This is ForceWatch, your as-needed check-in with the upcoming Star Wars reboot, including but not limited to Star Wars Episode VII. Full disclosure: Disney owns Grantland, and the rest of the universe.
These days, much to the dismay of my Google Alerts, the automatic interview question to ask every actor is, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if you were in the new Star Wars?" But seriously, wouldn't it? Let's find out, from some of our leading thespians, whether it would indeed be cool or not:
Daniel Radcliffe: "Yeah, that'd be awesome. That'd be crazy cool." [Time Out London] Leonard Nimoy: "Oooh. Ooooh, wouldn’t that be fun. I would love to ... I think it would work just great. I think it would be a great idea, and somebody ought to tell [J.J. Abrams] that." [StarTrek.com] Jason Statham: "[I'd have to see] what that silly role may be. I would guess it's probably something stupid." [io9]
What can we say? It's been a slow couple of weeks on the Force front. So slow that J.J. Abrams had time to pick up another high-profile genre property. So slow, in fact, that we, along with the rest of the Internet, have resorted to regurgitating a highly questionable rumor from The Sun that Florence Welch, a.k.a. Florence sans the Machine, is being eyed for VII. "She has done some acting but it was her singing on stage that initially caught the eye," an unnamed "Star Wars insider" tells The Sun. (Does being a former subscriber to Star Wars Insider make one a "Star Wars insider"?) "Florence is being considered for a major part that would turn her into an A-list actress overnight." Just like Hayden Christensen! So, these quotes sound totally fake, and the article's legitimacy isn't helped by the uncited kicker that Paris and Prince Jackson have been "pushing for auditions." OK.
My gosh, the back-and-forth over who's going to be back for Star Wars: Episode VII. Earlier this week, Carrie Fisher told the Del Boca Vista Newsletter or wherever "yes" when asked whether she was going to be back for Episode VII. But yesterday, her representatives were sweeping the web, making sure everybody knew that Fisher was TOTALLY KIDDING and nothing was in stone yet.
Asked whether members of the original Star Wars cast will appear in Episode VII and if he called them before the deal closed to keep them informed, Lucas says, “We had already signed Mark and Carrie and Harrison—or we were pretty much in final stages of negotiation. So I called them to say, ‘Look, this is what’s going on.’ ” He pauses. “Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. I think they want to announce that with some big whoop-de-do, but we were negotiating with them.” Then he adds: “I won’t say whether the negotiations were successful or not.”
And of course they're all coming back. I's might not yet be dotted, nor T's crossed, nor (and this is what I would bet is the actual point of swatting down rumors) official press events scheduled, but obviously they're all in. These movies are going to be the last significant paydays of Mark Hamill's and Carrie Fisher's careers, at least until Kate Hudson and Goldie Hawn remake Postcards From the Edge, and while Harrison Ford is arguably flush enough (and grumpy enough) to say no, he won't. How significant the roles of Luke, Leia, and Han will be in the new trilogy IS a question, but the fact of Hamill, Fisher, and Ford's participation isn't worth all the sweat these publicists are putting into it.
Bottom line: George Lucas just said so. And if there's anything that a Star Wars fan should put his faith in at this point, it's the thoughts and ideas of George Lucas.
[*Disclosure: Disney owns Star Wars, Grantland, and pretty much everything else.]
I love movies. More specifically, I LOVE Star Wars.
So when I found out I was going to get the opportunity to create some content for the Grantland Channel, I knew the first thing I wanted to do is go up to San Francisco and visit Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light and Magic. Somehow, stupidly, they said yes.
When I wrote about George Lucas last year, I called up J.J. Abrams. There wasn’t a hint that Abrams was going to be directing the next Star Wars movie, as The Wrap reported yesterday. There wasn’t even that much of known relationship between Abrams and Lucas. In the movie world, Lucas doesn’t do hands-on, Spielbergian mentorships. But, as Abrams explained, he’d recently sat at Lucas’s knee, like Luke with Yoda, and had learned from the master.
Getting married! THR reports that Lucas is engaged to his girlfriend, Mellody Hobson, who's he's been dating since 2006. Hobson, 43, is the DreamWorks Animation chairman, runs investment management firm Ariel Investments LLC, has contributed to Good Morning America, and once hosted an ABC show called Unbroke: What You Need to Know About Money. Lucas, 68, invented Yoda.
Between now and 2015, when the first new Star Wars movie is slated to drop, we will be privy to a moderate-to-gushing torrent of tidbits, reminiscences, rumors, innuendo, and, every once in a while, actual news from the galaxy far, far away. And this week's most pressing development? Harrison Ford — the one original Star Wars principal who, as you may recall, became a full-fledged movie star after Return of the Jedi — is not totally against the idea of returning as your favorite smuggler's favorite smuggler, mf'ing Han Solo. Hell. Yes.
It's been a full 48 hours since George Lucas — by way of shoveling Lucasfilm to Disney for $4.05 billion — announced plans for a new Star Wars trilogy that he personally will have very little to do with. So what do we know so far?
Stunner! Mark Hamill wasn't in the loop.Speaking to EW, Young Skywalker explained that Lucas had previously filled him in on plans to break out Episodes VII, VIII, and IX, but that he was kept in the dark on the actual sale: "Oh my gosh, what a shock that was! I had no idea that George was going to sell to Disney until I read it online like everybody else." Also: "He seems to be in a really good place. He’s really happy. And that’s nice because I know that when we were making the movies, he was not a jolly guy on set. [Laughs] I always felt badly for him because he agonizes over details, and I’m sure after imagining it in his head for so many years, to see it realized — he’d look up and just hang his head and groan. Harrison [Ford], Carrie [Fisher], and I were always trying to cheer him up and joke him out of his doom and gloom." By the way, Hamill is a gainfully employed voice actor these days. So no jokes about him standing outside the gates of Skywalker Ranch begging lowly Lucas underlings for a conversation about the possibility of a walk-on cameo!
Yesterday, in a development only marginally less surprising than if Jabba the Hutt landed on Earth and declared he was the new Republican nominee for next week's presidential election, Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger announced the company had acquired Lucasfilm for over $4 billion, and with it, the once-sacred Star Wars franchise. And then he announced a seventh Star Wars film is coming in 2015, followed by more every two to three years. And then he announced he is really Luke Skywalker's father. (He said a lot of things; it's already too hard to remember them all.) Nevertheless, the Grantland staff has assembled to sift through the still-smoldering wreckage of our mental Death Stars in search of some answers, or, at the very least, a new hope. Join us as we collectively work through our daddy-who-is-as-much-spare-evil-robot-parts-as-human issues. Usual disclosure: Disney owns us too. Hi, George!
George Returns to the Magic Kingdom
Bryan Curtis: I’ve never really thought much about George Lucas or Star Wars haha, just kidding. It’s my whole life.
In the 16 years between Return of the Jedi (1983) and Phantom Menace (1999), George Lucas focused a lot of his attention on the development of Industrial Light & Magic, his effects company, but never lost sight of his primary cash cow: the Star Wars franchise. As an evil wizard, he understood that with Star Wars video games, books, theme park rides, and tons of merchandise, stoking the “prequel” rumor fire was his best chance to stay relevant and in the black with the ever-growing geek culture. And with no film to take credit for, it was in these intervening years that Lucas took a more public role and much stronger hold over the Star Wars universe. There was nary a time when anything produced about or around Star Wars — retrospectives, behind-the-scenes featurettes, — didn’t in some way shoehorn in Mr. Lucas, even if his involvement was nominal. And even when he wasn’t on-screen, his power still reigned supreme, evident in the seemingly rehearsed platitudes his cronies would use when interviewed.
We will ask Frank Marshall — the producer behind four Indiana Jones movies, three Back to the Future movies, The Sixth Sense, Seabiscuit, and four Bourne movies — about the soul-nuking possibility that Indiana Jones is headed to the Bermuda Triangle. We will.
But first Frank Marshall has directed a new ESPN documentary, Right to Play, which premieres Saturday. It’s about Johann Olav Koss, the Olympic speed-skating champion. In 1994, on his home ice of Lillehammer, Norway, Olav Koss won three gold medals. Marshall, who saw the races live, remembers the sounds of “cowbells and people just screaming.” After the races, Koss turned to do-gooding.
Last month, George Lucas sat down with Grantland’s Bryan Curtis for the New York Times Magazine to plug Red Tails, and revealed some surprising personal details. Most pressingly: He knows exactly what the Star Wars fanboys are saying about him. "Why would I make any more [Star Wars movies]," Lucas complained, "when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?" And now that that particular cat is out of that particular bag, it looks as though Lucas is primed and ready to keep the shots coming. In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter plugging the 3-D re-release of Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace, Lucas had all kinds of delightful things to say about the progressive bastardization of Star Wars.
In this upcoming weekend's New York Times Magazine, Grantland's own Bryan Curtisprofiles George Lucas on the occasion of his new movie Red Tails. Lucas has been working on the Tuskegee Airmen drama, which hits theaters on Friday, since the early '90s, and the laborious process of bringing it to screen — after being rejected by the major studios, George funded the production himself — has now permanently turned him off to blockbusters. That's right: George Lucas is going indie.
We remember like it was yesterday. (In fact, it was yesterday.) There we were, soaking up some late-summer rays from the double sun, discussing our main problems with the Star Wars trilogy. You know, big-picture stuff like how Obi-Wan’s celebrated “Krayyt Call” in the first film wasn’t suitable to scare off a Jawa let alone a fearsome Tusken Raider and, most egregiously, how the absolute, consensus worst thing about the Ewoks wasn’t that they were cynical space Muppets made for toy sales, not plot advancement — it was that they never blinked. Thankfully, George Lucas must have been listening to our conversation because, if some leaked audio from China is to be believed (and when is it not?!?), the bearded one has once again shot first. Both of these changes have been made for the upcoming Blu-ray release of the original trilogy — you can check them out for yourself here or at io9.com — along with the not-at-all-crucial tweak of having Darth Vader dispatch the Emperor in Return of the Jedi with a bellowed, beefy cry of “Noooo!” This, at least, is a change we can all get behind, as this jokey meme video was long overdue for an update.