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Thoughts on J.W. Rinzler's The Making of Star Wars

J.W. Rinzler's new book is out, and after four intense days i finally finished reading through it. This thing truely is a wonderful creation, more in-depth, insightful and candid than i ever dreamed or hoped--its everything a Star Wars fan always wanted but never thought would happen, in some cases giving a week by week breakdown of the entire five year production. The discovery of the so-called Lost Interviews that Charles Lippincott conducted from 1975-1978 was truely a miraculous one--were it not for Lippincott's aborted documentary attempt, we would not have this beast that is called The Making of Star Wars , and such fine details and at-the-time-contemporary statements by Lucas and others would be lost. Particularly poignant is Lippincott asking Lucas if he has aquired Alec Guiness yet and Lucas can only reply "we're working on it," as negotiations were still up in the air--comments like these, hearing Lucas' candid thoughts on the story and production as it was being made, make this book worth owning.

With that out of the way, of interest should be how this book relates to my own. Well, I'm glad i wrote "the production of Star Wars has been covered by a plethora of other sources and need not be repeated here", because anything i could have said would be pretty redundant now. But the most pertinent issues are how does this book contradict or re-inforce my own conclusions? Well, I was unsurprised--but also relieved--to discover that there were no major incompatibilities. Tons of information was provided that expands and supplements my own research--such as the all-important third draft outline that i wondered aloud about, as well an in-depth summary of the original Journal of the Whills--but of course there was no such fabled "Tragedy of Darth Vader" script unearthed, nor any personal note of Lucas' that said "make Vader Luke's father?" Indeed, this mammoth text may be the very indisputable proof against any Vader-centric story ambitions, for it details specifically and repeatedly how Lucas' story was Luke's. Nearly all of Lucas' notes shown are those relating to Luke, and to a lesser extent, Han, Kenobi and the droids; oftentimes Lucas would just expel his thoughts in stream of conscious manner, and it produced stuff such as "make workmen robots?" which was him wondering about creating the droids. Vader, in fact, is hardly ever mentioned at all in the book, and I can't even think of a single note shown with his name on it. Certainly though Lucas might have a few, and we are only exerpted a sampling, but the main point is that there is nothing of significance revolving around Vader, except the last draft where he kills Luke's father. This, in contrast, is talked about quite a few times, showing that Lucas was truely committed to the orthodox Father Skywalker story--and many of these comments were made well before the film was even released. No one cared about who "Luke space farmer" 's father was, and thus if Lucas had done any significant development on him there would be no need to hide it. Lucas continues to speak of Luke's father as a seperate person, and he hardly speaks of Vader at all, showing that he regarded him as he was written--a rather minor player in the story, a mere villain.

There are, however, four instances where some may think that contradictions crop up. One is where Lucas explains that Leia was always Luke's twin, for example, and another is where it is stated that Darth Vader's origin will be explored in a sequel. Some, no doubt, may uphold these as evidence that Lucas truely did have the basic saga figured out, at least in general terms--but these four instances are not what they appear to be. As i will explain, they themselves are either insertions from later sources--the Lost Interviews are not the only source Rinzler used--or are themselves explainable in other, simpler ways.

The first to be looked at is the one that is most explicit in its statement.

"Between the second and third drafts, Lucas wrote a six-page story synopsis. Dated May 1, 1975...Not long afterward Lucas, uncharacteristically, typed out a new outline...Lucas changed [Luke from a girl back into a boy], while at the same time resuscitating the princess. 'It was at that moment,' says the writer, 'that i came up with the idea that Luke and the princess are twins. I simply divided the character in two.' " (p. 42)

However, this quote is glaringly out of place in the context of the book. Aside from this statement, the overriding impression one gets is that Luke and Leia are unrelated--part of this is the whole fairy tale motif where Luke is the naive peasant whom has to rescue the kidnapped princess, and despite this statement about Lucas deciding they are twins, they are still developed independently of one another, and there literally is no evidence of any linkage aside from this one isolated statement. But secondly, Lucas never once spoke of Leia as a twin before 1983, and this comment has a very modern-Lucas sound to it, and I find it hard to believe that this was something he had said in the 1970's. This is cleared up when you look at Rinzler's interview sources--he spoke to Lucas three times in 2006. Undoubtedly these three interviews produced this statement.

These are generalised arguments but more specific ones completely tear down this statement. The biggest one is the one i already spoke of in The Secret History of Star Wars --Leia is explicitly descibed as being the specific age of sixteen. Luke on the other hand is roughly eighteen or so--his exact age in the script is actually twenty: "LUKE STARKILLER, a farm boy with heroic aspirations who looks much younger than his twenty years," is how the revised fourth draft describes him, though this was somewhat give-and-take as publicity material would alternatively describe him as nineteen or eighteen--but clearly he is not to be sixteen like Leia. This is backed up by the casting director, Dianne Crittenden:"The princess was supposed to be about sixteen, Luke was about eighteen, and Han was in his early twenties." (p. 68) For the practical purposes of shooting, however, both Luke and Leia had to be over eighteen so that underage union laws would not slow down shooting, and Harrison Ford's unexpected eventual casting led to Han being portrayed as someone in his late twenties rather than an early twenties "James Dean" type as it was written. Lucas also says that Leia has two younger brothers, age four and seven, on page 351.

The third contradiction of this comment is Lucas' own thoughts on sequels. Practically the only specific ideas he speaks of for any sequels is that he wants Luke and Leia kissing in the second film! He describes it as a romance, a Gone With the Wind in Outer Space, but with Han leaving and Leia and Luke getting together(p. 107). Alan Dean Foster would eventually implement this in his sequel Splinter of the Mind's Eye, which is rife with sexual tension between Luke and Leia. By the time Lucas got to Empire Strikes Back a few years later, however, he found the opportunity to take this in different directions, however, though in the first draft a plot point revolves around the fact that Luke is in love with Leia, and of course there is that notorious open-mouth kiss in the final film itself.

Lucas' statement does have some merit--Luke and Leia are twins, but metaphorical ones, not literal ones, in the same sense that Luke and Han are brothers of a sort. Han evolved out of Luke as a contrast to him, and Leia evolved in the same way. "All the characters came out of one composite--Luke," Lucas said in 1979. "At one point i was going to have a girl in the center. Luke Skywalker might never have been; he might have been a heroine. Leia came out of Luke, so to speak, just as Han did, as the opposite of Luke. Han Solo evolved from my wanting to have a cynical foil for the innocent Luke. A lot of the characters came out of Luke because Luke had many aspects. So i took certain aspects of the composite Luke and put them into other characters." (Alan Arnold's Empire making-of, p.222-223) Leia is like Luke in a lot of ways but is confident where he is unsure, active where is awkward. Han too is a closer twin to Luke--both start out as a zero and become a hero, and one of the least emphasized arcs of the original film is Han's; he undergoes the exact same hero's journey as Luke, and its no surprise that its Luke and Han who stand side by side with medals at the conclusion, dressed in similar attire. Costume designer John Mollo even tells how this was intentional: "George said, 'No, I think [Luke] ought to look a bit more like Han [for the medal scene].' It was a very last minute thing, but we concocted an outfit like Han's in different colors." (p. 192)

The next quote is actually two parts to address. In this one Lucas hints at a Skywalker family drama and also hints at Vader's origins.

"I want to have Luke kiss the princess in the second book. The second book will be Gone With the Wind in Outer Space. She likes Luke, but Han is Clarke Gable. Well, she may appear to get Luke, because in the end i want Han to leave. Han splits at the end of the second book and we learn who Darth Vader is...In the third book, i want the story to be just about the soap opera of the Skywalker family, which ends with the destruction of the Empire. Then someday i want to do the backstory of Kenobi as a young man--a story of the Jedi and how the Emperor eventually takes over and turns the whole thing from the Republic into an Empire, and tricks all the Jedi and kills them. The whole battle where Luke's father gets killed. Thats impossible to do, but it's great to dream." (p. 107)

This, however, is viewed with the contemporary version of Star Wars in mind and thus one's perception of this quote is biased. For starters, to simply jump to the conclusion that this implies a Father Vader and Sister Leia is exactly that--a jump. There is nothing that implies these things, and instead they are assumptions based on the fact that these elements were developed in the sequels. Looking at it with simply the original film in mind, we get a different picture. Firstly, "we learn who Vader is" should not be read as some kind of shocking revelation--all Lucas literally is saying is that Vader's origins would be explored. These origins were that he was once a Jedi student of Kenobi's but betrayed the Jedi and killed Luke's father. With Luke having to confront him in the sequels, these issues would be natural to confront and expand upon, and Lucas was even fantasizing about showing this in a prequel-sequel. In fact, in the same breath as this statement Lucas goes on to explain how Luke's father is killed (implicitly by Vader, as Kenobi makes explicit in the script), and as covered before, given that these were made in a private conference with Foster for a movie that was thought to be unsuccessful and which no one really cared about, theres no reason why Lucas would be hiding anything--and in fact he goes on to explain exactly what he means, stating how Vader killed the Jedi including Luke's father. Lucas even spoils the ending for the sequel--Han may look like he gets Leia but really Luke does; secrecy is obviously not a factor, and Lucas makes it clear that Luke's father is conceived as a seperate person who is already killed. It may also be interesting to entertain the idea that Vader being the murderer of Luke's father was not to be revealed in the first film--after all, the draft that developed Darth Vader as having killed Father Skywalker did not enter existance until a few days later; perhaps this information was initially supposed to be given in film two, which would explain the statement "we learn who Vader is."

The second part of that statement is along similar lines--"soap opera of the Skywalker family." As i wrote in The Secret History of Star Wars, a major part of Luke's story arc for the sequel would be the developing relationship between him and Vader, and that his destiny as a Jedi would be to avenge his father by finally slaying Darth, with the father's own lightsaber no less, a pretty operatic and mythic notion. Thus, the Skywalker family soap opera is more about Luke avenging Father Skywalker. The eventual sequels re-inforce both of these things: in Empire Strikes Back draft one and Splinter of the Mind's Eye, Luke and Leia are in love, with Han leaving at the end of draft one (he is not even present for Splinter), and Luke battling Vader on behalf of his father is a major part of both as well, especially in draft one of Empire. In this draft as well, the "soap opera of the Skywalker family" is given added weight by the fact that Father Skywalker himself returns in ghost form to induct Luke into Jedi Knighthood and take up the fight which he was killed in, though its debatable if Lucas had this particular ghost-plot in mind at this time (my feeling is that it was not), and there was also the addition of a twin sister who is also training to be a Jedi--this last point was a concept that had been a major part of the early drafts of Star Wars . It may be wondered if Lucas had this aspect in mind at that time; certainly that is a good possibility, although i maintain that there is nothing to suggest as much so we must take it with a grain of salt. So to sum up, there was indeed a Skywalker family soap opera at play, and its at play in Star Wars as well--Luke's father being a Jedi, being killed by Vader and then Luke taking up the sword and continuing the battle on his behalf. "I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father." Family heritage is a major part of the story.

The final quote to be examined is one which looks to place The Duel, and the tragedy of Darth Vader being crippled, as being developed much earlier. In The Secret History of Star Wars i explain that the fourth draft of Star Wars is absent of any hints of The Duel, and that the concept of a volcano confrontation was developed somewhere between the fourth draft and the March 1976 production, with the crippling aspect which necessitates the life-support-suit an aspect added in post production.The quote comes on page 111:

"The backstory is about Ben and Luke's father and Vader, when they are young Jedi Knights. Vader kills Luke's father, then Ben and Vader have a confrontation, just like they have in Star Wars, and Ben almost kills Vader. As a matter of fact, he falls into a volcanic pit and gets fried and is one destroyed being. That's why he has to wear the suit with a mask, because it's a breathing mask. It's like a walking iron lung. His face is all horrible inside. I was going to have a close-up of Vader where you could see the inside of his face, but then we said, 'No, no, it would destroy the mystique of the whole thing.'"

This, however, is a word for word copy from Paul Scanlon's August 25th 1977 interview with Lucas for Rolling Stone. Its a direct quote from it. In fact, Rinzler lists that interview as one of his sources, and he quotes from it in a few other places in his book as well. So, though Lucas maintains that it was in place all along, it was in fact developed in an evolutionary manner that only came to have the details noted above in post-production, not late 1975 as Rinzler places it. Rinzler's logic for placing it here is two-fold: Ben Kenobi ceases to be mechanical in the fourth draft, and so he surmises that Vader was turned into the mechanoid, while Lucas also states that he didn't develop Vader's character until the fourth draft. This last point, again, is in reference to his past, however--most of Vader's history, that is being a Jedi, being a student of Obi Wan's, and being a betrayer of the Jedi, was actually in place in the third draft, but the crucial plot point about him actually being the murderer of Luke father and the all-purpose Sith-representer does not occur until the fourth draft.

So, we see that these apparent inconsistencies aren't really inconsistencies at all, they just take a little bit of research to better understand their meaning. Aside from these three or four statements, Rinzler's book is honest and surprisingly goes against much of the Lucasfilm double-talk lore surrounding the early story material, which is a refreshing change of pace. It is thoroughly researched, expertly written and often shows the evolution of the story and the production in a much better and more compelling manner than i was able to. Reading this book is a must for any fan of the film or the series, and with the sale prices so cheap right now I very much recommend the hardcover version, which is beautiful first of all but second of all has fifty pages of additional material.

04/29/07

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