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Aug 9, 2015

Nuggets of gold that Larry Kasdan has uttered about Star Wars over the years.

Lawrence with Hamill on the Empire set.
Lawrence Kasdan is a big deal in Hollywood.

He is a first class writer, a director with a couple of serious Oscar nominated hits to his resume and his friends such as JJ Abrams call him Larry.

Why do we care about this man?

Let me tell you a personal story. Many years ago, my dad brought home this big shiny box that went under the television. It had a clock on it. The clock's lights were green. Oh, cool, I thought, it's just a big clock.

After dinner, my father got my brothers and I all to sit down in front of the TV to watch the green clock. We knew something was up as we should have been in bed according to the clock. Dad got a black brick and and put it into the clock and suddenly the TV started a wee film called Raiders of the Lost Ark. It turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my young life. Indiana Jones was scared of snakes! The evil guy's face melted and he became a ghost!

And Larry wrote that film.

So that was thus my introduction to the work of George Lucas. Star Wars came shortly after by way of a copied VHS. Holy Spaceballs, I had no idea what I had out in the green clock but man, we all no how awesome Star Wars was the first time as a child was right!

So back to Larry. He matters because he is the writer that took George's ideas for Indiana Jones and Star Wars and made them comprehensible and work on the big screen. If we are tallying up the films Lucas and Kasdan have collaborated three films:
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Raiders of the Ark
  • Return of the Jedi
If we count The Force Awakens and the as yet untitled Han Solo Anthology films, we can count 5 Star Wars films that Kasdan has written. He's like Lucas's boy wonder to his man who likes to think he's a bat....

What'ts the point of all this exposition? It's to show that thw quotes below that Kasdan has said before are said with authority and that the tales and insights into the films are real, and it's just to let you know a little more about how Star Wars was shaped in general.

We have to talk about Empire

So here's a telling quote about the writing of The Empire Strikes Back and the Leigh Brakett script writing credit:

"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.""

Woah! Sound's like Leigh's credit is more of a thank you for writing the first draft. One wonders if she had not died shortly after writing it, whether she would have received a credit..... Kasdan explain:

"George had hired Leigh the way anyone would--because, oh my God, she's Leigh Brackett, and because he wanted a Hawksian, goading humor between Han Solo and Princess Leia. But Leigh couldn't serve George the way he wanted to be served. Out of all our respect for her, she was always going to get a credit for the movie."


So, does this mean Kasdan wrote Empire all by himself? No:


"Not to say it's all me. The truth is these movies are all George. I wouldn't say that of "Raiders," but I would say that of the "Star Wars" movies. He has the stories in mind and the difference in each film is how they're executed.
Here's what Kasdan has said about when he came into the piece:
"What I worked on was a draft of the script George had written, based on the story George had given to Leigh [Brackett]. 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.” found at Cinefantastique Vol. 28, No.28 (February 1997).



A quick remark about The Phantom Menace

Says Kasdan about Lucas:

" I saw him a couple of weeks before he left to shoot "Phantom Menace" ... and the first remark he made to me was, "Hey, do you want to write 'Phantom Menace'?" I asked, "Aren't you starting to shoot it?" "Yeah," he said, "but it would be great if you took a second pass at it." For George, the movie is bigger than the script...".

Such a telling quote - what Kasdan is saying here is that there is more to the movies than simply a story that George Lucas is focussed on. We know George is hugely vested in the visual aspects of the movie - you could arguably watch A New Hope with all the dialogue removed and you'd understand the film completely! Indeed, if you've never heard of the Star Wars Ring Theory and how George tied all six movies he made together, your mind will probably be blown!

The Kurosawa Connection

The work of legendary Japanese film-maker, Kurosawa had a massive influence on George Lucas and how he developed the Star Wars script (see how C3PO and R2D2 where inspired as a story telling vehicle) but it's nice to see Kasdan and Lucas having a connection in common:

"The movies that made me want to make movies were action movies, and thrillers, and Kurosawa films, you know, where you have an opportunity every day to shoot it in an unusual way. I was looking for something like that."


A reluctance to write Return of the Jedi

Scripting The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark for Speilberg and Lucas opened some big Hollywood doors up for Kasdan. It gave him the chance to do some other things. So he perhaps wasn't ready to get back into Star Wars again so hurriedly to do what was at the time known as Revenge of the Jedi. He's said:

"I mean, I really liked those guys and the experience of doing Raiders was really good for me, but I did not really want to be involved - I only did Jedi, as I really owed George a favor."

He did a fine job, most would agree.

The Force Awakens

Vanity Fair had a chance to ask Kasdan some questions:

What was it like coming back to Luke, Leia, and Han and writing those characters again, picking up their threads after 30 years?

"That’s just fun because they’re around my age. Carrie is a little younger, Mark is my age, and Harrison is a little older. So since we’ve treated it as 30 years passing in the film, there’s no artificiality about that. You get to infuse them to the extent that you can with your experience of 30 years on."

Less is more?

“It’s a big movie. It’s full of wonderful stuff, incident and character stuff and jokes and effects. One of the things that we always refocus on from the get-go was that it not be one of these very long, bloated blockbusters. A lot of very entertaining movies lately are too long. In the last 20 minutes, you think, why isn’t this over? 

We didn’t want to make a movie like that. I mean, we were really aiming to have it be—when it’s over you’ll say, “I wish there’s more.” Or, “Wait, is it over?” Because how rarely you get that feeling nowadays, and I think we’re headed there. But it means that there will be constant critical looking at it from now to the end, saying, “Do we need this? Do we need that? Is it better if this comes out, even though we love it?”

Kasdan also said to Entertainment Weekly

“I thought, ‘Wow, okay, these people have lived — they’re in a different place in their lives, Han and Leia and so on. They’ve lived the same 30 years I have. What would that be like? How would you see things differently?’

 “And I was trying to figure out how I saw things differently, and one of the surprises is that you don’t learn all that much. You haven’t become much wiser than you were, and things are not clearer to you, and the world is just as confusing as it always was — and that’s a kind of lovely thing to get to write about again. Age does not necessarily bring wisdom; it just brings experience.”

So, basically he's saying he had to find a reason to keep the Luke and Leia relevant against the back drop of new heroes, Finn, Rey and Poe Dameron. 

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