A Google search of the phrase "Open Letter to George Lucas" yields 1,120 results. By this measure, Lucas is the recipient of more unsolicited advice than either Britney Spears (652) or Lindsay Lohan (738), two celebrities whose rehab stints and panty-less public appearances suggest they're in more dire need of guidance than a 64-year-old billionaire might be.
But as the originator of two beloved film franchises, Lucas is the object of diatribes by writers who refer to themselves, with remarkable self-awareness, as "crazed fan" or "fanboy tool." With two more entries from the Lucas canon out this summer, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and an animated movie and series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, due in August, Lucas' open letter mailbag should be overflowing by Labor Day.
As with a Spenserian sonnet, there's a uniformity to the open letters to Lucas. First, there's the issue of whether to address the director as "Mr. Lucas" or "George." Writers who choose informality seem more likely to harbor the delusion that Lucas will actually read their letters. Then the writer must begin by describing the first time he saw Star Wars ("I was the first kid on my block to see it," "I saw it in utero," etc.). Often the writer's origin story segues into a tragedy of childhood abuse, in which his mint collection of figurines and plastic light sabers is wantonly disposed of by a female relative unaware of its estimated $3.5 million net worth.
Some of the letters are thoughtful analyses of political subtext, like the one by a Polish fan who saw the Death Star as a metaphor for the Soviet Union. Others contain casting advice, such as the suggestion that Kirsten Dunst replace both child actor Jake Lloyd, as young Anakin Skywalker, and Natalie Portman, as Padme Amidala, in the prequel films. "I know this is possible," says a writer named Duke, "since Jean-Claude Van Damme has done it. lf Van Damme can do it, Mr. Lucas, then Kirsten can, and much, much better."
Other letters range from gripes about Jar Jar Binks to complaints about commercialization. A pediatrician recently wrote an open letter on Salon.com taking issue with Lucas's newest fast food tie-ins, an Indy Whopper and a Snickers Adventure bar with coconut and chai. "Wouldn't Indy, now a senior citizen, have more than just a little bump in his cholesterol if he had scarfed down his namesake burger?" the doctor asks. "How could he be fit enough to chase down ancient relics while dodging boulders and outwitting Nazis?"
For all the helpful advice, however, none of these letter writers ask one key question: George, isn't it time to move on? Don't you have anything else left to do in your career besides recycling your old movie franchises? Which is where I come in. Herewith, my own open letter to George Lucas No. 1,121:
The first Star Wars movie I saw was The Empire Strikes Back, and it rocked my kindergarten brain. At one point I had a modest collection of figurines, which mysteriously disappeared in the Trail of Tears Winters Sibling Room Swap of '83.
Now that we've established my bona fides, let's get to you, George. For the third act of your career, you're gonna need some Jedi managerial advice. You came up with Star Wars and Indiana Jones in the '70s. You invented all kinds of super-cool technology that revolutionized moviemaking. And now it's time to use the force of your experience and nearly $4 billion net worth to leave Obi-Wan and Dr. Jones behind and tell a story you thought of after the Carter Administration. I know you can do it.
I've got an easy five-step plan:
1) Take a page from Hitchcock and hit the tube: I'm thinking a half-hour weekly sci-fi and adventure anthology series called "George Lucas Presents." Let the snobs think you're making pulp TV. Just like Rod Serling did on The Twilight Zone, you'll get away with all kinds of subversion.
2) Make a documentary: It works for Marty Scorsese. Maybe your subject is fast cars, your first passion. Whatever you choose, a doc will get you back in the director's chair without having to obsess about annoying minutiae like a script or cast.
3) Colonize the Web: With his three-minute web debut, The Landlord, Will Ferrell made the Internet safe for A-list comics. You could do the same for top-tier directors, by curating a Web site full of shorts from your classy friends. Think of it as the 21st century version of how you started, playing your student films on a bed sheet strung up in somebody's backyard.
4) Leave California: When Woody Allen ditched New York for the Old World, he made one of his best films in years, Match Point, in London. Your home turf of Northern California has inspired everything from American Graffiti to Tatooine, but maybe it's time to find a new region for stimulation. Perhaps Hawaii, where you and Steven Spielberg first shook on making Indiana Jones together.
5) Fail: Audiences ignored and critics shrugged at Youth Without Youth, the experimental movie your buddy Francis Coppola made last year. So what? Youth got Francis out of a 10-year dry spell and excited about making movies again. Now he's at work on another. Make your own weird little film with no expectations. When it hits theaters, take a vacation, ignore the weekend grosses and start brainstorming your next movie.
By the way, George, should you need a consultant or life coach, I can make myself available on short notice. Have fun storming the summer box office!