It's not everyday you get to conduct an interview with George Lucas. And it's even less likely that you'll get to do it at Skywalker Ranch. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to conduct a George Lucas interview and chat with him about his newest creation Strange Magic, which is out in theatres Friday, January 23. (Read the Q&A here.) Continue reading to learn more about this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to chat with the legendary George Lucas.
The very first movie I ever saw in the theatre was Star Wars. Granted I was one, but it was still technically the first movie I ever went to. George Lucas and his creative genius shaped my childhood, as he did for so many other people in my generation. With his new movie Strange Magic, George Lucas continues to shape the childhood of kids in this generation. All of my children know who he is, both for his work on Labyrinth and with franchises such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but also because they are excited about his newest movie. They've been begging me for weeks to see it, so that's on our to-do list this weekend.
Just being in the same room as George Lucas is awe-inspiring. The man is a presence to be reckoned with, in a good way, and I can only hope that some of his creative juju was absorbed through osmosis while I was sitting in front of him. He was kind enough to spend and entire morning with our press group, both watching the movie with us while we screened it and then chatting with us about his new movie and life.
Strange Magic Trailer
Why Strange Magic
George Lucas told us the idea started about 15 years ago. “I love to do musicals using my favorite music, and so it kind of harkens back to my pre-Star Wars days. I thought it would be fun to make a film that was more for tween girls than Star Wars, which is for tween boys, even though in the end, everybody loved it, and girls love it.” Lucas said.
Lucas is hoping that Strange Magic, even though it's more teen girl-centric, will engage boys and everybody will like it. Tweens are at that magic age were film companies don't make movies for them unless it's Hunger Games or something like that. The idea of an upbeat, fun, simple movie just appealed to Lucas. “I'd finished all the Star Wars and I was producing films, but I wanted to do one where I could actually get my hands dirty,” Lucas said.
The original idea was to make a movie that is the difference between being infatuated and being truly in love. “Since being infatuated ultimately is about surface value and surface issues, and being really in love is about interior issues, I wanted to make a movie about that,” Lucas said. In the end it's very easy to be infatuated with somebody.
“Of course people are infatuated with boy bands and beautiful people and all the things you read in the magazines, but in the end—from experience—you don't really want to be married to somebody like that, you really don't want to spend the rest of your life like that, and you really aren't going to have a serious, deep relationship with somebody like that. It doesn't last very long.”
“As a result, it was just to play with that, especially for young girls who are prone to infatuations, and to say, ‘You know, it's not always the cutest guy in class that you really wanna be with',” Lucas said.
Lucas had been married and then divorced. “I said, ‘Well I'll never fall in love again; it's just not gonna happen.' I was the old cranky Bog King. No it's never gonna happen to me, I just will never find anybody. And I found somebody who doesn't look at all like me. I'm a 60s radical, unhappy, Wall Street-hating person from San Francisco—and I ended up meeting a woman who's a head of a big investment management firm, who's on Wall Street, who doesn't look like me, you know? She's the last person you would figure would fall in love with the Bog King, or I'd fall in love with her, since I am not into princesses,” Lucas said. She is kind of a beautiful princess, too, actually.
“So as time went on, it became more meaningful to me because I realized that in the end, like with my wife, we fell in love because we were exactly alike inside. You realize that you have so much in common that you would never have thought of on the surface.”
“It's the same thing like with Roland, which is the classic pretty boy; you know that story has been told over and over and over again, but at the same time, it needs to be retold. It's the same thing I did when I started doing Star Wars and thinking about mythological motifs and the fact that kids need that at 12 years old.”
“Since being infatuated ultimately is about surface value and surface issues, and being really in love is about interior issues, I wanted to make a movie about that.”
– George Lucas
The Strange Magic Process and Story
When they started the film, it was with a small group at Skywalker Ranch, designing things and doing animation tests. It went on for several years of Lucas doing this on the side, but it kept growing. Lucas loved doing it because he loved the music and coming to work on it. “I love just watching it, which is the key in the end for me: it's something I did for the fun of it,” Lucas said.
It's obvious from his conversations and statements that Lucas feels and thinks deeply about the stories he tells. Lucas reminds us that even if it's not a myth, it's an archetypal kind of experience—like heartbreak, love, and healing— that most of us will go through that in life, and that it's not easy, but it is, in a way, universal.
To Lucas, adolescence is a key period in a child's life. “To make movies that say, ‘Look, these are the issues. They may seem obvious to us because we've been through it—maybe your parents have told you about this, maybe they haven't—but you need to know the story of why you have friendships and what a friendship means, why there are things in the world that are bigger than you are, why you have complicated feelings with your parents, and all these kinds of things are not unusual, they're not just you, this is something that everybody goes through.' This is kind of the same thing. I won't call it a myth because I beat that one to death with Star Wars, but this is a fairytale. Same thing, only much sweeter,” Lucas said.
“It's a story that needs to be told every generation. The little girls growing up, or boys, they don't know any of this stuff. By the time they reach 12, they're very confused. Even though we all know it…it needs to continue to be told over and over again. You can't let kids slip through the cracks and say, ‘Oh yeah, I was in the generation that didn't get that message.' The message is so simple, and you know it's been around for thousands of years. It can always be retold.”
– George Lucas
One of my favorite aspects of the movie is the redemption at the end. You might go through something really terrible and sad, but you can be surprised and find healing if you let yourself be healed. Always around the corner from the most unexpected experience is the most unexpected person, if you are willing to open yourself up to seeing that person.
Lucas made this movie for older kids. It's like Star Wars—that doesn't mean 5-year-old kids don't watch Star Wars, because they do and they survive the scary parts just fine—but the messages are for tweens and teens. One of the messages, especially for young girls, is to be brave.
“That's a key element,” Lucas said. The princesses (Marianne and Dawn) are great. Marianne goes from being a princess who's afraid of the Dark Forest to somebody who is actually facing things that are scary, and getting through them as a stronger, better person (er…fairy?).
The Music of Strange Magic
George Lucas is one of the first directors to use popular music as a film soundtrack. That use of popular music is an integral part of the story in American Graffiti. As a filmmaker, Lucas is attracted to popular music because of his love of all music. He worked with musical director Marius De Vries on the movie, as well as Steven Gizicki as musical supervisor.
“Music's a huge part of my life. I love all kinds of music. One of the inspirations for this was wondering if I could tell a love story using love songs. I could just take them and string them all together so they actually told the story.”
“In the beginning, the movie was about twice as long as it is now, which means it had about twice as much music, and I feel pained at the fact that some of the sequences were cut,” Lucas said. “There were great sequences with great songs. Ultimately there's a thing called ‘discipline.' It's like American Graffiti. I could sit and listen to it all day,” Lucas said.
“I just wanted to have a movie that I could sit in the editing room and listen to and have a good time.”
Lucas talked about his current filmmaking style as being similar to that of his pre-Star Wars period. “I'm going back in time. I tell people ‘I'm going to go back and do experimental films like I did in college.' Well, this is getting myself back there. Just a fun movie that I love to listen to. A lot of the songs were my favorite songs, but a lot of them really had to do with trying to tell the story, trying to say, ‘Well, we need them to say this and that; let's find a song where they say that‘,” Lucas said. “The music was different genres, different time periods, different everything, but Marius knit it all together so it sounds like it belongs in one musical. Marius is a genius at doing that.”
Of all of the songs in the movie and that were considered for the movie, Lucas says I Can't Help Falling In Love is his favorite.
“I grew up under the tutelage of Elvis and my wife says I still have that pompous pompadour. At the same time, it had been recorded several times, each time it's recorded it's better and better, and it to me was the inspiration to say, ‘This is what this movie's about.' You know, wise men say only fools fall in love. In my experience with love, as I was dating for those first 20 years, I had some girlfriends who I knew weren’t right, I knew were high maintenance, difficult, all the things you don't want. Yet I fell in love with them. And ultimately the only thing I can say is there's no accounting for love, it's just no matter how rational you think you're being, you say, ‘Well I'll never do that; you do it.' Love is strange. It didn't last, but we both tried. Neither one of us wanted to fall in love ,and we both did and we knew that ultimately it wasn't going to actually work, but you try anyway.Disclaimer: I was selected to attend an all-expense paid trip to the San Francisco area courtesy of Disney to experience these incredible events, along with a group of 24 other bloggers. All opinions, excitement, and smiles are my own.