Star Wars: the influence of Brian de Palma on the saga of George Lucas

It is notoriously known that George Lucas drew on many references, Japanese in particular, to create Star Wars. But he is also an influence less often cited, that of his old friend Brian de Palma, yet essential …

Star wars: the influence of brian de palma on the saga of george lucas
Lucasfilm Ltd.

If you are a fan of the saga created by George Lucas, you will certainly know that the person concerned was largely inspired by works of Akira Kurosawa, in particular The Hidden Fortress, to create his characters. But also, much more broadly, inspired by Japanese culture, such as the Kabuki theater, including of course the design of certain costumes. We had also devoted a specific article to this subject.

Lucas also drew heavily on his early readings, Flash Gordon for example, for which he has a time cherished the hope of adapting the adventures on the big screen. Even the work of Frank Herbert, Dune, influenced him to create his universe, which the author had not really appreciated, to the point of even considering file a complaint against Lucas, so much he felt that the Star Wars daddy had abundantly plundered his work …

“You’ve never made a commercial film in your whole life!”

In this register of borrowings and influences, there is one less commented on than the others: the contribution of Brian de Palma to the world of George Lucas. A fellow band member alongside Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola, de Palma was one of the first people to experience the very first cut of Star Wars, alongside Spielberg, Jay Cocks, Willard Huyck, Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins.

The rest is Spielberg himself who tells it : “When we went out to dinner afterwards, Brian started yelling at George, ‘I don’t understand your story! There is no context! What is this space? What do we care about? I’m dumped! “And George started yelling at Brian, saying,” You’ve never made a single commercial film in your life! What are you talking about? “And Brian said,” It won’t work. Nobody will understand anything. It’s just an empty thing with stars and silly moving ships. “

And that’s when Brian suggested a brilliant idea to him: “Why don’t you start the movie with some kind of legend? You keep saying you want to make this movie some kind of space series, so why don’t you make a legend like you used to, something going back to the screen and telling the whole story? “ Thus was born the most famous pre-credits in the history of cinema.

Not only did Lucas withhold his buddy’s suggestion, but de Palma even went so far as to rewrite the text himself, alongside screenwriter Jay Cocks, to make it more concise; the one we know today.

Darth Vader / Winslow Leach: same fight!

There is another at least as important influence of Brian de Palma on Star Wars: that of his film Phantom of the Paradise, released in 1974 and which was unfortunately a commercial failure.

At the time of the filming of Phantom of the Paradise, George Lucas wandered, after finishing American Graffiti, in search of ideas that could feed the storyline of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Coming to see her boyfriend on the set of Phantom of the Paradise, the costume of the ghost in question, played by the unforgettable William Finley, made a very strong impression on him, between the mask and the cape of the character, his voice completely distorted and reconstituted using a device he wears on Chest; the high-tech electro side of the character … Admittedly, Darth Vader’s helmet is more reminiscent of the kabuto worn by the samurai; it prevents…

Rather judge …

Star wars: the influence of brian de palma on the saga of george lucas

And for the memory, here is the magnificent sequence where Swan recreates the voice of Winslow Leach …

This influence has also been confirmed, many years later, in 2005, by William Finley and editor Paul Hirsch, who happened to be the editor of the George Lucas film and that of Brian de Palma. If de Palma asked for some explanations of this loan, not to say this looting in order, to Lucas, he did not take offense to his friend. Not like Frank Herbert anyway …

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