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Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

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Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby Staff » Thu Aug 12, 2010 6:06 pm


“I could see where things were headed,” Kurtz said. “The toy business began to drive the [Lucasfilm] empire. It’s a shame. They make three times as much on toys as they do on films. It’s natural to make decisions that protect the toy business, but that’s not the best thing for making quality films.”


That's Gary Kurtz, producer and second-unit director of A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, describing the circumstances surrounding his departure from the Star Wars film franchise way back in 1980. The L.A. Times article is a pretty lengthy read, but is worth the time as it gives the reader an insight to the way the Star Wars universe we know and love took shape back in the day.

The article may not be directly relevant to the site, and a few things aren't exactly earth-shattering breaking news (Lucasfilm Licensing is all about making money off it's toys? REALLY?), but I found it quite a good read as I found out some things that I didn't know before, such as the original vision of how ROTJ ends; so, with that, I thought I'd share.

Thanks to chief for the link.
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby ThatGuyWithTheBricks » Thu Aug 12, 2010 6:55 pm

This is what I've thought all along. Market-izing the films really killed Star Wars. The poison started to spread in RotJ. I mean, there were so many new characters and don't even start about the Ewoks (hint hint, kids love teddy bears). However, it still is my favorite Star Wars episode for it's goddamned epicness.

Now on to the PT. Why do you think there are so many characters, vehicles, and planets. Is it because it's relevant? I understand with all the Jedi, they were the peacekeepers of the universe, right? But what about the Sith? Aside from Dooku, the rest are tossed aside like the packaging from their action figure cases. Maul and Grievous were both badass but never got the opportunity to go anywhere with it. Why do you think the ships never appeared in the same episode? It's true that they were all different battles, but at least the OT had iconic ships that were seen through out all the movies (Y and X-Wings, the Falcon, TIEs, ect).

The CW series is the prime example of dragging things along. Is there really any reason for it? Does it fill any holes? Barely. It just serves to give more light on known characters and new ones. It can be interesting at times, but I could live without it.

I'm glad you brought this up because it gives us the opportunity to discuss this issue.
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby meeotch » Thu Aug 12, 2010 10:49 pm

Oh, yes, we've never had an opportunity to discuss this before. I'm glad there's finally something new to talk about.
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby Blacknight » Fri Aug 13, 2010 12:18 am

Hey look on the bright side, at least half that marketing fortune is going to some charity - sometime - maybe. :lol: :roll:
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby mrfootball » Fri Aug 13, 2010 1:29 am

After reading that, I would like to see them get back together and make a damned good SW movie again - this time, let Gary put some heart and soul into the filmaking and leave out the "teddy bear luau's" and other stuff that George is wont to add.

I can't wait to see his "Panzer 88" movie.
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby Daz Hoo » Fri Aug 13, 2010 11:37 am

Very very interesting read. I personally recommend it to anyone here who calls himself a Star Wars fan. IMHO, it definitely brings out a point of view we all suspected but that was never really confirmed... until now.
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby GIR3691 » Fri Aug 13, 2010 4:29 pm

Fascinating article. It reveals so much about behind-the-scenes stuff that I never knew before.

Seems Lucas was too whimsical in his intent for Star Wars compared to everyone else. It's an interesting paradox that Lucas's vision for the series doesn't match fan expectations. He didn't get total creative control until ROTJ, and the general favorite of the SAGA is Empire. Lucas has always said he made the movies he wanted to do, not what the fans wanted, but I think we fans would have really appreciated that original idea for ROTJ. I think I'm on team Kurtz with this one.

Perhaps I've become cynical in my old age, but I really think I'd have preferred that original bittersweet ending to ROTJ (in the Dr. Horrible sense where initially I hated the ending but after thought and deliberation I love and appreciate it). I have always wanted to someday make my own prequel trilogy. After reading this article, I want to remake ROTJ as well with that new (old) ending.
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby Blackicep8ntball » Fri Aug 13, 2010 7:51 pm

Thanks for sharing. It's sad to see how commercialism can ruin such a great thing. Makes you wonder, did these people stand to gain more by continuing the quality of the old films and perhaps sacrificing short term gains? I kinda think so... they would have strengthened their legacy, and the magic of the films would have lingered longer and stronger, even if the toy empire didn't gain as much money as quickly. But then, some of the people involved in these movies are getting old - perhaps they just wanted the quick buck before they kick the bucket.
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby dWhisper » Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:40 pm

It's an interesting story, but one thing that I think is overstated is that the commercialism is ultimately what made Star Wars what it is. It was a wildly successful movie, but that was amplified by the toys, and that eventually was the beast that drove the thing.

It's interesting to think about what could have been, but that's somewhat a fruitless exercise in the long run. And that commercialism did give us the hobby we gather here to discuss, so...
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby UOldPirate » Fri Aug 13, 2010 11:25 pm

Great article. It's nice to get the another side of the story from someone other than Lucas and his revisionist history. A friend of mine recently finished reading the Secret History of Star Wars and he said it's full of stuff like this.

That said, as much as I dislike the "teddy bear luau" ending, I think seeing the alternate ROTJ ending as a kid would have been a huge downer. In my mind I can defend GL's over-merchandising and questionable story telling with 2 things:

1. Lucas has often said he does things like the ewoks and Jar Jar for kids and regardless of how bad or good the execution of those ideas is (no pun intended), I applaud that. I would bet others with kids would feel the same.

2. If it weren't for the extensive marketing of Star Wars, there might not be a SW Lego line. And in my case, if there wasn't a SW Lego line, there might not have been another Lego catalyst to get me out of my dark ages. Me = :), my wallet and free time, not so much.
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby Master Fetty » Sat Aug 14, 2010 4:10 am

Blackicep8ntball wrote:Thanks for sharing. It's sad to see how commercialism can ruin such a great thing. Makes you wonder, did these people stand to gain more by continuing the quality of the old films and perhaps sacrificing short term gains? I kinda think so... they would have strengthened their legacy, and the magic of the films would have lingered longer and stronger, even if the toy empire didn't gain as much money as quickly. But then, some of the people involved in these movies are getting old - perhaps they just wanted the quick buck before they kick the bucket.


1) Are you saying Star Wars doesn't have a strong legacy and an enduring magic? While I would say the toys have helped with that, its a tad shortsighted to say the films don't have a legacy.

2) What's with all these posts about George Lucas and co. dying soon? I've noticed a couple over the past month and really don't get it. He's 66, which is old compared to most here, but plenty younger than the average life expectancy and has access to good healthcare so concievably will be with us for many decades to come.
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby Blacknight » Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:58 am

He may be with us but he may not have the energy to write, produce or direct major motion pictures for that much longer.

Really I see Lucas and Kurtz as Ying and Yang, both are needed. Kurtz but no Lucas would have meant a depressing RotJ with excellent dialogue but where Han dies, which I don't think the majority would of wanted (personally I really like the joyous tone that RotJ ends on). Lucas but no Kurtz and we end up with terrible dialogue and annoying teddy bears and gungans. Lucas had a good vision and good ideas about what the audience wants, but he also needs someone to temper his various stupid ideas. Unfortunately there's no one around to moderate Lucas' ego anymore (he got rid of them all) so the franchise has been careening around wildly between really good and really bad, as epitomized by the prequels, and now The Clone Wars.
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby GrayMattR » Sat Aug 14, 2010 9:43 am

Thanks for pointing out this article. I love reading behind the scenes info from anyone other than Lucas.

Quick threadjack: Is that Anthony Daniels with the glasses in the last picture of the article that includes Ford, Fisher, Mayhew, Hammil and Baker? I'm asking because he doesn't look like what I thought he would. (I know what he looks like now and the guy in this picture looks different and too wide and tall to be Anthony Daniels. Just wondering...
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby UOldPirate » Sat Aug 14, 2010 9:50 am

GrayMattR wrote:Quick threadjack: Is that Anthony Daniels with the glasses in the last picture of the article that includes Ford, Fisher, Mayhew, Hammil and Baker? I'm asking because he doesn't look like what I thought he would. (I know what he looks like now and the guy in this picture looks different and too wide and tall to be Anthony Daniels. Just wondering...


Nope, that's David Prowse in the glasses.
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby Sabreman64 » Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:20 pm

Gary Kurtz is one of the best film producers in history. If he had produced episodes 6 and 1, 2 and 3 they would have been classic films like Return to Oz and Slipstream, instead of the truly horrible films they became.
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby theJudeAbides » Sat Aug 14, 2010 11:47 pm

I disagree with the numeros people in this topic saying that RotJ would have been better with a "Han dead" ending. While I initially did agree with you, after giving it some thought, I don't think that would have been the right direction for that film.

As mentioned in the article, Star Wars was concieved as antithesis to all the preachy "message films" of it's time. It was meant to be a simple, light-hearted action-adventure film set in a Sci-Fi universe, and it succeeded wonderfully. I love the ending to RotJ as it is (and even think it retained a bit of the "bittersweet" feel with the death of Vader) because it retained the same feeling as the first movie.

I recently watched the OT with my sister and mentioned during RotJ that some/many people disliked/hated the Ewoks. She, like myself, did not understand this hatred. "But they're so cute!" she argued, and I was hard-pressed to come up with a counter-argument. And bear in mind, my sister is a 23 year-old smart, sometimes cynical person (who currently is getter her masters on a full scholarship) and not some shallow-minded simpleton. Seriously, why does cute = bad? Somebody really needs to explain this to me as well, because I just don't get the hate.

It's not Star Wars that changed, it was it's fans. As children, we loved everything about these films. We loved obviously drawn characters (Luke is obviously good, Vader is obviously bad). We loved the random babblings of C-3PO. And yes, you KNOW you loved those cute "teddy-bear" Ewoks at one point in your life, whether your "manliness" will allow you to admit it or not.

But then the fans grew up. They grew snide and cynical. Suddenly the obviously-drawn characters were "stereotypical." The random babblings of Jar Jar (who really wasn't that different from OT C-3PO) were annoying instead of silly. And worst of all, the Ewoks' "cute teddy-bearness" suddenly became a bad thing. These "adult" fans were demanding "adult" films with messages and all manner of nonsense that had nothing to do with the original vision of Star Wars. They failed to realize the original intent of the films: to create a fun action-adventure with lively characters in an interesting universe that was free of preachy messages.



Now, I know I'm not necessarily the person who should saying these things, as I have a tendency to get way to serious about Star Wars issues. However, you should know that most of my various Star Wars rants are only meant half-heartedly. I get worked up about some random issue because I find it entertaining (and hope you do as well). I realize I could probably stand to take a chill-pill in some of these cases, but it's much more fun to just roll with the silliness. I mean seriously, even this rant shouldn't be taken all that seriously. But I do still want to know how anybody could hate Ewoks. I mean, seriously!
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby Blacknight » Sun Aug 15, 2010 9:53 pm

I don't have any problem with RoTJ aside from the ewoks. RotJ is actually my favourite SW film and Empire is tied with TPM for my least favourite, believe it or not. The problem I see with the ewoks is not their inherent cute teddy-bearness, but the fact that we're supposed to believe they can defeat the best legions of stormtroopers in the galaxy. An army of wookiees would have been so much more believeable in that battle. Lucas said he cut the wookiees in favour of ewoks because after seeing Chewbacca, the audience would have trouble believing in a primitive wookiee planet. That's nonsense logic, because here on planet earth we have humans skilled enough to fly space shuttles and jet fighters, and yet other people still live in the Amazon jungle the way their ancestors have for thousands of years, and shoot arrows at planes passing over. Chewbacca could've just been one of the few wookiees to leave the planet and be exposed to the wider world. Just because the wookiees lived in the trees without modern technology, doesn't mean they're stupid, it's just how they choose to live culturally following their traditions (they could have explained all this in backstory EU). It's way less of a logic hole than ewoks beating up on stormtroopers with their fuzzy little hands.
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby Robzula » Sun Aug 15, 2010 10:40 pm

The reason I'm not fond of the ewoks is not so much the ewoks themselves, but because they cut away from the pure epic of the space battle and Luke's battle with Vader and the Emperor. Personally, I'm not a fan of the big ground battles, so anything distracting me from those two scenes would have been a detriment to the movie in my mind, but oh well.

I do like that since they felt they needed a big ground battle, they decided to have the Rebellion team up with the Ewoks. I heard a commentary from Lucas saying how he wanted the rebellion to have all these warm, earthy colours, like the orange flight suits, blue-ish capitol ships, etc., to contrast the Empire's mechanical and cold greys, whites, and blacks. It just seems to fit that the Rebels work with these native creatures and use natural weaponry to defeat the Empire.

As far as the Ewoks' victory... They never really fight hand to hand all that much, they just set up traps and catapults while the Rebels do the rest of the work, so it's still believable. Also, if you saw a bunch of teddy bears swarming you with spears and slings, wouldn't you be at least a little intimidated?
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby Daz Hoo » Mon Aug 16, 2010 7:41 am

I too am a fan of RotJ, as it is my favorite film of the first three films. As for the Ewoks, I'm not a big fan of them, but I don't hate them either. I accept their part in the story.

What I don't get is why it's so hard for some fans to accept that Ewoks could have defeated the best legion of the Empire. Personally, I always thought that Ewoks vastly outnumbered the number of Stormtroopers. Plus, as portrayed in the movie, the Ewoks knew the surroundings way better than the Stormtroopers, giving the Ewoks another extra edge.

If you looked as some of the past conflicts in human history, it's not hard to find many examples were the size of the army and the knowledge of the terrain did matter more than how well equiped or trained the troops were (U.S.A vs Vietnam or U.S.S.R. vs Afghanistan). Hence why it's not hard to see why Ewoks COULD have defeated the Empire's best legion.
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Re: Gary Kurtz Interview In L.A. Times

Postby Draykov » Mon Aug 16, 2010 8:33 am

Daz Hoo wrote:What I don't get is why it's so hard for some fans to accept that Ewoks could have defeated the best legion of the Empire.


I think that mainly stems from the fact that most of their on-screen hand-to-hand combat tactics appear to have been borrowed from the Three Stooges.

Though, some fans have taken a more sinister approach in their interpretation of Ewoks.
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