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10 things we learned at Tribeca's live chat between Stephen Colbert and George Lucas

By
David Ehrlich
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Over the last few years, the Tribeca Talks series has become one of the most reliably exciting parts of the Tribeca Film Festival, as the programmers have an unusual flair for sparking memorable conversations between unexpected pairs. Yesterday, Star Wars obsessive Stephen Colbert got to live out a childhood dream by interviewing series mastermind George Lucas, and we were on hand to see the hour-long chat between the pithy TV host and the much less pithy architect of a galaxy far, far away. For those of you who couldn’t make it, here are ten highlights from the event.

RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of the Tribeca Film Festival

1. It’s “okay” to be George Lucas

Many of Colbert’s questions were geared towards investigating who George Lucas is, even if Lucas was more interested in talking more about the things that he’s done. Still, Colbert was able to wring a few telling moments out of his interviewee, such as when he asked the man across from him to describe what it’s like to be George Lucas. “It’s okay,” Lucas replied, without a hint of irony or sarcasm. And that was that.

2. George Lucas may not smell so great

One of the few things that Lucas shared about himself is that he’s not really much for the idea of celebrity. When asked if he enjoys the Hollywood party scene, Lucas responded that he only owns one pair of Levi’s and one pair of sneakers. Lucas stopped short of saying that he was a recluse, and Colbert got him to confirm that he does not, in fact, keep his house lined with jars full of his own urine. 

3. He’s excited for Episode VII

Lucas isn’t above the hype—the man might be more excited to see The Force Awakens than you are. “The one thing I regretted about Star Wars,” Lucas said, “is that I never got to see it.” He’ll finally get his chance this December come J.J, Abrams's sequel, and in the meantime he’s waiting to watch the new teaser until he can see it on the big screen. (He watched the first one and seemed reasonably excited about it, I guess. It’s hard to read that guy).

4. Lucas and Coppola had a hairy first encounter

Apparently, one of the most formidable friendships in film history was sparked by…beards. Lucas and Coppola first crossed paths in 1967, when they bonded over a mutual distaste for Hollywood and a shared approach to facial hair. Lucas went on to explain how Star Wars would never have been possible if not for the support that Coppola showed him after rising to the top of the movie business with The Godfather

5. Star Wars is a huge deal to Stephen Colbert

Fans of The Colbert Report know that the former (and future) television host is an unapologetic Lord of the Rings superfan, but it turns out that his nerdishness isn’t contained to Middle-earth. When the conversation finally got to Star Wars, Colbert revealed that—as a 13-year-old living in South Carolina—he won tickets to a promotional screening of A New Hope that changed his life. “As soon as the music started, I knew that everything had changed,” Colbert said, remembering how he spent the two weeks until the movie opened trying to explain to his oblivious friends what he had witnessed. As a souvenir from the screening, he got a button that says “May the Force be with you,” and that button is still sitting in his desk. #Nerd.

6. Lucas is convinced that Marvel will remake Howard the Duck

An answer about technology took a strange and terrifying turn when Lucas started talking about how he’s absolutely convinced that Marvel is going to remake the 1986 movie / punchline Howard the Duck (the alien Anatidae was recently seen in a nightmare-inducing stinger during the end credits of Guardians of the Galaxy). “When you have a digital duck, you can do anything,” Lucas told the audience, striking fear into our hearts.

7. Brian De Palma did not “get” Star Wars

The fact that George Lucas didn’t expect Star Wars to be a hit has long been a major part of the film’s history, but on Friday afternoon he added to the legend with a few fun tidbits. The most exciting of them, at least for cinephiles, involved the screening that Lucas held for his filmmaker buddies. It did not go well. Brian De Palma’s first reaction? “George, what the hell is ‘the Force’?” Lucas recalled that, among a sea of pitying whispers, only Steven Spielberg had the foresight to know what he saw: “This is going to be the biggest movie of all time,” Lucas remembers his friend reassuring him. 

8. Lucas thinks Colbert is an idiot

At one point towards the end of the session, Lucas stopped the conversation short to marvel at why Stephen Colbert would move to a later time slot at the cultural void that is CBS instead of taking over The Daily Show when Jon Stewart retires. “I’m moving from 11:30 to 11:35!” Colbert shouted. 

9. Lucas knows that he’s not David Mamet

Talking about how he constructs his films, Lucas shared some familiar wisdom that a movie should be able to make sense even if you’re watching it on mute. Having said that, however, the director was quick to clarify that he still leads with his ears: “Half of a movie is sound. Sound is extremely important,” Lucas took a pause, “”Dialogue is not.” He then went on to mock his own wooden writing (“It’s hand-carved!,” Colbert fondly responded), causing the audience to flashback to a certain scene about the coarseness of sand from Attack of the Clones

10. Lucas isn’t done

He’s been saying it for years in one way or another, but Lucas reiterated that he wants to go back to his roots as an experimental filmmaker, even if that entails making movies in his “garage” that he’ll only show to his friends. And how is he going to find these little art projects? “All of my friends have yachts. I’ll make these by wasting my yacht money.”

 

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