Monday, May 16, 2005

Star Wars. The Countdown. 3 Days. (more interviews)

John Williams helps Star Wars end on a low note
NEW YORK — Break out the lightsabers — the gallant theme is back. This time, however, the brassy fanfare leads us down the abyss.

Like many aspects of the epic Star Wars saga, the music John Williams made for the films has become an icon — one of many he has created for more than 100 movies, including Jaws, E.T., Superman and Schindler's List. Williams' latest sonic-action-packed soundtrack, released this month by Sony Classical, includes a DVD with a 70-minute video and music from all six Star Wars movies. EDITOR'S NOTE: I THINK THIS VIDEO PUTS THE CD INTO THE MUST-BUY CATEGORY, HUH?

When Williams started working with producer George Lucas on Star Wars, America was celebrating its bicentennial. The composer was 44, balding with dark hair around the sides and graying beard. The five-time Oscar winner is now 73, with white hair and beard — but the force is still with him.

He's currently working on Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds, which is being released in June.

During a recent trip to Washington, D.C., where he was conducting the National Symphony Orchestra, Williams spoke by telephone with The Associated Press.

AP: Revenge of the Sith tells how Anakin Skywalker turns evil and becomes Darth Vader. How do you illustrate this musically?

JW: I've had a little musical fun with Anakin's theme, which appeared in one of the earlier films. ... I've had to work (the music) to accompany the scenes of where he's turning (from) the honorable ways of the Jedi and is becoming lost in this imperial dark side of things. So it's been a nice musical exercise. As with most of the Star Wars material, it's more like an operatic musical function than perhaps most film scores.

AP: Was it difficult?

JW: The thematic material is always hard for me. ... Once we have the themes established, even if they are very simple, sometimes we want them to be made up of five, six, seven signal notes that carry the right message. Then things are worked out harmonically and contrapuntally and textural aspects and all that comes. ... The most difficult thing is to try to get thematic material that resonates in the right way and themes that can find their way into the
listeners' (imagination). (The way humans) were set up audio-visually ... is that we will be made deaf by brilliant visual stimulation. ... We may not notice the details of what we hear. And so, a lot of thought behind film composition, the creation of themes ... has to do with the management of the amount of attention we're going to get and the kind of, if not competition (then) hopefully cooperation with a lot of heavy sound effects and other materials that compete for the audience's attention.

AP: Do you read the script before composing?

JW: I prefer not to. I'd rather just see the film with a clean slate. It's very important in my job to be able to sit in the room and see the film as a pristine viewer in the sense that I'm not exactly certain what's going to happen next. I'm free to be surprised or free to be bored or whatever.

AP: You've written music for more than 100 movies. How do you find the time?

JW: All that's been done over a period of a lot of years. So I do it by just focusing on what's in front of me this particular day, week or month.

AP: Do you have to compose everyday?

JW: It's usually a six-day week. ... I'll begin around 9 in the morning and finish some time in the afternoon. ... I can produce, maximum, probably a couple of minutes of music a day, depending on how dense it is and how much detail there is.

AP: How long did you spend on this Star Wars episode?

JW: We recorded 2 hours and 10 minutes of music and I think I began writing this in ... late September of '04, and we recorded this in the early part of February of '05. ... Ten or 12 weeks.

AP: That's fast.

JW: It is fast. It's a very difficult schedule.

AP: You were trained at the Juilliard School and you've written a cello concerto for Yo-Yo Ma and two symphonies. Do you think your identification with Hollywood has meant that you are not perceived as a composer of serious music?

JW: That's probably true. ... Most of my work is film and that's what people probably know, and so I can be grateful for that.

AP: Any regrets?

JW: No, not at all.

Director George Lucas takes a look back -- and ahead
As I enter the small office space just off a recording studio in the Tech Building of his 5,000-acre Skywalker Ranch in California's Marin County, George Lucas is leaning back in his chair, fingers laced behind his head, giving his body a good stretch.

He is dressed in jeans and sport shirt, sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Ten days before his 61st birthday, he looks fit and youthful, and rather handsome, with full, wavy gray hair and beard that gives him the aging elegance of Alec Guinness playing Obi-Wan Kenobi.

As he stands to shake my hand, he smiles and makes firm eye contact. His manner is friendly, calm and totally confident -- more the billionaire master of the universe than the impatient and painfully shy movie nerd that is the other half of his legend.

He is in a good mood. Last night, his series-concluding "Stars Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" was shown to an audience of journalists and the reaction was positive. A Time magazine cover line later summed it up: "darker, scarier, better."

Beyond this, he exudes the Zen-like satisfaction of a man who has come to a happy new place in his life. When I ask him how it feels to finally be at the end of the "Star Wars" journey, he says, "It's emotional, but I also feel relief that I actually got through it."

But IS he through with it? Can he ever really divorce himself from the most successful series in movie history, a saga that grossed more than $3.5 billion, sold more than $9 billion worth of toys, added several key words to the dictionary and changed our culture forever?

Well, no and yes. "There will probably be a 'Star Wars' TV series which I'll oversee from a distance. But there'll be no more movies ... and I don't intend to tweak the old ones as the technology develops. They're finished and I won't go back."

What about the third trilogy of sequels: the episodes VII, VIII and IX that have been reported many times over the past 28 years to exist in his head? Lucas says that was always mostly a "media invention." "The truth is there's no place to go with the story."

Indeed, despite what we may have read about the "Star Wars" epic being a "grand design," he claims it stumbled into existence. "I began with a seven- or eight-page outline -- a simple story about an evil man who's redeemed by his children."

"As I was writing the script, I went back at one point and wrote a few paragraphs of exposition about the main character, Darth Vader, and how he became the villain that he was. But this was only the kind of basic back-story development you do when you write a novel.

"Further in the writing, I realized the story couldn't be contained in one movie, so I decided to stretch it into three -- and since I was sure the first movie wouldn't be successful and I would have to do the other two myself, I fought to get the sequel rights."

All three movies were, of course, wildly successful, but when the last one was done in 1983 he still had no intention of filming the back story.

"Making them was a frustrating experience, mainly because the technology just didn't exist to tell the story the way I envisioned it."

But as the years passed and movie-effects technology developed (largely in his own ILM laboratory), he began to think of "Star Wars" again.

"It was 'Jurassic Park' in 1993 that convinced me that I could finally do 'Star Wars' the way I had originally wanted to do it."

Four years later, he rereleased the trilogy retooled with a new generation of digital effects. And it was the success of this reissue that inspired him to film the back story. "I became fascinated by the idea of making a new trilogy that would forever change the way we see the original movies."

Putting up his own money and returning to the director's chair for the first time since 1977, he released "Episode I" in 1999 and "Episode II" in 2002 -- both to great box-office returns and generally poor reviews. "Those films made a lot of people in my company very nervous," he says. "They thought I was ruining the franchise."

But Lucas says he expected this. "Because those films were character pieces with lots of exposition. 'Episode I' was a film about a kid, the young Anakin Skywalker, and 'Episode II' was his (coming-of-age). The problem is that 60 percent -- maybe 80 percent of the back story -- is contained in 'Episode III.' "

As he warned the world, it is also the darkest of the "Star Wars" chronicles, and the first to get a PG-13 rating. "It's really the black heart of the story." But he's very pleased with the way it engages an audience and with the way it leads to "Episode IV," giving an overall "unity and satisfaction" to the 12-hour cycle. EDITOR'S NOTE: '12-HOUR CYCLE'! PARTY AT MY HOUSE STARTING AT 8AM ON THE FIRST AVAILABLE WEEKEND AFTER THE ROTS DVD IS RELEASED! (FEEL FREE TO ARRIVE IN YOUR JAMMIES)

So, as far as he's concerned, "Star Wars" is history. He will produce the long-in-the-works fourth Indiana Jones movie for his pal Steven Spielberg and a WWII aerial adventure that also has been on his mind for decades. Then he'll spend the rest of his life making "small experimental films that no one will see."

In the meantime, there's the release of "Episode III" to get through, which is being buoyed by a groundswell of sentiment that -- if the critics support it -- will emerge from the hoopla as the front-runner for the 2005 best-picture Oscar, an accolade that would honor the unique achievement of the entire "Star Wars" cycle. EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS IS THE VERY FIRST MENTION I'VE HEARD THAT ANYONE EVEN THINKS THIS IS A POSSIBILITY. IT WOULD BE LOVELY IF THE INDUSTRY FINALLY GAVE HIM SOME SORT OF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT LIKE THIS. I THINK WE WILL SEE PIGS FLYING FIRST, THOUGH. DON'T YOU?

Lucas totally discounts this possibility. "I don't think that will happen," he says. "I'm viewed as too much of an outsider ... as someone who has always rejected the culture of Hollywood. They don't like 'Star Wars.' Anyway, I've got tons of awards." Will he mount an Oscar campaign? "No, I won't do that."

Over the three decades of his brilliant career, Lucas has avoided the press and allowed it to create the negative image of him as a shy, dull and petty man whose obsessive need for control has alienated family, friends and fans, stifled creativity around him, and left him as lonely and isolated as Howard Hughes.

It's clear that not much of this image is true and one of the reasons he's made himself so accessible for this last hurrah of "Star Wars" -- happy to answer any question I may pose, without restrictions -- is because he believes he's been misunderstood and he realizes this could be the last time for him to set the record straight.

For instance, while it's true that his first marriage ended in divorce and there has been no woman in his life for years, he has a large circle of friends and he's a family man who's enormously proud of having raised three adopted children. (He also beams when people tell him what "Star Wars" has meant to their kids.)

Sure, he's a multibillionaire and, yes, he's full of shrewd business savvy, but he makes the point again and again that money has never been the motivating force of any of his endeavors. "I've gone into everything I've done trying to solve a specific problem and expecting to fail financially." EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS IS QUITE INSPIRING, I THINK. PEEL AWAY ALL THE MONEY AND SUCCESS, AND THIS IS JUST A GEEK FOLLOWING HIS VISIONS. THAT HE HASN'T FAILED, SAYS SOMETHING ABOUT WHAT A TRUE GENIUS HE IS.

While he's often reviled as the man who created the high-tech obsession and overproduced blockbuster mentality of contemporary Hollywood, he says, "Technology in itself means nothing to me. It's just a tool to tell stories better. Effects are NOT what the movie should be about. Hollywood is very confused about this." EDITOR'S NOTE: FUNNY. AND THEY THINK HE'S THE ONE CONFUSED ABOUT THIS.

Lucas claims not to care what people think about him, but it's clear that he finds it odd and unfair that he's largely considered a soulless businessman while the truth is he's the one genuinely independent auteur director of big-budget filmmaking, a little guy who's taken on the system and beaten it to the ground.

It's also strange that so little written about Lucas over the decades realizes that his essence -- his mistrust of authority, his stubborn insistence on making films his own way, his vision of an optimistic future and a "force" that binds all creation -- is very specific to his generation.

When I ask him if he considers himself a '60s artist, he says with absolutely no hesitation, "Yes, I do. I definitely grew up in the '60s. I graduated from high school in 1962, and my primary development was from '62 to about '72. And I was here, where so much (of the '60s) was happening. Yeah, I was stamped by those forces."

Central to "Episode III" (and thus central to the whole series) is a political statement about a democracy that, because of a perceived external threat, happily hands over its liberty to a dictator. The critics are likely to see this as an analogy to Iraq and President Bush, but Lucas says it was in his head from the start.

"I was working on 'Apocalypse Now' when I wrote the 'Star Wars' outline, and the reference is to Vietnam, and maybe a little bit to Watergate. People trying to figure me out sometimes ask if Vietnam and all that stuff had an impact on me. And I think to myself: That's kind of a dumb question. How could it not?"

From 1980 to 1985 George Lucas was busy building the Skywalker Ranch. It was built to accommodate the creative, technical, and administrative needs of Lucasfilm. Today, it is a spectacular place. With the release of the last episode, Revenge Of The Sith, it is time to put one of the greatest stories ever told to rest. It is here, that he makes it possible to understand the mind behind it all.

R Burke: Are you going to miss it?

George Lucas: I am not going to miss it. I love doing it, but it is 20 years of my life. I am anxious to get on and do other things. We are still doing a TV series, two TV series, one animated and one live action, so I am not going to do it myself, but I'll peek in from time-to-time. So I won't completely have lost the Star Wars experience..

Is there a character you are going to miss?

Well, R2D2..

Why him?

Well, because he's the hero of the whole thing. He's the one that always comes through and saves everybody. I'd like to have a pal like that that would come and save me once in a while..

Now is the TV series a prequel to this?

No, the TV series, the animated TV series called 'Clone Wars' is about the clone wars. Some of it has been on the Cartoon Network, but we're making it into an actual half hour, 3D animation series, and the other one deals with minor characters. And the time period is between episode 3 and episode 4, that 20-year stretch, but the characters aren't any of the main characters that are in the movies..

Do you have to sometimes remind yourself, as I think some of the more die-hard fans also have to be reminded, that it's a movie, that it's entertainment, or do you think of it as something more than that?

No. I always think of it as a job and, you know, my job is to entertain people. They pay a fairly sizeable amount of money to see the movies and I want to make sure that they get their money's worth..

And to those who consider it a religion?

Well, people consider all kinds of things to be a religion and I won't comment on that..

But, that said, I'm sure you have encountered, you know, the Internet buzz saying, "well, this is so important because" and they read all the psychological inferences and things about your own background and what it means to society in general. Is that really too much, or are you glad that this mythology has developed around this?

I'm not, I mean, it's not that I have a feeling one way or another about it. That's just what happens. It's a cultural phenomenon that happens. It happens with any kind of art. I mean, have you ever been to a museum? They do the same thing. Have you ever been to a, you know, I won't go there. But there's lots of organizations that get fixated on something and people live their lives that way and it's where they, you know, that's where they maintain their sustenance, their actual capacity is through believing in something and focusing on the minutia, and taking things literally. Most, I mean all, art, all mythology is a metaphor. It's not about that. It's not about the words written on the page. It's not about the paint on the surface or how they got there, it's about your impression, your emotional impression of being there. It's about how does it renew your faith. How does it renew your spirit? How does it, you know, art is communicating to the emotions of human beings. That is what art does and whether it's music or writing or graphics or cinema, all you're doing is telling a story that is meaningful to people in one way or another and that you're striking their emotional chord that you couldn't do with a set of instructions or, you know, some kind of scientific analysis or some mathematical equation that is relatively unemotional.. EDITOR'S NOTE: ALL TRUE. BUT SORT OF BESIDE THE POINT? YOU CAN'T REALLY PARSE FAITH, CAN YOU? YOU CAN ANALYZE WHY THESE MYTHS CALL TO US ON A VERY VISCERAL LEVEL, BUT THAT IS JUST WORKING THE TIPPPY- TOP PART OF OUR HEADS. OUR HEARTS FEEL THINGS OUR HEADS DON'T REALLY UNDERSTAND.

Well, if I were one of these guys, say one of those storm trooper guys who go 500 bursts, and I march in there and I took off my helmet and I said, "I love Star Wars, but I hated The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, what would you say?

I'd say, "More power to you!" I mean, the films are liked by half the people, they're hated by half the people. You know, it's the same thing with the critics. I mean, all the Star Wars films have been trashed and all the Star Wars films have been praised. So, it's very hard to say, "Well I'm going to take this group and say, you know, they don't like it therefore I am going to change it." I mean, I am making the movie that I think is appropriate to what I am doing. It's not market research. I am not like a studio. I do what I want to do. I don't check it with an audience.

I say this is the story. This is the story I'm going to tell for very personal reasons and I'm going to go ahead and do that. When I went and decided that I would tell the back story, it was a very difficult decision at the time. I figured I was done with Star Wars. I didn't want to do Star Wars any more, but then it technically became possible to do it and I had this back story. The back story intrigued me because it kind of turns the whole series on its head. The series was really about Darth Vader. People thought that it was about Luke, but it's not and never was. People would ask me back then, what's it all about? I said, "It's about Darth Vader."

In the first film, they didn't even know who Darth Vader was. Is he a monster? Is he a man? What is he? You have to remember that originally, the first three were actually one movie. So, you would sit down in one piece and that whole thing, that is now three movies, would be told in one piece. You wouldn't have it broken up. A lot of things, you're my father and the fact that he kills him, that is the climax of the movie, and it's a movie. And, uhm, in order--and I wanted to start in the middle. I never intended for the back story to be told.

Then later on I said, "Well, if I went and did the first three, then it would sort of give you a stronger sense of where all this is coming from." I kind of told it backwards.

You don't feel sorry for Darth Vader until the very end. If I tell you the back story, then you're sorry for him right from the beginning, practically, because it's his story and the relationship with the kids is very different."

When I said I'm going to go back and do this back story, even though it's not a real story, it's basically a character piece with a lot of exposition, which is what back story is. I mean you just break down the characters, you say who they are, where they came from, you have to get to the point where we're starting the movie, which is different than a plot. A plot actually is constructed.

I said, "Well, I'll do this. I will dare to do a character piece without much plot because I think it will be interesting to see if I can turn the other films on their head." When I started out I said, "Well, I am going to do more I." Everyone said, "Oh, this is great. This is going to be fantastic!" And they said-- "because we're going to have Darth Vader running around the universe killing everybody."

I said, "No, that's not what the back story is about. It's about a little kid, the first movie is going to be about a 10 year old kid."

And they said, "We can't do that. It's going to destroy the franchise. We'll love everything. It's a Disney movie. Nobody will go for it. The fans will hate it." And I said, "Well, no I'm going to tell my story." I'm sure if I were not financing the movies and the studio was, they never would have let me do it. They would have said no.

The issue is the story starts with that 10 year old boy. That's the story. I kept telling them, these are not sequels. This is like one story that goes from beginning to end. Starts with the young Darth Vader and ends with Darth Vader dying. And that's ultimately why the first film actually ended up getting so hyped. You know, everybody panicked and said, "Well, we have got to get every kind of promotional marketing thing going. We have to cover the fact that George has made a movie that's going to fail here." And you know, I felt that I would probably get my money back. I thought, well, I think there's enough people, we won't lose our shirts on this thing.

A lot of people didn't believe that. They were thinking a lot of other things and it did all right.

And then I told them the next one is a love story. They said, "Oh no, here we go again. You already destroyed everybody's faith in the movies in the first one. You got away with it because we did such superior marketing, but we can't do it again." I said, "I'm sorry, but this is the story." I said, "I can't go to the end without them getting married and getting pregnant. There is a story involved here." And they said, "Well, but you can't do that." And I said, "You know, I'm not going to immediately jump to Episode III because you have to have Episode II in between them."

So, that was discouraged rather vehemently. Now everybody's happy because this is the one that has all the story in it. This is the one that pays everything off. It works by itself, but I think in the end, if you sort of start with him as a 10 year old boy and follow him all the way through the end, it is a much more provocative story. It's more emotional. EDITOR'S NOTE: HE REALLY IS RIGHT YOU KNOW. JAKE LLOYD'S WOODENESS ASIDE, TO PICTURE THAT CHERUBIC KID AND THEN KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IS MUCH MORE EMOTIONAL.

I'm glad that it's all finished because I think some of the fans will see it as one piece. They won't see it as six different movies. They will see it as one movie that has some good parts and some not so good parts, but that it's a complete story. EDITOR'S NOTE: AMEN.

I didn't have the luxury of say, Lord of the Rings. If you read the book, you knew that that isn't the end of it. The first film didn't have much of an ending to it. It just sort of stopped and that was because it wasn't written as a movie. It wasn't even written as a book. It was written as the first third of a book. When Tolkien originally wrote it, it was just one book. I mean, he - Tolkien, had the same problem I did. He wrote a book that was too big. The publishers had to break it into three parts. I had the advantage of doing it over time and I knew each one was going to be a movie, so I could actually write it to have a climax.

It worked as a movie unto itself, but it was a bigger picture and in making each one work unto itself, the bigger picture kind of got lost as opposed with Tolkien. Everybody was sort of focused on the bigger picture and they didn't worry about the fact that each one in itself kind of had loose ends and kind of drifted into nowhere. EDITOR'S NOTE: HE MAKES A VERY GOOD POINT. THE LOTR MOVIES NEVER GOT THE FLACK THAT EPS ONE AND TWO DID. THEY WERE ALLOWED TO JUST 'BE'.

Since making Darth Vader the star, what was it like for you when he put the helmet on, put the costume on, and was kneeling and was called Darth Vader - what was that like for you when film ended?

It was satisfying to be able to tie up all the pieces because I knew there was a lot of things that I'd been holding back on. Just as with Anakin, or I should say Hayden, when he did the second movie. He was hired basically to be Darth Vader and here he was playing a whiny, petulant teenager. He said, "I want to be Darth Vader," and I was basically holding him back from being the Darth Vader character. I wanted him to be a teenager. And so, in this film, you get all the satisfaction. Hayden gets the satisfaction of being Darth Vader. We get the satisfaction of seeing Darth Vader.

The other part of this was just as things changed in the last, I mean in the first three movies, four, five, and six, um, I evolve things, and you change on the spot.

You've got the big picture of the story in your mind, but I do things. I kill Obi-Wan off and turn him into a ghost, but then I got stuck in the second film because I still had that character to deal with and so I created Yoda to sort of be the alternate Obi-Wan.

If Obi-Wan had lived, that was his part. But then it gave me a problem. There were things in this one where when I went to do the back story, you know, it's very much, like, seven or eight pages, the first film. I decided since I already started with four, I sort of was obligated to do another trilogy. I decided, well I'd do book one, book two - book one is the father, book two is the children and they are slightly different - one is darker and one is funnier and one is more childlike, one is more adult like - but I would keep the style the same. I would keep everything else the same.

But I did run into the reality of the first film. Basically, he is a slave kid. He gets found by the Jedi and he becomes part of the Jedi order and that he loves his mother. You know, that's maybe a half hour movie. And so I did a kind of jazz riff on the rest of it and I said, "Well, I'm just going to enjoy myself. I have this giant world to play in and I'm going to just move around and have fun with this because, you know, I have to get to the second part." So, then I got to the second part, and it was kind of the same thing. They fall in love, they can't and they're not supposed to, and, you know, little bits of trivia in terms of, you know, setting up the empire and how all that stuff works. That's about another twenty percent of this story treatment. The first film is twenty percent, the second film is twenty percent and I then ended up with a third film.

The problem was the third film was actually more like eighty percent of the story. So, I was sitting there with a lot more story to tell than I actually had time to tell it. It was the reverse of what I had in the first two films. I constantly had to cut it down and cut it down. I had a lot of extraneous stories going on that I could have tied up, but when you really got down to it, it was really Darth Vader's story. I focused in on Darth Vader and Darth Vader was the key element.

So, Padme starting the rebel alliance. A lot of these other things with Obi-Wan and some of the other characters, Yoda and the Jedi counsel, all these other things had to go by the wayside and I just focused on everything that was Anakin related. When I did the first script, I ended up kind of where I was in Episode IV, which had way too much script. Instead of saying, "Well, I'm going to make these into other movies," I just started dropping stuff out and then brought it down to where it was a manageable film and it focused on the one character that we needed to focus on. And then I made that the movie. EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS IS FASCINATING! IT GOES A LONG WAY TOWARDS EXPLAINING WHY THERE FEELS LIKE FILLER MOMENTS IN EPS 1 AND 2. I JUST HOPE ALL THAT EXCISED STUFF....PADME, OBI-WAN, ETC......ENDS UP IN SOME PART OF THE EU. (IT IS THE REAL FLESH ON THE STORY'S BONES).

This one has the entire story in it really, except you don't get the background of that story, which is what Episode I and II is. I feel strongly that those stories need to be there in order for the whole thing to work. And for some people, they wanted to have it be just, you know, Indiana Jones II or III and it's not. You know, there's actually a real story depending on how thin it is stretched or how far it is compressed. It's still one big, long story.

Speaking of Indiana Jones, is that still cranking along?

Yep. I got a script last week and I'm going to work with the writer next week and you know, we have a ways to go on it.

You mentioned, you know, the 'Clone Wars' and the upcoming series, any hesitations about going into TV since that special from 1978? EDITOR'S NOTE: OUCH. LOW BLOW.

The special from 1978 really didn't have much to do with us, you know. I can't remember what network it was on, but it was a thing that they did. We kind of let them do it. It was done by... I can't even remember who the group was, but they were variety TV guys. We let them use the characters and stuff and that probably wasn't the smartest thing to do, but you learn from those experiences.

I had a wonderful time on Young Indiana Jones. It was a great series. We did it for four years. I spent those four or five years actually working on it. That's really all I did during those years. It was really a great experience and I love television.

How rewarding would it be to see these three films honored come Oscar time, like Lord of the Rings? How rewarding would that be for you to see these films honored?

I'm not that much into awards to be very honest with you. Obviously it's nice to be honored. It's a nice thing, but I don't take that stuff very seriously. It's not a passion in my life to win an award. I doubt very much if it will get nominated for anything.

Are you submitting Ian McDiarmid for Oscar Consideration?

We don't submit. You know everybody thinks you submit people for consideration. You don't. They are picked. It all really relates ultimately to how much advertising you do. It's like a political campaign. You know, those that spend the most money get the award. It's not a--we're going to give you an award because you do great work. You sent me the press kit, you sent me the movie. You sent me this. You sent me that. You gave me this big dinner. You did all this stuff. That's why you get the award. They pick it. It's always a nice thing to have. If you don't get that one, there's a thousand other ones out there that you can get.

I think Ian did a fantastic job. He's an extremely talented actor and it's always an honor to get an award, but we are not Miramax. We don't spend a lot of money to get awards. It's not like that is what we are here for. We just, you know, we are very pleased with the creative talent we have. We are very proud of what they've done. I think the work speaks for itself regardless of whether they get nominated or not.

Bai Ling was very enthusiastic talking about working with you, she described you as being like a Chinese calligrapher and now we hear she's ballistic. What happened?

Well, we told Bai Ling about nine months ago that that scene had been cut out of the movie, which my daughter is also in. That's part of that Padme story which is the development of the rebellion. She was in one scene. She had about four lines. She worked for one day. It wasn't like it was a major thing to begin with and I just cut that whole secondary story out of the movie quite a while ago. It was a year ago, so I'm not sure why that was a surprise. I think maybe she that was to be her big entrance into big time movie making and, you know, it's basically a small part that got cut out. EDITOR'S NOTE: PLEASE PUT IT ON THE DVD??? (DWEEB BEGGING......)

What do you think about this Spielberg/Lucas movie that A&E is going to do?

I don't know. We're trying to find out. It's a weird thing because they keep saying it's going to be like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, but those guys hated each other. You know, Steve and I have never had an argument in our lives. We've always been best friends. We've always helped each other. If you read any of those books, those trash books that people write about movie people and all their lothario problems and drug habits and whatever, they always get to the chapter on Steve and I and say, "Well I hear some boring guys have to get through this because they don't do anything." There's nothing interesting to talk about because they simply are nice guys that make movies. They like to have a lot of friends and there's nothing controversial about them.

I'm not quite sure how they're going to turn that into anything.

John Williams has played such a big role in the Star Wars movies with the music he has written for the movie. Talk about your collaboration with him.

John Williams is extremely important. The films are done as silent movies and the music and sound track is a very, very important part of the whole experience.

So, he is the secret to the whole thing. I do nothing. I just make something visual for him to put into music to. EDITOR'S NOTE: AN AMAZING PARTNERSHIP. ONE SO VISUAL AND ONE SO AUDITORY. THEY BARELY SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE, AND YET, TOGETHER, COMMUNICATE SO MUCH.

Can young children see this movie?

Well, it's up to the parents to decide but you've got to remember the part that's disturbing is not the arms getting cut of and everything. That happened in all the movies. It's not that Anakin gets his face burned off and everything because that's in Return of the Jedi and people have seen that before.

The real issue is that the father turns bad, you know, this guy that you sort of--Anakin Skywalker, that he becomes a bad person and it's very quick sandy for little kids to see, and the mom dies.

So, you know, if you want to, most children, their biggest issue is abandonment. Well, if you really want to feed into that, you know, say I'm going to turn into a murderer and your mother is going to die. That makes them feel real good.

The Lightsabre Interview
Kenny Baker

Welcome to Lightsabre. We’re thrilled to introduce to you our latest Lightsabre guest, the ever popular star of both trilogies and the man beneath the dome – Kenny Baker.

Q -Kenny, welcome to Lightsabre.

A - Thank you for asking me to take part

Q – Everyone is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Revenge of the Sith, and in being a part of Episode III you have now contributed to all six movies. Could you pick a special moment from the making of ROTS, one that maybe made you think back over the past twenty nine years?

A – Just seeing the set again on board Princess Leia’s ship brought back all the memories. Who would have thought, when we were filming the original movie, that some 25 years later we would all be back to the same point, bringing the story full circle. It's fantastic and I'm so proud to have been involved in real movie history.

Q - Which of the six films stands out as your personal favourite, and why?

A – I think personally for me and for a lot of people it's the same, it has to be Empire Strikes Back. Irvin Kershner and I got on very well on set, such a genuine, nice man. Obviously Star Wars had been massive, so we all knew this was something to be part of. Empire is the darkest of the first 3 and we are introduced to so much more of the story and characters. I really hope Episode III carries the same darkness and tension.

Q - Tell us something of your career. How did you begin in entertainment and what led you to today?

A - Well briefly, I started Ice Skating in Snow White with Holiday On Ice aged 17 touring the world. During this time, I met Jack Purvis and we formed the Mini-Tones comedy act, after a few years slugging away in the clubs of England and making a fairly big name for ourselves, along came Mr Lucas. That's pretty much it!

Q – In 1977 Star Wars fever took over the States, and soon the world. What was it like to be part of that, and to be half of the most loved double act since Laurel and Hardy?

A- It was an utter explosion round the world. Nothing like it had been seen before, all the merchandise, toys, it was crazy. Fan mail was pouring in for everyone and we were being asked for interviews all over the world. At the time I was doing a comedy double act with Jack Purvis called the Mini-Tones, Jack as I'm sure you know was in Star Wars and Time Bandits, so we were busy every night anyway working in the clubs round the Country. People really did take the two robots to their hearts, which was great for Anthony and I. In a sense R2 really is the pace keeper of the first movie.

Q – I heard a great story once that on set your kids couldn’t pronounce Harrison Ford's name, so he told them to call him `Peaches’. Is there any truth to that?

A - Wow how on earth did you find that out! Yes utterly true, my youngest son Kevin didn't have his two front teeth on Empire. We were filming on the Hoth Hanger set for some time, with the full size Millennium Falcon. My two boys would come on set and play in the cockpit of the Falcon with Chewie, Harrison and Mark in between takes.

For some reason Kevin just couldn't say Harrison, he was only 4. So one day Harrison picked him up and said "listen Kid if you can't say Harrison just call me peaches" at which point Mark Hamill came over and said "Well if you’re calling him peaches, you'd better call me cream." From then on Luke and Han became known, in our house, as Peaches & Cream, not quite the same ring to it, is there! EDITOR'S NOTE: TOO FUNNY!!!

Q – Artoo certainly became a mega star in his own right, and along with Yoda he seemed to make other actors on the set of the prequels feel as if they were really in a Star Wars movie. What is it about Artoo that makes him such a star?

A – He is just a dedicated, loyal friend to all the main characters and once he has a job to do, he will do it no matter what. He thinks nothing of going outside the ship in TPM to fix the problem during a fire fight, just to save his friends. I think we would all like to be that brave and loyal. And he has that slight cheekiness to him, which we all love.The first day that R2 was on set of Phantom with Ewan he said "Bloody hell it’s like meeting a member of the royal family."EDITOR'S NOTE: GOD BLESS OUR YOUNG OBI-WAN!

Q – What would you change about your Star Wars experiences if you could go back and do it again?

A – Nothing! It really has been a remarkable thing and a huge part of my life. It's given me the opportunity to travel the globe, meeting amazing people. It opened the door for me to work on more films, with amazing actors and directors. My kids had a fantastic childhood, playing on set and with all the toys that George would send them. There honestly isn't one thing I would change.

Q – You’ve been part of other great movies over the years – Mona Lisa, Labyrinth, Amadeus and primarily as Fidgit in the fantastic Time Bandits. Which of those roles gave you the most satisfaction?

A - I think my favourite would be Time Bandits with my late comedy partner Jack and the rest of the guy's. We had so much fun filming and winding each other up. The sketch with us singing me and my shadow to Ian Holme, still makes me laugh to this day. As I said working with the likes of Liam Neeson and Alec Guinness and getting to know Terry on Time Bandits, it's been a charmed life

Q – There’s talk of a Star Wars TV series. Would you be interested in a role, a non-droid part where we get to see your face?

A - That would be interesting yeah. I'm looking forward to seeing if the TV series gets the go ahead, it could be great.

Q - What do you foresee in the future for yourself outside of the Star Wars universe?

A - Well most weeks I'm off to a convention some where and the fan mail still pours in, so Star Wars will keep me going and will keep going long after I'm in robot heaven. I've just finished a small play called Speed Dating and things keep popping up here and there to keep me busy.

Q – A quick question about our site, Lightsabre. Any comments?

A – It's a great site, I'll be going back to check for up-dates.

Q - It's been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest on Lightsabre. Just one final question. Count Dooku has taken Artoo to the arena on Geonosis for a showdown between Artoo, Dusty Bin from early 1980’s game show 3-2-1 and Twiki from Buck Rogers. Who would win and how?

A - Well I'm gonna say R2 aren't I. He does seem to be packing a lot of tricks inside him, so I would have thought he'd have something for each of those robot wannabe's, they’re no match!R2 could probably take them all, whilst serving drinks on Jabba's barge!

With many thanks to Kenny’s son Kevin Baker for helping to arrange this interview.

Visions of Vader
When Revenge of the Sith opens in theaters next week, moviegoers will witness Anakin Skywalker's transformation from a well-meaning young Jedi Knight to the pillar of evil, Darth Vader.

Actor Hayden Christensen recently commented on what he considers to be a substantial responsibility -- creating a believable fall for Anakin.

"I was excited to see how George [Lucas] was going to conceive that, and when I read the script for the first time it was very obvious that he had gotten it dead-on," says Christensen. "And then it was a matter of how it would translate in the execution. Having seen the film for the first time a few days ago, I really think that he succeeded."

Christensen took Lucas' direction on how to portray Skywalker seriously in order to do the character justice as Lucas had written him, even if that makes the character less than likable in his dark transformation.

"Even though you want people to embrace your work and really like it, I was more concerned about helping George realize his vision, and feel like he had hired the right person," says Christensen. "It's never been a popularity contest with me. I think you can get a sense of that from the other choices I've made, the other films I've done."

Christensen claims that while he was very much aware of Star Wars and the character of Vader through his childhood, he did not become a fan until he watched the Special Editions on the big screen in 1997.

"My first experiences with Star Wars were of memorabilia and action figures and my brother's bed sheets," he recalls. "I don't actually remember seeing the film up until they re-released it in theaters when I was in high school. I went out and bought a Boba Fett t-shirt and went and saw [Episodes] V and VI right afterwards, as soon as they came out."

The actor recalls going to see Episode I within days of its release, and thinking "Man, I wonder who's going to get to play that kid in II and III."

It's hard to imagine life not changing dramatically after winning the role of Anakin Skywalker right out of high school. Christensen says that the multitude of changes in his life have given him profound appreciation for those aspects that did not change, like family, friends, and time spent in his childhood home in Toronto.

While at his home last Halloween the specter of his new public identity stopped by to haunt him, but also allowed him to have some fun.

"I had people come (to the door) as both Anakin and Darth," Christensen recounts. "They were very excited when I would occasionally go to the door and give them candy." EDITOR'S NOTE: HOW SURREAL MUST THAT BE??!!

Although he claims to take advice rather than give it, Christensen agreed to share some thoughts for young actors who find themselves cast in iconic roles.

"Focus on the work. You're an actor -- you're not Superman," he encourages. "Hopefully you'll be able to go off and do parts in other films that you find fulfilling and just focus on the work. If you get too caught up in what you're a part of, I think you can lose perspective on what you originally entered in to begin with, which is a craft." EDITOR'S NOTE: SAGE ADVICE!


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