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Topics - Matt

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JD Sports Forum! / Pugilism.
« on: August 15, 2017, 12:40 PM »
Mayweather/McGregor August 26! GET HYPE

My Top 5 boxers of all-time:

1. Muhammad Ali
2. Mike Tyson, pre-Buster Douglas
3. Drederick Tatum
4. That Simon & Garfunkel song
5. Mike Tyson, post-face tattoo, when he was in The Hangover
6. King Hippo
7. Clubber Lang
8. Butch Coolidge

. . .is a thing that is happening. Trailer officially releases this weekend, but it already kind of leaked today. Looks like it will cover all three trilogy eras.

From the "Well, At Least We Dodged THIS Bullet" Department comes this news: Star Wars: The Han Solo Episode III cameo that never was

Solo’s appearance in Revenge Of The Sith would have been fleeting - perhaps amounting to a few seconds. In an early draft of the script, Lucas gave him just one, rather pedestrian line: “I found part of a transmitter droid near the east bay. I think it’s still sending and receiving signals.”

Nevertheless, this brief appearance would have revealed something new about Solo’s past: he was been raised from boyhood by his future co-pilot, Chewbacca.

“It’s not in the script anymore,” explained concept artist Iain McCaig in the Revenge Of The Sith art-of book, “but we were told that Han Solo was on Kashyyyk and that he was being raised by Chewbacca. He’s such a persnickety guy later on – he always has to have the best of everything – so I thought it’d be great if when he was a kid, he was an absolute slob.”

The scene would also have been significant for another reason: it would have marked the first and only time Solo met Yoda. In fact, that line Solo was to utter about finding a scrap bit of droid would have been directed at the pointy-eared Jedi master, who was to have been hunting around on Kashyyyk for clues as to General Grievous’ whereabouts.

“Good, good,” Yoda would have replied. “Track this we can back to the source. Find General Grievous, we might…”

The scene got as far as the concept art stage before it was scrapped as Lucas raced to get his story into shape; casting for the young Han hadn’t even begun, so we’ll never know who Lucas might have picked to play him. Certainly, McCaig’s painting of a scruffy lad with long hair looks right for the Star Wars universe - there are even echoes of Rey’s Jakku outfit in those pieces of cloth bound around his legs. But Star Wars fans might have collectively sighed with relief that the scene was ultimately dropped as Lucas refocused his script on Anakin’s fall, and the various sub-plots he’d originally wanted to put in gradually fell away.

For one thing, the revelation that Han Solo was raised by Chewbacca isn’t necessarily a plausible one, given their future dynamic - they’re more chummy roommates than father and adopted son. And as Slashfilm points out, Solo’s Kashyyyk childhood would have effectively negated the Extended Universe story that Chewbacca met Solo after he escaped from slavery.

Then there’s a further question, one that is perhaps unanswerable: would audiences have even recognised the kid as Han Solo? His name isn’t uttered in Lucas’s early draft, so there would have needed to have been some kind of visual cue that linked this scruffy youngster to the Corellian smuggler he’d one day become.

Most of all, removing Han Solo from Revenge Of The Sith left the character unaffected by Lucas’s prequel melodrama. Where episodes one to three demystified much that was implied in a throwaway sentence in the Original Trilogy (“I was once a Jedi Knight, the same as your father...”), Han Solo would remain a rogue element - a loveable scoundrel whose past is hinted at in his cynical mindset and loner status, but never directly laid out.

So thankful this didn't happen. Chewbacca palling around with Yoda was bad enough.

JD Sports Forum! / NBA 2014-15
« on: October 28, 2014, 07:51 PM »
Let's do this, JD Sports Forum!

Does everyone know that LeBron James left Miami and signed with Cleveland during the off-season?

Division and playoff predictions to follow.

5 Exclusive! Original, Unaltered Cut Of Star Wars Trilogy To Be Released On Blu-ray By Disney

For a long time Star Wars fans have been clamoring for Disney/Lucasfilm to re-release the original, unaltered cut of the first Star Wars trilogy, and has now confirmed with two independent reliable sources that just such a plan is under way.

According to our sources, Disney has plans to release the original cut of the Star Wars trilogy on Blu-ray. Our sources indicate that the project has been under way for quite some time, but it’s been challenging because of some damage to the original negatives they are utilizing. The goal is to release A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of Jedi in their complete, unaltered, original form without the redone special edition SFX.

Our sources did not have an exact date as to when the original cut of the Star Wars Trilogy would be released on Blu-ray, due to the challenges Disney has encountered in pulling everything together. However, our sources indicated the goal is to have it ready and released before Star Wars Episode VII is released in theaters.

I refused to buy the 2011 Blu-rays so no SW on Blu for me, but I'd be down for this.

If it pans out.

The Wookiee Arcade / Visceral's unannounced Star Wars game
« on: April 3, 2014, 02:28 PM »
Visceral's mysterious SW game is, to me, the most-intriguing one to come out of the EA deal. Even moreso than DICE's Battlefront. This hire may provide a little insight into what kind of game we might be getting:

Polygon: Amy Hennig joins EA's Visceral Games to work on Star Wars

Steve Papoutsis, vice president and general manager at Visceral, made the announcement in a post on EA's The Beat blog.

"Amy has long been recognized as one of our industry's top visionaries, and is coming off an amazing run as the Writer and Creative Director of the Uncharted franchise," Papoutsis wrote. "But her contributions go beyond the games she helped create at Naughty Dog and at Crystal Dynamics, where we worked together many years ago. As both a colleague and friend, I've always admired her approach to creative development — focusing on nailing down the soul of a game first, and then making sure the writing, the gameplay, the design and the art comes together to form a unified, interactive experience for the player. This fits in perfectly with what we're trying to do here at Visceral and Amy's going to help us continue in our pursuit to make the most thrilling, immersive games in the world."

Hennig started her video game development career at Electronic Arts in the early '90s. On Twitter, she spoke of her desire to work on the Star Wars franchise at EA, saying, "It's a privilege to have the opportunity to contribute to the Star Wars universe, after it's had such a formative influence on my life."

Amy Hennig was the head writer and creative director of the Uncharted series at Naughty Dog, and will be the creative director on the new Star Wars game.

Visceral Games is best-known for their Dead Space series. If their Star Wars game has anywhere near the quality of their first Dead Space game, we should be in for a treat. Dead Space is fantastic. One of the best games from the last generation.

The Wookiee Arcade / How LucasArts Fell Apart - Kotaku article
« on: September 27, 2013, 04:24 PM »
This entire generation has been a waste for Star Wars games. This article goes a long way in explaining why.

How LucasArts Fell Apart

It's long, so I won't quote the whole thing, just some most of it:

It’s impossible to pinpoint a single reason for the demise of LucasArts, but an outside observer might look at the revolving door of presidents—three in the four-year period between 2008 and 2012—and wonder how anything got done. Instability ruled the realm; every high-level turnover came with layoffs and cancellations and a total shift in company direction led by whoever would take over next.

Some ex-LucasArts staffers lay blame on the presidents themselves. Others finger executives at LucasFilm for refusing to take the risks needed to make games that people would consider worthy of the Star Wars name. A number of ex-LucasArts staffers pointed to Micheline Chau, who was president of LucasFilm up until September of 2012, as the main factor for the company's decline—and the explanation for the revolving door of LucasArts presidents.

Sources describe Chau as the gatekeeper for George Lucas, and two high-level ex-LucasArts employees both said she had a tight control on Lucas's schedule. She would run rehearsals with the staff before they could meet with Lucas, sources said, and she would micromanage what the team could say and when they could say it.

"[Lucas] understood the nature of play—and games—but we didn't have the time with him that we needed," said one person familiar with high-level meetings at LucasArts.

“It never felt like people at the top cared about making great games,” said another person connected to LucasArts. “A lot of awesome projects never went anywhere because, ‘it’s not gonna make enough money.’”

Although some saw 1313 as an Uncharted clone—and even today, that's how some people look at the cancelled game—one person familiar with development of the game emphasized that the newly-implemented jetpack changed the design entirely, adding a vertical element to the action and platforming that gave things a fresher feel. Even George Lucas was high on the project, especially after the E3 acclaim.

Then, in September 2012, everything changed. LucasFilm enacted a hiring freeze, according to four people who were there at the time. All marketing plans were halted, and the company went into silent mode. Production continued on Star Wars 1313, but without the capacity to continue hiring the staff they needed, the team was crippled.

The freeze also led to endless questions revolving around Star Wars: First Assault, a multiplayer shooter that had also changed shape multiple times since it first began development in 2010. Created because George Lucas wanted to compete with the gargantuan Call of Duty series, First Assault was originally a large-scale shooter set in a time period after Return of the Jedi, according to two people familiar with the game.

Then, following direction from executives at LucasFilm, the game moved back to the Clone War era. This was a common theme at LucasArts, sources say—First Assault, which was code-named Trigger, shifted and evolved because of ever-changing direction, just like 1313. The goal posts just kept moving.

Trigger eventually morphed from attempted Call of Duty killer to multi-step project designed to reintroduce Battlefront to the world. The first game, First Assault, was set to be unveiled in September of 2012 and released in the spring of 2013. The second step was a project called Version Two, designed to show off vehicle prototypes and other Battlefront elements that didn't make it into First Assault.

But when LucasFilm enacted the hiring freeze, they also put the brakes on those marketing plans. Nobody could talk about First Assault, even when the box art was accidentally revealed on Xbox Live at the end of September.

People were baffled. “Everyone took it badly when we were told we couldn't announce or do our beta,” said one former member of the First Assault team. They kept working, but ex-First Assault staff say they had no clue whether or not the game would actually come out.

A month later, it all suddenly made sense. On October 30, 2012, Disney announced that they had purchased LucasFilm. The acquisition had been in place for quite some time, and LucasFilm had enacted the freeze in preparation for the reign of Mickey Mouse.

Yet the hiring freeze didn’t end. And over the next few months, even as LucasFilm made public declarations that everything was "business as usual," staff started to leave the company, and morale was low.

When LucasArts shut down, both Star Wars 1313 and Star Wars: First Assault were cancelled. It was a heartbreaking experience for those still with the company. And it wasn’t the only one.

Canceled games mentioned:

  • Star Wars 1313
  • Star Wars: First Assault
  • Star Wars: First Assault Version Two, which according to one source grew from the remnants of a project code-named Wingman that was going to be a Wii U title modeled after the old TIE Fighter and X-Wing games.
  • open world GTA-style game set on Coruscant
  • Untitled Indiana Jones game, canceled in 2009
  • Caveland, a 2D physics-based shooter
  • Day of the Tentacle remake
  • Smuggler, a game designed for cross-platform multiplayer that would let you play as a customizable character within the Star Wars universe, smuggling and trading between Facebook, tablets, and consoles.
  • Outpost, the Star Wars take on Zynga's FarmVille that would let players build empires, one click at a time.
  • Death Star, the iOS game in which you'd get to control your very own version of the Empire's iconic space station.

There was the online service that would be LucasArts’ very own version of Origin, EA's network for distributing games and servicing online multiplayer. Like Origin for EA, this LucasArts-branded network would help the company distribute Star Wars games and in-app purchases. According to one person familiar with plans for this network, it would have launched alongside Star Wars: First Assault, which would have had some sort of microtransaction store.

All of these games were connected, and they were all part of one big ecosystem, according to people familiar with goings-on at the company. Eventually, as seemed to be a pattern at LucasArts, they were all axed. Of course, cancellations are not abnormal in the iterative world of game development, where projects shift and disappear all the time. What made LucasArts different was the studio's tendency to cancel finished projects—games like Death Star and Outpost had already gone through QA testing and were very close to being shipped, according to two sources.

"Projects get canceled all the time," a person familiar with LucasArts said. "You'd hope that your process can identify problem projects before they're finished."

So LucasArts spent most of their final years concentrating on two big games—1313 and First Assault—and the smaller project, Version Two.

“Every couple of years, George Lucas would get re-engaged for a period of time,” said another person connected to LucasArts. “The whole company would pivot around George’s interests. And then it would fizzle out.”

The Deal That Fell Through

Could LucasArts ever have been saved? Rumors came hot and heavy following the shutdown, and in April, I reported that EA had considered buying the storied studio up until a combination of factors—like the SimCity disaster and CEO John Riccitiello’s departure—led to the deal falling apart.

More people have come forth to corroborate those EA negotiations, and according to two high-level sources, EA's deal would have financed both 1313 and First Assault—LucasArts would've stayed where it was, working under EA supervision.

According to one person familiar with goings-on at LucasArts, other big publishers considered buying the company as well.

"There were various things on the table," said that person. "Buying 1313, buying the studio, just doing a deal for that game. Multiple people made offers to help finish and publish 1313."

One publisher made an offer that was "above the budget of 1313," according to a person familiar with negotiations, but LucasFilm wouldn't take the deal—licensing out a game like Star Wars 1313 just didn't mesh with their strategies for the upcoming movies, and some top executives were much more interested in putting together a next-gen Battlefront, which EA would go on to commit to.

In hindsight, it’s become rather clear that Disney never wanted to keep LucasArts as it was in 2012—on the day of the LucasFilm deal, Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a conference call that his company would be “likely to focus more on social and mobile than [they would] on console,” referring to console video games like the ones made at LucasArts. Still, most staff remained with the company, swimming onward against the current.

Three different ex-LucasArts employees have told me that in March of 2013, staffers were told they'd "be taken care of"—that is to say, they didn't have to look for other jobs. This was because higher-ups at LucasArts were convinced that the EA deal was coming together, even when it became clear that Disney had no interest in financing their games.

Still, some saw that the end was near—especially when employees were told not to mention Star Wars: First Assault by name even after I'd published details about the game on Kotaku—but up until the last day, there was hope.

I'm hopeful that, say, five or ten years from now, we can look back and say that the Disney/EA acquisition was the best thing that ever happened to Star Wars games.

HuffPo: 'Star Wars' Prequels Were Mapped Out By George Lucas & Lawrence Kasdan In 1981: Exclusive Excerpt From 'The Making Of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi'

This is remarkably close to the final product in 2005, except for everyone being able to use The Force, Yoda not fighting, and the twins/Leia's real mom thing.

Participants: George Lucas, Richard Marquand, Lawrence Kasdan, and Howard Kazanjian
Location: Park Way House
Note: Many of the ideas here are conceptual only and should not be considered as canon in the Star Wars saga.


Lucas: Anakin Skywalker starting hanging out with the Emperor, who at this point nobody knew was that bad, because he was an elected official.

Kasdan: Was he a Jedi?

Lucas: No, he was a politician. Richard M. Nixon was his name. He subverted the senate and finally took over and became an imperial guy and he was really evil. But he pretended to be a really nice guy. He sucked Luke’s father into the dark side.

Kasdan: The Force was available to anyone who could hook into it?

Lucas: Yes, everybody can do it.

Kasdan: Not just the Jedi?

Lucas: It’s just the Jedi who take the time to do it.

Marquand: They use it as a technique.

Lucas: Like yoga. If you want to take the time to do it, you can do it; but the ones that really want to do it are the ones who are into that kind of thing. Also like karate. Also another misconception is that Yoda teaches Jedi, but he is like a guru; he doesn’t go out and fight anybody.

Kasdan: A Jedi Master is a Jedi isn’t he?

Lucas: Well, he is a teacher, not a real Jedi. Understand that?

Kasdan: I understand what you’re saying, but I can’t believe it; I am in shock.

Lucas: It’s true, absolutely true, not that it makes any difference to the story.

Kasdan: You mean he wouldn’t be any good in a fight?

Lucas: Not with Darth Vader he wouldn’t.

Kasdan: I accept it, but I don’t like it.

Lucas: Well, anyway, Luke’s father gets subverted by the Emperor. He gets a little weird at home and his wife begins to figure out that things are going wrong and she confides in Ben, who is his mentor. On his missions through the galaxies, Anakin has been going off doing his Jedi thing and a lot of Jedi have been getting killed—and it’s because they turn their back on him and he cuts them down. The president is turning into an Emperor and Luke’s mother suspects that something has happened to her husband. She is pregnant. Anakin gets worse and worse, and finally Ben has to fight him and he throws him down into a volcano and Vader is all beat up.

Now, when he falls into the pit, his other arm goes and his leg and there is hardly anything left of him by the time the Emperor’s troops fish him out of the drink. Then when Ben finds out that Vader has been fished out and is in the hands of the Empire, he is worried about it. He goes back to Vader’s wife and explains that Anakin is the bad guy, the one killing all the Jedi.

When he goes back his wife, Mrs. Skywalker has had the kids, the twins, so she has these two little babies who are six months old or so. So everybody has to go into hiding. The Skywalker line is very strong with the Force, so Ben says, “I think we should protect the kids, because they may be able to help us right the wrong that your husband has created in the universe.” And so Ben takes one and gives him to a couple out there on Tatooine and he gets his little hideout in the hills and he watches him grow. Ben can’t raise Luke himself, because he’s a wanted man. Leia and Luke’s mother go to Alderaan and are taken in by the king there, who is a friend of Ben’s. She dies shortly thereafter and Leia is brought up by her foster parents. She knows that her real mother died.

Kasdan: She does know that?

Lucas: Yes, so we can bring that out when Luke is talking to her; she can say that her mother died when “I was two years old.”

I sure wish Lucas would have stuck to his guns on the Yoda thing.  One of the hokey-est things in the prequels.

The Walt Disney Company and EA Announce Multi-Year Star Wars Games Agreement

BURBANK & REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) and Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA) today announced a new multi-year exclusive licensing agreement to develop and publish globally new games based on Star Wars characters and storylines.

Under the agreement, EA will develop and publish new Star Wars titles for a core gaming audience, spanning all interactive platforms and the most popular game genres, while Disney will retain certain rights to develop new titles within the mobile, social, tablet and online game categories.

“This agreement demonstrates our commitment to creating quality game experiences that drive the popularity of the Star Wars franchise for years to come,” said John Pleasants, Co-President of Disney Interactive. “Collaborating with one of the world’s premier game developers will allow us to bring an amazing portfolio of new Star Wars titles to our fans around the world.”

“Every developer dreams of creating games for the Star Wars universe,” said EA Labels President Frank Gibeau. “Three of our top studios will fulfill that dream, crafting epic adventures for Star Wars fans. DICE and Visceral will produce new games, joining the BioWare team which continues to develop for the Star Wars franchise. The new experiences we create may borrow from films, but the games will be entirely original with all new stories and gameplay.”

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.


Out this October.

Several rare pics here.

JD Sports Forum! / NBA 2011-2012
« on: June 24, 2011, 10:07 AM »
Sounds like the Lakers may have a new name on the roster for next season: Metta World Peace

Cleanup In Aisle Three

SEPTEMBER 15--What kind of a guy goes into Walmart, takes a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue from the magazine rack, heads to the store’s toy section, and proceeds to masturbate to completion in the aisle?

Meet William Tyler Black.

The 28-year-old Floridian, a substitute teacher, was arrested yesterday afternoon by Sarasota cops on battery and exposure of sexual organs charges, according to a probable cause affidavit, a copy of which you’ll find here.

A store employee told cops that Black “ejaculated onto the floor and wiped his hand on a toy along with rubbing his foot in the suspected semen on the floor.” Employees reported that Black “discarded the magazine behind some toys and proceeded to the front of the store.”

A police source told TSG that the toy in question was a light saber (apparently of the Star Wars variety), and that the magazine Black used was the 2010 SI swimsuit issue with model Brooklyn Decker on its cover. Though published in February, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue can still be found on sale months later at many retailers.

When cops confronted Black, pictured in the above mug shot, he said he was in the store “shopping for a toy for his daughter.” He was hit with the battery on a child count since investigators concluded that a “reasonable person would believe that a child would come in contact with the fluid on the toy being that it was left in the toy aisle of the store.”

The Original Trilogy / Gary Kurtz talks about why he left Lucasland
« on: August 17, 2010, 09:55 PM »
'Star Wars' producer Gary Kurtz speaks out

"Star Wars" was born a long time ago, but not all that far, far away. In 1972, filmmakers George Lucas and Gary Kurtz were toiling on "American Graffiti" in their San Rafael office when they began daydreaming about a throwback sci-fi adventure that channeled the old "Flash Gordon" serials as opposed to the bleak "message" movies that had taken over the genre.

"We had no idea what we were starting," says Kurtz, who was the producer of the first two "Star Wars" films and also a second-unit director. "That simple concept changed Hollywood in a way...."

There was a bittersweet tinge to Kurtz's voice and it's no surprise. This year is the 30th anniversary of "The Empire Strikes Back," the "Star Wars" sequel that many fans consider the pinnacle moment in a franchise that has pulled in $16 billion in box office and merchandising. But 1980 was also the year that Kurtz and Lucas realized the Jedi universe wasn't big enough for the both of them.

"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."

He added: "The first film and 'Empire' were about story and character but I could see that George's priorities were changing."

This weekend, Kurtz steps back into the "Star Wars" world as a special guest at Star Wars Celebration V, a massive Orlando convention organized by Lucasfilm and expected to draw thousands of fans who will come to buy collectibles, attend panels, get cast-member autographs or even visit the event's themed tattoo parlor or wedding chapel.

Kurtz's presence speaks to his vital role in the franchise's history -- he is, for instance, the one who came up with the title for "The Empire Strikes Back" -- but the Lucasfilm leadership is already fretting about the Jedi expatriate's appearance. They may have good reason; during a recent visit to Los Angeles the filmmaker, who just turned 70, showed a willingness to speak out against the priorities of an old partner.

"The emphasis on the toys, it's like the cart driving the horse," Kurtz said. "If it wasn't for that the films would be done for their own merits. The creative team wouldn't be looking over their shoulder all the time."

No fan of conflict, Kurtz has remained relatively quiet through the years but over coffee on a sunny Southern California afternoon he spoke at length about his lightsaber days.

Like many fans, Kurtz was too invested in the "Star Wars" universe to skip the second trilogy: 1999's "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace," 2002's "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" and 2005's "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith." (Lucas retitled the three original movies as "Star Wars -- Episode IV: A New Hope," "Star Wars -- Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back" and "Star Wars -- Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.") But as he sat in the dark with the follow-up "Star Wars" films, he squirmed in his seat.

"I don't like the idea of prequels, they make the filmmakers back in to material they've already covered and it boxes in the story," Kurtz said. "I think they did a pretty good job with them although I have to admit I never liked Hayden Christensen in the role of Anakin Skywalker. I just wished the stories had been stronger and that the dialogue had been stronger. It gets meek. I'm not sure the characters ever felt real like they did in 'Empire.' "

A spokesperson for George Lucas said he was unavailable to comment for this story.

The comments by Kurtz -- who characterizes his relationship with Lucas as "professional" -- speak to a churning pop-culture debate about the enduring legacy of Lucas and the trajectory of his still-unfolding "Star Wars" mythology. The first trilogy of films ended in 1983 with "Return of the Jedi" and the second trilogy brought a whole new generation into the universe but also left many original fans feeling sour or disengaged.

A seventh feature film, an animated movie called "The Clone Wars," was released in 2008, which, along with video games and toys, speaks to a young 21st century constituency that may be only vaguely aware of the 1977 film.

The same passion pulling fans to Orlando also stokes the debate about Lucas and his creation. Alexandre Philippe is the director of "The People vs. George Lucas," a documentary that just had its West Coast premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival. He says that Kurtz has become a figure of integrity to the fans who believe that Lucas has followed the wrong path.

Philippe said the departure of Kurtz was a major moment in "Star Wars" history and deeply unsettling to all involved. "The cast and crew were crushed when George and Gary went their separate ways," said Philippe, who added that Mark Hamill, who portrayed Luke Skywalker, later explained it in broken-family terminology. "He said it was like mom and dad getting a divorce. They were both equally loved and respected on the set."

For Kurtz, the popular notion that "Star Wars" was always planned as a multi-film epic is laughable. He says that he and Lucas, both USC film school grads who met through mutual friend Francis Ford Coppola in the late 1960s, first sought to do a simple adaptation of "Flash Gordon," the comic-strip hero who had been featured in movie serials that both filmmakers found charming.

"We tried to buy the rights to 'Flash Gordon' from King Features but the deal would have been prohibitive," Kurtz said. "They wanted too much money, too much control, so starting over and creating from scratch was the answer."

Lucas came up with a sprawling treatment that pulled on "Flash Gordon," Arthurian legend, "The Seven Samurai" and other influences. The document would have required a five-hour film but there was a middle portion that could be carved out as a stand-alone movie. Kurtz championed the project in pitch meetings with studios and worked intensely on casting, scouting locations and finding a way to create a believable alien universe on a tight budget.

"Star Wars" opened with a title sequence that announced it as "Episode IV" as a winking nod to the old serials, not to announce a film franchise underway, Kurtz said.

"Our plan was to do 'Star Wars' and then make 'Apocalypse Now' and do a black comedy in the vein of 'MASH,' " Kurtz said. "Fox insisted on a sequel or maybe two [to 'Star Wars']. Francis [Ford Coppola] … eventually got tired of waiting and did it on his own, of course."

The team of Lucas and Kurtz would not hold together during their own journey through the jungles of collaborative filmmaking. Kurtz chooses his words carefully on the topic of their split. After the release of "Empire" (which was shaped by material left over from that first Lucas treatment), talk turned to a third film and after a decade and a half the partners could no longer find a middle ground.

"We had an outline and George changed everything in it, "Kurtz said. "Instead of bittersweet and poignant he wanted a euphoric ending with everybody happy. The original idea was that they would recover [the kidnapped] Han Solo in the early part of story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base. George then decided he didn't want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason."

The discussed ending of the film that Kurtz favored presented the rebel forces in tatters, Leia grappling with her new duties as queen and Luke walking off alone "like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns," as Kurtz put it.

Kurtz said that ending would have been a more emotionally nuanced finale to an epic adventure than the forest celebration of the Ewoks that essentially ended the trilogy with a teddy-bear luau.

He was especially disdainful of the Lucas idea of a second Death Star, which he felt would be too derivative of the 1977 film. "So we agreed that I should probably leave."

Kurtz went straight over to "The Dark Crystal," a three-year project with old friend Jim Henson, whom Kurtz had brought in on the creation of Yoda for "Empire."

After that he shifted into a lower gear as far as his career and, relocating to England, turned to British television productions. He's now working on a ramping feature-film project called "Panzer 88" that he says will begin filming as early as this fall and will feature visual effects by Weta, the same New Zealand outfit that populated Middle-earth in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

The producer said that huge films hold little allure for him now and that he is more interested in smaller, more nimble productions that put an emphasis on "human stories." That might speak to his alienation from the Jedi universe, but when he talks about Lucas and their shared history the stories are still tinted by nostalgia, admiration and affection.

On casting the 1977 film: "We had a lot of people, hundreds, that we saw. It was quick and dirty. You talk to each person, jot down a note or two. Are they a score of 'five' or higher? Do they deserve a callback? On those lists were a lot of interesting people -- John Travolta, Sly Stallone -- who were great but just not right. I went to New York to do an interview with Jodi Foster, for instance, but she was just too young for Leia. A lot of it comes down to luck and timing."

On Harrison Ford, who became a Hollywood icon after "Star Wars" but keeps the fervent fandom at arm's length: "He's always been somewhat cynical, since the beginning of his career, about everything. In a way he tried not to take notoriety or the fans too seriously. Movies are movies and real life is his ranch" in Wyoming.

On the moment he knew that "Star Wars" was becoming a pop-culture sensation: "On opening day I was on the East Coast and I did the morning-show circuit -- 'Good Morning America' and 'Today' …in the afternoon I did a radio call-in show in Washington and this guy, this caller, was really enthusiastic and talking about the movie in really deep detail. I said, 'You know a lot abut the film.' He said, 'Yeah, yeah, I've seen it four times already.' And that was opening day. I knew something was happening."

Kurtz isn't sure what to expect in Orlando but he says that "Empire" may be the shining moment of his career, the confluence of commercial and artistic success. His work as a second-unit director and his hands-on efforts with the visual effects make him especially proud.

"I took a master class with Billy Wilder once and he said that in the first act of a story you put your character up in a tree and the second act you set the tree on fire and then in the third you get him down," Kurtz said. " 'Empire' was the tree on fire. The first movie was like a comic book, a fantasy, but 'Empire' felt darker and more compelling. It's the one, for me, where everything went right. And it was my goodbye to a big part of my life."

Feedback / speedermike's feedback
« on: January 12, 2009, 03:15 PM »
In all my time here at Jedi Defender, never before have I dealt with anyone as friendly and prompt as speedermike. 

He's the best there is.  Bar none.

Thanks, Mike.

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