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What is it?

From the cover: "Star Wars is one of the most important cultural phenomena of the Western world. The tale of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker has become modern myth, an epic tragedy of the corruption of a young man in love into darkness, the rise of evil, and the power of good triumphing in the end.

But it didn't start out that way.

In this thorough account of one of cinema's most lasting works, Michael Kaminski presents the true history of how Star Wars was written, from its beginnings as a science fiction fairy tale to its development over three decades into the epic we now know, chronicling the methods, techniques, thought processes, and struggles of its creator. For this unauthorized account, he has pored through over four hundred sources, from interviews to original scripts, to track how the most powerful modern epic in the world was created, expanded, and finalized into the tale an entire generation has grown up with."


If you care about Star Wars, history, cultural heritage, and film preservation: help Save Star Wars

06/21/11: New article up, this one a study of Yoda's speaking patterns across the six films. It's an interesting study made in collaboration with a real linguist, a little lighter than some of the fare around here. If all goes well I'll have another article up by the end of the month!

12/16/10: I'm not dead! Luckily traffic to this site hasn't pettered off with my non-existant presence the last six months or so. Real life has kept me pretty busy, and to be honest I think I needed a bit of a break from this site, as it is often a lot of work to maintain with all the other things I have going on. Fear not though, for I do have a number of articles either in the works or in various stages of completion. I should also mention that select chapters of Secret History of Star Wars, both the book and the articles on this website, were included in the course reader for a Star Wars related course taught this year by professor Douglas Brode at Syracuse University in the United States. Which is pretty cool, and it's also neat to see the franchise studied at universities; sounds like a fun way to earn marks!

I'm sure by now you have heard about the passing of Irvin Kershner, which saddens me greatly. He was a terrific, warm human being who had a passion and energy that never faded even when he was in his 80s. He's also a hell of an underrated director. I was building a lengthy work about him since 2008, but I never could get ahold of him personally, and in his last year he was often unavailable due to health problems; one of the biggest regrets of my life is that I never got the chance to chat with him. People know him for his last few years making so-so Hollywood films (Never Say Never Again and Robocop 2), but he had a really interesting career in the three decades prior. I would recommend checking out Flim Flam Man, The Luck of Ginger Coffey, Hoodlum Priest or if you can find it my favourite work of his (other than Empire), Raid on Entebbe. Loving, Eyes of Laura Mars and Return of a Man Called Horse are often considered to be good examples of his films as well. Rest in peace, Kersh. Let's hope Lucas doesn't dick around with your greatest work of cinema too much (more, that is).

While I am here I should wish you all a merry Christmas, or if you don't celebrate Christmas then "[insert religious or secular holiday here]", and I hope each and every one of you has a fantastic new year. 2010 was not a particularly kind year to me, but I can tell 2011 is going to awesome for all of us. Thanks for coming back to the site and I'll see you all real soon. There are a lot of really interesting things I want to share. Be sure to also continue to poke around in Save Star Wars, and it would be really helpful if you guys could help spread the word on that one, as this site wouldn't be here in the first place if those films hadn't originally existed, and I dunno about you but I think they are worth saving.

09/13/10: Hello all! Hope you had a good summer. You may have noticed I have been a bit absent this season. This is because for the last month and a half I have been hard at work on a sister site. As you know, George Lucas has suppressed (and neglected) the historic and ground-breaking original versions of the Star Wars trilogy. Maybe this is just a brilliant marketing bluff, but if Lucas' own words are any indication, he would like people to forget the originals ever even existed and he's been making decent progress in this goal. For all my respect for the man, this really is a disturbing thing, and something that I think has gone on long enough. It basically is the most important issue in the modern era of cinematic (not to mention pop cultural) preservation. So, to educate on the subject I created savestarwars.com. It's not a giant bitch-piece about how George Lucas is the devil though. Instead, I intend for it to educate on the processes involved in cinematic preservation and film materials, the legal issues surrounding motion picture preservation, as well as the history of the original Star Wars films' picture and audio, but most importantly of all to highlight the travesty that has befallen the Star Wars films. I like to think of it as a sort of website version of originaltrilogy.com (which is merely a petition and forum). So, while you restlessly wait for more material from this site, there are pages worth of material that I am glad I wrote. So, take a look at Save Star Wars Dot Com. See you again soon!

06/19/10: While I continue to work on Brackett's draft, I thought it might be fun to post another Empire-related article today. A guy by the handle of ABM posted at TF.N how Luke's amputation doesn't actually occur in any early draft of Empire Strikes Back, and I thought it would be a good springboard for an examination of this. Read on to The Origins of Luke's Severed Hand. Also, I'm not a big fan of conventions, but I think the fact that there will be an hour-long interview between Jon Stewart and George Lucas will make Celebration V a really interesting one; their brief chat on the Daily Show earlier this year was priceless!

05/29/10: Well, Empire Strikes Back turned 30 this week. Ever since the 1990s this has been considered the best of the series, and growing up with the films it certainly was always a toss-up between this and Star Wars--still is! Hats off to Irvin Kershner, who is still with us and closing in on 90 years old, for crafting such a beautiful, complex film. It's too bad that the original version is not available in high quality to celebrate the occassion. Or...is it? Remember the guy who did A New Hope Revisited? Well, he released a theatrical re-construction of Empire last week, that uses a color-corrected 2004 master with the original footage re-composited in to terrific effect. It's a real technical masterpiece. If you want to enjoy the original Empire--go see if you can find it. And yeah, I said I would have that article on the Leigh Brackett draft. I don't. It's in the process of being written, but it won't be available for at least another week. In the meantime, I was interviewed by Ars Technica last week on the original 35mm sources for Star Wars, which might interest some--basically a scaled-down version of the article I already wrote on the subject. And for those wondering what I actually look like, there's a photo of me on the People Versus George Lucas blog from the Toronto premiere. Back soon!

05/12/10: So, I don't know if anyone heard, but Leigh Brackett's first draft of Empire Strikes Back has been circulating on the internet for about a month now. This is an even bigger leak than the Raiders story conference transcript last year (probably also snuck out of the LFL office due to work on the related behind the scenes book; Empire's is coming out later this year). Expect a really detailed article in time for the film's 30th anniversary examining everything you ever wanted to know about her until-now mysterious first draft. Also, I had the great pleasure of attending the Canadian premiere of The People Versus George Lucas at the Hot Docs international film festival here in Toronto, and I have to say--it's a hilarious and entertaining film that had the whole theatre in uproarious laughter. I wish I could have seen it again! I spent a couple nights hanging out with Alexandre and Robert, director and producer of the film, great guys who really poured their heart into the film and it shows. It's the sort of film that can only come from a place of genuine love of its subject matter. I was flattered that they gave me a little introduction before the audience at the premiere, and I'm also incredibly grateful that such a high profile production sheds light on the fact that the original theatrical versions of the original trilogy have been suppressed, and the utter disregard for historical preservation this exemplifies (not to mention the personal issues of not giving fans their preferred cut of the film). Anyway, PvG is a really interesting and funny film, and I would encourage people to give it a watch if they can. See you later this month to celebrate 30 years of Empire!

03/23/10: Few small things. First, I added a new article back in January--new evidence of the stories of Lucas' "lost" trilogy. No, not episodes 7-9--episodes 10-12! Intrigued? Read Lost Star Wars Stories for the scoop. A few heads-ups as well. First, Nature of the Beast has been re-written and updated quite a bit, if you haven't read it (it's consisently one of the more popular pieces on the site). Second, you may have heard of a documentary called The People Versus George Lucas. It's been getting some very good press lately, was featured on Wired a few weeks ago. It looks to be a very interesting and humorous look at the contradiction of George Lucas' place as both friend and foe to his fans, and has interviews from some majors as Gary Kurtz and David Prowse. Author Dale Pollock is in it, and the director has been trying to work me in it for about a year now, but it looks like I will only have time in a later edit if at all. The film will be screening at various film festivals, and opened at South by Southwest Festival in March (in Austin), and will be playing Hot Docs in Toronto in May. For those in the area, it will be screening at the wonderful Bloor cinema on May1st and 4th (I saw 2001: A Space Oddyse there last night) and Innis Town Hall (where I currently work!) at U of T on May 3rd. There is a chance of having a panel discussion, and I will be onboard if this happens. Also noteworthy, I should mention that Michael Heileman at Binary Bonsai has been not only promoting me for quite some time now, but he's done some impressive Star Wars sleuthing himself, and I never post it. His site is mainly tech-oriented, but he managed to find a copy of the super-rare George Lucas: Maker of Films (1971), the earliest feature piece on Lucas, and incredibly insightful into a young avant-garde filmmaker no one heard of back then. Heileman's Star Wars links are always very interesting and rare, whether its super-8 footage from ILM from 1976, or his own personal trip to Skywalker Ranch. Take a look.

02/26/10: Marcia Lucas e-mailed me a week or two ago with a handful of minor corrections to my article on her. Above all else, it seems George Lucas' "Mr Mom" status that he speaks of, and gets written about in books and other media, is not entirely accurate; other books state that Marcia outright left her daughter. Marcia told me that in fact she had a 50% time-share of Amanda Lucas, and was fully involved in her life and upbringing. Marcia also apparently kept the name Lucas, both because of her daughter and because she was proud of her work as an editor with that name. Finally, she confided in me that while she had feelings for Tom Rodrigues, she never had a physical affair with him. I hope Marcia can offer me some further clarification on a few things in her life, but for now I have done a brief update of her page.

02/01/10: Todays update is a huge one. Since about 2005, I have been conducting a study on reception and reviews of the original trilogy during the time of their original release from 1977-1983. I am now (sort of) finally finished. In Part I I lay out my methods, aims and present the raw data. Part II is the juicy one, where I interpret and analyze my findings, provide context and greater detail, track the films into the post-release period and compare them against the prequels. Enjoy!

01/06/10: Happy new year to everyone! First, I did a tiny update on the previous article, thanks to my girlfriend Ioana, who has always edited all of my work and has always been my biggest source of encouragment and inspiration, plus an addition from longtime-reader Bernd Doetzer, who informed me that "Aldeberan" is actually a real-life star. More importantly though, I have a tremendously lengthy article (it has its own page of end notes) on the life and career of Marcia Lucas (nee Griffin). She was Lucas' wife until 1983, but more importantly was a central figure in his early cinema, edited most of his films, and was a key minor player in the New Hollywood movement of the 1970s. And, she's essentially been forgotten. Lucasfilm, in fact, has been making a conscious effort to basically write out her existance (I wonder why). On the web, there are only a handful of factoids about her (at best), and in books she is rarely treated as a film craftswoman in her own right. I felt the piece I was writing, which I have been working on since the summer, was so big that it ought to be a small book, but as I had to rely so heavily on previous publications, there really wasn't anything original, other than meticulous detective work on my part; I attempted to contact her to collaborate on the piece, and got kinda close, but it seems she is either unreachable or uninterested. I tracked down a bunch of images of her as well (since Lucasfilm rarely publishes her, if at all) to try to give some life to her person, which is admittedly limited in information. Anyway, read on to In Tribute to Marcia Griffin.

12/27/09: Christmas left me a bit busy (catching up on work, coming home to family, getting Christmas food, girlfriend coming in from Ottawa) so I am a few days late with the latest article, which is now up. I hope everyone had a great Christmas break, and since I probably won't be updating again in the next few days, I'll see you all in 2010! Until then, you can read today's article, which looks at Historical Place-Names in Star Wars. Not terribly exciting, but fun for the trivia lovers out there. And, if I can put my salesman cap on for just a second, Secret History of Star Wars is still reduced in price in case anyone has any leftover holiday cash :p . Other than that, I hope everyone that is reading this had a wonderful year! 

12/13/09: A heads up today: Originaltrilogy.com has a new petition to try to save the original theatrical edition of the Star Wars trilogy. If you remember, the site previously had gathered 70,000 signatures from its first petition, which was enough to get George Lucas to do a sort-of release of the films in 2006. Unfortunately, that release was a non-anamorphic transfer of the shoddy, 15-year-old Laserdisk, and was presented as a bonus feature. The new petition urges the films to be treated properly, in new high-def transfers for any upcoming Blu Ray releases. This is probably the most important issue facing the franchise today, so please, add your signature and let Lucasfilm know that film lovers are not okay with the originals versions being resigned to VHS and Laserdisk copies. In other news, I will have a small article before Christmas, and I am coming close to completing a detailed study on the critical reception of the films at the time of their release, which I have been working on for a few years now. Also, Secret History of Star Wars has been reduced in price in time for the holidays, so for those that are interested in getting it for yourself or someone else, now is a great time.

11/03/09: After a long break, I found time to do another article. Today's isn't so much related to the script or storytelling aspect as most of the focus of this site is, but nonetheless it is one that is among the most important--and, it seems, least understood--aspects of the film's identity: its physicality as a medium. It's also an aspect that, as a former camera technician and proponent of film history, is paramount on my list of priorities and which it once again seems that I'm the only one who has been able to synthesize the larger picture on. Today's piece takes a look at the restoration process of the original film: how the negative was restored, what parts of it remain, and how it was that the Special Edition was created. Read on to Saving Star Wars.

09/22/09: Although I planned to do a three-part examination of the Indiana Jones series, I'm afraid I have to put things on hold for the moment. Real life has made finding time for such a drastic undertaking a bit too much right now, though I hope to have something else for the site written in the not too far off future. While I'm here though, I wanted to just take the time to thank each and every person who bought a copy of Secret History of Star Wars. People's enthusiasm for the project has always inspired me to continue to pursue the matter, and though I hardly make any money at all out of it, the few bucks I do make goes a long way to helping me pay my school tuition and I'm grateful for that.

07/27/09: I thought this would be a very fun bonus for the site. Having written over half a million words on the subject of the Star Wars scripting/creative process, I thought it might be interesting to try something else--like maybe Indiana Jones. Today's update is the first of three which will examine the genesis and writing of the Indiana Jones series, and probably the most interesting of all of them--an in-depth look at the Raiders of the Lost Ark Story Conferences , based on the 138-page transcript of the week-long pow-wow between George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Lawrence Kasdan. Witness history in the making.

07/15/09: The promised update didn't quite materialise due to research issues related to the main piece that are a bit too complex to get into right now. In spite of this, there is an article on writers of the Star Wars Saga beyond George Lucas, an element often not considered, as well as a brief interview excerpt with Leigh Brackett . Enjoy!

06/28/09: Today's update is a new website feature--a discussion board. I'm not sure how well this will work out, so right now it is sort of experimental. The board can be found here , so feel free to register (though you can also use it if you are not registered). My hope is that the board can be a place to discuss topics relevant to this site, and also as a source of feedback if anyone has any comments and questions concerning the site and/or book itself. Much of the research and speculation relating to this site thrives on discussion, debate, and shared research, and I hope that the board can become a place of intelligent and interesting exchanges to call our own. Check back on this page next week for one of the bigger articles I have ever written.

06/06/09: Better late than never. Work has left me, well, overworked and things have gotten blocked up. But the article I intended to post last week is yours to read, at least. Celebrate ten years of The Phantom Menace by examining how the film, the prequels, and the six-episode epic of the Star Wars Saga is structured, and how the times which produced the films dictated this structure, for both good and bad. Read on to Structuring the Prequels: Sequel Construction in Historical Context .

05/26/09: I found this link while surfing today and thought I'd pass it on, since it's related to the content of this site: a quick--and biting--look at the first draft of Star Wars. I thought it was an interesting take on demonstrating why Lucas kept re-writing it. While on Star Wars anniversary material, I probably should have left a reminder yesterday to take a read if you haven't at Star Wars Memories for a nostalgic, and I think fairly enlightening for those of us who weren't around to appreciate it, trip back in time to 1977.

05/25/09: Star Wars is officially 32 years old, so celebrate and such. My articles I wanted to put up last weekend will have to wait until this weekend, unfortunately. Six-day, 60-hour work weeks tend to suck the life out of one's hobbies. To make up for it I have a random Star Wars video that may puzzle and amuse you. See you in a few days...

05/19/09: Has it really been a decade of prequels? It appears so. Today marks the day when eager anticipation turned into...well, complications, to say the least. Being a Star Wars fan seemed so much simpler back in the pre-prequel days. Strangely, I celebrated the day by seeing the Star Trek prequel-reboot, which, sadly or proudly, outshines just about everything I've seen with the Star Wars name attached to it in the last decade. Hats off to J.J. Abrams for a stellarly-crafted space opera. Yes, Star Wars fans, sue me. But speaking of Episode I, I will indeed be taking another look at it this week, in an article that I hope to have up before Friday. In the meantime, there is a piece I wrote a few months ago examining why Episode I isn't actually rated as badly as its reputation as a cinematic embarrasment may indicate yet still legitimately did not garner good reviews (in contrast to some who apologetically argue that it was well-recieved). The film certainly has a strange dual nature to it. It does to me as well--personally, I find it lousy as the first episode of the Star Wars Saga, yet I have quite a lot of adoration for it as an utterly unique children's fantasy picture, made with high imagination and genuine conviction. But as for its place as a Star Wars film--you'll have to check back in a few days for an interesting analysis of the mechanics of how the film was constructed as a dual-purpose storytelling chapter.

04/25/09: In light of the lack of updates recently, I should tell you that I've been working on three really big articles. One of them will be out in two or three weeks to mark the tenth anniversary of Episode I, so check back. In sort-of related news--how many of you heard that the story meeting transcript for Raiders of the Lost Ark was leaked to the internet? Well, it was, and its a very, very interesting read. You can see how clearly and intelligently Lucas approached the character back then (you can also see how much Crystal Skull deviates from the original approach). I might do a piece on it in the future but this guy already said a lot of the same things (give his article a read--you can even download the transcript from there). Now if only the Empire transcript was leaked instead...

03/10/09: Probably should have mentioned this earlier, but Secret History of Star Wars is now a university textbook. Allan Swords, who teaches at Clemson University in South Carolina, has been using it in his first-year introductory English class there, which began in January. The library at Clemson University recently added me to their author's database, so I suppose this means that Secret History is also available there for anyone at Clemson that wants to check it out.


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