In the EMPIRE OF DREAMS documentary on the Original Trilogy DVD set, Mark Hamill comments on how studio heads used to send Lucas memos during the filming of ANH in 1976. One studio executive urgently suggested that the “wookiee should wear pants.” It’s offered as an example of unwelcome creative interference.
Throughout Lucas’ career he has been fighting interference. He lost creative control of AMERICAN GRAFFITI and vowed never to lose it again. On THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, he came very close to losing financial control of the production and had to make concessions in order keep the production afloat. He has often gambled BIG in order to retain the ability to make the decisions HE thinks are best.
For filmmakers, creative control is everything.
And when he was fighting meddling studio flacks or bankers or critics, fans LOVED him for it. But that has all changed.
The fans, specifically fanboys, are now the ones issuing demands, writing petitions, and angrily insisting that Lucas has screwed up their saga. Some fans mistakenly believe that the amount of time and money they’ve invested in Star Wars — or simply the fact that it was a big part of their childhoods — somehow entitles them to have a say in creative decisions. They have deluded themselves into a sense of COLLECTIVE OWNERSHIP. The angry fanboys over at OriginalTrilogy.com are a perfect example. Not only were they furious that Lucas released only the SE versions of the OT on DVD in 2004, but they started a petition and encouraged their readers to contact media outlets to make them aware of this travesty. Not surprisingly, media commentators — who love it when they don’t have to do their own research — took the fanboys’ whining as representative of Star Wars fans in general. They happily passed along the information in their publications. The angry fanboys were now talking for all fans.
The motto on their site’s masthead once read: “Take back the Trilogy!”
Take it back?! Take it back from who? How can you “take back” something that never belonged to you in the first place?
In 2006, Lucasfilm announced they were going to release DVD versions of the OT on DVD, caving to the angry fanboys’ demands. The fanboy who runs the OriginalTrilogy.com posted an open letter thanking George Lucas for “hearing us, the biggest Star Wars fans in the world, and giving us what we’ve been hoping for.” He then followed up by thanking those who signed his petition. Then, the letter ends with this very telling final shot.
That was what the battle was really about. Winning.
The petition certainly included people who simply wanted to add their voice to those saying they wanted copies of the O-OT (Original, Original Trilogy), but for some this was about who gets to decide what IS or IS NOT Star Wars: the fans or George Lucas. If that sounds farfetched, consider this. Some of the fans who frequented OriginalTrilogy.com and supported their goals went on to make the “documentary” (I use that word in quotes, because it’s actually just a hit piece) THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS. On the movie’s official website, the creators pose the question: “who truly owns that galaxy far, far away—the man who created it, or the fans who worship it?”
Collective ownership is not my speculation. This is what these fanboys are saying: “We” own it. Not George Lucas.
These fans, who mistakenly think they speak for ALL Star Wars fans, indeed all “people,” believe they are now the ones George Lucas must listen to. They are the “biggest Star Wars fans in the world” and their worship has earned them ownership. If they don’t like Greedo shooting first, Lucas must change it. If they don’t like the SEs, Lucas must offer fans the right to ignore them and offer the O-OT instead.
And if the fanboys want the wookiee to wear pants, apparently Lucas should do that too.
Now Lucas has announced that the Complete Saga Blu-Ray set will not feature the restored O-OT. And once again the fanboys are making demands. And once again they can’t understand why Lucas isn’t listening to them.
I’m sure that studio executive in 1977 who was convinced the wookiee needed pants thought the same thing.