Entertainment

Interview With Robert Muratore, Producer of The People vs. George Lucas

Deep within all of us, there’s a little Star Wars’ fan itching to come out. Even if you’re not a die hard, you’ve at least seen the films and have some sort of inkling on how important it is to people.

It’s actually rather mind boggling on how timeless the Star Wars saga really has become. It’s probably one of only a handful of films that has transcended generations.

While I was too young to catch the trilogy during their original theatrical release. I still managed to catch up to them. By high school, I was a full-on Star Wars nerd, but nowhere near a very passionate set of fans. Suffice to say, I was ecstatic to finally see the original Star Wars in the theater when the films were re-released in 1997. However, I fell victim to George Lucas’ constant meddling with the franchise.

Instead of letting fans relive the magic of Star Wars, or giving newer fans a chance to experience that magic for the first time, Lucas decided to spice up the original trilogy. The Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition looked nicer and cleaner, but featured bonus, and pointless, scenes with snazzy special effects. Most fans will never forgive Lucas for botching the series with scenes like Greedo shooting first. But he still had us – by 1999, there was no doubt that I would be seeing the prequels in the theater.

In fact, I was such a geek, that I skipped three days of school during my senior year in high school for Episode I: The Phantom Menace. I missed a day to buy the toys when they were released on midnight. I missed a day by sitting in line to buy tickets. I missed a day because I was seeing a midnight show of Episode I on May 19, 1999, and, a second viewing later in the afternoon.

Even after the disappointment of Menace, I still waited in line for Episode II: Attack of the Clones in 2002, which was better, but still not as awesome as the originals. Finally, by Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in 2005, there was no line for tickets, but I was still there for the midnight show.

Even after seemingly tarnishing such a beloved cultural phenomenon, we still respect, and support, George Lucas. It’s like when you lived with your parents. You may have thought it was unfair when they made you turn off your NES to go to bed, but it was their house and their rules.

And while many of us have become displeased with what has become of Star Wars, we celebrate the films constantly with parodies and tributes the globe over.

However, there have been only a select few who have actually put Lucas on trial.

Enter the documentary The People vs. George Lucas, which has been recently making it’s way through the film festival circuit.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aoc3roT81nU[/youtube]

Writer and director Alexandre O. Philippe has made a film that stands out amongst all the other Star Wars based flicks. It finally gives fans an opportunity to tell Lucas what they truly love, and hate, about Star Wars.

We were fortunate enough to get an interview with one of the film’s producers, Robert Muratore, to find out some more about the documentary.

(Photo coutersy of Maura Gramzinski)

AMOG:  What inspired you to make this documentary about the disconnection between Lucas and Star Wars fans?

Robert Muratore: Alexandre and I had just started working on a 7-week project in Waco, Texas together when he loosely brought up the title of the film, The People vs. George Lucas, not having a clear idea at the time of what it would look like.  From that moment on, we talked nonstop about Star Wars and George Lucas for almost the entire 7 weeks, driving everyone else around us crazy!  We argued, we commiserated, we discussed the implications of George’s decision-making over the last 30 years.  We reasoned that if we were so passionate about this subject, there would many others like us interested in the exploration of the love and hate relationship with Lucas.

AMOG: I’ve read that some people assume that you’re just making a film to bash Lucas, is there any truth to that?

RM: No, we were never out to bash Lucas, we were simply exploring both sides of the argument in the most objective way possible.  Both of us are still big fans of George, despite having our own particular disagreements with him.  We knew that in order to make the film we needed to be documentarians first and simply used our feelings as fans to guide us to different sources on both sides of the argument.

(Photo courtesy of Danny Choo)

AMOG:  How has the reaction been from fans overall?

RM: Overall, we’ve received very positive feedback from the fans, though some have actually said we weren’t hard enough on George – there are some angry people out there, more than we realized!  Some fans were just delighted to see more aspects of the Star Wars universe through fan interpretations and were happy to learn a few historical facts they didn’t already know.  The big surprise happened when people who aren’t fans of Lucas or Star Wars approached us and told how much they enjoyed the movie, most of them saying they finally understood the passion of the fans and what all the fuss was about.

AMOG: I understand that the documentary covers some moral and legal issues surrounding Star Wars. Could you tell us why, we the people, could have some ownership in Star Wars?

RM: Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) was a landmark film in the history of cinema, and when it was inducted into the National Film Registry for the preservation of film in 1989, one could argue it became the people’s right to have a certain ownership over it.  The original version of the film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards (winning 7), and became cultural phenomenon.  Does George have the right to change it any way he sees fit?  If so, should he still make available the original version in the best form possible for the sake of the fans and more importantly for the sake of film history?  These are the questions we’re putting forth in The People vs. George Lucas.

AMOG: I understand that you’re a Star Wars fan yourself. So when was the moment that Lucas got you hooked?

RM: I was hooked the day I saw Star Wars in the theater at age 8!  After Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark came down the pike, they too became hugely influential in my later decision to pursue filmmaking, especially ESB.  Alexandre and I are both from the older generation of Star Wars fans that actually saw the films in the theater during their first run, so we had very distinct memories of the original trilogy, and an experience that’s quite unique in the history of cinema.  Nothing has really happened since that has impacted not only an entire generation, but cinema itself.  Star Trek was of course a huge phenomenon as well, but it was slow brewing since the late 60’s and developed at a much slower pace through the medium of television.  Avatar was a significant leap in moviegoing experience, yet doesn’t rival the impact of the first Star Wars.

AMOG: In your opinion, why is there such a deep love affair between audiences and Star Wars?

RM: Star Wars speaks to the general populace in many ways.  George built the Star Wars saga on the foundation of the hero’s journey, being greatly influenced by Akira Kurosawa and Joseph Campbell.  This archetypical story connects with people on a visceral level, as it has for thousands of years.  On top of that, George told this story in the bounds of a space opera, employing sci-fi, action, drama and romance; and the best visual effects an audience had seen up until that point.  All the elements came together beautifully with the help of an amazingly talented production team, realizing a script that almost no one had faith in.  Considering the time period and the combination of factors that brought about its creation, Star Wars was magical, and struck a huge chord with almost everyone who saw it.  It influenced people’s career paths, their outlook on popular culture, even their personal beliefs and morals.

AMOG: What’s your most prized Star Wars possession?

RM: I would have to say at the moment my most prized possession is a pair of Force FX Lightsabers, Luke’s and Darth Vader’s from Episodes IV and V, the ones they leveled against each other in Empire Strikes Back.  Every time I’m feeling a bit frustrated with life, I whip one off the mantle of my roll top desk, fire it up, then twirl it around like a Jedi wannabe.  Good stress relief….

AMOG: In your opinion, where did the prequels go wrong?

RM: There are a multitude of answers to this question, but the prequels simply went wrong by existing in the first place!  No matter how much better they may have been, they would have never met the expectations of the massive fan base that had embraced the original trilogy for decades.  The imagination is so much more powerful than the interpretation of how these characters originated, and by going back and tying together every last detail, many times to the point of being ridiculous (e.g. Anakin creating C-3PO), the power of that imagined universe was weakened drastically.

AMOG: Is the documentary going to see a theatrical release? Or a straight to DVD release?

RM: We hope to see the film in theaters, if nothing else a limited release.  The DVD will come later, most likely with a host of special features gleaned from the 630 plus hours of footage we collected along the way.

AMOG: What do you have planned beyond “The People vs. George Lucas”?

RM: Alexandre and I have discussed a few ideas with the other producers of PvG that we’re shopping around at the moment, although nothing we can discuss until an official announcement.

AMOG: Awesome. Best of luck to you guys. Thanks to Robert Muratore for the interview and sending over the pics. Also, we would like to thank Vanessa Philippe for setting this whole thing up.

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