Tribeca 2015: George Lucas on 'Hubris' of Corporate Creatives and 'Different' 'Episode VII'

George Lucas at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival
George Lucas at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival

By Ashley Lee

“I’m gonna tear you a new one," Stephen Colbert told George Lucas at the very beginning of his chat with the Star Wars legend on Friday at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. "How dare you entertain me consistently since I was thirteen years old?!”

Flattered, Lucas said at one point, “I’m not a fan of celebrity — I wish I could skip that part but I can’t.” However, when he sneezed mid-answer, Colbert seized the opportunity and told him, “May the force be with you.”

The hour-long discussion at Borough of Manhattan Community College covered how Lucas found filmmaking — he initially wanted to be a racecar driver, a childhood dream that is everywhere in his films, he said. “I like speed. … Star Wars had hot rods, only they flew in space.”

He recalled how Star Wars wasn’t initially favored by the 20th Century Fox board of directors, who first saw the film as a crowd of twenty in a mixing studio. “There is a word out there called the creative industrial complex, which means the industrial part rules everything and they screw around with the creative people,” he told the audience. “To think you know how to do it is just full of hubris, it’s not real. … There’s the corporate world, and they’re not creative — they’re lawyers, accountants and they think they’re creative.

"They refer to it as their movie, even when they had nothing to do with it,” he continued. “The guy who actually sweats blood and tears is the one that actually makes the movie. But they don’t see it that way at all.”

Lucas had trouble getting the first film off the ground. “Star Wars is a children’s film, those are the ones that make all the money — wake up!” he remembers telling them. Because of the tough logistical process the first time around, he made sure to secure half the sequel rights to speed up the process, but then came to be pleasantly surprised.

“Never invest in a movie — in the movie business, they call those people suckers because you’ll never get your money out ever,” he said. “I had my fifty percent, but I’m gonna finance the movie so I get your fifty percent too. And that’s how I got to be rich.”

Lucas said he’s returning to his interest in experimental films and argued for media to stop publishing scathing reviews: “Art is in the eye of the beholder — if you don’t like it, what’s the point in going around and crashing it? France doesn’t publish bad reviews. … I think it’s a much better system. They just ignore them, which is what you do with bad films.”

He noted that he’s looking forward to J.J. Abrams' upcoming Episode VII because “the one thing I regretted about doing Star Wars is I never got to see it,” he explained. “I’d seen [the footage in the editing room] a hundred times, so I never got to have that thrill. This time, it’ll be very different because they’re doing a kind of a different story. I don’t know anything about it.”

Though he won’t be dressing up as his favorite character of the universe to see Episode VII, Colbert, with a white beard, said he will: “I’m dressing up as George Lucas.”

READ MORE: ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’: 5 Lessons to Learn From 'The Empire Strikes Back’