George Lucas on 'Star Wars' critics, diversity, and sneaking into Cannes

Andrew Marszal - Agence France-Presse
George Lucas on 'Star Wars' critics, diversity, and sneaking into Cannes
Filmmaker George Lucas
Star Wars via Twitter

CANNES, France — George Lucas told Cannes how he had to sneak into his own first premiere at the French film festival and explained why "Star Wars" movies have always been for kids.

The 80-year-old legendary filmmaker also responded to criticism of a lack of diversity in his movies, and reflected on making cult classics in the 1970s.


Lucas is in town to receive an honorary Palme d'Or, a version of the festival's top prize.

Despite grossing billions at the box office, the US director has never won a competitive Oscar in his home country.

"It's always great to be recognised," he said. "Obviously we have a lot of fans and all that kind of stuff. But in terms of awards, I don't make the kind of movies that win awards!"

Cannes debut

Lucas first came to Cannes in 1971 for his avant-garde sci-fi movie "THX 1138."

It was a box office flop, and studio Warner Bros refused to pay for him to travel to France when it was selected for the festival.

Lucas paid his own way, and arrived to find it "raining like crazy."

"We got to see the movie. We snuck in. We didn't have tickets. We didn't have anything. We just went in," he said.

Related: George Lucas receiving Honorary Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival

Asked years later by journalists why he hadn't shown up at a press conference for the movie, he replied: "I didn't know there was one."

'Star Wars'

"THX 1138" became "a cult classic, because people would drop acid and watch it", recalled Lucas.

His next film, "American Graffiti," was also initially hated by its studio. But it went on to gross over a hundred million dollars.

Lucas recalled how he was then approached by a Fox executive, offering to make "anything you want... you got any other movies?"

"I said: 'Well, I've got this sort of science-fiction fantasy, crazy 1930s movie... dogs driving spaceships and stuff.'"

Amazingly, they agreed. The rest is history.

John Williams

Duh-duh-duh-duh... the "Star Wars" phenomeon arguably would not exist without its epic score by composer John Williams.

It nearly didn't happen, but for the intervention of "Steve" — that is, Steven Spielberg.

Spielberg recommended that Lucas consider Williams, who at the time was known in the industry as more of "a jazz guy."

Related: Cannes Film Festival 2024: List of films competing

Thankfully, Spielberg convinced Lucas that Williams could provide the classical treatment he wanted.

"When I heard it with the full orchestra, I went: 'Oh my God,'" recalled Lucas. "Sound is half the movie... it's the secret sauce."

Prequel hate

Lucas returned to "Star Wars" in 1999 with "Episode I - The Phantom Menace."

"The critics and fans who had been 10 years old when they saw the first one... hated it," admitted Lucas.

The director compared the hatred levelled at its goofy alien sidekick Jar Jar Binks with adults' intial dislike of the droid C3PO, and cuddly Ewoks, from the original trilogy.

"'Star Wars' is for kids who are 12 years old," said Lucas. "It's a kid's movie. It's always been a kid's movie."

Diversity criticism

Lucas also batted off criticism of "Star Wars" for being too white and too male.

"Most of the people are aliens," he said. "Even if they're big and furry, or whether they are green... the idea is all people are equal."

As for suggestions that the films lack women, Lucas asked: "Who do you think the heroes are of those films?"

"What do you think Princess Leia was? She is the head of the rebellion."

RELATED: Coppola's 'Megalopolis' among entries for Cannes Film Festival

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