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'Star Wars,' Lucas Still A Force

May 26, 1987|SUE MARTIN

E ven George Lucas showed up.

That had been the biggest question for more than 9,000 fans who gathered over the three-day weekend for an exuberant 10th anniversary salute to "Star Wars."

They crowded the halls of the Stouffer Concourse Hotel near Los Angeles International Airport, batting aside blue, black and white balloons trailing multicolored ribbons. Hovering around display tables in their Princess Leia costumes, they snapped up "Star Wars" memorabilia: from $1 for the "Imperial Joke Book" to more than $100 for "Revenge of the Jedi" movie posters. (The film's title was changed to "Return of the Jedi.") Anticipation at this convention was bigger than the Death Star (and twice as explosive).

As the time drew near on Sunday evening for the Lucas appearance, the hotel halls grew quiet and empty: One could actually hear the lobby pianist playing the "Star Wars" fanfare.

The thousands had migrated down to the Grand Ballroom, where tension mounted as they awaited the cue to fill the seats. After many delays, Lucas actually appeared onstage, preceded by a John Williams fanfare and the appearance of his robot creations, R2D2 and C3PO. The screaming and shouting could have been heard all the way to Tattooine..

When the house lights came up for questions, Lucas smiled wryly, "Oh, I thought there were only seven of you here." He then parried random (and frequently bizarre) questions as if with a lightsaber for more than an hour: The fans wanted to know everything from Yoda's origins ("You've got me--he's just a little green man with big ears-- Mel Brooks thinks he's Yiddish") to how to get started in film making ("Persevere").

However, before the actual Sunday birthday party began in force , Lucas took time in a backstage interview to talk about past and future projects.

Looking relaxed for a father who had spent the day with his active 5-year-old daughter, Amanda, at Disneyland, Lucas shrugged when asked about the speculation as to whether he would begin production on the remaining six films in his "Star Wars" saga. (He has produced the middle three of an announced nine-movie project).

"I haven't really thought about 'Star Wars.' I mean, I think about it from time to time, but it will take a lot of ruminating before I can come up with the energy to do three more. It's just a matter of when, and putting together an organization and a group to pull it off. And it's very expensive. Those are very expensive movies to make."

Indiana Jones will return to the screen before "Star Wars," he said. Production on the third film in that series is due to start the summer of 1988.

The two projects that have most of Lucas' attention now are the Ron Howard-directed "Willow," now shooting in London and director Francis Coppola's "Tucker," shooting in Northern California. "I wrote the story for 'Willow' (which is due out next spring). It's the first project I've actually created and written since 'Raiders.' It's a mythological adventure--a straight fantasy. 'Star Wars' was a space fantasy. 'Willow' will have fairies, elves, trolls, that sort of thing."

Does it perturb him that such fantasy films as Ridley Scott's "Legend" and Jim Henson's "Labyrinth" haven't done well in the market recently?

" 'Willow' is something I've been mulling over for 15 years," he said. "It's been one of those films that's been hard to put together. As the years went on, I came in contact with more people and more ways of doing things. I realized I could actually pull it off and the elements came together and I was able to do it. It's not one of those movies you can walk right into and decide you want to do it. It's just something I've wanted to do for a long time. Val Kilmer and Warwick Davis (Wicket the Ewok in 'Return of the Jedi') are starring in the film."

The other project, "Tucker," has brought Lucas and Coppola together for their first feature film since "American Graffiti," in 1973. The movie, Lucas said, is about a man (Jeff Bridges) against the system--"with the support of his family. It's about an idea and how ideas come into being and are produced in the commercial marketplace in corporate America. It's about a car that was built before World War II that was way ahead of its time. He tried to build a corporation to build the car, but he sort of got crushed by the system. They made 50 of them. But it's an upbeat film about bucking the system and coming out of it OK." As a notorious and successful bucker of the Hollywood system, Lucas smiled: "This is something close to Francis' and my heart. Francis has been working on this for 20 years."

Was he disappointed with the reaction to "Howard the Duck" (a big-budget box-office disaster that he executive-produced for Universal) and "Labyrinth?" (A smaller Tri-Star release).

"It's disappointing when something doesn't work. But it's part of the game. You win some; you lose some. I think they were both interesting movies. It was very difficult for 'Labyrinth' to find a market in this country.

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