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The Religious Affiliation of Director
Lucas was born and raised in a strongly Methodist family. After inserting religious themes into Star Wars he would eventually come to identify strongly with the Eastern religious philosophies he studied and incorporated into his movies, which were a major inspiration for "the Force." Lucas eventually came to state that his religion was "Buddhist Methodist." Gary Kurtz, a Latter-day Saint who had studied Comparative Religion extensively in college and on his own, was pivotal in introducing Lucas to Eastern religions (particularly Buddhism) and Native American religion, and discussing with Lucas how best to improve "Star Wars" by giving it a believable but sufficiently universal religious underpinning. Kurtz was the producer of "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back" and also did some work on the "Star Wars" screenplay.
From: John Baxter, Mythmaker: The Life and Work of George Lucas, Avon Books: New York, NY (1999), page 16:
...the San Joaquin Valley put its stamp firmly on both Lucas and his films. Without the white upper-middle-class Methodist values he absorbed during his upbringing in this most complacent and righteous of regions, the Star Wars films, the Indiana Jones series, even the more eccentric THX1138, let alone American Graffiti, would have been very different. Indeed, they might not have existed at all, since Lucas, unlike the directors who joined him in building the New Hollywood in the sixties and seventies, is anything but a natural film-maker. Nothing in his character fits him to make films. The process irritates and bores him... It is easy to forget that Lucas, for all his fame and influence, has only directed four feature films in almost thirty year. Repeatedly he's handed the job to others, supervising from the solitude of his home, controlling the shooting by proxy, as Hollywood studio producers of the forties did.
Lucas's Protestant family background has always been evident to those who have analyzed his films. Lucas has a clearly defined belief in God, and good and evil; Lucas has been described by some as a pantheist. Lucas is a friend of Joseph Campbell, from whom he has derived much of his philosophy. Discussing the development of the idea of the Force, Lucas said: "The Force evolved out of various developments of character and plot. I wanted a concept of religion based on the premise that there is a God and there is good and evil. I began to distill the essence of all religions into what I thought was a basic idea common to all religions and common to primitive thinking. I wanted to develop something that was nondenominational but still had a kind of religious reality. I believe in God and I believe in right and wrong. I also believe that there are basic tenets which through history have developed into certainties, such as 'thou shalt not kill.' I don't want to hurt other people. 'Do unto others...' is the philosophy that permeates my work." [Source: Ryder Windham. Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace Scrapbook. Random House (1999), pg. 11.]
From Baxter, page 18:
The Lucases arrive in Central California from Arkansas in 1890, after having left Virginia a century before... George Walton Lucas was born in 1913. George Walton Sr, the film-maker's father, never lost the wiry look of frontiersman, nor the sense, reinforced by Methodism, that life and work were two sides of the same coin. 'He was one of those people who, at the dinner table, always had little talks about those kinds of things,' his daughter Kate recalled. 'He quoted a lot of Shakespeare. "To thine own self be true." He said a lot of things like that.'
From Baxter, page 35:
...In 1929 they relocated sixty miles from Fresno, to Modesto, and George [the filmmaker's father] enrolled in Modesto High School with the idea of studying law. Already convinced by events that the Lord only helped those who helped themselves, he was a serious student...
At sixteen, the gap between Lucas [the filmmaker] and his father seemed an abyss, but over the next twenty years George would become more and more recognizable as the son of a small-town Methodist businessman.
From Baxter, pages 92-93:
On 22 February 1969, George and Marcia married at the United First Methodist Church in Pacific Grove, near Monterey. John Plummer was best man. Coppola came, as did Murch, Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins, and even Verna Fields.
From Baxter, page 126:
In one of the film's major coups, Lucas persuaded Wolfman Jack to appear [in American Graffiti... Nobody had previously put a face to [him], but after American Graffiti, the deejay's genial personal became a national commonplace. Omnipresent, moralizing, bearded, benign, Wolfman Jack is American Graffiti's God figure, its equivalent of OMM in THX1138 and Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars. For all his later embrace of Eastern mysticism, there remained in Lucas more than a little of the Methodist.
From Baxter, pages 173-174:
Kaufman and Lucas began kicking around original ideas for screenplays. Lucas admired MGM's 1950 film of H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines, starring a suave Stewart Granger as white hunter Allan Quartermain. He also had a soft spot for the same studio's thirties adventure stories... Lucas and Kaufman began filling yellow legal pads with notes for such as story. They imagined a hero as smooth as Gable, but able to hold his own in a fight. An adventurer, but with a sentimental side. More intellectual than Gable, too. They made him an archaeologist. But what was he looking for? Kaufman suggested the Ark of the Covenant. Lucas looked blank. Methodism had little truck with the Old Testament, and he'd never heard about the coffer in which the Israelites carried the tablets of the Law that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, together with Aaron's rod and a pot of the manna which fell from heaven and sustained them in the wilderness. But Kaufman was Jewish, and, more important, so was his childhood orthodontist, who'd told him the story to keep him from fidgeting in the chair.
From Baxter, page 320:
They were will into preliminary work on the story [which would become the basis for Indiana Jones and the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark] when Clint Eastwood offered Kaufman the direction of a western, The Outlaw Josey Wales. Kaufman chose the cast, picked the locations, determined the look of the film, and the wardrobe; but once shooting began in October in Arizona and Utah, he fell out with Eastwood, first over the female lead, Sondra Locke, then over Kaufman's thoughtful, deliberate direction. Within a month, Eastwood had fired Kaufman and taken over the direction. By then, however, Lucas had shelved the adventure story and was deep into Star Wars.
Charles Lippincott, about to start work as publicist for Hitchcock on Family Plot [in which William Devane plays a man raised in a Latter-day Saint family who becomes a grifter as an adult], was another old friend to drop by Lucas's office... [Lippincott went on to become the marketing VP for Star Wars]
Though his [George Lucas's] own contribution to The Egg Co.'s running was usually a single weekly forty-five minute phone call to Weber, he fretted that its proximity to Hollywood was driving it to the devil. His father's Methodism had returned to haunt him... But really Lucas had nobody but himself to blame for the corruption of The Egg Co. [his business office near the center of Hollywood, which eventually became overextended with investments and business interested in many non-film related industries].
From Baxter, page 22:
When George was nine, the fiance of his oldest sister Ann died in Korea, a loss which affected George deeply: lacking an older brother he'd co-opted his future brother-in-law into that role. George also recalled a period of existential anguish when he was six. 'It centered around God,' he recalled. 'What is God? But more than that, what is reality? What is this? It's as if you reach a point and suddenly you say, "Wait a second, what is the world? What are we? What am I? How do I function in this, and what's going on here?" It was very profound to me at the time. At least one other film-maker went through an almost identical crisis at the same age: Woody Allen's parents recalled that, at age six, their son became 'sour and depressed,' setting the scene for his later films.
From Baxter, page 11:
His [Lucas's] public pronouncements have come to have overtones of the mesianic. In 1981, breaking ground on the new USC Film School, to which he contributed $4.7 million, he lectured the audience on their moral shortcomings: 'The influence of the Church, which used to be all-powerful, has been usurped by film. Films and television tell us the way we conduct our lives, what is right and wrong. There used to be a Ten Commandments that film had to follow, but now there are only a few remnants, like a hero doesn't shoot anybody in the back. That makes it even more important that film-makers get exposed to the ethics of film.'
From Baxter, pages 163-166:
However seductive its technology, Star Wars needed much more if it was to succeed. Artless adventure wouldn't prevail against the mysticism of Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Universal's reader had been right: understanding 'the rights and wrongs' of the story was crucial. Lucas needed a rhetoric, a philosophy, a creed.
From interview conducted by Jess Cagle, "So, What's the Deal with Leia's Hair?" in Time magazine, 29 April 2002 issue (http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101020429/qa.html):
Apologists for and interpreters of Star Wars insist that 'the Force,' the all-pervasive power on which the heroes rely to defeat the Empire, was there from the start, and provided the primary motive for making the films. Lucas fosters this idea. 'There was no modern mythology to give kids a sense of values, to give them a strong mythological fantasy life,' he said later. 'Westerns were the last of the that genre for Americans. Nothing was being done for young people that has real psychological underpinnings and was aimed at intelligent beings.'
But in fact Lucas had no such intentions at the outset. If anything, the whole idea of religion was alien to him. He had gone to church as a boy [at a Methodist church], and even attended Catholic mass a few times at USC, but the last time he'd been in church was to be married. He was no mystic -- he knew what a Chevy or an Arriflex would do, but a soul . . . ?
The Fore wasn't mentioned in the script's first drafts. It first appeared in the Second Draft of January 1975, a year after Lucas started writing. People in early scripts occasionally say 'May the force be with you' instead of 'Good luck,' but what force is never mentioned. Lucas himself didn't begin expounding on the Force until well after the film's release. In 1977, he was still saying vaguely, 'The Force is really a way of seeing, it's a way of being with life.' All evidence suggests that the secret of Star Wars' extraordinary longevity and the fidelity of its following, indeed the basis of George Lucas's later near-guru status, was an afterthought.
It was the season of psychedelia, of dope, of gurus so wise they could change your life. Visitors to San Anselmo carried creeds with them like dust on their shoes. They pressed copies of Carlos Castaneda and Khalil Gibran into Lucas's hands, along with texts from the Hare Krishnas, the Scientologists, the Moonies, and fashionable sf novels, like Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, about a charismatic sect whose adherents indulge in ritual cannibalism. Someone told him about The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by anthropologist Joseph Campbell, though apparently Lucas never read it, but heard some extracts on an audiotape in his ear.
Campbell argues that every epic, no matter what culture created it, rests on two or three characters and a personal conflict, usually between father and son, which embodies the eternal battle between good and evil. Could Obi-Wan Kenobi, Lucas wondered, be a figure often mentioned by Campbell, the older mentor and guru? Initially, Gary Kurtz didn't favor the idea: 'The fear was that any religiously based, any theologically based character would require lots of explanation and exposition that was detrimental to action adventure.
Lucas put it into the Second Draft anyway, but in a form so cumbersome that it bore out Kurtz's fears. Luke Skywalker, now recognizably the character of the film, explains the source and significance of the Force to his younger brothers, Biggs and Windy.
LUKE: In another time, long before the Empire, and before the Republic had been formed, a holy man called the Skywalker became aware of a powerful energy field which he believed influenced the destiny of all living things . . .
In this version, the Force has two aspects: Bogan, the evil, and the good, Ashla (from C.S. Lewis's Aslan). Skywalker, apparently unburdened by the celibacy imposed in earlier versions, had twelve sons, to whom he passed this knowledge. They became the Jedi-Bendu, and 'brought peace and justice to the galaxy' -- by what means isn't specified. All this ended in the Clone Wars when the Great Senate, in league with the Power and Transport Guilds, allowed knowledge of Bogon to fall into the hands of the Sith Knights, personal bodyguards to the emperor. The Sith hunted down the Jedi -- though not the father of Luke, Biggs and Windy, 'The Starkiller,' the search for whom begins a theme of the film. Once he finds them, Luke will give him the Kiber Crystal, which has the power to amplify the Ashla force a hundred times.
BIGGS: The 'Force of Others!'
LUKE: Yes . . .
'Anybody who read those drafts,' recalls Kurtz, 'said, "What are you doing here? This is absolute gobbledegook."' He urged Lucas, who later defined his religion as 'Buddhist Methodist', to go for something simpler and more universal. 'Comparative Religion is one of the things I studied in university,' says Kurtz. 'I also studied the Buddhist and Hindu sects, and studied Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, and also Native American spirituality; shamanistic methods and so on. I got out a lot of my old books and we talked about it. If you trace back most religious thought to the teachings of the great prophets, whether Judeo-Christian, or Muslim, or even Hindu or Buddhist, you start to see a lot of similarities. The core philosophies are very very similar. The most obvious one is the Buddhist tradition about karma -- the karmic action that comes out of cause and effect. So the Force is an amalgamation of lots of different things.
'I saw Ben Kenobi as a shaman, really, rather than a character tied to any conventional religious background. The American Indians look upon God as the Great Mystery -- that's what they call him. [Their religion] is about the universal energy you can draw on through individual effort. You draw on the energy of the Great Mystery in the dances and tribal prayers. [I thought] this would be a good way to connect with this, since it's simple enough that you don't have to go through weeks and weeks of explanation trying to get some sense of what the religious philosophy is. And it's true enough, in the sense that it's based logically on a real belief system. We wanted to avoid that problem of imposing some sort of religious messiah on our characters so that we could have some sort of religious history. So there is a Joseph Campbell connection, but it's just one of many.'
There remained large chunks of back-story for which there was no place in the film: the nature and structure of the Empire, Luke's background, the Jedi--none were explained. Lucas tried to spell them out in dialogue, but once actors got hold of the script, the idea was abandoned. Piling exposition into their lines simply made them unsayable.
Lucas and Kurtz chose a radical solution. They wouldn't explain anything. 'We decided,' says Kurtz, 'that we were making a Flash Gordon-type action adventure, and that we were coming in on Episode Four; at that time there was no thought of a series or prequels. We're just racing through the story, not explaining anything. This is just the life that these people lead. We're not explaining technology. We're not explaining philosophy. We're not explaining religion... it was a way of not having to tell the audience everything. Whether they get it or not is immaterial to the story. What you get out of it is what you bring to the cinema, and you read into the things the things you want to read into it.' Had they but known it, Lucas and Kurtz were obeying one of the oldest conventions of the epic: to commence in media res; while the story was actually taking place. It had worked for Homer and the Kalevala. Why not for Star Wars?
Q: The morals we learn from Darth Vader's life--about letting go and making amends--are dominant themes in 12-step programs. Did you ever go through recovery for drugs or alcohol?
From Baxter, pages 353-354:
A: I never did drugs. Drinking was never a problem. But I've done a lot of research, and those [morals] are very valid. The interesting thing about the 12 steps is that they work, and not just for addictive people. I'm very interested in psychology. I dabble in that stuff with my friends. I spend most of my fun time arguing, pontificating, discussing those things.
Q: What religion are you?
A: I was raised Methodist. Now let's say I'm spiritual. It's Marin County. We're all Buddhists up here.
With money and space to play with, Lucas could indulge himself. He invited eighty-one-year-old Joseph Campbell to use Skywalker as his location for a TV series on his ideas, and insiders were summoned to a lecture by Campbell in which he analyzed Star Wars films from an anthropologist's point of view. Campbell and Lucas became so friendly that Lucas described him as 'my Yoda.' 'Most of my friends are college professors,' Lucas said happily as his fantasy of the one-man university began to come true.
From Baxter, pages 244-245:
Supporters of Star Wars [soon after its release] claimed that the vacuum in meaning was filled by the Force, which was already attracting adherents, though Lucas himself never professed it. The very insubstantiality of this most diaphanous of belief systems appealed to adolescents. Here was a religion that, like Scientology, claimed to supersede every creed, every philosophy, every human aspiration -- not, like L. Ron Hubbard's synthetic creed, by illuminating their fallacies with the white light of science, but by subsuming all existing faiths. The Force was a belief roomy enough for Christianity, Buddhism and Islam to nestle in its ample folds. Tongue in cheek, Coppola would suggest to Lucas that he launch a religion based on Star Wars, and settle down like Hubbard to bask in his godhood. Once Skywalker Ranch was built, Lucas invited Joseph Campbell to lecture there, impressing John Williams, for one: 'Until [Campbell] told us what Star Wars meant--started talking about collective memory and cross-cultural shared history--the things that rattle around in our brains and predate language, the real resonance of how the whole thing can be explained--we regarded it as a Saturday-morning space movie.'
From Baxter, pages 403-404:
Although Lucas claimed he had created Star Wars to endow mankind with the mythology it lacked, his behavior became less and less philanthropic with the film's success. Over the next decade, he became obsessively proprietorial of his characters and ideas, ruthlessly pursuing anyone using them without permission and payment... Real mythology, but is very nature, is communal, and open to interpretation by all. But Lucas permitted no other writers or film-makers to employ his characters, except under the most stringent and expensive restrictions. He hadn't given us a mythology; we could only rent it.
Jean Renoir said that every artist has only one story. If that is true, then what is Lucas's? It's a question he's always been unwilling to answer. If pressed, he disclaims any personal vision, referring back to the body of myth, the thirty-two basic plot situations enumerated by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, or the accumulation of racial memory evoked by Carl Gustav Jung. 'I took off from the folk side of things,' he told the New York Times, looking back on Star Wars from the perspective of a quarter-century, 'and tried to stay with universal themes apart from violence and sex, which are the only other two universal themes that seem to work around the world. My films aren't that violent or sexy. Instead, I'm dealing with the need for humans to have friendships, to be compassionate, to band together to help each other and to join together against what is negative.' Except it was precisely these aspects of earlier Star Wars adventures that critics found lacking in The Phantom Menace.
The most successful science fiction TV series launched soon after the success of Star Wars was "Battlestar Galactica," created by prolific Latter-day Saint TV producer Glen A. Larson. More than anything else, "Galactica" was based on the stories from the Old Testament and on Larson's own religious and historical background as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The series was inspired in part on the stories of the Mormon pioneers, and many key aspects of the fictional star-traveling culture depicted in the series were based on contemporary Latter-day Saint beliefs and practices. But Lucas filed lawsuits claiming that "Galactica" infringed on Star Wars copyrights. Eventually Lucas lost this fight in court, although he did cause headaches for the "Galactica" camp. Larson had even worked out an agreement with Star Wars producer (and fellow Mormon) Gary Kurtz regarding ways to minimize similarities between Star Wars and "Galactica," but that didn't prevent Lucas from suing. From Baxter, pages 275-277:
Perhaps what Lucas really believes in is the idea of story. He seems convinced that narrative, even innocent of content, is worthwhile in itself. And while he may have no new tale to tell, his skill in recounting old ones is undoubted. The Star Wars cycle, for all its lack of originality, is stirring. It reaffirms the best in us, celebrating heroism, dignifying our worthier emotions by crowding every alien creature and technological creation under the often leaky umbrella of human nature. We may cringe at the cliches, feel embarrassment at the way, despite ourselves, we thrill to the heroics or become wet-eyed at the sentimentality, but we will be in the minority. Lucas, like Sam Goldwyn 'one of the lucky ones whose great hearts, shallow and commonplace as bedpans, beat in instinctive tune with the great heart of the public, who laugh as it likes to laugh, weep the sweet and easy tears that it likes to weep,' speaks not to the jaded, fastidious, or analytical, but to those to whom hearing an old story well retold remains the greatest and most enduring of pleasures.
For that audience, Star Wars embodies the eternal. The cinema becomes a dusty corner of a crowded souk. A storyteller in a greasy turban squats comfortably in the shade. His listeners crowd in, cross-legged, leaning forward, attentive. With a glance of satisfaction, he settles his back against the sun-warmed wall, closes his eyes and murmurs that most seductive phrase -- 'Once upon a time . . .'
That corner of the world falls quiet. An ancient mystery is about to be re-enacted. The audience is listening.
Lucas was glad to pass the script of Empire to Kasdan. He had too many other things on his mind. One was More American Graffiti. Another was Battlestar Galactica.
A few years later Lucas would again tangle with Latter-day Saint TV producer Larson, although this time the situation worked to Larson's (and certainly Harrison Ford's) advantage. A contractual obligation to star on Larson's latest TV series Magnum P.I. prevented actor Tom Selleck from starring as "Indiana Jones" in Raiders of the Last Ark. From Baxter, pages 304-307:
Battlestar Galactica, backed by Universal, was the first project offered to John Dykstra's Apogee Inc. after the split with ILM [Industrial Light and Magic]. Initially a $7 million feature for television, with an option for two more, it was produced by Glen A. Larson, though he ceded Dykstra a producer credit to sweeten the deal once the studio approved it as a series for TV. Universal billed it as 'A Wagon Train to the Stars,' and in many respects it resembled that series, in which pioneers trundling west found a new drama each week. The opening narration of Battlestar, spoken by its continuing star, Lorne Greene, most famous as Pa Cartwright in the long-running western series Bonanza [co-starring devout Latter-day Saint actor Dan Blocker as "Hoss"], set up the premise: 'In the seventh millennium of time, a tribe of humanoids engaged in a terrifying conflict against a race of machines. The humans lost. Now, led by their last surviving warship, the mighty Battlestar Galactica, a handful of survivors moves slowly across the heavens in search of their ancestral brothers, a tribe of humans known through ancient records to be located somewhere on a distant shining planet, a planet called Earth.'
Larson, not noted for his originality, first proposed such a series in the late sixties as a replacement for the expiring Star Trek. Then called 'Adam's Ark,' it followed a starship boldly going to other planets in search of humanoid civilizations seeded there by the 'chariots of the gods,' whom, some writers of that decade speculated, might have planted man on earth. When Universal put on a call for the basis of a 'Star Wars on TV,' Larson dusted off the project and pitched it as 'Star Worlds.'
Battlestar Galactica's characters and plot resembled Star Wars only peripherally, but the fact that Dykstra did the effects, and Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie worked on the design, gave the series and Star Wars a similar look.
Although Lucas protested loudly when the series was announced, it didn't come as a surprise either to him or to Fox. The studio was still paying Dykstra's salary and those of his staff, and also the rent on the old Van Nuys premises. Shortly afterwards, they leased them to Universal. All the same, in June 1978 Fox sued Universal for copyright infringement of Star Wars, citing, with a show of indignation, thirty-four similarities between the two films. Universal countersued, claiming that Lucas had copied R2-D2 from the robots Huey, Dewey, and Louie in its 1973 Silent Running.
Larson showed Lucas the three-hour Battlestar Galactica pilot, but since he made no comment for the record, Larson assumed he had no major objections. Larson and Kurtz even agreed informally that the series would drop 'Star Worlds' as a title, and stay away from certain effects, notably laser pistols, which would overlap with some of Star Wars' top-selling toys. In an interview for Variety, Larson claimed Lucas was 'satisfied' with Battlestar. Shortly after, Lucasfilm filed its own lawsuit against Universal, though the motive was business, not intellectual property; the studio proposed to license a line of Galactica toys and merchandise, which would damage sales of Star Wars spinoffs. Later, each side filed additional suits over merchandise, breach of copyright and various violations of business and ethical codes.
In 1980, a Los Angeles Federal Court judge ruled in favor of Universal, finding that Fox had infringed its copyright on Silent Running, though the suits proved nothing that wasn't already widely acknowledged in movies: that each film stood on the shoulders of those before. As Larson commented at the time, 'When it comes to who are our characters and what our story is, I would have to say that if you were trying to commpare Shane to Gunfight at the OK Corral, you'd say, "Yes, they're both westerns," but I doubt if you'd find many parallels beyond that.'
The Battlestar Galactica TV series was a hit in its first season, and survived for seventeen episodes, to the chagrin of Lucas, who claimed he received angry mail from Star Wars fans who thought he had made it. Actually, he was more annoyed to see Universal and Larson exploiting the research and development he had funded at ILM during the making of Star Wars, and even improving on it. Dennis Muren agreed: 'Two dozen shots in Galactica,' he said, 'are as good as the three or four best shots in Star Wars.'
...[as the Star Wars enjoyed its hugely successful release] Lucas's mind was already on Raiders of the Lost Ark... Not all the news was good... the actor they [Lucas and Spielberg] wanted for Indiana Jones, Tom Selleck, had signed with CBS to play a Hawaii-based private detective in the TV series Magnum P.I., and the network showed no inclination to release him.
From Baxter, page 191:
[Page 307] . . . CBS wouldn't release Tom Selleck for Raiders of the Lost Ark, so, with the March 1980 start-date fast approaching, Spielberg turned to his second choice, Harrison Ford.
With the casting of [Alec] Guiness for Star Wars, Lucas effectively recreated his childhood on film: a world of stern fathers, loving but distant mothers, and wayward but essentially good-natured boys, too decent -- and too busy -- for sex. A Flash Gordon with no Dale Arden; with Ming the Merciless, but no Princess Aura.
George Lucas made one of his earliest films on location in Utah. The film, titled 6.18.67, is an artistic, behind-the-scenes quasi-documentary showing the production of Carl Foreman's big budget studio movie Mackenna's Gold.. From Baxter, pages 76-78:
Its certainties contrasted with those of his own personal life. While [Lucas] was casting, Scorsese asked Marcia [Lucas's wife] to cust Taxi Driver with him in New York. She agreed, which sent Lucas into a jealous panic. In Manhaggan, she would be exposed to all the excesses for which Scorsese and Schrader, not to mention the city, were famed: dope, sex, a generally excessive lifestyle. Why, he suggested, couldn't she stay in San Anselmo and get pregnant? Marcia countered that she had her own career to think of, and that while she wanted children, Lucas had hardly been around enough during the last year to conceive one.
Hoping to attract even a few teenagers to the film, Columbia's publicity department offered to fund two students each from USC and UCLA to make ten-minute films about the production, to be shot on and around its desert locations in Arizona and Utah... Lucas accepted the Mackenna's Gold job... he wanted to direct, and once he graduated, USC would no longer be picking up the bill. He and Braverman joined David Wyles and David MacDougal from UCLA, and headed for Kanab, Utah. Lucas had one advantage: the project was being supervised by Saul Bass, for whom he'd worked on the credits of Grand Prix. Each student crew got a station wagon, film equipment and $200 a week to live on. Given his ascetic tastes, Lucas thought -- rightly -- that he could save most of that, and arrived back from the trip $800 richer...
From Baxter, pages 109-110:
Lucas finished shooting his film on 18 June 1967, and called it just that -- 6.18.67. Foreman detested it. He'd tried to dissuade Lucas from making it, and once it was finished, did his best to see it didn't get shown. But PBS made a program about the project and the four films... the third National Student Film Festival showed it, along with The Emperor and THX1138 4EB [two other George Lucas films]. THX won the drama category; the other two were honorably mentioned... Time magazine featured the two winners from USC and NYU's Martin Scorsese in an article about young filmmakers.
One new friend Lucas did accept was a calm, indeed grave young man a few years older than himself named Gary Kurtz. Kurtz wore his beard even shorter than Lucas's, and cut it back severely from his chin in a style usually associated with the Amish. In fact, Kurtz was raised as a Mormon, and refused to fight in Vietnam from religious conviction. Having graduated from the USC film school in 1962, he was made a combat cameraman with the Marines and served three years 'in country.'
Gary Kurtz is one of the principle figures in Baxter's biography. He produced three of Lucas's most important movies: American Graffiti, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Kurtz was also one of the key people interviewed by Baxter for this biography, as noted in the first paragraph of the Acknowledgements on page xi:
Kurtz was the same age as Coppola, whom he knew from their days with Corman, but in his gravity, stability, and morality the direct antithesis.
Many people were kind enough to share their memories of George Lucas, notable among this his long-time collaborator, producer, and friend Gary Kurtz, who also made available his unique personal insights archive of production stills from Star Wars. Without his insights, this book would be far less revealing of the man with whom he worked so closely for so many years.
More about Gary Kurtz, page 129:
Disasters continued right to the end of the shoot [of American Graffiti]. Kurtz, a vegetarian, dictated non-meat meals for the cast and crew, but some rebelled at the lack of hamburgers, so two parallel sets of catering had to be laid on.
More about Gary Kurtz, page 157:
Since he would have produced [Apocalypse Now] if Lucas had directed it, Gary Kurtz was losing almost as much as Lucas by Coppola's decision to make hit himself, but he shrugged off such opportunism with Buddhist fatalism. 'The project belonged to Francis,' he says. 'He was free to do what he wanted with it.' Lucas wasn't that detached. He [Lucas] felt betrayed.
Return to Oz, the movie produced by Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz (on which he lost so much of the fortune he earned from Star Wars) fared poorly with critics. From Baxter, page 346:
As one critic remarked, 'Return to Oz wallows in Freudian orthodoxy.'
George Lucas hired Richard Walter to re-write Lucas's screenplay for "American Graffiti," but Lucas so completely disagreed with Walter's work on the script that he had he re-written by other writers and did more work himself. It may be difficult to fault Walter too much for this fiasco, because "American Graffiti" is essentially about the world Lucas grew up in as a Methodist in Modesto, California, and Walter told him from the beginning that as a Jewish kid from New York City, he naturally didn't know as much about Lucas's boyhood world as Lucas himself did. From Baxter, pages 116-118:
The Lucases went to London, where Picker rang them with the news that UA [United Artists] would invest $10,000 in a first draft screenplay...
Lucas called Gary Kurtz in Los Angeles with the good news. They mulled over who should write the script. Lucas suggested Richard Walter, who'd gone through USC with them and become a successful screenwriter...
Walter says he was 'thrilled out of my mind, and flattered that George wanted me to do it.'... Walter didn't go to Modesto, but on the contrary, tried to talk Kurtz into setting the story in New York, and basing it on a novel he'd written... about growing up in New York in a haze of fifties rock'n'roll, and inspired by Walter's own adolescence.
As Star Wars was about to be released, Fox [the studio] and theaters thought it would be a dud. Fox thought that Damnation Alley would be the big science fiction hit of the summer. The movie Damnation Alley is based on Roger Zelazny's same-titled novel about a Mormon named Hell Tanner who drives a souped-up vehicle from California through Utah and then to the East Coast as part of a rescue mission. From Baxter, page 231:
'Lukewarm middle America is the most boring thing I've ever heard in my life,' he told Kurtz. 'Let's do my story. Upper West Side, middle-class Jewish kid, 'rock'n'roll . . .'
Kurtz wasn't interested... Once Kurtz had refused..., Walter acquiesced. 'I'll do some research,' he said. 'Read some fifties newspapers, listen to the music...'
'No,' said Kurtz. 'He's been putzing around with this thing too long. We must have a draft by the time he comes back in two weeks.'
'If you want it fast,' said Walter, 'get someone else. If you want it good, I'll do it.'
Kurtz compromised. He offered Walter $7500 for the first draft, and a guaranteed $2500 for the second, on which Lucas would work with him... [After the first draft was written, it was sent to Lucas.]
'George came over to see me [Walter] at my house, and he really looked grim... and I can tell he doesn't like this draft.' Asked what he liked, Lucas said the script was 'nothing from his experience.' 'Which is not surprising,' Walter continues, 'since I'm a Jew from New York. What do I know from Modesto? We didn't have cars. We rode the subway, or bicycles.'
...The supposed raunchiness of Walter's screenplay also figured in many of Lucas's later criticisms. Walter agrees it had its share of sex. 'The main character was the Ron Howard character. He goes over to his girl's house to break it off. She seduces him, and there's a very sexual scene -- which I know, from things I was told subsequently, really offended George. But hey, it's adolescence! Though not, I gather, George's adolescence...'
Fox started to remove the trailer from the theaters. 'By the time Easter rolled around,' says Lippincott [Marketing VP], 'there were less than a hundred trailers playing around the country. Fox wanted a new trailer back out for Easter. Fox didn't understand who the audience for the film would be. They thought Damnation Alley was going to be the science fiction hit of the summer. You laugh, but it's true.'
From Baxter, page 345:
...successful enough for ABC to commission Ewoks: The Battle for Endor the following year. Lucas again wrote the story, a dry run for Willow [which featured devout Latter-day Saint actor Billy Barty in a major supporting role], which he was already scripting. Most of the cast from Caravan of Courage [the earlier Ewoks TV movie] turn up again, but all the humans except Aubree Miller, the curly-headed blonde girl from the first film, are killed when, in an eruption from the world of fantasy, the army of giant King Terak raids the ewok village. Wicket helps her escape, and they hide with [Mormon actor] Wilford Brimley's gruff but loveable hermit until captured by Charal, a witch, played... by Sian Phillips.
From Baxter, page 372:
In August, it was the turn of Tucker. Released... in only a handful of theaters, it too met indifference [as had Willow before it, another film with Lucas's name on it]. During the year, Lucas, with Coppola, stood as guarantor for two more maverick productions, Godfrey Reggio's Powaqqatsi, the follow-up to Koyaanisqatsi, and the animated dinosaur film The Land Before Time, made by [Latter-day Saint animator] Don Bluth, who broke away from Disney to recapture the vitality and respect for craft of old hand-drawn animation. The Land Before Time, on which Lucas is credited as executive producer, became his only box-office success of his two-year break.
From Baxter, page 390:
...novelists and comic-book writers returned to the Star Wars lode, excavating the pasts of Boba Fett, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, and rebels like Wedge Antilles. Leia and Han married [in the New York Times best-selling novel Courtship of Princess Leia , written by Latter-day Saint author Dave Wolverton] and had children, who in turn became characters in the story.
From: "Religious Affiliations of Celebrities" page in "Celebrity Religion" section of "Religion Facts" website (http://www.religionfacts.com/celebrities/religions_of_celebrities.htm; viewed 26 April 2007):
Below is an index of the religious affiliations or belief systems of celebrities (both living and dead; in film, television, music, literature, academics and politics), listed in alphabetical order by last name...
Celebrity: George Lucas
Religion/Belief: "Buddhist Methodist"
Quotes, More Information, Sources:
The creator of Star Wars and "the Force" was raised Methodist and has studied Eastern and Native American religions. He believes in God and in good and evil, and has labeled himself a "Buddhist Methodist." Adherents.com [link to: http://www.adherents.com/people/pl/George_Lucas.html]
Webpage created 27 May 2005. Last modified 26 April 2007.
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