Movie of mythic proportions

Published May 18, 2007 12:00 am
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In the 30 years since the first theatrical release of "Star Wars," the original special-effects blockbuster, George Lucas' creation has become more than just a series of movies.

"A lot of people, for the last 30 years, have taken perspectives and feelings from these movies - and it's as real to them as the people who wrote it," said Beth Dietrich Segarra, executive producer for the History Channel, on the upcoming documentary "Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed."

And to think that it came close to never happening.

"Lucas had to fund pre-production from his 'American Graffiti' profits," said J.W. Rinzler, executive editor at Lucasfilm Ltd. and author of The Making of "Star Wars," a new coffee-table history of the film's origins. "Fox was dragging its feet, hoping the movie would go away."

Rinzler - who will be talking about the book during an appearance Saturday at the Davis County Library in Bountiful - pored through the Lucasfilm archives to research how Lucas came to make the story of a farmboy, a wizard, a princess, a pirate, two 'droids and a Wookiee. Much of the new information comes from 1,000 pages of interviews with Lucas and his cohorts, conducted during production by publicist Charles Lippincott.

"They tell the original story," Rinzler said of the Lippincott interviews, which were to be used in a book that never materialized. "These were the original words of those who were the key players. . . . The movie was still on their mind. There was no filter of huge success between them."

While Rinzler's book - the first of a proposed trilogy, covering "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" as well - digs into the history behind the making of the movie, the History Channel documentary goes even further back to the influences behind the story.

The film, which premieres May 28, features interviews with scholars who discuss the parallels found in the six "Star Wars" films from history, mythology and literature - from the Greeks and Romans through Shakespeare to the rise of Adolf Hitler. Also featured are interviews with notables from politics (Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and former Speaker Newt Gingrich), film (directors Peter Jackson, J.J. Abrams, Joss Whedon and Kevin Smith) and TV (satirist Stephen Colbert and retired anchors Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather).

"We never say, 'This is exactly what George intended.' What we really intended to do was to say, 'This is what people take away from it,' " Segarra said. "If you believe that Darth Vader is the manifestation of evil, and really Lucas says, [for example,] 'He was the doorman from my building who I hated all my life,' doesn't that take away from what you brought to it?"

So why did the original "Star Wars" - or, as the hard-core fans know it, "Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope" - capture the public imagination?

"It's a really good movie - it is, first and foremost, a movie," Rinzler said. "George Lucas is a master of the cinematic arts. He's not just a director, he's an editor and he understands visual effects."

"George Lucas is a visionary," Segarra said, "and I think he had the right vision for that moment in time. . . . He just said, 'This is the kind of movie I wanted to see. This is the kind of film I wanted to be excited about.' "


* SEAN P. MEANS can be reached at movies@sltrib.com or 801-257-8602. Send comments about this story to livingeditor@sltrib.com.

The force will be with you

* J.W. Rinzler, author of The Making of "Star Wars," will give an audio-visual presentation based on the book Saturday at noon at the Davis County Library's South branch, 725 S. Main, Bountiful.

* Tickets for the event have already been distributed, though standby seating may be available Saturday.

* Also attending are members of Alpine Garrison, the regional chapter of the 501st Legion, a "Star Wars" fan-costume group.

* The documentary "Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed" premieres on the History Channel May 28 at 10 p.m.

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