Last time we saw him, you may remember, Darth Vader was tumbling away to a safe star, and the evil Galactic Empire, momentarily stunned by the mysterious Force, was licking its wounds in preparation for... Star Wars II, of course, and the further adventures of Luke Skywalker. Already scouts are scouring the globe for exotic, unworldly-looking locations, from the jungles of central Africa to the arctic wastes of Lapland, and shooting is expected to begin next February. If all goes well, the Star Wars sequel will be out by Christmas of 1979.
Along with Luke, Darth Vader will be back, as menacing as ever, as will Princess Leia, Han Solo, the Wookie Chewbacca and computerdom's cutest robots, Artoo Detoo and Threepio. There will also be several new characters, "of various genres," as Creator George Lucas phrases it, together with "aliens, robots and others, including humans." What about Obi-wan-Kenobi, the role that last week brought Alec Guinness an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor? Lucas is suddenly circumspect. "Obi-wan's aura will be there," he says cautiously, "his essence, if you like."
Whatever it does to the Galactic Empire, the Force has all but taken over little earth, and Lucas has formed something like a galactic empire of his own. Star Wars I seems likely to ring up anywhere between $300 million and $400 million around the world, making it the biggest grosser in film history. An additional $200 million or so will come from toys, records and the myriad of other Star Wars gadgets and gimmicks.
Anticipating his share, an estimated $80 million, Lucas has set up four corporations: Star Wars Corp. will make Star Wars II and the ten, count 'em, ten other planned sequels; Medway Productions will make other kinds of films, including a sequel to Lucas' 1973 hit, American Graffiti. Sprocket Systems Inc. will provide special effects for the Star Wars progeny and any other films that need its services, and Black Falcon Ltd. will market books, records, toys and other spin-offs from Lucas' films.
The whole purpose of his cosmic conglomerate, Lucas says, is to make money so that he and his friends can escape the tyranny of the studios and make good movies—or at least the kind of movies they like. He was traumatized by his experience with American Graffiti, where Universal arbitrarily cut five minutes from his finished version of the film. He vows that it will never happen again. "It wasn't a film by Lucas," he says bitterly. "It was a film made by me with changes by the studio. That isn't fair." One of the first jobs of Medway Productions will be to put American Graffiti back into distribution. It will be shown, with the five minutes restored, this May.
"I'm simply trying to become a free man. I'm trying to set up an alternative film making that allows me more freedom to do what I want, within certain parameters. We're trying to make a company that will respect the personality and individuality of film makers. Part of my good fortune is to be making progress in that direction. I feel it's a destiny of sorts." He is already helping, free of charge, his friend Francis Coppola cut his epic Apocalypse Now and trim it to something like four hours.