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star struck

Final conflict
George Lucas brings the curtain down on his Star Wars saga
By Chris Betros

Hayden Christensen, left, Ian McDiarmid and George Lucas
Chris Betros

If you do a search for “Star Wars” on Yahoo, you’ll get about 58.5 million results. Given all the websites and chat rooms populated by “experts” on the 28-year-old space stories, it’s refreshing to hear for a change from the man responsible for it all—George Lucas, who made a quick visit to Japan this month with Canadian actor Hayden Christensen, 24, and Scottish actor Ian McDiarmid, 61, to promote Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

Unless you’ve been living in a galaxy far, far away, you’ll know the story of Sith—how a young Jedi knight named Anakin Skywalker (Christensen) is seduced to the dark side of the force by Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (McDiarmid) and enters the pantheon of pop culture as Darth Vader. Reflecting on the enduring appeal of the six Star Wars films, Lucas, 61, said, “Star Wars is based on mythological motifs from different countries. Some of them are stories that are 1,000 or 2,000 years old. Their emotional elements are very strong and still work today in a storytelling medium.”

Christensen, who wasn’t even born when the first Star Wars was made, said he felt overpowered when his character finally becomes Darth Vader. “Getting into the costume, the helmet, the whole deal—it was the way everyone on the set looked at you, taking in Darth Vader for the first time.” Now that it’s all over (although filming finished nearly two years ago), he admitted to a bit of a letdown. “It’s been a large part of my life for the past five years. It’s come to a close and that’s a hard concept to get my mind around. It’s very bittersweet.”

McDiarmid, who revels in the role of the villainous Palpatine, said he is enjoying his newfound exposure. “In the early films, I was behind a mask. I never thought I would revisit the part. In Episodes I and II, I was manipulative and hypocritical, just like a typical politician. In Sith, it was a great pleasure to be so evil at last.”

For Lucas, Sith marks the end of a long journey. “It’s taken 10 years to finally see it all put together. These are very difficult movies to make because as you go along, you are imagining how it will look and making decisions based on that,” he said. It was just as difficult for the actors, said Christensen. “We had to wait two years until the editing and special effects were put in to see how it turned out.”

Lucas’ next challenge, besides producing the fourth Indiana Jones movie, is to convince the legions of Stars Wars fans that there will be no more films in the series. “There really is no more story,” he said. “We’ve gone from Anakin as a little boy through to him going over to the dark side to his ultimately tragic death. I am working on an animated TV series called The Clone Wars, which should be out in a year or so. Later, I might do a live action TV series based on minor characters of the Star Wars world.” But Lucas knows his Star Wars characters will always be with him. “I love them all. I can always pull out a DVD and watch them,” he said. “But if I had to name a favorite, I’d say Yoda, then Anakin, the Emperor, and, of course, Jar Jar Binks.”

 

Q&A

Stephanie Black
Bringing an anti-globalization cause to FILM

Documentary films have reached the mainstream in recent years, but Stephanie Black was winning awards 15 years ago for her first film, H-2 Worker. Her second, Life and Debt, shows at Uplink Factory in Shibuya next weekend

Tell us about Life and Debt.
I was living in Jamaica and became aware of how the policies of organizations like the International Monetary Fund were crippling the economy and making people poorer.

Why were you living in Jamaica?
For H-2 Worker I visited camps in Florida where Caribbean workers were brought in temporarily to harvest sugar cane. There was an amazing Jamaican culture inside—the people, music and food. I visited Jamaica and fell in love with the country. I feel like my soul is rising when I’m there.

What other projects are you working on?
I produce segments for Sesame Street and Nickelodeon and I make music videos. This year I filmed a reality TV show about Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston, and a documentary in Ethiopia about celebrations to mark Bob Marley’s 60th birthday.

Did anyone at the IMF see the film?
I know they did, because I received a very noisy telephone call.

Why have documentaries become more popular recently?
The news media doesn’t look in depth at anything any more. And it tries so hard to be “objective” it never presents any perspective. I think people are craving information and perspective.

What documentaries have you liked?
Control Room, about the goings on at Al Jazeera.

You finished Life and Debt in 2001, but you’re still touring?
People are still interested because they want to know why people are opposed to globalization. The news media never cover that bit.

So what’s the solution?
Raise awareness and transparency. Buy locally from small-scale producers.

What are your impressions of Japan?
Through reggae culture there’s obviously already a strong link with Jamaica. In general, it seems like a very gentle, calm place with lovely people. It looks like a lot of fun.

Uplink Factory. July 23, 2:15pm. July 24, 4:15pm. ¥1,500. 37-18 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-6825-5502. www.uplink.co.jp AV



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