Sep 27, 2015

When is a Jedi not a Jedi? When the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs says so.

Luke at Jabba's Palace concept art

When is a Jedi not a Jedi? When the NZ Department of Internal Affairs says so.

The Department of Internal Affairs has rejected a request by the Jedi Society Incorporated to be recognised as a legitimate charitable endeavour, with all the tax-free benefits that entails.

The Jedi Society was formed partly due as a response to the New Zealand official Census not recognised as an official religion of forms that are required to be filled out in NZ when the Census occurs every four years. This was despite the Church of Scientology managing to get on the list, that being a religion apparently founded on science fiction novels.

The report of the Charities Registration Board considered that Jedi Society could not be recognised as a charity under the act and noted at paragraph 2:

“The Board considers that the Society does not meet the requirements for registration under the Act. The Board is not satisfied that the Society is established and maintained for exclusively charitable purposes. Specifically, the Board considers that the Society does not advance religion or promote a moral or spiritual improvement in a manner consistent with the case law”.

This ruling of course flies in the faces of established Star Wars canon as even the great Han Solo himself recognises that the religion practiced by Old Ben Kenobi was ‘hokey’ but a religion none-the-less. 

That said, the Board specifically appears to reject Jedi’s mythological content coming from the Star Wars films as a reason for its credibility as a religion:

Maybe there is a Sith Lord on the board? A hidden Knight of Ren pulling strings in the Wellington beltway? We jest. There’s no way the Wellington beauracracy would let such a thing happen…

Sep 24, 2015

Allo Asty is born to ill...

Ello Asty is 'born to ill'
If you've ever watched a Star Trek movie by JJ Abrams, you may have noticed he quite likes the Beastie Boys. And that love has had a we influence on The Force Awakens.

The Star Wars Databank describes a pilot,  Ello Asty as being a skilled if occasionally reckless X-wing starfighter pilot for the Resistance.

Turn out that the name Ello Asty is likely a play on the Beastie's work Hello Nasty.

How do we know this true and is not just some over reading into things by Star Wars fan boys?

Yak Face, as some have perhaps rudely called him also has the words 'Born to Ill' on his helmet.

Check out the writing on Asty's helment by his right check - it translates as born to ill.

Sep 22, 2015

From father to son #starwars

This is the picture my wife took of myself and my son early in the morning of the occasion of the first The Force Awakens trailer was released.

Will he love Star Wars as much as me? Well I showed him Empire Strikes Back the other month (he's aged 2 and half ish). We got as far as when the Wampa first strikes. He promptly got up from the couch and ran to turn the Xbox off. He muttered something about 'scary' and ran back to me on the couch!

Sep 21, 2015

Is it true that Carrie Fisher appeared in Playboy Magazine?

Carrie Fisher in a Playboy Bunny outfit
Fisher in a Playboy Bunny costume
Is it true that Carrie Fisher appeared in Playboy Magazine?

Yes, Fisher did appear in Playboy but not in the way you're thinking. Get your mind out of the gutter, Carrie is a princess after all!

Back in Playboy's prime, people used to claim to read the magazine for its articles - one of those such articles featured Carrie Fisher. It's a very interesting read as it gives an insight into her mindset. It took place following the release of The Empire Strikes Back so people would have been drawn to the article and would have thus been exposed to Carrie's thoughts on her mother's breasts, whether Darth Vader is gay and how Warren Beatty embarrassed her.

On doing a scene with Warren Beatty in the film Shampoo:

At the time I did Shampoo, I was a virgin. I knew nothing. They would kid me. Warren [Beatty], Hal [Ashby] and Robert [Towne] would all fall apart laughing, and I would, too. My line to Warren was “Want to fuck?” and I was supposed to be hostile and mean and power-crazy. I would say that line and fall apart, because Warren had told the others that I didn’t know what I was talking about and that was very funny to them.

On Vader being gay:

The guy’s not attractive. He has funny hair. He’s not black. He may be neuter. A lot of this is open to people’s interpretations. Maybe he’s gay. Vader is gay and he’s embarrassed about some tattoos he had put on his face. He got drunk one night. No, he has some kind of problem with facial hair. What can I tell you? You’ll find it out in the third film. You had a glimpse of him in The Empire Strikes Back. He looked like some vegetables gone bad.

On Debbie Reynold's breasts:

For Star Wars, they had me tape down my breasts, because there are no breasts in space. Camera tape, gaffer tape. At the end of every day, I was going to draw a lottery and one of the crew could rip off the tape. I never did it, though. Actually, my mother is more famous for her breasts than I could ever be for mine. Groucho Marx, in front of Nate ’n Als, once told me she had a great chest. He was going to visit her in the hospital to see if they were real. He also said that on the Cavett show. So I have some. I have two.

These responses to some of the questions asked by Playboy Magazine display a well rounded sense of being awake to the whims and ways of world. A large part of that is clearly informed by Fisher's intelligence and the immersion into the world of show business by way of her famous parents certainly had a hand. To be talking about someone being gay (even if a fictitious film villain), while not unheard of in the 1980's, was possibly a novel thing for the largely male audience of the magazine.

Sep 14, 2015

What was the role of Leigh Bracket in bringing The Empire Strikes Back script to the silver screen?

How much of Empire Strikes Back script did Leigh Brackett write?

Leigh Brackett's name famously gets a nod in the credits of The Empire Strikes Back as having been part of the writing team with George Lucas and Larry Kasdan. Who is she and how much of the movie did she draft?

Who is she? In this modern era of post Jedi, Thrawn and Clone Wars, I would bet three of our Earth dollars that most of this generation hasn't read a single Leigh Brackett science fiction novel or probably even watched some of the other film she wrote scripts. That's not to blame them for anything, neither has this author!

But back in the day, Leigh Brackett was a popular writer of science fiction novels such as, The Starmen and Alpha Centauri or Die! and had written a few movie scripts, notably Rio Bravo and The Long Goodbye. Rio Bravo is considered an all time great movie if you were wondering.

Eventually George Lucas decided he needed some help with his second Star Wars film as his world had become so big after his ANH success and he asked Leigh for a draft of the the film based on some of the ideas he had come up with.

Lucas relayed this story as their first conversation:

Lucas: Have you ever written for the movies?
Brackett: Yes, I have. Rio Bravo, El Dorado, The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye...

Lucas then paused briefly

Lucas: Are you that Leigh Brackett?
Brackett: Yes. Isn't that why you called me in?
Lucas: No, I called you in because you were a pulp science fiction writer!

The sad twist of fate is that shortly after completing her first draft, she died. Bracket and Lucas never even had a chance to talk about the words she wrote for him. Cancer is a bitch.

George Lucas has been quoted from 'Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays' as saying:

"Writing has never been something I have enjoyed, and so, ultimately, on the second film I hired Leigh Brackett. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out; she turned in the first draft, and then she passed away. I didn’t like the first script, but I gave Leigh credit because I liked her a lot. She was sick at the time she wrote the script, and she really tried her best. During the story conferences I had with Leigh, my thoughts weren’t fully formed and I felt that her script went in a completely different direction."

Lawrence Kasdan later said of Leigh's draft “I only skimmed it. It was sort of old fashioned and didn’t relate to Star Wars. The characters all had the right names, but her story’s spirit was different. I’m sure that had Leigh lived, she could have made the changes that George wanted in an excellent way.”

Is that the end of it? Not really. Lawrence Kasdan is also quoted in Cinefantastique Vol. 28:

"What I worked on was a draft of the script George had written, based on the story George had given to Leigh. I don’t know what of Leigh’s draft survived into the draft George wrote. What George handed me was a very rough first draft, really somewhere between an outline and a first draft. The structure of the story was all there – it was the skeleton for a movie. What was needed was the flesh and the muscle.”

But Larry then totally sharpens his thoughts:

"Look, there's no question that Leigh Brackett was one of the great screenwriters of all time. But it was an odd job for her, and there's nothing of that draft left in "Empire."

Now, we should take some of that with a pinch of salt and understand that Kasdan was speaking in broad terms and a lot of what Bracket wrote in the first draft would have been changed, restructured and dropped and added by Lucas who did the second draft. Effectively Kasdan comes in as the writer of the third draft and changed it all up again, including Han going into carbonite and the infamous “I’ll be back” line that became “I know”.

But while that last Kasdan quote may ring around one's ears a wee bit, we can totally read Bracket's draft and decide for ourselves what carried over from her draft into the final move, and what didn't.

So what are some differences between Brackett's draft and what was the final story line?
  • Han Solo was not frozen in carbonite. 
  • There were no bounty hunters like Boba Fett or IG 88. 
  • Lando Calrissian's last name was Kadar and he was a clone of his grandfather... 
  • Planet names are different or changed around. Hoth is not an ice planet. 
  • Yoda is called “Minch”. He was quite a serious character in tone from the get go, rather than the jokester we first met in Empire 
  • There's plot where Han Solo needs to speak with his step father which was to lead into the events of the next film. 
  • Luke doesn’t have his arm severed by Vader - but is still rescued by Lando and ... Han Solo. 
This is not to say the ideas that Bracket and Lucas came up with in their first run aren't there thematically or didn't make it into production:
  • The opening of Bracket's work took place on an ice planet with Luke Skywalker getting lost whilst riding a white lizard (hey, remember that lizard Obi-Wan rode in Revenge of the Sith...) the lizards became taun taun and Luke was still attacked by some kind of snow man. 
  • Vader still used Han Solo as bait on the Cloud City to try and trap Luke. 
  • C-3PO still ends up in pieces on Bespin. 
  • Lando still is forced to cut a deal with Vader.
A bigger idea that was cut from Empire but introduced in Return of the Jedi was the relationship between Luke and Leia. The concept of Luke having a twin sister was introduced in Bracket's first draft. Bracket named the sister Nellis. This idea was obviously transferred to Leia’s character.

You can read the Bracket’s draft here and make up your own mind!