tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg August 30, 2016 7:00pm-8:01pm EDT
i have no academy award. i'm too popular for that. charlie: meaning what? george: they don't give awards to popular fellows. charlie: are you proud of the fact you make films that people want to see? george: yes. charlie: popular is ok with you? george: i think it is an important part of society. seeobody sees it i don't why it does anybody any good. charlie: francis is making movies that satisfy one person, him. george: i'm not sure with society at large it is helping much. do. is what i'm going to i'm going to make movies i only want to do. i always wanted to do that. i fell into popular movies by accident. i always disliked theatrical movies.
i didn't want anything to do with them. charlie: but you know how to make them. was embeddedss it in my dna. thing-- that particular -- i'm not sure whether it is a coincidence that some people like steven and i grew up and the same environment. steven spielberg. we liked the movies. a whole generation that came of age in the 1960's that grew up on movies. i didn't really grow up on movies but it was a part of my life. i came up at the beginning of television. the whole idea of visual storytelling was at the right moment. what i wanted to do was simply ,ake films that people liked
and enlightened them, and entertained them is what we in the business for. charlie: the irony is you are considered one of the most innovative filmmakers ever in the history of cinema. george: the innovation part is , -- i hate to say the word artist but -- for thousands of years they were the scientists, engineers, and the artists. in order to calm for certain works, especially -- in order to accomplish certain works you had to figure out how to accomplish it. omo in florence, they could not figure how to put the dome on it. the pantheon and
other big domes. they used to do it in rome. nobody knew how to do it anymore. he had to invent the ratcheting pulley in order to be able to get oxen to pull bricks of the high. charlie: you have been able to create new things because you had to do it on your own. george: i had a story to tell. there was a gap between what is possible and where my vision is. i had to fill that gap. you don't invent technology and then figure out what to do with it. you come up with an artistic problem, and then you have to invent the technology to accomplish it. it is the opposite of what most people think it is. art on all levels is just technology. , people will say monkeys could do paintings. they can't really.
they can do scribblings. they can do what my 2-year-old does. if you want to say, i want to convey and emotion to another human being -- and emotion to another human being, that is something only human beings can do. animals can do it by biting your face off. to do it and a play or a story, or in poetry, or anything in the arts, you have to be a human being. charlie: we talked about artists, filmmaker, innovator, director, storyteller. george: director is just someone who has got a fetish with making the world the way he wants it to be. sort of narcissistic. charlie: that is you? george: all directors. they are vaguely like emperors, which is, i want to build
society to reflect me and what i want. the great thing about it -- you don't have to kill people and spend a lot of money if you want to do that. it is good for society. a director can do it with less money and just say i'm going to create a world where people can fly. does star wars and indiana jones say about the world you want to create? george: star wars and indiana jones, especially star wars, indiana jones was done for fun to entertain people. there were some messages about archaeology and also about what we believe in in terms of mythsm , but star wars was done in the vein that the patron creates the propaganda.
what i wanted to do was go back to some of the older propaganda, which was consistent through all of these societies, mythology, to say what did they all believe? this propaganda was created independently. what are the things they all actually believed? relationships with your father, with society, your history, relationships the gods. butof this stuff is old, they are psychological motives created through stolen -- motifs created through storytelling that explained what they believed in, and who they believed in. i want to find psychological motifs that underline that. they will grow out of a popular is some -- popularism. a boys, have aeople,
relationship with their fathers. that has been going on through history, and trying to explain that, to say we know your darkest secret, and you are part of us, because we all know the same things. we know what you think about your mother, your brother, your father really. those are the things that make is why we this believe this stuff. again, the crudest part of that in terms of the religious, spiritual thing, some people have taken those ideas and then distorted them, and you end up cult,ey called -- in a and they have to keep it closed. it is the same thing. you go through history, and even
though in most cases you have open societies, they really weren't. you were going to get killed if you went outside of the walls. so let's build a wall. they were self of filling, isolated events. george: because you have warned -- charlie: because you have worn all of these hats, technological innovator, what do you want the first line of your obituary to say? george: that i was a great dad. tried. [laughter] charlie: you consider yourself any of those things first? problemtoryteller, solver? george: first is dad. for 15 years, directing, i just ran a company and was an innovator, but not doing what i
like to do, which is make movies. charlie: because you wanted to be a dad. george: i never was -- it was not one of those things where you expect it to happen. once i was a dad it was like able to lightning struck me. i ended up getting divorced around that time. i decided i think i am just going to take care of my daughter. that seems like the right thing to do. after made -- it was return of the jedi. i have made all of these movies, i'm not going to escape star wars. my central concern was my daughter. i just said, i am going to raise my daughter. i adopted another daughter, and another son. 15 years later i said i'm going to go back now and direct movies again. and in the much,
meantime i developed a lot of technology to do things that i could not do when i was doing star wars. in star wars, it is a fantasy the, it pushes the limit, technological limits of the medium. science fiction, fantasy, those things, there are many things that just can't be done. there is an equation ultimately which is how popular is something, how much does it cost, and subtract one for the other and decide if they are going to do it or not. , they did notilms have room for spectacular. they only had room for street movies. which is what i have been doing before that. doing something that was an epic, and historical piece, science fiction, fantasy, any of those things, you just could not
do it because they cost too much money, and technically you could not accomplish it. on aie: the kennedy center reprieve that is a big deal. what does it mean to you? i could be glib. charlie: just be real. i am sitting here with a guy who is the happiest he has probably ever been. married, 2-year-old daughter. sitting in this remarkable place where you live. you have everything. that youis a saying are really one of america's finest artists. what does that mean to you that these people are going to honor you, sitting next to the president at the kennedy center? know, -- il, you will be real.
i am not much into awards. it doesn't mean that much to me. i have gone through this. it is a group of people who say we are going to give you this award. a lot of them, it is just basically you are there to draw eyeballs. charlie: there are awards and then there are awards. i have to believe that this does mean something to you. george: it does mean something. charlie: what is it? george: i don't know. i have the medal of arts, the medal of technology. charlie: just give him another award. he will show up but he doesn't care. george: well, yeah. i know what is about the tv show. it is not about me. charlie: this is not a big tv show. it is shown in the middle of december. it is not the oscars. , where allwashington of washington turns out and it
selects only five people each year, not based on what you have done that year. it is based on what you have achieved. youof a sudden -- putting up in a pantheon of people you admire. you have your friend steven spielberg. george: we give each other awards all the time. francis and i give awards all the time. we are in a group, we do the same thing where we happen to be -- you have to remember, i hate to say this but there are thousands of award shows every year. couple of thee a ones that are meaningful to me like the kennedy center honors. those are the ones that i will participate in. i get a lot of other ones. charlie: is there a competition between you and stephen? george: sure. charlie: what is it? george: who can do the better
work? charlie: how do you compare? george: not in terms of -- it is the oh wow factor. says oh wow, then i won. i enjoy the fact that i can see a movie and he can one up me and do something that i say that is unbelievable. charlie: what he says about you, american graffiti is one of the best films ever made. george: that is easy to say. charlie: because he went -- why? george: because he went wow. it was so different and exuberant. charlie: what else? george: and had a lot of underpinnings of the kinds of things that a filmmaker wants to have in their movie. a lot of observations, and
philosophical musings. it was in the guise of an entertainment film. they knew it immediately. critics have a tendency to be glib. they have to look at a movie a day or two movies a day and rattle off what their feelings are. kind ofa very surface-y point of view. charlie: i'm asking the filmmaker. not critics. is, i know hower to film school. i have a knack for it. i studied it very well. i practice. i know what i am doing. a lot of filmmakers have tried but on the technical telling a story, how you put a story together, how you make it effective emotionally, i know
my films have been big successes except for one. most of them have not been. i know that going in. i know what is going to work and what is not going to work. but i love movies. i know a lot of movies are not popular. you can say that going in. one of the reasons i retired was to make movies that are not popular. in the system we have created for ourselves, it is a big industry. you cannot lose money. -- you aret is you forced to make a particular kind of movie. i used to say this all the time when people -- back when -- republic, the social they would say are you so glad you're in america.
i know a lot of russian though makers and they have more freedom than i have. charlie: what you have to do? george: you have to adhere to a narrow line of commercialism. -- when only a certain i started in the 1970's it was like this. russia was like this but we could do this. i flaunted that system. it is definitely not an american film. i shoved it in sideways. nobody -- they would have never ie ife make that mov they knew what i was doing. charlie: is george lucas george lucas because he owned the right to make star wars. you know go shaded that are out -- you negotiated that coming out of the first film, therefore it made you very independent? you did not have to make movies
because you had independence, and you had built a great business in addition to making films, therefore you could preach to anyone you wanted to because you are not dependent on anybody. george: the issue is ultimately the reality of it. lens -- i am a unique blend of a pragmatic person, and a fantasy daydreaming guy who is not very practical at all. charlie: you combine those two. george: the dna or whatever. whatever created george lucas gave him those skills. george: and they are the opposites. i have always been that way. francis, when we started making , hees francis was very much
was a hollywood director. i was this crazy kid doing art films. i said i'm only going to do art films. this is what i'm going to do. i am excited. my ambition was to be michael moore. charlie: a documentary filmmaker. george: yeah. and cause trouble. 1960's.p in the i may 60's kind of guy. i always have been. my environment that i grew up in. i was perfectly happy to do it. -- i was winning awards.
liked thee of us hollywood environment. we started a company up here. i got to take one of my student films and turn it into a feature. it was a visual storytelling. plot wereters and the not as important as the metaphor in the symbolism. emotional and the connection between the moving image and the audience. i did that, and obviously our company went bankrupt. it destroyed everything. there is always a silver lining. it forced him to pay off the debts which meant he had to do the godfather. he challenged me, stop doing this artsy stuff. make a movie. make a comedy. i dare you to make a comedy.
[laughter] george: i said i can do that. i can do anything. i'm in my 20's. charlie: i'm george lucas. george: i'm 23 years old, i can do anything. that is what you are thinking. you get that beat and out of view. that was successful and it started me on a different train, to do again what i did with star wars. i did not think it was going to be a hit. i did not think american graffiti was going to be a hit. the studio hated the film so much they shelved it and said you can't -- we are not going to release this. maybe we will release it as a movie of the week. i started working on star wars. i was doing it because i needed a job to pay -- to eat.
i wanted to do this experimental in my mind idea about mythology. and take films that i loved when serials,ng, republic and transform the movie. i wanted to make into a popular genre. out of that came indiana jones and star wars. wanted -- i thought that was my last movie. then i was going to do what i wanted to do. at least at the end i want to have done an old-fashioned movie. on sound stages with makeup people. and sets. make one of those movies before i am kicked out. know, the fluke of
american graffiti becoming a hit -- i got a hit. i will make this movie which won't be a hit. star wars. itn you describe star wars is a space opera. we have large dogs flying spaceships. people said oh dear. this guy is off. charlie: in his own world. weree: most of my friends of the art world -- i threw that away after american graffiti. nobody expected me to do a comedy based on ta checks -- thx. charlie: i will show francis i can do a comedy. george: i will show those guys. when i started star wars they said why are you making a children's film? i said because i think i can
have an influence, i can influence kids, adolescents trying to make their way into the bigger world, and that is what mythology was. this is what we believe in. these are our rules. is is what we are as a society. the last time we were doing that was westerns. this was the 1970's. -- westerns pedaled out piddled out in the 1950's. and it would be fun. i like spaceships. i like fun and all of this stuff. i will do it. but i figured that would be the last. i will have done my thing. then i got in trouble because the script got too long. then i had three scripts instead of one script.
i got hooked into this tar baby and i could not get out. it was a while before i realized no matter what happened i am not going to get out. i'm always going to be george "star wars" lucas. charlie: whenever you decide there are no more movies to be made by george lucas and you look back at a body of work, are you going to say star wars was my crowning achievement? cinematically? cinematically probably yes. charlie: in what way is it not your crowning achievement? george: i don't know. it is hard. i have a low opinion of my movies. , i have always said these did not turn out the way i had hoped they would. i can see the flaws and all of this stuff. american graffiti is the most fun movie i made in terms of what i created.
the most fun movie to work on was indiana jones. i did not have to direct it. i had the best director in the world. it turned out better. everything went right which happens very rarely in real life. it just gets better and better and you just can't believe how wonderful it turns out. the other ones you suffer through, and you think they are terrible and then people say they are great. all of the i can see scotch tape and the rubber bands holding it together. this is true of star wars number four, because it barely got made. i was so disappointed by what my vision was and what it turned out to be. i complained about it a lot right after the movie and interviews. me say it was 35% of what i wanted.
my vision was beyond what was possible. i did the best i could. after people say this is the best movie of all time. ok maybe it is pretty good and we will live with that. and then, part of it was to continue the story. just to finish the story. after that i worked on the technology and said, now i can tell the back story. the back story seems to have gotten lost. when it was one movie it was easier to see the back story of darth vader. charlie: did you intend to create three movies when you started? and then you decided only to take one part of that story? george: i took the first act. in the first act didn't really work. i said ok. what i'm going to have to do is take the ending of the third film and put on the first film. you have a bunch of stuff
sitting on your desk. stick take that and that in here. i wasn't worried about the seat will's. -- the sequels. because i want this one to succeed and work. when i moved on to the other is nowsaid, ben kenobi dead. i killed him. how my going to fix that? what am i going to do about blowing up the death star? and the storyugh, stretched itself and moved around. it is a creative process where you are doing things, and maneuver through your imagination. part of it was simply when i got down to some of the other movies, i was able to create an environment and world that wasn't possible when i started the first one. to me, a lot of the things that technical, in the
end getting yoda to do a sword fight, which i had always wanted to do, but couldn't because he was a muppet. charlie: you said flash gordon was the inspiration and the bible. george: it wasn't the bible by a long shot. it was -- i knew i wanted to make a movie based on those cereals. -- serials. i did try to get the rights to flash gordon but couldn't. if i had it would have set me off on a funny thing. i realized after, i don't want flash gordon. i don't want -- i want a space opera that is like flash gordon. if i were making that movie i would take flash gordon out, and all of that stuff. i don't want to do that stuff. what i wanted to do was more on the lines of star wars and less on the lines of flash gordon.
there is a similarity, but there is a difference in perspective. that set me in the right direction of having to think up something completely new but inspired by, by westerns. just like whether you are a writer, no matter what you are, a painter, a politician, in theory you have steeped yourself in the genre you are working through. you know all of the various kinds of things, and you can pull the best parts of what you learned in theory. exceptworks everywhere the seams of politics. they don't listen to history. charlie: where did the idea of force come from? george: the whole thing and star ideas,s to take again
psychological ideas from social issues, political issues, spiritual issues and condense an easy to tell story of those stories. the force came from distilling all of the religious believes, spiritual beliefs, go around the world all through time, finding the similarities, and then creating an easy to deal with metaphor for what religion as. -- is. in the beginning when you have people worshiping rocks, they called it life force . they called it the force. that is what it was. where did the name come from?
what the more primitive religions believe d in. all of the other religions have the same thing. whether you believe in god, don't believe in god, believe in religion or don't, you either don't believe there is nothing out there, i believe something is out there, i have no idea or would dare to guess, but religions are based on it. eric human, psychological needs that have been put together mostly to create society. charlie: you believe something is out there. george: yeah. charlie: here is what is interesting about star wars. this was a personal film. george: all of my films are
personal. i thought them up. i did them. you could say star wars is a kids movie. the idea of making it for kids, that it was a kiddie movie, that was important to me. i like star wars. i did it not because i thought it was going to make any money, because in the end we finished it, we showed it to the board of directors of fox, and they hated it. i had an ally at the head of the studio and he fought for me. nobody thought it was going to be a hit. especially me. charlie: a personal film becomes a blockbuster. george: a second time. american graffiti was a personal film. charlie: and a cultural mainstay. steven said it is the moment the industry changed. star wars is the moment when the industry changed. george: well.
is something new, people have a tendency to over do it. they abuse it. there were two things that got abused with star wars and still are abused. one star wars came out, everybody said it is a silly movie, it is just a bunch of and stuff. it is not real. -- it isere is stuff not just a space battle. there is more to it than that. it is much more complicated. no one would listen. we like the spaceships. spaceships, that part of the science fantasy were terribly abuse. everyone made spaceship movies and they were horrible, and they lost tons of money. there's more to it than that.
you can't just do spaceships. theother part, it was technology. we will just take this new technology, it is great. especially when it came down later to digital technology where you can really do anything. , whichjust abused it they did with color and sound. whenever there is a new tool people go crazy and forget there is a story. you are telling a story using tools you are not -- tools. the other thing that got abused naturally in a capitalist said we can studios make a lot of money. this is a license to kill. and they did it. you could do that is not take chances. only do something that is
proven. star wars came from nowhere. american graffiti came from nowhere. there was nothing like it. now, if you do anything that is ,ot a sequel or not a tv series or does it look like one they will not do it. charlie: that is the downside of star wars. george: that is the downside of star wars. it shows and a norma's lack of imagination -- enormous lack of imagination on the part of the industry. beings are not known for -- they are known for being risk averse. movies are not risk-averse. every movie is a risk. isis like the movie business exactly like professional gambling. except you hire the gambler.
.ome crazy kid with long hair i don't get this guy at all. you give him $100 million and say go to the tables, and come back with $500 million. that is a risk. the studio is not going to think about it that way. maybe if we told him he could not that on red, because we did market research and read -- red, they try to minimize their risk. to do things that have never been done before, never been tested, you have no idea if they are going to work or not, that is the antithesis of what a modern corporation is. they want to test things. charlie: hollywood is not like an american corporation because it will throw money away behind somebody and have her go and
figure out. george: they don't know how to do that. they are corporate types. they think they know how to do it. then they start making decisions and ensure that it is not going to work. charlie: but you are george lucas, head of your time. head of your time with star wars. have you been ahead of your time since then? george: i have not directed a movie since then. of ahead of my time with red tails. an all-black film. i paid for it myself. they would not distribute it. they would not make it. charlie: because of racism? george: they said the market nobody will got wil to that movie. charlie: market research may have said nobody will go to star
wars. george: there is a certain -- over time a lot of these issues that were just becoming dimly aware of have become institutionalized. now they know that movie will do well in france, this movie will do well in denmark. they have their markets. they do their little analysis and say we will we will not make the movie. it has nothing to do with what i do witches make a movie. spite ofney in myself. i didn't care if it was a hit or not ahead. i wanted to make this movie as a movie. they can't do it. it is not in the constitution to do that. i have a duty to come up with a thing -- stockholders. that is what i will never go public. i'm not going to be beholden to anybody. one of thee company,
reasons i sold it, i was starting to make movies that were more personal and more obviously losing money. i can't do this much more because the company will be dragged down. i had 2000 employees. the best way to handle this is to sell it and take the money, put it in a bank account. i call it my yacht. i'm not going to buy a yacht but i take the money i would use to buy a yacht and i will use that to make movies that i know are experimental, but i have no way of knowing if they will work or not, but i want to see if they will work. i don't have to show them to an audience. charlie: when are we going to see that movie? george: you are not. you might. , you know they don't make money. you can't get
anybody to distribute it. you can't get anybody to put advertising money behind it. why go through that? it gets bad reviews. crazy people yelling and screaming? why not just make the movie for yourself. charlie: that is where you are today. george: i'm doing what i wanted, but i'm one to learn things. the things i learned, i will pass on to other friends of mine and directors, and say i didn't know you could do that. peersearn from what are doing. you see how they manipulate film. doing things that have never been done before. that is what i want to do. in the movie business you cannot take a risk, you cannot do something that doesn't work. you don't get a second chance.
i have taken second chances, to polish them. there is no experimenting. day on the is every set, what you are doing has to be right. if it is not right, the film will fail. if the film fails the people lose their money, and you have to get another job. charlie: are you telling me what you believe today, and your life's experience you know how to make a popular movie but that is not what you want to do in this stage in your life? george: yeah. why would i? charlie: you don't need the money. george: i don't need the money. my interests have shifted to more mature things. i did the kid thing. to me it is six films. charlie: why do you say the kids
thing? george: it is a kid's film. but the kinds of movies i'm going to make now are more demanding of an audience. most of the audience will have anything to do with it. but i do. movies for me that i wanted to see but i knew what they were. i said ok. this is this movie. , this is this movie. producing films were i was able to get people to put their money , i wouldn't take it from real people, corporations. it is a robin hood thing. charlie: let me just talk about the upcoming star wars.
how do you feel about it? i made thel, decision to sell the company. i made that decision because i look to the future, i thought that i was going to have a baby, i was married, i wanted to build a museum, i wanted to make experimental films. inoticed the last few movies made were costing the company a lot of money. i didn't think that was fair to the people that worked there. i made a decision to move ahead on the next star wars series. charlie: you were starting to make the next star wars. u.s. director am a filmmaker -- you as director, filmmaker. stepping awayalso
a little bit and turning things over to kathy kennedy. said ifpened was disney you want to sell your company -- we were talking about retirement -- we are very interested. that started the ball rolling. from -- i have the story treatments -- we were working on scripts. so, i sold it. i knew when i sold i said i have movies where i and after a couple of weeks i knew i could not do that. i had to stand over the shoulder
of the director, whisper in his ear constantly, and be there to help guide it. it was harder than if i director did -- directed it myself. charlie: jj abrams. george: jj abrams. he is a top director. who was nervous. one of the issues was the first three movies had all kinds of issues. they looked at the stories and said we want to make something for the fans. i said all i want to do is tell a story of what happened, all about generations and the issues of fathers and sons. it is a family soap opera ultimately. we collect space opera. it is a soap opera.
problems.about family it is not about spaceships. they decided they didn't want to use those stories. they would do their own thing. i decided, fine, but i'm not going to try -- they were keen to have me involved anyway. if i get in there i'm just going to cause trouble. i do have the control to do that anymore. i said ok. i will go my way and let them go their way. it goes down to a simple rule of life. ,hen you break up with somebody the first rule is no phone calls. the second rule, you don't drive by their house to see what they are doing. you don't show up at their coffee shop. you just say no, gone, history, i'm moving folk.
charlie: do you have in you -- personalat is films are what you want to do. no more star wars kind of adventure for george. that's over. george: yeah. these are little movies that are experimental. they are not using the same structure. i'm going back to where american graffiti was. i completely changed the way you tell a story using cinema. i have produced a few films that were like this. they weren't like what i would do but they were using the visual style rather than the book. charlie: what's exciting is that all of the stuff within you that starall of this, thx, wars, indiana jones, it is all within you. it is who you are. you can apply that in any way.
that is what you brought. it is your ideas and your insight what you brought to film. george: and at the same time i have been fascinated with the medium, i have been fascinated with the true nature of the medium, it has been used more as a recording medium than an art form unto itself. beginning, like in russia, this was a whole movement of how you tell a visual story without dialogue, all of the things you use to tell a story, and you just use the film itself? it hasn't come much further in 100 years. i'm going to try to take it somewhere more emotionally powerful than most of the stuff we have done up until this