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Gary Kurtz Blasts 'Star Wars' Myths

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So this writer Chris Taylor has a book coming out soon called How Star Wars Conquered The Universe. To help advertise the book he's published excerpts from an interview he conducted with Gary Kurtz. It's really good, here are some highlights.

As for nerds who insist Star Wars was drawn from one of George Lucas' favorite Akira Kurasawa movies, The Hidden Fortress ...

Not really. There are definite comparisons, there’s no question, if you want to look hard enough: the two peasants, and the idea of transporting a princess across hostile territory. It’s a fairly straightforward action adventure. But I mean, they’re very generic.

If you read all the versions [of Star Wars] you know that the story is progressive. The characters change a lot.

Or that it was based on Joseph Campbell's famous book on mythology, The Hero With a Thousand Faces

The whole idea of Star Wars as a mythological thing, I think came about because of [later Lucas] interviews that tied it to The Hero with a Thousand Faces [which Lucas didn't read until he'd almost finished Star Wars].

Actually, if you look carefully at it, all coming of age stories fit [Campbell's model]. Hollywood has done those kind of stories since the beginning, since the 1920s. So there are many, many examples of stories that fit the model of that hero.

I think it did kind of cloud it a bit, that Star Wars got so closely tied to that. It was even more so when George did a long interview about the book and about the connections. There are definite connections there, but I think that’s a bit too analytical.

The original Star Wars wasn't really supposed to be called "Episode IV" back in 1977.

We were toying with the idea of calling it Episode III, IV, or V — something in the middle. Fox hated that idea. They said it’ll really confuse the audience — and actually they were right. If you go to see a film, and it’s been touted as this new science fiction film, and it says Episode III up there, you’d say, “What the hell?”

We were a bit clouded by the fact that we wanted it to be as much like Flash Gordon as possible. Because if you went to Saturday morning pictures and came in and saw episode eight of Flash Gordon, you’d have the scroll at the beginning, the rollup, which we imitated. So we thought that would be really clever. But it was stupid at the time, because it’d be impossible to explain to anybody what it meant.

On how The Force evolved through different drafts of the script — with the benefit of Kurtz's student textbooks on Comparative Religion.

At one time, the energy [of the Force] was all tied up in crystals, in the "Kaibur Crystal." That was the source of the Force. But we had no time to deal with exposition about esoteric religion. What we were looking for was a simple handle on something that could be explained really quickly.

You know, when you’re out in the real world, religion is identified by handles. You’re either a Christian or a Muslim or a Jew or a Buddhist or Hindu. As soon as you say one of those words, you know what’s behind that, even if you haven’t studied any of those religions. You know kind of what that person might be like.

We wanted something like that with a religion that nobody’s ever heard of. So the idea of the Force is this energy thing. The fact that Ben Kenobi could say in one sentence pretty much what it was all about, and then we move on.

That’s how it got boiled down to practically nothing — and it worked much better that way, much better.

We did have long discussions about various religious philosophies, and how people related to them, and how we could simplify it. "May the Force be with you" came out of medieval Christianity, where "may God go with you" was a symbol that you would be safe. We wanted something as simple as that, an everyday expression that linked to the power of the Force that wasn’t overbearing.

Return of the Jedi became "less serious" — because of Indiana Jones.

In the meantime, George had worked with Stephen [Spielberg] on Raiders of the Lost Ark. He was convinced by the end of Empire that it needed less serious stories and more rollercoaster ride. He changed the story outline for Jedi and we had a kind of mutual parting of the ways, because I just didn’t want to do another attack on the Death Star.

The original story outline that we had for the third film I thought would have been great. It was darker and it ended up with Luke riding off into the sunset, metaphorically, on his own. And that would have been a bittersweet ending but I think it would have been dramatically stronger.

But the official Lucasfilm account of the making of Return of the Jedi says there was no early draft without Death Stars?

It wasn’t ever that way and it never was shot that way. That was just a discussion. This all came up at the time that Empire was being written, because the idea was that they had to tie together.

I had some written materials somewhere. It was about how are we going to resolve the story of these three people; one of the discussions was about Han Solo’s character being killed in one of the raids in the middle of the story. Harrison wanted it to be that way. He wanted his character to end that way. So there was that and there was the princess having to take control of what’s left of her people, and be crowned queen.

But I think what happened was that there were discussions with the marketing people and the toy company. They said, “Oh, no, you can’t do that. You can’t kill off one of your main characters. It’s too salable.” In a way that still happens today with superhero movies. There’s no poignancy anywhere. It’s just a lot of action. But there’s no threat to any main characters. I guess that’s inevitable in this kind of situation where nobody wants to lose anything like that that’s important.

Anyway, I’m not sure that that ever got down to a complete story outline. It was dismissed very early on as being possibly too melancholic and not upbeat enough for big endings.

Original Article

I'm definitely going to be picking up this book.

Help finish ROTJ: Revisited!

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I'm glad they never bumped off Han after defrosting him. It would take away the story potential of rescuing him. Whatever plan you come up with (presumably better than the nonsense in the final film) would be unraveled by killing him later in the same film.

Lando, Chewie, even Luke make better choices of a sacrificial main character than Han in that regard.

Luke could have been killed by the Emperor after redeeming his father and the rest of the heroes could honour his sacrifice by finding his sister and maybe having her trained by a dying Anakin.

Oh... hum.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Dp2OfIT_M

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"Whatever plan you come up with (presumably better than the nonsense in the final film) would be unraveled by killing him later in the same film."

That's exactly what would make it unexpected, harrowing, exciting and poignant.  That's what sets great storytelling apart from ordinary movies.  As Nabokov famously made one of his great themes in criticism as well as composition, no artist should allow himself to get invested in and protective of his own characters.  Once that happens, the story is being sacrificed for the characters, which upends the basic priorities of storytelling. 

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I've always felt Han's arc ended at the end of Empire. After Empire he's just a useless caricature of himself - there's no point to his character anymore. Come to think of it, there's no point to Leia because of it. And Chewie's along for the ride. Not to mention that keeping Han alive makes Lando entirely pointless and even more redundant than he already is (I like the character, but that's how it is), and it robs Jedi entirely of any focus it otherwise might've (and should've) had. I feel that at that point the story needed to converge instead of partially repeating itself and splitting needlessly into several subplots, out of which only one was remotely interesting, even though it didn't make a lot of sense the way it was written.

Jedi could've easily blown Empire out of the water, but they managed to screw it up completely, is what I'm saying.

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Technically speaking the arc to Han's character begins and ends in the first film.

He was a mercenary but through interaction with a young idealist he becomes part of something larger.

ESB winds that back a bit by having Han constantly reminding us that this is a temporary measure and he has outside troubles that need attending to. He serves more as an instrument of Leia's character arc as she goes from being a dedicated leader of a resistance army in the first film to the sort of person who just abandons her cause to rescue her boyfriend in ROTJ (the Skywalker thing may have been tacked on but at least it plays out using the family MO).

She is attracted to Han because he is unpredictable and irreverent (and rather dishy). There could have been a lot of mileage left in what happens to Leia and Han if they settle down, if he stops being a scoundrel ; if he stops being so dishy (imagine if the carbonite had permanently scarred him) ; if he was vulnerable (no longer able to be the flyboy pirate because he is permanently blind and bitter because of it).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Dp2OfIT_M

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Bingowings said:

Technically speaking the arc to Han's character begins and ends in the first film.

I guess it depends on how you look at it. In terms of his character alone, in isolation, yeah. In terms of the overall story and especially of the great story that could've been, I say not quite.

That probably sounds a bit odd, but the way I see it Han faces the consequences of his actions in Empire, and I've always seen this to be a) the perfect continuation of his arc from Star Wars and b) the ideal set-up for a tragic end that would've provided the much needed motivation for Leia, Chewie and Lando in Jedi, and thus would've made everything gel for the finale.

I hate how loose and meandering Jedi feels and how it's clearly not thought out properly, and while you can salvage the Luke vs the Emperor bits with fairly straightforward rewrites of a few lines (that's just the quick and dirty solution, obviously), the rest of Jedi is just too big of a mess to fix it that way. With Han's death pretty much all the major problems are solved.

That's just my idea, anyway. Not sure if I managed to convey it clearly, but there you go.

Bingowings said:

She is attracted to Han because he is unpredictable and irreverent (and rather dishy). There could have been a lot of mileage left in what happens to Leia and Han if they settle down, if he stops being a scoundrel ; if he stops being so dishy (imagine if the carbonite had permanently scarred him) ; if he was vulnerable (no longer able to be the flyboy pirate because he is permanently blind and bitter because of it).

There's potential for good drama in those ideas, but it doesn't sound very fitting for Star Wars to me. Still, I would've preferred that instead of "Hey, it's me" etc.

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He doesn't blast any myths. He himself creates more of them. His statements are as (un)trustworthy as those of Lucas. He states that they "natural parted" because of the story, yet as it seems that he was in fact removed by Lucas in the middle of ESB and replaced by Kazanjian.

真実

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I think Han should have either (a) died in the carbonite, (b) died or been severely wounded as a result of the carbonite, or (c) gone insane because of being in the carbonite for so long (assuming he could sense the passage of time still).

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Kurtz once said that Palpatine wasn't supposed to appear until IX, but then GL condensed V-IX into V-VI. I would have loved a longer arc from ANH to Palpatine's death.

If Plagueis shows up in the ST, not only will I refuse to watch the movies, but I won't so much as watch the trailers, either. - DuracellEnergizer

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darklordoftech said:

Kurtz once said that Palpatine wasn't supposed to appear until IX, but then GL condensed V-IX into V-VI. I would have loved a longer arc from ANH to Palpatine's death.

 Unfortunately, Lucas had nowhere enough imagination to generate interesting new adventures over any extended period, so he just wrapped and twisted the limited set of ideas from the project's inception into itself.

He was furthermore too controlling to open up to new writers and other talent, so he had no choice but to just end it.

To sustain six movies of consistently fresh plot would have required a steady flow of imaginative infusion.  It proved impossible.

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imperialscum said:

He doesn't blast any myths. He himself creates more of them. His statements are as (un)trustworthy as those of Lucas. He states that they "natural parted" because of the story, yet as it seems that he was in fact removed by Lucas in the middle of ESB and replaced by Kazanjian.

Do we actually know the details of what really happened? He was there after all...

The only thing we know for sure is that he submitted his resignation during the production of ESB. We know he didn't leave before the completion of the film and that he was actively involved from post production through its release in theatres in the US,  UK and Japan. Even when ROTJ was in production he was still around from time to time. It seems to me their parting was mutual as he says. It's not like they became these bitter enemies that some articles like to portray it.

We want you to be aware that we have no plans—now or in the future—to restore the earlier versions. 

Sincerely, Lynne Hale publicity@lucasfilm.com

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The split between Kurtz and Lucas didn't actually happen until near the end of Return of the Jedi when the Death Star II explosion killed hundreds of bald eagles.

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Thanks for the link, and I'm not complaining about you, Tobar, but rather the state of internet pop journalism:

Is it really too much to ask for a transcript of an interview nowadays? Some of us are at work and don't have the time or the speakers to listen to an audio interview.  God do I miss text.

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Exactly. Text can be skimmed if one is short on time, but there isn't usually an option to speed up audio, and even if there is, people start sounding like Mickey Mouse when you use it.

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Darth Id said:

Is it really too much to ask for a transcript of an interview nowadays? Some of us are at work and don't have the time or the speakers to listen to an audio interview.  God do I miss text.

While I also prefer text in most cases, perhaps you should spend time at work...oh I don't know...working?

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imperialscum said:


He doesn't blast any myths. He himself creates more of them. His statements are as (un)trustworthy as those of Lucas. He states that they "natural parted" because of the story, yet as it seems that he was in fact removed by Lucas in the middle of ESB and replaced by Kazanjian.


I don't like him. He just seems to find new negative things to say every time he's interviewed. And as for creating new interpretations on what really happened, I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised to hear Kurtz claiming that he created Star Wars lock-stock-and-barrel before this decade is out.

That's some bad hat, Harry
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Easterhay said:



I don't like him.

 Do you know him?  You can disagree with Gary Kurtz, but to dislike someone you never met seems a bit overboard don't ya think?

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Not really, no. If it pleases you, though, I will say "I don't like how he comes across".

That's some bad hat, Harry
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Easterhay said:

Not really, no. If it pleases you, though, I will say "I don't like how he comes across".

 That's better.  ;-)

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Easterhay said:

imperialscum said:


He doesn't blast any myths. He himself creates more of them. His statements are as (un)trustworthy as those of Lucas. He states that they "natural parted" because of the story, yet as it seems that he was in fact removed by Lucas in the middle of ESB and replaced by Kazanjian.



I don't like him. He just seems to find new negative things to say every time he's interviewed. And as for creating new interpretations on what really happened, I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised to hear Kurtz claiming that he created Star Wars lock-stock-and-barrel before this decade is out.

 At least he isn't claiming he's bigger than The Beatles.

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CO said:

Easterhay said:



I don't like him.

 Do you know him?  You can disagree with Gary Kurtz, but to dislike someone you never met seems a bit overboard don't ya think?

 You can't say that on ot.com. Everyone here hates George Lucas and no one has met him.

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darth_ender said:

CO said:

Easterhay said:



I don't like him.

 Do you know him?  You can disagree with Gary Kurtz, but to dislike someone you never met seems a bit overboard don't ya think?

 You can't say that on ot.com. Everyone here hates George Lucas and no one has met him.

 I thought he posted here?

“After a time, you may find that having, is not so pleasing a thing after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.” - Spock