‘Rick McCallum - Producer of the Star Wars Special Edition’:-
http://www.maikeldas.com/SWrick1eng.html - 1997 interview article
(^ for the 1997 Special Edition - re the print likely used for the 2019 Special Edition 4K release?; in ‘Question 3’)
"Question 1: Star Wars is a 20 years old science fiction cult movie. What was the reason for Lucasfilm to redo/rework the Star Wars Triology?
Rick McCallum: When it first was an idea represented to us by 20th Century Fox, they wanted to find out, if we wanted to do anything for the 20th year celebration. At first we thought putting it out maybe in 100-150 theaters for the hardcore fans. And once that happend, I started to try restore the negative and I also wanted to remaster the soundtrack, because for the first time in the history we really have a technology in 35-50% of the theaters out there, where you can actually hear it. And one of the problems at least for us, is that we spent an enormous amount of effort trying to create a soundtrack you can feel not just listen to. This is 50% of the experiences for us. Nothing is more frustrating when you spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours on a soundtrack that no one can actually hear, because of multiboxes, where the theater owner doesn’t care at all about quality.
So, again it was always gonna be a very minimal thing. But once I started the recreation I couldn’t find the negative in a lot of sections. Therefore I had to convert the film into data. Once that happend George desperately wanted to go back and fix the film in the way he originally had written it. He made so many compromises making Star Wars. It was frustrating to him and he was so unhappy with so much of the film, that this became a golden oppotunity for us to fix the picture in the way he always wanted them to be. That process became very complicated, very expensive and it became bigger than we were originally sending out to do. The negative was so badly damaged and destroyed that we’d lost in some places up to 35% of the actual color. It was often like a b/w movie. Once that happened we had a mission.
It was only 'till last year, when Independece Day came out that we ran a trailer to try and judge what the reaction would be, to see in how many theaters it would be proper to put the film in. But again we were only talking about maybe 200-500 theaters, because we got a little bit more ambitious. But the reaction to it was so huge, so overwhelming. Theater owners wanted to book it, fans were writing, calling begging. In some cases there were people who were going back to see ID 4 and if the trailer wasn’t running they asked for their money back. It was huge. And it wasn’t just in the States.
At first we ran the trailer in L.A. But everybody is weird there. We thought, well that’s just L.A. Then we did in San Francisco, Houston Dallas, New York… the same reaction. London, Paris, Rome… it was the same reaction everywhere. Then we knew something else was going on. It just became bigger than us. I wish I could say it was a marketing campaign and we devised it but it just didn’t have anything to do with us anymore.
Question 2 : I guess, you and Lucas talked about this becoming so huge. Star Wars was nearly forgotten but now, first the THX video re-releases, now the special editions and in two years the prequels. How’s the feeling for Star Wars today?
Rick McCallum: It’s big, it’s huge, it’s overwhelming in many cases. I mean… just opened last night and instantly it’s the #1 film for weeks. And it’s allmost everywhere the same. I think the reasons are two things. Primaly it’s a great story and has great characters. The most important thing driving it now, is not just the film itself, but the event of the movie. Star wars is a movie for the big screen and people haven’t experienced it for 20 years. It’s more like going to a rock-concert and having a collective experience. Very few movies crossover to do that. Star Wars is one of those films. There’s something that happens when the Lucas logo comes on. It’s like a license to go insane. You can talk and yet still follow the story, you can cheer, you can jump up and down. The other day I was leaving Paris to come here. I passed the theater at eleven in the morning and 1500-2000 people outside in front of the theater were trying to break in, 'cause it doesn’t open until twelve. But what was amazing, they were all dressed up in characters. There must be 500 Luke Skywalkers. That’s just a hard thing to do in a normal movie. Kids like to role play. They like to fantasize. There’s a number of characters that you can be. Nothing is more enjoyable for a 6 or 7 years old to close the door of his room and act to pretend he’s Luke Skywalker. Those are the things you do as a kid.
When I was young it was cars that I all care about. I used to make them, build them, rebuild them. You get obsessions, you have fantasies; you work them out and they stay with you for two or three years. But often for Star Wars it’s been lasting for 20 years for some people. I don’t understand them but it’s fantastic that it actually happens. What’s also unique and this is mostly an American thing: Everybody knows where they were, when JFK was shot, when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and everybody knows where they were, what time it was and which theater they saw Star Wars.
These three existing events in popular culture define a collective experience. I visited Berlin on November the 8th in 1989 and spent three days here while the Wall came down. It was the most powerful three days in my life, because I never had to worry about Vietnam or the Wall again and I had never seen 100.000 of people. I felt so overwhelmed by the collective experience of being alive. It was an amazing weekend and I will never forget it. That’s part of what the experience Star Wars is. It’s not obviously political, nor have it the same meaning overall, but there is someting very moving about it. People share something and want to continue to share that experience."
Question 3: The scenes which were not digitally remastered, but only chemically restored are still looking faded or have a color tinge. You see the shift between the the new scenes and the original material.
Rick McCallum: Here is what we were talking about this earlier. One of the most frustrating things is, if you could see the print that stuck of the original negative that we have done - it’s perfect. It’s not perfect in terms of the colorrestauration, because we still have a long way to go. We will need to scan the movie. In propably five years, when scanning technology drops at a cost that isn’t so prohibitive anymore. Now it would cost 10-12 millions Dollars only to scan the whole movie. We just can’t do it. Possible we take 2-3 years to be able to restore the color back to its original. We did the best that we could within the technology we have today. This is one of the big challenges for us in the future.
The problem is, film is a chemical process and it’s like alchemy. It’s magic. If you do a print and the developer bath isn’t as clean or whatever it is - it’s very hard to stain, because it’s a photo-chemical process. It lives, it breath, it changes on every print. We are hoping to drive the technology to a level to distribute movies electronically. So we can incode in digital data the color, the contrast and the level that the soundtrack has to do. No theater owner can screw us up again. It’s not just the theater owner, it’s this bizarre process called filmmaking that is still so fragile.
It’s hard to believe that we actually had to restore a film that’s only 20 years old. Film is an inherently instable medium. It’s there and it’s changing every day. It feeds on itself, it destroys itself. But it’s not only Star Wars. The whole films of the 70s are at risk. With the success of Star Wars all the studios are rushing back trying to protect their films. They are inherently what gives them value. But I apologize for the shift. It’s something that goes beyond us. That is the thing what is most frustrating."
^ “Here is what we were talking about this earlier. One of the most frustrating things is, if you could see the print that stuck of the original negative that we have done - it’s perfect.” - Rick McCallum.
That’d likely be the print used ofr the 2019 SE in 4K? Either way, it’d probably be a great quality print to use as a base for a theatrcial reconstruction of the unaltered Original Trilogy - removing the fewer changes made in 1997 and inserting the unaltered version scenes back in and then matching them up.
If only they would release the 1997 Special Edition for fans on 4K media… 😉 It’d certainly be benefical to have all these differing versions available - if nothing other than to give the fans the choice of watching all the previous versions of the Original Trilogy sold to us over time…