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George Lucas using co-writers

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One of the things Lucas is repeatadly criticized for is his writing. He admitted himself that he's known as the "King of Wooden Dialogue." And in the "Making of Episode III" book he joked that he's "not excactly known for his dialogue." Throughout Lucas career he has almost always gotten help writing his films. It's surprising then that he chose to get so little outside help in doing the Star Wars prequels. 95% of his films have used screeenwriters...

THX 1138: Story by Lucas. Screenplay by Lucas & Walter Murch.
AMERICAN GRAFFITI: Written by Lucas, Gloria Katz & Willard Huyck.
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: Story by Lucas. Screenplay by Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan & Leigh Brackett.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK: Story by Lucas & Phillip Kaufman. Screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan.
RETURN OF THE JEDI: Story by Lucas. Screenplay by Lucas & Lawrence Kasdan.
INDIANA JONES & THE TEMPLE OF DOOM: Story by Lucas. Screenplay by Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz.
WILLOW: Story by Lucas. Screenplay by Bob Dolman.
INDIANA JONES & THE LAST CRUSADE: Story by Lucas & Menna Meyeis. Screenplay by Jeffrey Boam.
RADIOLAND MURDERS: Story by Lucas. Screenplay by Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz, Jeff Reno & Ron Osborn.
ATTACK OF THE CLONES: Story by Lucas. Screenplay by Lucas & Jonathan Hales.
Lucas has always been a master story teller. He's great at creating visuals and crafting action scenes. But character development and dialogue is his achilles heel. I think he's aware of this since he's gotten so much help writing his movies.

He even got help on "Star Wars" writing the dialogue with Gloria Katz & Willard Huyck. And Irvin Kershner & Harrison Ford rewrote many lines on "Empire." So what happened with the prequels?
"The Phantom Menace" was all George and it shows. Oddly enough, (and this wasn't mentioned much in the press), Episode I was the first film Lucas wrote entirely by himself. (Not counting Episode IV, which was ghost written by Kurtz & Huyck, and some dialogue was improvised by Harrison Ford). So before it began filming, "Phantom" had two strikes against it. Lucas's screenwriting and the fact he hadn't directed a film since 1977. However, Lucas was well aware that writing wasn't his strong suit. He asked Lawrence Kasdan to screenwrite Episode I but Kasdan turned him down. He also asked for Frank Darabont's input but he told George "Not to change a thing in the Ep I script."

On Episode II, Lucas had Young Indy writer Jonathan Hales come in and write a screenplay based on Lucas's story. Hales was mainly brought in to help pen the love story. Unfortunately, Lucas then ignored most of Hales had written. Cutting out most of his dialogue. To be honest, most of what Hales wrote wasn't very good. His writing was ok for Indiana Jones but ill suited for Star Wars. So Lucas ended up writing the majority of Ep II by himself. And editing down Hales contribution to the point that the finished movie didn't make a whole lot of sense.

On Episode III, once again Lucas wrote the entire script himself. It must have been pretty bad because producer Rick McCallum brought in acclaimed writer Tom Stoppard to rewrite most of the dialogue. Stoppard didn't end up receiving a writing credit, but he didn't work on most of "Revenge's" dialogue heavy scenes that included Anakin. However, Lucas penned most of the lines himself. And in the finished film, huge chunks of Stoppard's dialogue was edited out. Once again, having read the original screenplay, most of Stoppard's dialogue, while good, didn't really fit well into the Star Wars style.

Lucas seemed to refuse to yield creative control on the prequels. On that my be why the dialogue and character development is so weak. You kind of get the feeling that Lucas was pushed into making the prequels back in 1997 before he really had a story penned down for all 3 movies. I mean, all three episodes began production before the screenplays were finished. That didn't happen on the original trilogy. I guess Lucas was in such a rush to use the new digital technology that he forgot about the story or figured he could just "fix things later" using CGI.

It's a shame that Lawrence Kasdan didn't agree to come back on board for the prequels. I think Lucas waited too late to ask him. He actually didn't make Kasdan the offer until Episode I was two days away from starting principal photography. Kind of unfair to Kasdan to put that much pressure on him. "We're filming now, can you rewrite the script like immediately?" Can't blame him for saying no. I mean, Lucas could have brought in Kurtz & Huyck and that would have been fine. I don't think Hales & Stoppard were right for the saga.

Oh well, it's too late now. The prequel trilogy has come and gone. Unfortunately, I think as the original trilogy is known for it's great characters and memorable catch phrases the prequels will become known for their campy dialogue and forgettable characters.












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Wow, that's a lot of details I didn't know. I didn't know he had gotten help on the Episode II script. I also didn't know that he attempted to contact Kasdan to write the prequels. But, yeah, that's a pretty stupid thing to do if he did indeed ask right before principal photography started. Maybe George can work under those conditions... but we all know how his dialogue comes out. ^_^

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i think the dialogue in episode III is much improved overall, although some of the love stuff is pretty leaden. i guess i attribute that to tom stoppard, although who knows if we'll ever know what he did and what george did. at least in the annotated screenplays book, they actually point out which lines were penned by katz & hyuck.

supposedly, or so i read somewhere, carrie fisher did some kind of polish work on the EpI script, and I think it was in the scenes with Padme. i just googled to find some kind of citation for that, but couldn't.
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Well that answers some questions I had about the writing team behind the prequels. I'd always wondered why Lawrence Kasdan didn't return, and even now I don't see why he couldn't have come on board for Episodes 2&3. I'd heard that about Carrie Fisher before, but didn't know what exactly she helped him with; the Padme scenes make sense.
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Thanks for those interesting bits of info. And I wondered why I like the E2 best from the prequels...

I must admit that the first drafts of "The Adventures of the Starkiller"... errr... I mean "Star Wars" - were not so good, the dialogues were indeed corny and "too sci-fi, too outworldish".
I saw the original theatrical release of the Old Trilogy on the big screen and I'm proud of it...
How did I accomplish that (considering my age) is my secret...
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Small correction--almost EVERYTHING else is correct, but Star Wars wasn't exactly "Ghost Written" by Huyck and Katz. They did a dialog polish, and the only lines of theirs that stayed in were a few of Han Solo's. They DID help with some structure, but since their contributions basically boiled down to polishing about 60 percent of ONE character's dialog, they weren't credited, although Lucas DID give them percentage points for their help.

The Stoppard rumor was never verified, although I DO tend to believe it. Also, since we're discussing rumors, and we're talking about Lucas' yielding creative control (he's never actually done that. All his collaborators just refine ideas he gave them, and if he didn't like them, they re-wrote. That's pretty much the definition of control) There WERE other options for directors on the prequel. Earliest rumors cited Lucas lining up Joe Johnston, Frank Darabont and David Fincher, all ex ILM/LFL alums, to helm I, II and III, respectively.
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