA are also left un-explored-how about talking with his estate and his family about his work on the film (and with JEDI there is still so much to find out on its making-it's top secret making-has anyone ever seen the original shooting script for the film-of which only three full copies existed? How about a book printing?) 
So much to be explored still, so many people and their talents to be celebrated.

As this 2007 anniversary year comes to an end, let us raise our glasses in toast to all the creative talents who worked on those classic STAR WARS films, and let us also hope that their hard work is explored in greater detail in the phenomenon years that are still to come.



Don said...

Great article as always. I noticed a small oversight, you said 30th when you meant 35th.

aficionadofan said...

Hi Don, thanks for the kind words.

The feature was a classic blog from our older site in 2007-for the 30th Anniversary. I thought much of it was still relevant so decided not to change anything.

Thanks for getting in touch.