Like many subjects of discussion and/or debate these days, popular opinion on the subject of George Lucas is staunchly divided. On the one side, there are those who feel that the Star Wars creator jumped the shark (for lack of a better term) over a decade ago, with the release of his oft-criticized Star Wars prequels. On the other hand, are those who feel that Lucas remains a filmmaking visionary who has captured the imaginations of a generation - albeit, a generation that came of age under the impression that computers are largely responsible for the fantastical worlds, characters and action sequences that we see in movies.
But love or hate who he's become in the last few decades, it's doubtful that anyone ever thought they would see the day when George Lucas wanted out of the game - but indeed, that day is apparently upon us.
The news sprang from a NY Times profile on Lucas, in anticipation of his new film Red Tails. The film is a period-piece action flick about the famed Tuskegee airmen of WWII - African-American pilots who had to overcome policies of military segregation in order to prove their worth on the battlefield.
Lucas came up with the story for the film, created the thrilling aerial dogfight action sequences through his Industrial Light & Magic visual effects company, and foot a bill reportedly upwards of $100 million as executive producer of the film, when the Hollywood studio system would've otherwise ignored it. He now sees the film's release a decisive gamble - one that could either help or hinder black cinema going forward: “If it gets $30 (million) in the first weekend, then [black filmmakers] get to make their movies without even thinking about it.”
Reading between the lines of the extensive NY Times piece, for Lucas, facing the same tough hill today that he did before creating the original Star Wars outside the studio system in the 1970s has brought the filmmaking billionaire around to a big decision:
“I’m retiring. I’m moving away from the business, from the company, from all this kind of stuff.”
Adds Lucas' longtime collaborator, Rick McCallum: “He will have completed his task as a man and a filmmaker.”
The profile goes on to talk about how long-coming Red Tails was for Lucas - a passion project he started pursuing as far back as the late '80s/early '90s. His struggle to get it made the way he wanted - nostalgic, idealistic, patriotic and celebratory of African-American history in America - only reinforced some of his frustrations with the Hollywood system (and the film biz in general). We now find him, “retiring, in a way, from my past,” - i.e., ready to go back to his origins as a more experimental filmmaker, a creative mode that resulted in '70s films like THX 1138, American Graffiti and of course Star Wars - A New Hope. Don't count him out of the game completely - just don't expect to see a whole lot more of the filmmaker we've come to know in recent years.
Like opinion of Lucas himself, this news will likely result in two schools of thought: Those who are sorry to see Lucas step back, and take the news as a sign that Hollywood is an increasingly dull, derivative and stagnating place - vs. those who will cheer that this move should've come a long time ago. Which camp do you find you're in? Let us know in the comments.
(And a note for those who might be ecstatic to hear this news: Lucas still says that he would in fact come back to do Indiana Jones 5. So don't get too happy ;-).)
Source: Be sure to read the full NY Times profile on Lucas. It's full of interesting stuff.
Red Tails will be in theaters on January 20, 2012.
Lucas will also begin the rollout of his Star Wars saga in 3D with Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D on February 10, 2012.
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