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Quotes from Gary Kurtz

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Gary Kurtz was a producer who worked alongside George Lucas on the first two Star Wars films, "A New Hope" and "The Empire Strikes Back." He is often credited with helping make the films the classics they are considered today. His absence was felt on the disappointing "Return of the Jedi," which didn't live up to its promise. Here are some interview snippets from Kurtz talking about his involvement with Star Wars.

ON RE-INSERTING THE "JABBA THE HUTT" SCENE IN EPISODE IV:
"Well, the original idea was that it was supposed to be there. It is in the script ... but it was a guy, a human being, this sort of fat guy... looked a bit like Sydney Greenstreet... and the scene is pretty much, I mean dialogue wise, it's exactly what you see in the Special Edition. But it was a person that was there, and we had technical difficulties with that scene. We shot it over three times for camera problems, focus problems, and film stock problem, and then abandoned it because we ran out of time."

"We just said, "Well, the bulk of the information that comes across in that scene, about Jabba threatening Han Solo and wanting his money and all of that, we could get across in the scene in the Cantina, with Greedo." It's basically the same kind of information. So we just added some bits to the Greedo scene to make it a little bit longer that gets across that information, and then jettisoned that other scene. This all happened while we were shooting. It wasn't done in the cutting room."

LUCAS ORIGINAL PLANS FOR A 9 EPISODE SAGA :
(as drafted in 1980).
EPISODE 1: Was to focus on the origins of the Jedi Knights and how they are initiated and trained
EPISODE 2: Introduction and development of Obi-Wan Kenobi
EPISODE 3: Introduction and life of Vader
EPISODE 4: There were seven different drafts of the film. At one point, they pursued buying the rights to Hidden Fortress because of the strong similarities. At one point, Luke was a female, Han was Luke's brother, Luke's father was the one in prison (interesting point for some debates) and the film featured 40 wookies
EPISODE 5: Once written, the screenplay of Empire is almost exactly what is seen on screen. The only cut scenes were those involving wampas in the rebel base (cut because of time and unsolved technical glitches) and about two minutes of Luke/Yoda Jedi training with no real dialog.
EPISODE 6: Leia was to be elected "Queen of her people" leaving her isolated. Han was to die. Luke confronted Vader and went on with his life alone. Leia was not to be Luke's sister.
EPISODE 7: Third trilogy was to focus on Luke's life as a Jedi, with very few details planned out. EPISODE 8: Luke's sister (not Leia) appears from another part of the galaxy.
EPISODE 9: First appearance of the Emperor.

"At that time, he always said that he had enough material for three earlier films and three later films, to make a total of nine, and there were outlined materials certainly for a later three that culminated with this big clash with the Emperor in Episode IX. So, we'll never see any of those, based on what he's said now."

"Well a lot of the prequel ideas were very, very vague. It's really difficult to say. I can't remember much about that at all, except dealing with the Clone Wars and the formation of the Jedi Knights in the first place – that was supposed to be one of the keys of Episode I, was going to be how the Jedi Knights came to be. But all of those notes were abandoned completely."

"One of the reasons Jedi came out the way it did was because the story outline of how Jedi was going to be seemed to get tossed out, and one of the reasons I was really unhappy was the fact that all of the carefully constructed story structure of characters and things that we did in Empire was going to carry over into Jedi. The resolution of that film was going to be quite bittersweet, with Han Solo being killed, and the princess having to take over as queen of what remained of her people, leaving everybody else. In effect, Luke was left on his own. None of that happened, of course."

"It would have been quite sad, and poignant and upbeat at the same time, because they would have won a battle. But the idea of another attack on another Death Star wasn't there at all ... it (Jedi) was a rehash of Star Wars, with better visual effects. And there were no Ewoks ... it was just entirely different. It was much more adult and straightforward, the story"

(original prequel vision) "Some of the treatments had references to that and episode one was going to be about the origin of the Jedi and the killing off of the Sith Lords and much more kind of archetypal, political aspects."

(original sequel vision) "Yes, it was very vague. It was Luke's journey really up to becoming sort of the premiere Jedi knight in the Obi-Wan Kenobi mold and his ultimate confrontation with the emperor. That was the outline of it and all that happens."

HIS VIEWS ON "RETURN OF THE JEDI" & "THE PHANTOM MENACE"
"There's a lot of undercurrent in Star Wars that, if you take it on the surface, a four-year-old can really enjoy it – but there's a lot else going on, under there. In that sense it's multi-layered, and Empire is as well. That's the thing that bothered me a bit about Jedi and certainly about Episode I, is that those layers, those subtexts – they're all gone. They're not there. You accept what's there on the screen – it either works for you as a surface adventure, or it doesn't. But that's all there is. There's nothing to ponder."

(More on "Jedi")
"The one story thread that got totally tossed out the window, which was really pretty important I think, was the one of Vader trying to convince Luke to join him to overthrow the Emperor. That together they had enough power that they could do that, and it wasn't him saying I want to take over the world and be the evil leader, it was that transition. It was Vader saying, "I'm looking again at what I've done and where my life has gone and who I've served and, very much in the Samurai tradition, and saying if I can join forces with my son, who is just as strong as I am, that maybe we can make some amends." So there was all of that going on in Jedi as well, that was supposed to go on."

"So the story was quite a bit more poignant and the ending was the coronation of Leia as the queen of what was left of her people, to take over the royal symbol. That meant she was then isolated from all of the rest and Luke went off then by himself. It was basically a kind of bittersweet ending. She's not his sister that dropped in to wrap up everything neatly. His sister was someone else way over on the other side of the galaxy and she wasn't going to show up until the next episode."

(More on "Phantom")
"There was an article in the Times about the racial and ethnic stereotypes. Of course Lucas Films official line is, "Well it's in another planet so it's just a race of creatures." But, you look at it and say, "Wait a minute, if the only context that we have is the Earth, so if you're going to do a race of primitive, tribal type people they're going to be equated with primitive, tribal type people, no matter what."

(on Anakin) "From a mythological point of view, I would have like to have seen him older. Because a 12 year-old is the one, that's when you come of age. The age when you leave home, it's the age when you're torn away from your mother metaphorically. I think that would have worked better for people."

"One of the story things that bothers me about it, is you don't have any sense of who the Jedi are. They're just referred to as these amazing characters. Ewan McGregor is supposed to be an apprentice so he's not even supposed to be as good as Liam Neeson, you don't see that either, you don't see any training. The biggest thing that bothers me about Phantom Menace as far as I'm concerned is the destruction of the spiritual center of
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Nice articles, but still some will beleive it was all GL.
"Drink the Kool-Aid. Wear blinders. Cover your ears. Because that's the only way you can totally enjoy Revenge of the Sith -- the final and most futile attempt from skilled producer, clumsy director and tin-eared writer George Lucas to create a prequel trilogy to match the myth-making spirit of the original Star Wars saga he unleashed twenty-eight years ago. Fan boys, of course, have convinced themselves otherwise. So have several critics, if you go by early reviews."
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Wow, I really enjoyed reading that thanks.
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"There's a lot of undercurrent in Star Wars .....the thing that bothered me a bit about Jedi and certainly about Episode I, is that those layers, those subtexts – they're all gone. ..... There's nothing to ponder."

That's exactly what I was referring to in another post when I said Lucas started to shrink the adventure of the story towards the end of Empire. He continued to do it even more in the prequels.

That is an awesome read, especially coming from someone who was there.
originaltrilogy.com Moderator

"Why are you here, Rey from nowhere?”

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While an interesting read to be sure, I think Kurtz should be taken with a grain of salt. Here's his filmography:

5-25-77 (2005) (filming) (producer)
The Steal (1994) (producer)
Slipstream (1989) (producer)
Return to Oz (1985) (executive producer)
The Dark Crystal (1982) (producer)
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (producer)
The Making of 'Star Wars' (1977) (TV) (executive producer)Star Wars (1977) (producer)
Star Wars (1977)(producer)
American Graffiti (1973) (co-producer)
Chandler (1971) (associate producer)
Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) (associate producer)

Not exactly an Oscar winning laundry list, eh? I guess my point is that while his contribution to the saga is indelible, he sometimes comes off as the 'Jesus of Star Wars' which really, really bothers me. I still respect him, but so often he takes the moral high ground like he knows what was best.
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Yeah but look at Rick McCallum...

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)
"Star Wars: Clone Wars" (2003) TV Series
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Adventures in the Secret Service (1999) (V) (producer)
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Masks of Evil (1999) (V) (producer)
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Spring Break Adventure (1999) (V) (producer)
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: The Trenches of Hell (1999) (V) (producer)
Young Indiana Jones and the Treasure of the Peacock's Eye (1995) (TV) (producer)
Young Indiana Jones and the Attack of the Hawkmen (1995) (TV) (producer)
Radioland Murders (1994) (producer)
Young Indiana Jones and the Hollywood Follies (1994) (TV) (producer)
"The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" (1992) TV Series (producer)
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Daredevils of the Desert (1992) (V) (producer) (as Rick Mccallum)
Heading Home (1991) (TV) (producer)
"Blackeyes" (1989) (mini) TV Series (producer)
Strapless (1989) (producer)
Track 29 (1988) (producer)
Tidy Endings (1988) (TV) (producer)
Castaway (1986) (producer)
"The Singing Detective" (1986) (mini) TV Series (executive producer)
Link (1986) (co-producer)
Dreamchild (1985) (producer)
I Ought to Be in Pictures (1982) (associate producer)
Pennies from Heaven (1981) (executive producer) (as Richard McCallum)

And he produced those awful special edition versions of the original trilogy in '97. The way I see it, his only critical success has been "Revenge of the Sith," "The Clone Wars" TV show and some of the Young Indy Chronicles.
"Radioland Murders," "Episodes I and II" and 'Young Indy" were all disappointments. At least Kurtz & Lucas made fan pleasing films together.





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Originally posted by: jawaewokgungan
Yeah but look at Rick McCallum...

And he produced those awful special edition versions of the original trilogy in '97. The way I see it, his only critical success has been "Revenge of the Sith," "The Clone Wars" TV show and some of the Young Indy Chronicles.
"Radioland Murders," "Episodes I and II" and 'Young Indy" were all disappointments. At least Kurtz & Lucas made fan pleasing films together.


I guess it depends who you ask

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That "laundry list" is pretty damn impressive for the most part. Whether any of those films won oscars isn't really the point. (How many people can even name what actually won best picture of 1977?) And when the heck is 5-25-77 coming out?
originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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jawaewokgungan - an intriguing and insightful read, many thanks.
originaltrilogy.com Moderator

I find that answer vague and unconvincing. Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves?
Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? And say something righteous and hopeful for a change?

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That list doesn't show if those films came in on or under budget, or on time, or if the production looked as good as the money poured into it. McCallum manages to make the movies he's been involved in as a producer look a LOT better than the money typically spent on them, and he gets those movies done fairly quickly and with a minimum of budget overruns. He's a very good organizer. Which is what you want from a producer. Kurtz wasn't as good at that as McCallum or even Kazanjian was.

Kurtz is a good guy, but I've heard he sort of regrets that interview, as he spun it pretty heavy and it made him sound a lot worse than he really meant to. Plus, keep in mind, it's about 5 years old and doesn't take either Episodes II and III into account, which, say what you will about them as movies, DOES help bring out the subtext that IS inherent in Episode I that might not be so apparent to critical viewers when viewed in a vacuum without the other two parts.

But fans have always overestimated his importance to the story elements of Star Wars. they seem to think Producer means co-writer or something, when it's not necessarily the case. It CAN be, but that wasn't Kurtz's role on these movies.
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Originally posted by: SilverWook
That "laundry list" is pretty damn impressive for the most part. Whether any of those films won oscars isn't really the point. (How many people can even name what actually won best picture of 1977?) And when the heck is 5-25-77 coming out?


Annie Hall. Pretty famous story about the '77 Oscars and George getting snubbed. You should look into it.
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Yeah, I know it was Annie Hall. But you'd be amazed how many people think the biggest hit of a particular year won for best picture by default.
originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Where were you in '77?

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He is often credited with helping make the films the classics they are considered today.


Yeah, and he is wrongly given this credit by disgruntled fanboys like those on this site. It's a complete load of bull. Kurtz was in no way responsible for the original Star Wars trilogy being as great as it was. He created nothing, wrote nothing, and directed nothing aside from a few second unit scenes. Typical stupidity from whiny fanboys angry at Lucas for whatever reason, who don't have a clue.

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"I think we both were frustrated and decided we just didn't want to work together anymore for the time being.


Bullshit Kurtz. You split over money because you nearly ran the ESB production into the ground, skyrocketing the budget by over 10 million dollars. That's why you split. Then you ran into similar problems with Dark Crystal.

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Yeah but look at Rick McCallum...


At least McCallum can keep a film on budget and on schedule, unlike Kurtz. McCallum's a better producer, plain and simple. Just look at where they're at in their respective careers. McCallum is producing at Lucasfilm because he is a damn good producer. Kurtz is producing some second rate independent fan film based on Star Wars. Case closed!

If Kurtz was half as brilliant as disenchanted fanboys think he is, he would have his pick of films to produce. The only reason anyone here knows his name is because of Lucas.
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Oh, yeah, that's right. This conversation is in two different threads. You're probably right on a lot of points, joe_H, but I think you may be backlashing a little on Kurtz due to the fanboys who worship him do so because of their own backlash against Lucas/McCallum/whoever. I mean, obviously Kurtz isn't completely incompetent, otherwise he and Lucas wouldn't have worked together as long as they did. And, based on interviews I've seen and read (granted, it's pretty much solely based on Empire of Dreams and the Kurtz interview), they seemed to have had some sort of collaboration and trust. So he shouldn't be credited with making Star Wars what it is, but give credit where credit is due.

And to all those McCallum bashers out there, well, the nephew of Michael "Basil Exposition" "Logan" York can't be all bad, huh?

And I know I myself have called McCallum a yes man in the past, but these newer discussions have convinced me that he's not as bad as he's been made out to be, just as Kurtz isn't as great as he's been made out to be. When you balance out both extremes of the pendulum, you'll find the truth somewhere around the middle.

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C3PX said: Gaffer is like that hot girl in high school that you think you have a chance with even though she is way out of your league because she is sweet and not a stuck up bitch who pretends you don’t exist… then one day you spot her making out with some skinny twerp, only on second glance you realize it is the goth girl who always sits in the back of class; at that moment it dawns on you why she is never seen hanging off the arm of any of the jocks… and you realize, damn, she really is unobtainable after all. Not that that is going to stop you from dreaming… Only in this case, Gaffer is actually a guy.

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Originally posted by: joe_H
...he is wrongly given this credit by disgruntled fanboys like those on this site. It's a complete load of bull.

...He created nothing, wrote nothing, and directed nothing...

...Typical stupidity from whiny fanboys angry at Lucas...who don't have a clue.

...Bullshit Kurtz. You split over money

....At least McCallum can keep a film on budget and on schedule, unlike Kurtz.

...If Kurtz was half as brilliant as disenchanted fanboys think he is, he would have his pick of films to produce.


Dude....might be time to start considering decaf.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

"Why are you here, Rey from nowhere?”

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I don't profess to Kurtz being God, because I think some people overate him, but I think he has definitely made a big difference in making ANH & ESB the two best Star Wars films.

I like him and Kershner because they questioned George like anyone should. It is still Lucas' vision, and he deserves most of the credit, but Kurtz to me seemed to keep that adult nature to Star Wars that it lost when ROTJ & the Ewoks arrived.

In one interview I read from 2002, Kurtz said Lucas changed after Raiders of the Lost Ark. It is a classic action movie, but it is just that, a 2-hour action bonanza, with not the greatest plot to go with. Lucas realized, and he was right, that if you give people a wild-action ride for 2+ hours, people will come. To me after ESB, that is where Star Wars took a left turn, from great films to good ones.

Watching ANH & ESB, you can put them up to classic movies, and have a healthy argument. After ESB, you start saying:

ROTJ: The last 40 minutes are awesome, but those damn ewoks, and that jabba scene goes on way to long! And who is a that singing that awful song in Jabba's palace, was that in the original or special edition?

TPM: Jar Jar? Jar Jar? Jar Jar? It still boggles my mind 6 years later!

AOTC: Great action once the clone wars start, but that love story, argh! And what is up with C-3PO cracking jokes during the clonewars!

ROTS: Definitely got back to the original Star Wars, but Padme dying of a broken heart? Can Anakin's turn be any less convincing? "NOOOOOOOO!" Where is Qui-Gon, can you possibly spend a minute explaining the force ghost trick?

It is interesting to read Kurtz's quotes, and I'm sure there are sour grapes between him & Lucas, but he definitely helped the first two films rather than hurt them.
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But fans have always overestimated his importance to the story elements of Star Wars. they seem to think Producer means co-writer or something, when it's not necessarily the case. It CAN be, but that wasn't Kurtz's role on these movies.


bizzle, i'm not sure why you'd continue to argue that kurtz had no creative involvement in the prequels after reading this quote. i think it's spot-on, and everything we know about both the creative process of the OT versus the creative process of the PT seems to bear it out.

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"I think one of the problems that Lucas has now, in the Lucas Film empire, is the fact that he doesn't have more people around him who really challenge him. We had lots of arguments and discussions; heated discussions about the way things were going."


i also don't get the whole "producers aren't creative" argument. i think that may be true in many cases, that producers are organizers and budget minders and gladhanders who keep the trains coming and going on time, so to speak. but I don't think that's ALWAYS the case. and i don't think it was the case with regard to gary kurtz. i would never presume he was a co-writer or even a heavy creative collaborator on the level of a lawrence kasdan--but it seems clear he was in the mix, based on everything he says above.

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Please see my thread in the Preservation section regarding possible sequals, i just came across an interesting Carrie Fisher quote:
http://www.originaltrilogy.com/forum/messageview.cfm?catid=9&threadid=2856
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Very enlightening.
I'd like a qui-gon jinn please with an Obi-Wan to go.

Red heads ROCK. Blondes do not rock. Nuff said.

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No it's not. It's the same thing that's always been said by the actors: IF there's sequels, I'd like to be in them. Remember that George was quoted PLENTY of times in the early 80's about Star Wars being a middle trilogy. At least twice by Rolling Stone and Time magazine. It's not like Lucas and Fisher are best buds are something. At that time, Fisher was as close to Lucas as WE are--she knew as much as we did. And if most of the world believed there would be 7,8, and 9, why wouldn't she?

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i'm not sure why you'd continue to argue that kurtz had no creative involvement in the prequels after reading this quote


The quote you're quoting is mine, so I'm not quite sure what you're saying. I never said Kurtz had no creative involvement. I said he didn't have any more than McCallum has currently. Their input into the movies are essentially the same--not much at all. Like I said earlier, Kurtz feels sort of bad about that oft-quoted interview, and that he spun it pretty heavy there.

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Geez, bite my head off why don't ya.
I'd like a qui-gon jinn please with an Obi-Wan to go.

Red heads ROCK. Blondes do not rock. Nuff said.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v72/greencapt/hansolovsindy.jpg