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Star Wars Producer Gary Kurtz Shares Secrets in New Interview


This weekend, Mashable posted a new interview with Gary Kurtz, producer of 1977’s A New Hope and 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. In a discussion with Chris Taylor, Kurtz shared some inside information on the making of the first two Star Wars films, some of which contradicts what other sources have reported for many years.

Now 74 years old and presently residing in the U.K., Gary Kurtz helped clear some things up surrounding the initial production of Star Wars while speaking with Chris Taylor.

In the Mashable interview with Taylor, Kurtz spoke about convincing 20th Century Fox Studios that Star Wars would turn a profit:

"“2001: A Space Odyssey was released in 1968, and it took seven years to make its money back. So we didn’t want to use it as a role model for Star Wars, because it was much too esoteric and serious a film. We were not looking to make a film like 2001 in any way — except for the fact that the hardcore science fiction fans that did go to see 2001 would probably go see Star Wars.So, we presented it on the basis that if only the hardcore science fiction audience went to see this film, it would still make enough money to make its budget back, and then maybe a small profit. So it didn’t have to have any other audience, and the risk would be low enough that it should be worthwhile.”"

On the much debated subject of whether or not the first Star Wars film was intended to be titled Episode IV, Kurtz shared his thoughts:

"“We were toying with the idea of calling it Episode III, IV, or V — something in the middle. Fox hated that idea. They said it’ll really confuse the audience — and actually they were right. If you go to see a film, and it’s been touted as this new science fiction film, and it says Episode III up there, you’d say, “What the hell?”We were a bit clouded by the fact that we wanted it to be as much like Flash Gordon as possible. Because if you went to Saturday morning pictures and came in and saw episode eight of Flash Gordon, you’d have the scroll at the beginning, the rollup, which we imitated. So we thought that would be really clever. But it was stupid at the time, because it’d be impossible to explain to anybody what it meant.”"

While George Lucas has maintained for years that the original draft of the Star Wars screenplay included enough story for three films, Kurtz digressed:

"“That’s not true. There were a lot of little bits and pieces that were reasonably good ideas and that ended up being in the final draft. But once the final draft was actually locked and the Huycks did their polish on it, there wasn’t enough material to do other movies.There were some odd ideas that got thrown out, like the Wookiee planet; that was a cost factor. There were some other ideas that might have been included if there was more budget. Some of those ended up in later films. But [George’s story on how it is written] is perpetuated by the fact that he and I did interviews at the time of the opening of Star Wars, saying we took a section out of the middle because there was too much material and we want to do more films.After the film opened, Fox said, “Can you do another one?” And we said it’s possible, but for cost purposes it would be better if we committed to two more because we can amortize the cost of sets and everything that way. So that’s really what happened. But the story material was not fully formed.”"

While legend tells us that Star Wars was an overwhelming hit during its original test screenings, Kurtz tells a different story:

"“The audience was generally favorably inclined to the picture. It wasn’t a revolutionary response. It was polite, and positive and most of the [audience survey] cards were quite positive. But I have one still, framed, where this guy — I think he’s 22 years old — he said “This is the worst film I’ve ever seen since Godzilla versus the Smog Monster.”"

To read more about Gary Kurtz and his work on Star Wars, read the full interview with Chris Taylor at Mashable.

To listen to the interview and hear some further discussion with Taylor, tune into Episode LXXXIII of the Full of Sith podcast.

If you’re left wondering if Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster is really that great of a movie, check out an awesome video review of the flick by Cinemassacre‘s James Rolfe in the video below:

WARNING: This video contains some language that may not be suitable for younglings!