The Empire Strikes Back!

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What he can do is persist and prevail over most obstacles. When he thinks he is right, he is as stubborn as Chewbacca. When Luke doubts that he can raise his spaceship from the swamp, Yoda stamps his foot. "So sure are you?" he demands. "Tried have you? Always with you it can't be done. Hear you nothing that I say? Try not. Do! Do! Or do not. There is no try." Remembering Lucas' childhood, his father, George Lucas Sr., recalls a blank stare when he tried to persuade his son to do something he did not want to do. "Frankly, we just didn't understand George," the elder Lucas confesses. "I'd try to get a point across and he'd just sit there and look at me. I'd just run out of breath. He wouldn't pay any attention."

His father owned a stationery and office-supply store in Modesto, Calif., and George would annoy him by spending most of his time poring over all the comic books on the racks. Let that be a lesson to all those who deride this great American art form: it was the comic books, together with the television serials, that ignited young Lucas' imagination. Says he: "When I was in film school I went back and saw how awful some of those serials were. I began to analyze what in them could have excited me so much as a child, and I realized that they were a form of fantasy much more akin to mythology and fairy tales than anything else. I started getting involved with such stories and wondered what their purpose was in society. I came to the conclusion that the last real fairy tale we had had was the western."

While he was writing the script for Star Wars, he read books on mythology, fantasy and anthropology. "I wanted Star Wars to have an epic quality," he says, 'so I went back to the epics. Whether they are subconscious or unconscious, whatever needs they meet, they are stories that have pleased or provided comfort to people for thousands of years. The basic fears and mysteries go all the way back to the cave men. What is the mystery of life? What is this world we are trapped in? All you have to do is see the possibilities and you can reiterate them."

Both of his space sagas have mythological themes, but, so adroit is Lucas' art, both of them can be enjoyed simply as rousing adventure stories, which they are. "I'm not out to be thought of as an artist," Lucas declares. "It's a big world and everybody doesn't have to be significant. The Empire is as complicated as any movie, and it's saying a lot of things. But I don't like to come out with a big sign and say, 'This is significant.' " He adds: "I'm not stopping to explain anything—ever."

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