December 21, 2015

MARCIA LUCAS: The ‘secret weapon’ behind the original Star Wars:

Today, she has largely been erased from the history books.

Marcia, who won the 1977 Academy Award for Film Editing along with Richard Chew and Paul Hirsch for her work on Star Wars, was instrumental in shaping the film’s iconic moments that would propel it to the status of cultural phenomenon.

In his 2008 book,The Secret History of Star Wars, journalist Michael Kaminski dedicates an entire chapter to Marcia Lucas, nee Griffin, who was once described by biographer Dale Pollock as the director’s “secret weapon”.

Note this example of how she added a fair amount of humanity to the ending of a well-known film that her husband produced:

“[Marcia] was instrumental in changing the ending of Raiders, in which Indiana delivers the ark to Washington. Marion is nowhere to be seen, presumably stranded on an island with a submarine and a lot of melted Nazis. Marcia watched the rough cut in silence and then levelled the boom. She said there was no emotional resolution to the ending, because the girl disappears. ‘Everyone was feeling really good until she said that,’ Dunham recalls. ‘It was one of those, “Oh no we lost sight of that.” ‘ Spielberg reshot the scene in downtown San Francisco, having Marion wait for Indiana on the steps on the government building. Marcia, once again, had come to the rescue.”

Plus this:

The Death Star trench run was originally scripted entirely different, with Luke having two runs at the exhaust port; Marcia had re-ordered the shots almost from the ground up, trying to build tension lacking in the original scripted sequence, which was why this one was the most complicated (Deleted Magic has a faithful reproduction of the original assembly, which is surprisingly unsatisfying). She warned George, “If the audience doesn’t cheer when Han Solo comes in at the last second in the Millennium Falcon to help Luke when he’s being chased by Darth Vader, the picture doesn’t work.”

I forget where I read this, or if this is my own assumption, but it’s pretty obvious that one aspect of Death Star trench scene was added in the editing room — that the Death Star is on its way towards Yavin to destroy it. None of the characters reference that onscreen. Nobody says “We only have X hours to blow this thing up, or our base is next.” They simply hop in the X and Y-wings and head towards the trench. All of the comments that the Death Star is approaching are offscreen radio voice-over announcements. The shots of Peter Cushing saying “You may fire when ready” and his henchmen activating the television switcher of doom are reuses of shots and dialogue from when the Death Star nuked Alderaan earlier in the movie. Obviously, this element was an 11th hour editing room addition to ratchet up the tension of the last act.

Marcia Lucas was herself edited out of the official Lucasfilm narrative after she divorced its namesake founder in 1983. If only Lucas had people like her on the prequels instead of sycophants who worshipped him as a God (ironically, much like Col. Kurtz’s followers in his mentor’s film, Apocalypse Now), those films might have been watchable.

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