Rumors of George Lucas being a sell-out douche turn out to not be very exagerrated at all
This is just confirmation of what most of us already knew, but in a recent interview with the LA Times, Star Wars producer Gary Katz lays out some not-so-complimentary observations on the primary focus behind every Star Wars film after the masterful Empire Strikes Back. Seems that when it came to Return of the Jedi, Lucas was much more concerned with toy sales than he was with the artistic integrity of the film itself.
Although I like Return of the Jedi and loved it as a kid, it can definitely be viewed as the beginning of the satanic marketing drive that ended up dragging the entire franchise into the kiddie-focused ineptitude of the second trilogy, and learning of Lucas’ primary motivations as an ‘artist’ make his missteps in those later films much more unforgivable. It’s one thing if you stick your neck out for your art and just don’t hit the mark. It’s another thing entirely if you’re not shooting for art at all, just taking a beloved franchise and manipulating it to sell plastic.
Says Katz to the LA Times:
“I could see where things were headed,” Kurtz said. “The toy business began to drive the [Lucasfilm] empire. It’s a shame. They make three times as much on toys as they do on films. It’s natural to make decisions that protect the toy business, but that’s not the best thing for making quality films.”
He added: “The first film and ‘Empire’ were about story and character, but I could see that George’s priorities were changing. The emphasis on the toys, it’s like the cart driving the horse.”
“We had an outline and George changed everything in it,” Kurtz said. “Instead of bittersweet and poignant he wanted a euphoric ending with everybody happy. The original idea was that they would recover [the kidnapped] Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base. George then decided he didn’t want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason.”
The discussed ending of the film that Kurtz favored presented the rebel forces in tatters, Leia grappling with her new duties as queen and Luke walking off alone “like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns,” as Kurtz put it.
Crystal Kurtz said that ending would have been a more emotionally nuanced finale to an epic adventure than the forest celebration of the Ewoks that essentially ended the trilogy with a teddy bear luau.