Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Celebrating Star Wars

 July 29, 2022 at 10:59 AM PDT

EPISODE 222: Celebrating Star Wars

BETH ACCOMANDO Star Wars is such a fixture in the pop culture firmament that it’s sometimes hard to remember how challenging it was for George Lucas to make it.

GEORGE LUCAS: The thing about special effects is when I did Star Wars there was nothing so I was forced to create my own company.

BETH ACCOMANDO Two new docuseries look back to the making of Star Wars and the founding of Industrial Light and Magic so get ready to travel back to a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

Cinema Junkie The Theme bump 1 (drums)

BETH ACCOMANDO Welcome back to listener supported KPBS Cinema Junkie, I'm Beth Accomando.

Cinema Junkie The Theme bump 1 (Horns)

BETH ACCOMANDO VICE TV’s Icons Unearthed Star Wars and Disney Plus’ Light and Magic serve up a wealth of interviews and behind the scenes materials that will dazzle and delight not just Star Wars fans but anybody who loves movies and the creative process. Icons Unearthed boasts the first on camera interview with Lucas’s ex-wife and the Oscar winning editor of A New Hope, Marcia Lucas, while Light and Magic was made by Lawrence Kasdan with the full support of Lucasfilm and access to its archives. Both shows take a deep dive into the Star Wars franchise and into what Lucas had to do to get his vision on the screen. (:38)

Music theme bump out.

BETH ACCOMANDO I’ll be speaking with Brian Volk-Weiss, the creator of Icons Unearthed: Star Wars as well as speaking with Star Wars fans whose lives were changed on May 25, 1977 when they saw Lucas’ film. But I need to take a quick break and to lead us into that break I have an appropriate Share Your Addiction from Comic-Con attendee Tristian R. Renn.

TRISTAN R. RENN My name is Tristan Ren. I'm from San Diego, California. And honestly, I have been obsessed with the Mandalorian ever since it premiered. I'm in the costume right now. My helmets right back here. And honestly, we've kind of just been preparing for this for a couple of months now. Obviously, we had to do some last minute adjustments as well, actually, right here on the convention floor, we had to do adjustments, bossy. Star wars has kind of just been our main obsession for a while now. Ever since Disney Plus launches, ever since they got the main lord, we've just been absorbing the Star Wars content whenever we can, whether it be like fan projects or official stuff from Disney themselves. My dad's right here as well. He's in costume. He probably doesn't want to talk. Ever since I was a newborn, actually, he's gotten me into Star Wars. My first movie was actually The Phantom Menace. I don't know, maybe like, what? Six months after I was born, he was bringing me to the theaters to watch out. The Phantom Menace. That was my first movie ever. And we've just been keeping up with the franchise ever since. Collecting all the figures, collecting all the helmets, making our own stuff as well. This isn't our first Star Wars cosplay, though. We actually were as Jedi, we were Sith, and now we're Mandalorians, and we don't know what we're doing next. Maybe the most intricate costume we can get is probably like Jabba the Hut or something.

MIDROLL 1 [currently at 03:09:19]

BETH ACCOMANDO Welcome back to Cinema Junkie and a celebration of all things Star Wars. To set the right mood for this podcast I dug into the archives for one of my favorite projects, a collection of interviews I did with people who saw Star Wars on the weekend it opened in 1977 and have been fans ever since. I also speak with two people who recall seeing it in their home countries of England and India, where the film was just as popular as in the U.S. So close your eyes and imagine you are in a darkened cinema as Star Wars is about to be projected for the very first time …

DAVID GLANZER

I remember the fox fanfare, and when you're sitting in a single screen house with anywhere from 800 to 10 people with this massive walltowall screen, it's pretty heavy stuff. And then the blue that said a long time ago in the galaxy far, far away, and the screen went black, and then bam… It was like nothing you'd ever seen. And then when the first ship comes on screen and the theater is like, doing its rumble, rumble, and you're like, whoa.

Montage of voices:

If you were into effects and model making in particular, that first shot was just mind blowing. What blew you away right from the beginning was the star destroyer, because Sci-Fi at that time hadn't really done a great deal of showing scale and space. How could they have possibly made something so large from that first feed? I bought into it and I was in for the ride. You were engulfed in it, but you were also with 1500 other fans with you. Yeah, it was just sitting there slack jawed. And the sound, of course, we never experienced that kind of sound before. It just changed my life. The rebel cruiser went by, and the imperial cruiser went by overhead like it's. Coming right over your head onto the screen and mouth dropped open. I can't believe I'm watching this. And then all of a sudden you see that star destroyer, and it's coming and coming. Okay, I'm convinced. This is really awesome. And all of a sudden, there's this break, and you're like, oh, it's finally over. No, that's just the docking bay. My jaw just progressively kept dropping and dropping. I was like, oh, my god, is this thing ever going to end? It's so big. And I sat there that whole movie, just leaned forward in that seat, just staring at that drive in screen, just listening to that little tiny crappy speaker, just completely enthralled with what I was seeing on the screen and completely enamored with star wars. It was an incredible, life changing moment for me. So then I had star wars, current star wars betting. I started collecting the star wars figures. I had the star wars album. It was just my life became star wars.

TREVOR NEWTON: Hi there. My name's Trevor Newton. I saw star wars in June of 1977. I was nine years old. I grew up in a very small town in Oregon, and really the only option to see movies was the local drive in.

COLLEEN KELLY BURKE: Hi, I'm Colleen Kelly Burke, and I was 21 years old when I saw star wars at the valley circle on the day before it premiered on the 25th. So I thought on the 24th, I was totally blown away. I think the basic thing is a sense of community for us because we knew everybody at that line at that theater at any time, night or day. We're fans like us, and we wouldn't be subject to ridicule or disparaging remarks because we're all there for the same thing, this amazing movie that brought us together and made us a fandom to be reckoned with, basically.

SHAWN MULLEN: Hi, I'm Shawn Mullen, and I was seven years old on opening day, May 25. And then when we showed up, we were the first ones at the theater in San Diego on opening day. So around the second or third time we went to see Star Wars, we're standing in the long line, so I was curious where the movie was at that was showing inside. So I went to the exit doors and I put my ear to the door, and I could hear Darth Vader and obiwan having the saber duel, and I would give my parents an update.

JULIAN MUSHKIN: Hi, I'm Julian Muskin, and I was eleven years old when I first saw Star wars in 1977. It was so packed already that I had to sit by myself off on the right hand side the aisle, because we couldn't find any seats together. But once the movie started, I was just mesmerized.

GARY DEXTER: So my name is Gary Dexter. I grew up in the United Kingdom. I was nine years old when what we now know is episode four a new hope dropped. What was interesting about the UK is at that time, we got all of our big movies at least six months later than the US. And so we had an additional six months plus of hype and marketing. So by the time the movie actually came out and I got to see it, I was on the verge of exploding. But it did change my life. What was funny was you'd have what we now think of as nerds, of which I was one, and so it was normal that we would get together and talk about it, but it had such a far reaching impact on people, and it sort of crossed into jocks and a high degree of young girls. And it was funny because you would walk around and you'd hear people talking about it, and you would think to yourself, I never thought they would be into it.

YAZDI PITHAVALA: Hi. I'm Yazdi Pithavala, and I was about nine years old when I first watched Star Wars. It was at the sterling cinema in Mumbai in India. I remember just being in office, and I'd gone to watch the movie with my family. And I think when I was that age, at least in India, you never went and watched with your friends or your neighbors. You always watched with your family. I got a bad feeling about this. Even though I was nine years old, there were parts of it which were pretty scary to me, like, to this day. I remember there's that one scene where Luclia Han and I think, Chewy, they're all in this trash compactor.

CLIP One thing for sure, we're all going to be a lot thinner.

YAZDI PITHAVALA: I was terrified. I remember thinking, oh, my God, the walls are literally closing in on them. And I remember, like, being physically scared of it. I put myself in their shoes, and it was like the worst thing imaginable to me.

CLIP Listen to the dying art who cursed my metal body. I wasn't fast enough. It's all my fault.

MARK TUTTLE: Hi, I'm Mark Tuttle. I was twelve years old when star wars came out in 1977, and I think that was the perfect age to see star wars. Even though we're dealing with lightsabers and blasters and aliens and other worlds, it looked real, and it made you think it was real because it's like a ship is filthy. Look at the x wings. Would you really want to fly in that?

LISA MORTON: Hey, I'm Lisa morton. I was all of 18 years old when I first saw star wars. I saw it on opening day at the valley circle theater in san Diego, and I was in kind of an interesting position because I actually had been following the production of the film for about a year before it opened. And fortunately, it more than lived up to everything I was hoping for.

DAVID GLANZER Hi, my name is David Glenzer, and I saw star wars for the first time the weekend that opened at the valley circle theater in San diego. It played in san Diego for a year, I think over a year. It was one of very few cities that did, and lucasfilm had issued they call it the star wars birthday poster. And it was a cake with, I think, one candle and some of the actual figures around it, and that's a prize possession of mine as well. But it was an experience that I can't explain because I've never been to a movie since that had people booing and hissing, clapping and applauding, and it was just remarkable.

KAREN: Hi, I'm Karen Schnaubelt, and I was 22 years old when star wars came out. We went back repeatedly. I saw it 35 times that summer and eventually just lost count.

CLIP Aren’t you too short to be a stormtrooper?

KAREN: It was very hard to get good photos of various costumes from various angles, so we would actually go and watch it with a sketch pad in hand and track a particular costume through the whole movie and take sketches of it. I remember there were always lines. We were always waiting in line to the point where we had our own line stinging equipment. We would bring lawn chairs, we would bring decks of cards, we would bring other things to occupy ourselves with. And then a few minutes before the line was due to go in, we would put those things back in the trunks of our cars and then go in and see the movie.

IAN DUCAT: I'm Ian ducat, and I first saw star wars when I was twelve years old. We tried to see it at the movie theater, but we were unable to because it was just sold out. It was constantly sold out. So my father and his wisdom packed us all up into his grand prix and took us to the Mission Bay drive in. I imagine it's kind of torturous for my parents because the kids, we were just amped. We were so excited.

KEVIN RING: I'm Kevin Ring. I was 13 years old when I saw Star Wars for the first time at the Valley Circle Theater on opening day, May 25, 1977. We'd never seen a line for a movie, let alone one that wrapped all the way around the building. People knew how to react instinctively. It kind of just touched on this underlying cultural thing that we all had and we all knew, but didn't realize until it came out, until we saw these things on the screen and reacted.

DAVID GLANZER I think one of the most memorable aspects of it was the energy of the audience. When Darth Vader appeared out of the steam and smoke from the blasting Open that door. You had this character that was all in black, wearing a helmet that was reminiscent of a World War II German helmet. You figured he was bad and everybody was booing in hissing.

Montage of voices:

And that was just like, Whoa. I'm not the only one that wants to make noise at this. That kind of set the tone for the whole rest of the film. It was awesome. It was a communal experience for those 800 or however many people in that theater. It was transformative. It really was. I don't think I've been in a movie where people cheered like that for things. It was just an absolutely different experience, and it changed everything. I remember the first time they showed the Millennium Falcon going hyperspace, and the crowd was hooting, hollering, go. Whoa. Wow. Of all the places I've watched a movie, the audience participation has never exceeded than that in India. People talk to the screen, people cheer on, they scream. It's a whole other level of engagement.

CLIP Come on, buddy, we're not out of this yet.

Montage of voices:We were so excited. We just dropped it up and down. And every time a Tie fighter flew past or obiwan chops the guy's arm off, it was cheering and jumping up and down. It was so wonderful. I went to see it again because I want to see the spaceships flying, and I wanted to see the lightsaber battles, and I definitely wanted to see the Death Star.

You made five and ready. It was commonplace for British audiences to sit quietly, but I do remember when the Death Star blew up that everybody cheered, because I think everybody had been so invested in this classic fable that looked unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. People had gone on that journey, and then when it blew up, everybody chaired. I do remember that. And that Battle sequence is really cool, too. You're just, like, on the edge of her seat. Is he going to make it? Are they going to make it? Oh, no. Watch out. Yeah. So still to this day, see how many years later, and I can still be all enthusiastic about it because I still remember how cool that was.

BETH ACCOMANDO I still remember seeing it four times in one day and collecting every filmmaking magazine talking about how the special effects were done. I was also a card carrying member of the fan club and still have the Bantha Tracks newsletters. I need to take one last break and then I will be back with my interview with Brian Volk Weiss creator of Icons Unearthed: Star Wars. And to take us into the break, here’s a trailer for the docuseries.

CLIP Icons Unearthed: Star Wars.

MIDROLL 2 [currently at 16:57:21]

BETH ACCOMANDO Welcome back.

"Icon Unearthed: Star Wars" arrives on the heels of Paramount's "The Offer" (a drama series about the making of Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather") and debuted just before Disney's "Light and Magic" (a docu-series about Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic effects house). It's a perfect trilogy in many ways.

Coppola and Lucas were friends and were part of the American New Wave of the 1970s. Coppola served as producer on Lucas' "THX1138" and "American Graffiti." Coppola was the first of that generation of filmmakers to get a shot at a big Hollywood studio film with "The Godfather." The limited series "The Offer" reveals how difficult it was to get the film made and how the studio wanted to fire Coppola as well as his chosen actors of Marlon Brando and Al Pacino.

If you watch that leading into "Icons Unearthed" then it will place you in the right historical context for what these young filmmakers were facing as they tried to work in the Hollywood film industry that they were also rebelling against. Movies were changing in the 1970s and filmmakers like Coppola, Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Brian DePalma were catalysts for those changes. Both "The Offer" and "Icons Unearthed" remind us that the filmmakers we see as established masters now were concerned that they might be fired off the films they were creating, and they were working under enormous pressure to stay on budget and on schedule even when everything was in chaos.

And then coming out of "Icons Unearthed," audiences will be able to check out the Disney show "Light and Magic" which debuted July 27 on Disney+ that focuses exclusively on Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), the company he created to do the special effects on the first "Star Wars" film. Here’s the trailer:

CLIP Light and Magic trailer

We get a glimpse of how ILM started in "Icons Unearthed." But since "Light and Magic" is produced by Disney and Lucasfilm, the film obviously has access to more materials and to Lucas himself and it is a fabulous show. Seeing what these people were able to create is just inspiring.

"Icons Unearthed" is produced and directed by Brian Volk-Weiss, who also created the shows "The Toys That Made Us" and "The Movies That Made Us." All three delightfully tap into our geeky obsession with pop culture.

"Icons Unearthed" will spend six hours exploring the Star Wars films from Episode I to VI. The first two hours of the series look to the origin of the franchise, the film that is now known as "A New Hope."

Although the film turned out to be a financial blockbuster, Lucas was rejected by two studios before 20th Century Fox finally greenlit it. And even though Fox's Alan Ladd, Jr. approved it, he had no idea what Lucas' "space opera" was really about.

I began my interview with Brian Volk Weiss by asking what made him decide to tackle Star Wars now.

BRIAN VOLK-WEISS

If anybody who knows me were to think about your question, I think the answer would be, why did you wait so long to do Star Wars? Star wars is the reason that I'm in show business. I would be probably a dentist or a lawyer in Queens if it wasn't for Star Wars. We started with toys, then we went on to movies, then we graduated to Star Trek. We had a show come out last year called the center seat on history channel, which was eleven episodes all about Star Trek. And I felt like we were finally ready to tackle tied with Star Trek, the most important franchise of my life.

BETH ACCOMANDO

And was there anything in particular that kind of jumpstarted this idea? Was there something that you uncovered or found access to that was kind of the thing that said, yeah, now is exactly the time to do it.

BRIAN VOLK-WEISS

No, there really wasn't. I mean, I've wanted to do this my whole life. It was just a matter of when was the right time? It just all fell into place. We got our deal done with Vice. They were as excited about Star Wars as I am. And the timing was right. I think subconsciously I knew not to start with star wars because we had a lot to learn. We learned a lot on toys that made us, which helped us with movies that made us. We do another show similar to the style called behind the attraction on Disney plus, and we needed all of this experience and knowledge to be ready to do star wars.

BETH ACCOMANDO

Now, as someone who was a teenager when star wars came out and was interested in going into filmmaking, one of the people I looked up to was marshall Lucas because I wanted to be a film editor. She is a great guest that you have on the show. How hard was that to track her down and get her to come on the show to talk about this?

BRIAN VOLK-WEISS

It was extremely hard. But to be honest with you, it's almost always hard for everybody. It's the strangest process of making series like this because I'll give you a great example. In the aliens episode of movies that made us, we got sigourney weaver. We went to her agent. We went to her manager. We went to her publicist. Everybody said no. And then one of our producers, his best friend, his father died, and his father was very good friends with sigourney. And our producer's friend at his own father's funeral, ask sigourney weaver to be in our show. So that's how we got to Gorney, weaver. But more interesting, in my opinion, than that. After her interview, she looks at me and goes, hey, who else are you? She goes, did you talk to gail Anne herd? And I said, no, she is not returning our emails. And sigourney was like, what? Hold on a second. And literally called gail. I'm watching her on zoom because we filmed her in New York, and she literally called gail Ann heard right in front of me. I heard the entire conversation. And then we were interviewing gail and herd two weeks later. That's a good story to explain to you, the randomness of booking a series like this. In Marsha's case, same thing. We went through all the proper channels. Nobody responded to us. And then an interview we did asked us who we were trying to get. The first thing I said was Marcia. And he was like, well, who are you talking to? And I mentioned the people we were calling and emailing. He goes, no, you got to go through her assistant. So he gave us her name and number that we didn't have. We didn't even know who the assistant was or anything. So after a couple of weeks ago and back and forth, she said yes. And the morning she said yes, I was scheduled to fly to New York at 03:00 p.m.. And when she said yes, she said, I'm available tomorrow. And for the next nine days, I immediately canceled my New York flight, booked a flight to Hawaii, and flew to hawaii, because for someone like her, you don't wait nine days. Anything could happen, by the way, not to mention COVID. COVID has been a major pain in the butt for booking interviews. So I literally flew to Hawaii same day, interviewed her the next day. 6 hours in her house. Mind blowing interview. And that's how it happened. And it's her first on camera interview ever. Lucas was ready to audition his still unfinished opus in front of trusted friends who just happened to be the Luminaries of American cinema.

BETH ACCOMANDO

We had a screening room in the back of our house, and we watched it in the house to see how things were playing out and how they were working. I remember Brian De Palmer coming out saying these loud balls. He goes, George, you got to get rid of that force thing. That doesn't work at all. What is that? Out of all the things you discussed, was there anything that stood out to you that you were surprised by or that you were just fascinated to find out?

BRIAN VOLK-WEISS

I mean, I was just so blown away by what she said. There's a lot of stuff she told us about Star Wars, the movie that was mind blowing, and there was a lot of stuff about George Lucas as a human being that was mind blowing. So to give you two of my favorite examples, one, they were so behind schedule and pretty over budget. Fox was putting a lot of pressure on George to not film the ending attack on the Death Star. So Fox actually wanted the movie to end with them leaving the Death Star having rescued Princess Leia and no final battle. So I didn't know that. I had never heard that before. And we were able to confirm it with luckily, we got two of the three editors, so that was mind blowing. Can you imagine Star Wars ending with them rescuing Princess Leia and shooting down four tie fighters? That's probably not the kind of ending that gets people to watch the movie a hundred times. That's it. We did it. We did it. All Doable. And then I've read every book and seen every documentary, probably 99%, that have been made about Star Wars and George Lucas. It never was clear how important George Lucas's father's mantra of own your own company. Own your own company. His father owns a stationary store or a couple of stationary stores in Modesto, California, and he just drilled into George from an early age. And they had a complicated relationship the way a lot of fathers and sons do. And for all the complicatedness, george took that to heart. Own your own company. And if there's anything I tried to do with this particular series is I feel like there's a lot of things in life that are insane when they happen, but then when they work, everybody forgets how insane they were. And the fact that George Lucas barely survives physically making a new Hope. And then instead of just taking Fox's money and making Empire Strikes Back like everybody else has over the last 100 years, he took out a bank loan, mortgaged his house, mortgaged, everything he owned so that he could own Empire Strikes Back. And that was a complete disaster. It's the most difficult shoot of anything ever. Star wars. He survives again, and then he does the exact same thing with Return of the Jedi. But that time it was 30 million. And he didn't even really have to take out a loan. He just used his own cash. So what I like to always look at is like, well, James Cameron had all the money from Titanic. Why didn't he sell finance? Avatar Spielberg can do whatever he wants. He's got billions in the bank. And you could argue he founded DreamWorks, he founded Amblin, but he wasn't taking out bank loans. He wasn't writing $30 million checks. And by the way, by the time Phantom Menace came around, george was writing $100 million checks. I mean, what this guy has done is made the most expensive arthouse films ever made, and I don't think he gets enough credit. 110 years of Hollywood, nobody. The closest person I can think of to George Lucas is Tyler Perry, and Tyler Perry ain't spending $100 million to make his own movie.

BETH ACCOMANDO

And who are some of the other people that you got for this documentary that you were pretty excited about to speak with?

BRIAN VOLK-WEISS

Oh, my God. Anthony Daniels, Howard Kazangian. I mean, obviously we talked about Marcia, john Dijkstra, Phil Tippet, Ken Rouston, Richard Edland, billy D. Williams oh, my God, I'd never even seen him before. I mean, to shake his hand, take a picture with him, it was just nuts. She is such a tiny part. But Carolyn Blackston, who played Mon Mothma, one of my favorite interviews we've ever done. I mean, we got Rick Baker. Rick Baker never does interviews. It was unbelievable. And, you know, to be honest with you, going back to your first question, why did we wait to do Star Wars? And like I said, we didn't really wait. But this series was so much more efficiently made, by the way, between our first day of shooting and when it premieres, less than five months. And the only way we could have done that is we already knew everybody. So, like, we could text Phil Tippet, we could text Ken Rouston or John Dijkstra, and instead of having to do all this kind of nonsense, talking to agents and managers or whatever, we just went to them directly and we're interviewing them one or two weeks later.

BETH ACCOMANDO

Well, as much as I like the interviews with some of the on screen actors, those effects guys were just amazing. And to get some of their stories about the behind the scenes process and the creative process. And I think what was really amazing, too, is the solutions that they came up with for getting stuff on the screen. I mean, that stuff is just wonderful.

BRIAN VOLK-WEISS

There is a shot in a new home standing by. Red Five standing by. That I had seen conservatively 300 times. And it's such a basic and this is again, I feel like this story I'm about to tell is like the microcosm of our series. It's a reasonably simple shot that you wouldn't question in that the X wings are coming towards the Death Star. This is it, boys. And making their attack on the trench, starting for the target chef. Now they're in position. And again, it's a kind of reasonably simple shot. You have the X wing banking left and going into the trench. We interviewed Dijkstra. We interviewed this guy named Dust Lopez who actually owns the models and the matte paintings. It is the most mind blowing special effects in the entire movie because they're basically cutting from a matte painting to a model seamlessly. I mean, literally, even knowing where the cut is, and they hide it with a laser blast. You can't even tell what they're doing. And this is a scene I have seen at least 300 times and never noticed that. And that's the kind of stuff we're trying to do with our show. We have to destroy them ship to ship, get the crews to their fighters.

BETH ACCOMANDO

What was your research process like? If you put this together in five months, how did you dig up a lot of these archival images, photos, clips, things like that?

BRIAN VOLK-WEISS

Well, two answers to your question. If we're talking about research, then I could tell you with barely any exaggeration, we may have shot the show in five months, but I personally have spent at least 40 years researching this movie. For example, my bachelor party was in Tunisia, and my friends and I did a 2000 miles circle going to all the locations from the movie. So this year that was ten years ago this month, this year, when we hired a crew in Tunisia to go film what we wanted, I had all my notes from my bachelor party and I even had pictures, and I even had videos that I had shot. And we sent all of that to the crew. And then they basically with much better cameras than what I had back then, they replicated what I had already done on my bachelor party. So the research had been going on forever. But the other answer to your question is because since Toys That Made US, we have basically been in production on shows like this non stop for five years. We just know what to do. We have a system. We work with the same people over and over again. I would say at least 30% of the people working on this show have been working with us since Toys That Made US. We can just go fast because we have a shorthand and we've already been through the learning curves and the plan.

BETH ACCOMANDO

For this series is because I only saw the first episode. The plan for this series is to explore all of the star wars films. Correct.

BRIAN VOLK-WEISS

The first six, the first two episodes are about a new hope and the last episode is about attacking the clones and revenge of the sith because those movies were made almost simultaneously. For lack of a better term. That's a slight exaggeration. But every episode other than a new hope is just about the making of the movie. But with a new hope, you have to explain who's George Lucas? Who's Marshall Lucas? What is Fox? What is Kenneth? So we had to do all this work setting up the story. There was no way we could do that in 1 hour.

BETH ACCOMANDO

And you don't actually interview George Lucas in the show, do you?

BRIAN VOLK-WEISS

No, we reached out to his people, as always. But understandably, he turned us down. Well, actually, no, he didn't turn us down. We just never heard back.

BETH ACCOMANDO

But is Lucasfilm supportive of the series in the sense of allowing for clips and access to things like that?

BRIAN VOLK-WEISS

Our model. We don't work with the rights holders, so we use fair use law and we buy as many photographs. And you would be shocked what you can buy in star wars in particular because nobody knew a new hope would become a new hope. You can buy pictures that the photographer owned and Lucasfilm didn't own. So we had a lot of lucky breaks on this one. But no, we are 100% independent. All of our docs, including movies that made us and toys that made us, we always are independent. And by the way, almost always we get kudos from the rights holder after the fact because we basically make love letters to the shows and the movies. So we're making from their point of view. I'll be honest with you, we got a lot of information for this show about star wars that we didn't use because we will put things in our documentaries that are dark, don't get me wrong, like we're not just doing like rainbows and skittles or whatever, but I don't want to put anything in that's dark for the sake of dark. I don't want to be punching down. So we make these kind of light, fun series that, yes, tell about the ups and downs, but Lucasfilm doesn't have to worry about us just being mean or just being anti Star wars. I mean, this is a love letter to star wars.

BETH ACCOMANDO

And you mention that having this time to work on these other shows before you got to this one was beneficial for you. But do you also think that the perspective you have now, looking back decades before at the making of this iconic film, which when it came out, no one knew what it was going to be? Do you think that time, that distance also gives you a different perspective on it and an ability to. See things that now make sense in a different way or give it a different context.

BRIAN VOLK-WEISS

Absolutely. 100%. Yes. Listen, every year that goes by, it just gives you more and more context. Like, I was born in 76, so, like, I have no memory of the Vietnam war, so I've known because I've read the books, that the Vietnam war was a major influence on George when he wrote the scripts. But then in 2001, the first real war of my lifetime began. And just that gives Star Wars more context. So, yeah, every year that goes by, the context is improved.

BETH ACCOMANDO

And do you remember the first time you saw Star Wars and the impact it had on you?

BRIAN VOLK-WEISS

It's funny. I don't remember seeing the movie. I actually have no memory of seeing Star Wars or Empire Strikes back. I don't remember this, but my mom always told the story that after we saw the movie, I was basically anybody who would ever ask me, hey, what do you want to be when you grow up? I always said, I want to join the rebellion and fight the empire. And that kind of freaked out my mom. So my mom bought me a book for five year olds that showed the death star was not the size of the moon. It was a model that was 8ft wide. It showed a picture of Anthony Daniels with his helmet off or his mask off. And from the moment I saw that book and I still have the book from the moment I saw that book, I knew this is what I wanted to do for a living.

BETH ACCOMANDO

Well, thank you very much for talking about icons on earth.

BRIAN VOLK-WEISS

Thank you. Thank you. Very kind to talk to you. And thanks for just caring about what we're doing.

BETH ACCOMANDO

That wraps up another edition of KPBS listener supported Cinema Junkie.

I hope you’ve enjoyed revisiting Star Wars and celebrating the rebel spirit of the people who created it.

Remember to check out Cinema Junkie’s companion videos from the Geeky gourmet because I’ll show you how to make some food themed to my podcast. I’ll have a new season of videos up beginning with some bonkers themed cookies as well as Star Wars treats.

You can find the videos and more podcasts at kpbs-dot-org-slash-cinema-junkie.

And please share the podcast with a friend because your recommendation is the best way to build an addicted audience. You can also help by leaving a review.

Till our next film fix, I’m Beth Accomando your resident Cinema Junkie.

FVpdZenXwAA4Fkg.jpeg
Lucasfilm
Filmmaker George Lucas standing amidst the galaxy he created.
Two new docuseries look back to the making of George Lucas' "Star Wars" and the founding of Industrial Light and Magic.

VICE TV’s "Icons Unearthed: Star Wars" and Disney+’s "Light and Magic" serve up a wealth of interviews and behind the scenes materials that will dazzle and delight not just "Star Wars" fans but anybody who loves movies and the creative process.

"Icons Unearthed" boasts the first on camera interview with Lucas’s ex-wife and the Oscar-winning editor of "A New Hope," Marcia Lucas, while "Light and Magic" was made by Lawrence Kasdan with the full support of Lucasfilm and access to its archives.

Both shows take a deep dive into the Star Wars franchise and into what Lucas had to do to get his vision on the screen.

I’ll be speaking with Brian Volk-Weiss, the creator of "Icons Unearthed: Star Wars" as well as speaking with "Star Wars" fans whose lives were changed on May 25, 1977 when they saw Lucas’ film.