News culture Star Wars would have been a huge failure without this last-ditch rescue!
Published on 03/19/2023 at 18:45
If today Star Wars is one of the most important licenses of all time, at the start, George Lucas’ film encountered many difficulties. Fortunately, the American filmmaker was able to surround himself with the right people who allowed him to succeed. This is especially the case of Marcia Lucas, his wife at the time, who played a crucial and yet little-known role today.
Marcia Lucas, the savior from the shadows?
In 1977 during its broadcast of a New Hope, Star Wars is immediately a hit. Nevertheless, at first, no one believed in it, starting with George Lucas himself, the director of the film and creator of this universe, who went to take refuge in Hawaii with Steven Spielberg because he was so afraid of critical feedback. It must be said that even some of his friends were not convinced during the press screening. Among the legend that surrounds the first presentation of the film, we remember that Brian de Palma reportedly said the Force was “a bullshit thing” and that he didn’t understand the context of the film. Despite everything, the feature film met with the success that we know today to the point of becoming one of the most profitable licenses of all time. However, at the start, things were really complicated, but very fortunately, George Lucas was able to count on his close guard, in particular Marcia Lucas, his wife at the time, whose role was somewhat forgotten.
In 1969, George and Marcia Lucas marry, and from that moment she begins to play a determining role in the films of the director. For her first project, THX 1138, she was recruited as an assistant editor and offered advice on how to involve the public with a point of view on the visual and graphic aspect of the work. While editing takes place in the attic of their home, Marcia is the only person George listens to despite their differing opinions. Despite their good will, the film will be a commercial failure even if it enjoys some recognition from critics. It will be necessary to wait for the success of Star Wars years later for the feature film to become cult.
For George’s next film, American Grafiti released in 1973, we find the same dynamic, Marcia being the only one to believe in the project while criticizing the structure initially planned by her husband. Instead, it offers a less frenetic editing rhythm that leaves more breath to the scenes so that the viewers feel more involved and attached to the characters. A decision that seems to have paid off since the film met with critical success and brought in more than 100 million dollars in revenue. Her talents as an editor will be noticed, so much so that Martin Scorcese will recruit her as sole editor on many projects., first with Alice is no longer here. Satisfied with his work, the director called on his services again to edit what would become a cult film: Taxi Driver. However, this taking of independence displeased George Lucas who then had a rather dated conception of the place of women. However, the latter will help him once again on the most ambitious project of his life: Star Wars.
Star Wars, a project that does not convince… at first!
Two years before the release of the feature film, Marcia advises Lucas on the second draft of the Star Wars script, particularly with regard to the construction of the characters, the emotional impact of certain scenes or even the writing of the dialogues. An involvement in the narration that goes so far as to suggest that George have Ben Kenobi killed since the latter accomplished his narrative goal in the third act, but also to recruit Mark Hamill in the lead role, as Luke Skywalker. Through her participation in the project, Marcia is quite frustrated to see that George Lucas completely identifies with the authors’ policy and takes credit for each element of the film when they are the fruit of numerous consultations.
During the filming of Star Wars, Marcia follows her husband to Tunisia and the United Kingdom and the least we can say is that she saved him the day. Initially, it was John Thompson who edited the film and George Lucas was not at all satisfied with this first cut, which lacked the energy he envisioned for his feature film. He was quickly fired and it was then that he could count on his wife to catch up. She starts by selecting all the rushes, calls on assistants to start everything from scratch. In the fall of 1976, a few months before the film was released, this new version was completed and convinced Alan Ladd Jr., a major producer at the time. Obviously, the feature film met with the success that we know of today and Marcia Lucas even receives an Oscar for best editing with the other two editors.
As the Lucas couple continues with the Star Wars sequels, this is where their relationship deteriorates over time. George Lucas becomes more and more absent because of his new responsibilities and he involves much less in his projects, in particular in The Empire Strikes Back. If Marcia Lucas returns to edit some sequences of Return of the Jedi, the couple ends up divorcing in 1983 because of the distance between them. This will unfortunately exclude him from his old social circle and close the doors to many projects. She will only talk about her experience on Star Wars for the 40th anniversary of the film, whereas without her, the saga would not be as we know it today.
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