The first screening of “Star Wars” is the stuff of Hollywood legend. George Lucas showed an unfinished version of his space opera to friends and fellow filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma, but it’s been reported over the years that Spielberg was the only attendee who appreciated Lucas’ vision. De Palma recently appeared on the “Light the Fuse” podcast and refuted the claim that Spielberg was the only fan in the room.
“Everybody who was involved in that meeting, everyone has a different version of what happened,” De Palma said (via Collider). “I was just watching the biography they did of Steven and he related how he saw it. They always portray me as the guy that says the worst thing that drives everybody crazy, but if you’re gonna show me something I’m gonna tell you what I think about it. Why am I there unless I’m gonna give an honest appraisal of what I’ve seen? And in this case, the fact that Steven says that only he saw the possibilities of ‘Star Wars,’ that’s not really true.”
According to De Palma, it was obvious that Lucas had made something “terrific” and he told his friend as much. However, there were some parts of the film De Palma grilled Lucas over. One was the need for a better opening crawl to introduce the characters (a story that has been well told before), and another was about The Force.
“We all saw it as a terrific thing that George had done and we were well aware of where the special effects weren’t there, and how they had cut in all these planes from other movies that were supposed to be the ships and stuff like that,” De Palma said. “But I did make a joke about The Force, that’s true. … I just thought the idea of The Force, you know – ‘The Force’, I would say, and I kept repeating it, [saying,] ‘It doesn’t seem like a great name for this kind of spiritual guidance.’ So needless to say I had a lot to say about The Force, which obviously I was terribly wrong about.”
De Palma and Lucas often had each other watch and give feedback on the early cuts of their movies. As De Palma noted, “I said some things very direct to my director friends about their movies that went on to be extremely successful. Sometimes I was right, sometimes I was wrong. They did the same for my movies.”
Elsewhere on the podcast, De Palma remembered Lucas having a note after an early “Mission: Impossible” screening that changed the entire opening of the film. As the filmmaker said, “When George saw ‘Mission: Impossible’ he said, ‘There’s no setup to this thing. You’ve gotta set this thing up! You’ve gotta have that scene where they’re all sitting around the table and everybody gets their instructions about what’s gonna happen.’”
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