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George Lucas Says 'Red Tails' Is His Last "Blockbuster"; Plans To Focus On Personal & Experimental Films For The Rest Of His Career

by Kevin Jagernauth
January 17, 2012 2:29 PM
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George Lucas

Is George Lucas leaving "Star Wars" behind? It sure seems that way, as the writer, producer and director behind the biggest sci-fi franchise of all time and -- no matter what you think of him -- a massive influence on a generation of filmmakers and pop culture in general, is ready to draw down and take some risks.

In an extensive, fascinating profile in The New York Times, in advance of the release of the Lucas-produced "Red Tails," the bold claim is made that this will be his last multiplex hurrah. “Once this is finished, he’s done everything he’s ever wanted to do,” said his longtime producing partner Rick McCallum. “He will have completed his task as a man and a filmmaker.” The article goes on to state that moving forward, Lucas will be putting his attention toward films that are "..small in scope, esoteric in subject and screened mostly in art houses. They’ll be like the experimental movies Lucas made in the 1960s, around the time he was at U.S.C. film school, when he recorded clouds moving over the desert and made a movie based on an E. E. Cummings poem."

“I’m retiring,” Lucas said. “I’m moving away from the business, from the company, from all this kind of stuff.” Of course, this isn't the first time he's said this. The director made similar statements years ago, only to return to the comfortable and lucrative well of the "Star Wars" franchise, knocking out three prequels in the process. And it was only a few years ago that he threw his pal Francis Ford Coppola under the bus for taking exactly the same approach, saying “Did you see it?” Lucas asked rhetorically. “Uh, no. Did you even know it came out?”

And even now, he's leaving a clause open to work on a fifth "Indiana Jones" movie. But now more than ever, Lucas has the ample financial freedom to do whatever he wants. But we wonder if he'll be able to park decades worth of franchise thinking.

As the Times notes, "Red Tails" has been in development for years, and the first scripts were grand in scope, with a film that would've tracked the development of the Tuskegee program, the dogfights in World War II and a bitter ending, with the pilots returning home to a south still ruled by Jim Crow. But Lucas knew his own limitations.

“I can’t make that movie,” Lucas said. “I’m going to have make this kind of...entertainment movie.” And thus, the focused shifted, with Lucas taking inspiration from the John Wayne film "Flying Leathernecks" (directed by Nicholas Ray) for the direction he wanted to go in. He also, quite boldly, says he wanted to make a patriotic movie for black teenagers, and thus, a big piece of entertainment would probably be the most engaging way to do it. And while he waits to see how his expensive gamble pays off, where he goes from here will be fascinating to see.

Saying that he's “retiring, in a way, from my past” it seems he's ready to take the kind of risks that projects that have $100 million budgets or legions of fans can't allow him to afford. But as for any other "Star Wars" movies? “Why would I make any more, when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?” he asks rhetorically.

You're not going to have George Lucas to kick around any more.

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  • Huffy | January 17, 2012 11:50 PMReply

    Sounds cool to me. I'm pretty ambivalent when it comes to Lucas (he's better than most give him credit for being but that isn't saying a whole lot) but I do think that THX is very underrated and still one of the most visually fascinating sci-fi films around.

  • Stephen B | January 17, 2012 6:14 PMReply

    "And even now, he's leaving a clause open to work on a fifth "Indiana Jones" movie."
    This is the very reason he should retire; to be stripped of any creative input with regards to Indiana Jones.

  • Bill | January 17, 2012 4:11 PMReply

    George Lucas is totally done with Star Wars.... except for the next 6 years of rereleasing each film in 3D & a lengthy live action Star Wars TV Show.
    The man is creatively bankrupt. Even the originally interesting sounding Red Tails has been re-fitted to look like Star Wars Origins: WWII Tales.

  • StephenM | January 17, 2012 5:16 PM

    Exactly. That's what I was thinking the whole time I read this article. For being one of the richest men in all of Hollywood, he sure doesn't do much creative with it.

  • hank | January 17, 2012 4:07 PMReply

    Lucas sits on a "Pile of money" that he has pledged to give away the majority of in his own lifetime. So to say he throws it at the dung heap is just a good example of what he was talking about above. The man has always followed his bliss, done what he wanted to do and with a few exceptions financed it all himself, out of his own pocket. Whether the work was good or not is subjective but the man deserves some gratitude and respect.

  • Helgi | January 17, 2012 3:45 PMReply

    This is the one we all loved to kick around - deservedly. The man sits on a pile of money and throws it all at the dung heap. I respect him for American Graffiti and Star Wars, two total different universes, different time-zones. But since 1977 the gray-beard has not made anything of interest, except producing Tucker for Francis Coppola.

  • bobmorton | January 17, 2012 2:58 PMReply

    wouldn't it be great if lucas focused on the development of a viable online business model for small, personal films so that him and his pal coppola (among countless other indie filmmakers) could make their little movies and i wouldn't have to go to a festival to see them?

    he is largely responsible for the current blockbuster mentality and the destruction of cinema as an art form... isn't it time he gave back? shouldn't he try to fix things so that we can enjoy the type personal filmmaking that we got during the 70s & 90s in america again?

  • karni | January 17, 2012 3:56 PM

    @BobMorton, a fair question, but isn't that what Netflix/VOD is for? Don't expect Hollywood to change (too much), because studios are owned by large corporations that are responsible for keeping scores of people employed, and making money for their shareholders. The only way they can exist, is by making films that most people can't make, and by attracting the most people possible to see them, so they can keep making more films, keep people employed, and keep paying dividends. Moreover, the theaters won't take more than a few small films per year, because if they do, far fewer people will go to the movies and they will all go out of business. Their bottom line will always be more important than your desire to see small personal films, and there is nothing wrong with needing to stay in business--it's simply a function of economics. So by making small films, Lucas and Coppola are clearly going to be looking at alternate distribution opportunities. Unfortunately, you're not going to see too many of those small personal films in American theaters, though. Nothing is going to change that, but still, studios and theaters are going to take a bath in the next 5 years as more and more people stay home to watch whatever they want instead of the 10 films offered at a time at a theater.

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