Interview: George Lucas

Lucas tells us about the songs that came from his personal playlist and the message behind the film, 'Strange Magic'
Photo: LucasFilm
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George Lucas is perfectly comfortable – nonchalant, even – chatting about Lucasfilm’s latest animated project, Strange Magic, to a group of curious journalists. He speaks fast, mumbling a little, never wavering or faltering in his answers, which are interspersed with quips delivered in a deadpan manner. Having helmed whoppers like American Graffiti, Indiana Jones and Star Wars over the years, he’s clearly used to taking questions from a firing squad. Nothing can faze him. Well, except maybe Strange Magic, which has been in the works for 15 years.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the story leads you into a gorgeous, enchanting world filled with whimsical and magical creatures. Part musical, part romantic comedy, itweaves a fairytale from fascinating characters like a heartbroken, bitter princess, a tough villain with a soft heart, a zany Sugar Plum Fairy, a brave little elf and a knight who’s too charming for his own good. Then there’s the catchy musical numbers, including highlights like ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love/Crazy in Love’, ‘Strange Magic’ and ‘Tell Him/Wild Thing’. All in all, it’s bursting with heart and charm.

Here, Lucas tells us about the songs that came from his personal playlist and the message behind the film.

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‘Star Wars was a mythological adventure for 12-year-old boys, although it appealed to everybody. So I thought I’d make a fairytale adventure for adolescent 12-year-old girls… and hope that all the boys will see it’

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On the original concept that inspired the film.

‘I wanted to do a fairytale for girls. And on top of that, I had so much fun making American Graffiti that I wanted to put music in it, ‘cause I love to make musicals. So I thought I’d come up with a story using the lyrics from existing songs. I wanted it to be a story about the difference between infatuation and true love – infatuation is like love dust, like a disease. It gets people crazy for a period of time, and then you wake up. It’s an old story that’s been told over and over again, but you can never tell these stories too often; each generation needs to have it told in their own way. So this is that story for this generation. It’s like Star Wars – there’s nothing new in it, it’s just done in a different way.’

On how his real life role as a father influenced it.

Star Wars was a mythological adventure for 12-year-old boys, although it appealed to everybody. So I thought I’d make a fairytale adventure for adolescent 12-year-old girls… and hope that all the boys will see it. It’s obviously more upbeat and funny and magical, in a way, than Star Wars was, but I was doing it primarily for my daughters. I used to sit and read The Wizard of Oz to my daughter every night for years. She thought [the king] came up to look a lot like me. They kept making him fatter and fatter, and that’s the reason he can’t fly. I said, the same thing happened to me! I started out skinny.’

On the process of curating the music.

‘I went into my music archives and started finding music I like. Part of the development process was listening to the music and the lyrics, and trying to design the story where you could fit songs into it to tell the story. This went on forever, and we were constantly changing the story. But this is just movie music that I like. It’s much more fun to be able to tap your toes while you’re working.’

On his favourite song from the soundtrack.

‘That’s terrible, ‘cause this is my top 25! Apart from the top 25 that were in American Graffiti. The first song that got picked was the opening song, which was “Can’t Help Falling in Love”. That, to me, summed up the whole movie. It’s fun to be able to do this when you have songs that say what you’re trying to say. That was the original idea. Popular music about love goes into the category of disappointment, sorrow, heartbreak and unhappiness. That’s two-thirds of it, and one-third is the happiness of falling in love and having a great time. But obviously there’s more time spent on the tragic side, so the movie kind of reflects that.’

On his decision process of what type of films to make.

‘It takes a very magical situation of creative talent, resources and all kinds of things to make [magic] like that happen. It doesn’t happen very often; otherwise you’d see 20 to 30 of those movies every year. For me, I’m not looking to make a hit movie. I’m just doing something I wanna do for my own reasons. I’ve had a lot of films I really liked that nobody liked, and I’ve had a lot that I didn’t think were that special, but everybody seemed to like them. You never know. My worst reviewed movie was Star Wars, and that seemed to do the best.’

On whether the movie is a reflection of his life.

‘I didn’t know it at the time, but it grew into it as we came along. I had been married, divorced, and never thought I would find someone to love again. I was 40, a bachelor, and raising one child by myself. For 20 years, I wanted to get married again, but I couldn’t find anybody. And I’d outgrown the infatuation part – which is another way of saying actors, singers, models. I’d basically given up. Then I met somebody who was very different… and that happened to me at 60. It’s just one of those miracles. No pixie dust was involved!’

On the overall message of the story.

‘Everybody deserves to be loved. Real love is more than skin deep, and the way people think and feel and what they have in common with others is more important than what they look like.’

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Strange Magic is in cinemas from Jan 29.

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