Regardless of your opinion of his creative output over the past two decades, there’s no question that George Lucas is one of the most influential forces in pop culture. Telling somebody you’ve never seen a Star Wars movie is likely to shock people as much as, if not more than, telling them you don’t know who the president is right now. Despite the negative reaction to his Star Wars prequels and the last Indiana Jones film, those movies all made giant piles of money. This weekend Lucas will open Red Tails, a film about the Tuskegee airmen that he financed himself after the studios refused to gamble on a high-budget action film with an all-black cast. Clearly, George Lucas can pretty much do whatever he wants these days. According to a new interview, however, what he wants to do is retire. From blockbusters, at least.
So what does Lucas’ supposed retirement mean? If you believe Lucas’ claims, his future will be filled with indie movies and maybe another Indy movie. Speaking to the New York Times, he said, “I’m retiring. I’m moving away from the business, from the company, from all this kind of stuff.” He says he plans to instead focus on making small, personal, even experimental films along the lines of THX-1138 and the films he made back in the day, before Star Wars made him an internationally known talent. It’s a goal he’s talked about before over the years, so we should probably take that with a grain of salt. Lucas is, however, leaving one escape clause: he’s not ruling out another Indiana Jones movie.
Blockbuster retirement of course means we won’t be seeing any more Star Wars movies, not that we were likely to anyway. Even if he wasn’t planning to abandon big-budget filmmaking, it’s doubtful Lucas would return to the Star Wars film franchise. His interview reveals just how stung he’s been by criticism of the Star Wars prequels and special editions. “Why would I make any more, when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?” That doesn’t mean he’s giving up any ground on defending his changes to the films. He said, “My movie, with my name on it, that says I did it, needs to be the way I want it.”
Lucas also addressed one of the most infamous moments from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: the fridge-nuking. The much-mocked scene, wherein Indy rides out a nuclear blast inside a lead-lined refrigerator, has nearly supplanted “jump the shark” as shorthand for the moment a property steps over the line into preposterousness. Steven Spielberg took credit for the far-fetched idea last fall, when he told Empire magazine, “Blame me, don’t blame George. That was my silly idea.” Not so, counters Lucas. The NYT says he appeared genuinely surprised to hear that Spielberg had taken credit for the moment, and says that Spielberg was just trying to protect him. Instead, Lucas says he had to sell Spielberg on the idea, even producing a six-inch-thick dossier explaining how the idea was actually feasible, given the right conditions. “The odds of surviving that refrigerator — from a lot of scientists — are about 50-50.”