For the 3rd installment of his Space Opera, “Return of the Jedi”, George Lucas sets out on the hunt to find a new director. How about David Lynch? The latter also told in detail his tasty interview with the King of Hollywood …
Particularly trying, physically and morally, the filming of Star Wars leaves traces in George Lucas. Quarrels with his technical team, budget largely exceeded, delay in the shooting schedule, endless post-production …
Enough to convince the filmmaker to hand over the next part of his trilogy in the making, especially since, by his own admission, the realization hardly fascinates him. He prefers to stay in the producer’s chair, which also allows him to logically have an overview of the development of the next film.
So he cleverly hands over to Irvin Kershner for The Empire Strikes Back, which was released in 1980, and which many consider to be the best film of the original trilogy. After New hope, it is still a big success at the global Box Office.
George Lucas upset
For the third and final installment, Return of the Jedi, Lucas sets out again to find a director on whom he can rest and support the vision of the universe he has created. And why not his old accomplice Steven Spielberg, he who has just boxed Raiders of the Lost Ark, whose story was written by George Lucas?
The hope of handing over the reins of the film to his friend was short-lived. In 1980, Lucas was indeed inflicted with a rather hefty fine of $ 250,000 by the all-powerful Directors Guild of America, for not having credited on The Empire Strikes Back the name of the director at the start of the credits, Irvin Kershner.
In fact, the union considers that the mention “Lucasfilm” (his company created in 1971, composed of his name therefore) implied that it was the producer who had directed the film, and not the director. Lucas pays the fine, but, scalded by the affair, withdraws from the Directors Guild of America.
While membership in the organization is not compulsory, it is on the other hand forbidden for one of its members to make a film outside the agreements signed with the Majors. In fact, as a member of the DGA, Spielberg could not accept the offer of his friend, who has just slammed the union door with a bang.
“You just lost millions of dollars!”
Looking outside the DGA, Lucas is interested in the profile of David Lynch, who has just been crowned with a citation for the Oscar for Best Director for his dazzling Elephant Man. “George asked to meet with me to talk with him about what would be Star Wars Episode 3. But I had almost no interest. [sur ce projet]” at Lynch told much later about this meeting. Who added: “but I’ve always admired George. George is someone who does what loves him. And I do what I love. The difference is, George likes to make hundreds of millions of dollars. So I thought that we had to go there and at least meet him, and that was incredible. “
The director, who at that time only had two films on the clock (with Eraserhead in 1977) then suggests to Lucas to make the film himself, so that the future film corresponds more to his own vision. A meeting which also takes place under the seal of absolute secrecy, given the expectations concerning the conclusion of the trilogy and the financial stakes behind it. “I had to go to this Los Angeles building. I had to have a special credit card, then special keys. Then a letter was sent to me, along with a map. Then I went to there. airport, and I flew away. They already had a rental car ready for me. Everything was already organized. I drove to this building, and I met George. We had a little chat. Then he said to me: “I want to show you something …”
Lynch adds: “At that point, I started to have a little headache … […] He took me upstairs. And he showed me these things called Wookies. And now that headache is intensifying. He showed me many animals and different things. Then he took me for a ride in his Ferrari for lunch. And George is not very tall. So he had to move his seat back, he was almost lying in the car. And off we went through this little town in northern California. We went to the restaurant. Not that I don’t like salad. But all they had was salad.
Then I had a really… almost a migraine. And I couldn’t wait to get home. Even before I got home, I kind of crawled over to a phone booth, and called my agent and said, “There’s no way! There’s no way I can do it. This film! He replied: “David, David, David… Calm down! You don’t have to make this movie. “So I told George […] on the phone the next day that he should realize it. This is his movie. […] I called my lawyer and told him I wasn’t going to do it. And he said, “You just lost I don’t know how many millions of dollars! But that’s okay.”
Cronenberg and the arrogance of youth
If, shortly after this meeting, Lynch will be approached by producer Dino de Laurentiis to entrust him with the reins of the adaptation of Dune, which will prove to be a poisoned gift for the filmmaker in addition to being a terrible commercial flop, George Lucas attempted to briefly probe David Cronenberg, as the latter recounted in 2018 to Entertainment Weekly.
“I still remember getting a phone call. Someone said they were calling from Lucasfilm, and asked if I was interested in ‘Revenge of the Jedi’; it was called like that at one point, until someone pointed out that it was against the Jedi philosophy to think in terms of revenge. I was asked if I would be interested in directing the movie, and meeting everyone. I said, with the arrogance of youth: “I’m not used to working with other people’s material. And there was like a stunned silence, followed by a “click” of the phone hanging up.
Finally, it will be Richard Marquand, moreover judged more docile than Irvin Kershner who had had some friction with Lucas on The Empire Strikes Back, who will realize Return of the Jedi. Lucas will even be the second-team director on the film, allowing him to further tighten his control, and the pressure that goes with it. What will inspire this reflection in Marquand: “it’s a bit like trying to make King Lear with [William] Shakespeare in the next room! “