George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill join on stage for The Main Event hosted by Jon Stewart
Today, fans attending Celebration V in Orlando got a rare chance to see the Maker himself, George Lucas, interviewed on the Celebration Stage by Comedy Central's Jon Stewart -- a big Star Wars fan himself -- in a presentation that was broadcast simultaneously into an additional five theaters at the convention.
We've broken the hour-plus presentation down into a play-by-play series of quotes and events as they unfolded on stage, which included peeks at the upcoming season of The Clone Wars, a deleted scene from Return of the Jedi, an exciting Star Wars Blu-Ray announcement, surprise appearances by Star Wars castmembers, and some pretty hilarious moments that only the wit of Jon Stewart can bring to an interview.
Here's the breakdown of highlights:
Host Jon Stewart
Stormtroopers from the 501st Legion escorted out Captain Typho himself, actor Jay Laga'aia, who then introduced the host of the Main Event, The Daily Show host Jon Stewart to a standing ovation. "I'm very fond of you too," Stewart says to a packed house. "I'm so excited to be here. I can't even tell you. I waited outside all night. I wasn't sure if I would be able to get in. I want to thank the organizers for holding this grand celebration in central Florida in August. It gives us all a chance to experience the actual atmosphere conditions on Dagobah. See I've got some knowledge! We're gonna have a great time today. We're going to interview a gentleman who is really the reason why all of you aren't at a Star Trek convention."
"I've got a million questions for George, but I've decided in honor of what is really a fan celebration, these are all just fan questions that you guys submitted, and we have some great surprises for you," Stewart says. "To get things going I thought I would bring out the guy who created a franchise that has taken on a life of its own, and means so much to so many different people. Please welcome George Lucas."
The audience jumped to their feet to thunderous applause with cameras and iPhones in the air amongst the lit lightsabers throughout as Lucas entered the stage. "Do you get any of the profits from handheld recording devices?" Stewart asks Lucas. "That might be a franchise worth getting into."
"As you can see it's quite a turnout at the Main Event of Celebration V," Stewart says.
"It's just like your show only a smaller audience," Lucas says.
"It's like my show, only popular," Stewart jokes back.
On being in Orlando:
Stewart welcomes Lucas to Orlando, asking if he's spent time here previously. "Yes, I live at Disney World. I went on the Star Tours ride before we take it down and open up the new one."
On an uber-long funny fan question from Chris in George about landspeeder inconsistencies in A New Hope:
Why is C-3PO driving when he's only been on Tatooine 60 hours, and he was wandering around the desert lost now he's driving a landspeeder. And earlier he's not even sure what planet he was on. But the question is his landspeeder wasn't an XP-38 but an inferior X-34, and he has a confused robot navigate. George, why?
"It's amazing what wonders a good oil bath can do for you," Lucas explains.
Does a protocol droid come with a GPS?," Stewart asks.
"No, Artoo is the GPS. So without Artoo, he's lost," Lucas says.
On seeing a room at Celebration full of working astromechs built by fans in comparison to the R2-D2 units he worked with originally on film:
"It's a tragedy," Lucas says. "It's the great irony of life. I spent literally 8 years trying to get R2-D2 to work no more than 10 feet in a straight line. To be able to have one droid that could actually take its leg out and go into the tripod position and move forward all at once. In the end, the droids -- there were eight of them -- were so inadequate that we had to take a fiberglass mold of one of them put it on a couple of sticks and run them with some wagon wheels on it and pull it by a string. Here they have the most beautiful Artoo units you'd ever possibly imagined and they are magnificent. If only I could make another Star Wars."
On how Lucas comes up with character names (question via a fan called Chadmiral Ackbar):
"Right from the very beginning, the one thing about writing is that I don't want to do it. So I go to work at 9, I get up at 6, and all the writing is done between 5:45 and 6. I have to get my three pages a day done or I'm toast. So I spend my day doing things that are supposed to be important but don't really matter like waiting to get the mail, and one of those things is to write down names. I have a book that has names and I write names with my son. Wherever we are if I see something I like I'll write it down."
"Why don't we have characters like Friendly's?" says Stewart. "Oh, there's the new Admiral Nabisco!"
"If you look real hard, you'll see some of that," Lucas says. "Where we live and where Skywalker Ranch is an old Indian site of the Miwok Indians. So that's where Ewok came from. Dexter Jettster is named after my son who I call Jettster. Darth Vader is dark water or dark father in Dutch, or Dutch-ish."
On the 501st Legion elite costuming organization:
"The thing about the 501st that's great is that it sprang into life from the fans, from going to conventions," Lucas says. "Two guys getting together wanting to build suits, and now it's like 5,000 strong in 32 countries. They're everywhere I go; wherever we need them. And visiting kids in hospitals and you don't understand the significance of that until you see it in action and see the smiles on the kids' faces being overwhelmed. It's just a great thing all the way around."
"Is there any concern that the largest 501st overseas is in Germany?" Stewart jokes. "They're called stormtroopers. Do the Polish 501st ever get nervous?"
"The Belgian 501st have TIE fighters, so no one is going to take over Belgium," Lucas says.
(A fan yells "What about the Rebel Legion?")
"I don't think you were supposed to put that information out there," Stewart says to the fan. "That's a secret!"
On staying true to his vision when faced with obstacles:
When filming A New Hope, how did Lucas stay positive given everything was turning against him? (question from Matt from Orlando)
"It helps to be nuts," Lucas says.
"I think you've just written the title to your autobiography," Stewart jokes.
"You have to have such persistence and be so stubborn and just say, 'I'm right, I don't care what the rest of the world thinks.' It's the only way you can do it. March forward no matter what happens. You just keep going no matter what the odds are to get there. On New Hope and even then on Empire Strikes Back it was very dark. Even after A New Hope, getting the next film going was very, very difficult. And there were a lot of times where it looked like it wouldn't get finished. And you just say, 'I believe in this completely. And I will sink with the ship if that's what it comes down to. If you don't have that commitment, it won't happen."
On Luke Skywalker's name not being changed to protect his identity:
So there's Luke Skywalker, who they're trying to keep hidden from Darth Vader who's also called Skywalker. When Vader saw on CNN that is was Luke Skywalker who blew up the Death Star, he would have thought, 'That name sounds familiar.' Where there any thoughts on making it Luke Ginsberg or Stewart, maybe? (Question from Dave in San Francisco)
"There is a logic to that," Lucas says. "The first part being is that there's a lot of Skywalkers. Is there one Skywalker in the universe? No. You should see the phone book!"
"I always thought Skywalker name was somewhat unique?" Stewart asks.
"No, no, no, there's even the Skywalker wine," Lucas says. "Then the other part which is the one place that is the most painful for Anakin Skywalker is Tatooine, because that's where he grew up, that's where he lost his mother. The core of his sense of loss is on that planet. It's called denial. You'll notice also the Emperor has long suspected that there are children. You got to remember that Vader didn't even know that there are children at all. He killed Padme and didn't even know that the babies existed. He just put that out of his mind. "But the Emperor knew there was a possibility because he told a lie that said, 'You killed her,'" continues Lucas. "He knew she was pregnant and that there was a possibility these kids might still be alive. When Luke blows up the Death Star and you come back to this movie we're celebrating now, the first thing he says is 'Skywalker's alive. You son lives.' And that's the first time Vader really finds out he does have a son. The Emperor kind of knew it, he was just waiting for something to get in sense a ripple in the Force and say 'A-ha!'"
On creating backstories of the characters ahead of time:
"Is all this planned out beforehand, all these backstories, or do you have to go back in once you lay it out and create a backstory through it?" Stewart asks.
"No, I just make it up as I go along," Lucas jokes.
On the psychological impact of the darkness of Empire on kids:
"I was ending it on a real downer," Lucas says. "After all, 'I'm your father' -- cut your hand off, that's a little rough. I did bring in a few psychologists and asked them, 'If you were a 10-year-old boy would this be a harmful thing to you?' Mythologically speaking that is a real key psychological motif, not including the thing about your mother. And I talked with them and they said it won't hurt them at all. I was worried about it. They said, 'Well, Darth Vader is a bad guy and some of the kids will be able to handle it and they'll just say, 'Hmmm, that's interesting.' The others who can't handle it emotionally will just say, 'Darth Vader's lying. He's a bad guy he lies about everything.' And they won't believe it. So they have a built in safety net to keep them from understanding the true nature of the father.'"
On annoying characters:
"There always has to be someone who takes the brunt of the ridicule," says Lucas. "In the first film, it was Threepio. Nobody could stand Threepio. They hated him, he was the worst character on Earth. All he did was talk, he was fussy, etc. Then, in the third film, we introduce the cute little Ewoks, and that then took all the pressure off Threepio. The last victim of this ridicule is poor old Jar Jar Binks, which is basically the same fussy mumbly guy that Threepio was."
On the generation gap between trilogies:
"We know we have a real honest-to-God generation gap with Star Wars, which we found out after Episode I," explains Lucas. "Anyone over 40 loves IV, V, and VI, and hates I, II, and III. And you'll notice the kids under 30 all love I, II, and III, and hate IV, V, and VI" (at this point, a din of friendly protests arose from the audience). Now, we've got The Clone Wars for the under-ten-year-olds. Come on ten-year-olds, fight for your rights!"
On the new animated series:
"We are working right now with Seth Green," says Lucas, who identifies Green in the front row to much applause. "I convinced him that we could do a fun little cartoon show like Spongebob Squarepants for four- and five-year-olds, and he still believes it's for 21-year-olds. It's going to be a strange mishmash that nobody really knows what's going to happen, but I know one thing -- it'll be funny!"
On the role of the Jedi:
"It's the monk idea," says Lucas. "In Star Wars, the monks are really not warriors, they're negotiators...but they negotiate with a big stick."
About the Force:
"The whole idea of the movie, ultimately, is that you have a light side and you have a dark side," says Lucas. "The light side is compassion, which means you care about other people, and the dark side is that you care only about yourself."
About the fate of Darth Plagueis:
Jon Stewart asks if the insinuation that Palpatine killed Darth Plagueis in his sleep is true. "In theory, yeah he did kill him," answers Lucas. "That is what apprentices do."
On his legacy:
"Star Wars obviously snuck up and grabbed me, threw me across the room and beat me against the wall," explains Lucas. "It's been a very slow process of me accepting the reality of what's happened and also to get my head around the enormity of the whole thing. And I'm philosophical enough to know that maybe it will go on, maybe it won't, and that we've made a mark on the twentieth century. Maybe it will still be there in the twenty-first century [audience applause]. My only hope is that the first guy who gets on Mars says, you know, 'I wanted to do this ever since I saw Star Wars.'"
About Obi-Wan's planet of origin:
"This is one of the first things I wrote in the very first script," shares Lucas. "He comes from the planet Stewjon." (Naturally, host Jon Stewart finds this somewhat amusing, if not vaguely suspicous).
Next, R2-D2 rolls on stage to present Jon Stewart with a custom Hasbro action figure -- "Stewart Trooper" -- which sports a stormtrooper body with two interchangeable Jon Stewart heads: with, and without, goatee. "I'm not going to let this increase in value in any way," said Stewart. "I am going to open this up and play with it."
The audience next gets treated to an early Star Wars commercial for Empire Strikes Back Underoos -- "one of my favorite commercials from the early Star Wars days," said Stewart. Also shown was a rare Japanese ad with Ewoks, Chewbacca, Japanese children, and a Lucas cameo. "It got me through my dark years when I didn't actually have a real job," shrugged Lucas with a grin.
"In that last part, it looked like you were introducing Lucas Cologne," jokes Stewart.
On Baron Papanoida in... The Clone Wars?:
"My daughter actually wrote an episode about the family," says Lucas. "And of course my son was upset because he didn't get to do enough of the fighting. He said I got to do most of the fighting, because, of course, I am like Arnold Schwarzenegger."
The audience was then given a brief sneak peek at a scene from Season 3 which involves the Baron in action-hero mode, defending family members with twin blasters blazing in a cantina-like setting.
About new characters in The Clone Wars:
"In another episode my daughter wrote," continues Lucas, "on the planet where Asajj Ventress comes from, there's women on one side and men on the other. The women control the planet...and the Emperor used one of the men for Darth Maul. Ventress finds disfavor with Dooku and plots to get him another apprentice that she controls."
According to Lucas, this new Zabrak character -- Savage Opress -- may share some close family ties with Darth Maul.
On a Blu-Ray Star Wars release:
"I wish I could say it was coming out this year, but it's not," says Lucas. "It's coming out next year."
Actor Mark Hamill is brought onstage with thunderous applause to introduce a long-lost deleted scene from Return of the Jedi, which few fans knew existed. With finished effects, sound, and music, the scene introduces Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi. We find Vader in his meditation chamber calling out to Luke to join the dark side. We cut to a shrouded figure in darkness, who we quickly realize is Luke. He is building a green-bladed lightsaber, which he activates (and garners a big applause from the audience). With a vague expression of satisfaction on his face, we look past Luke to spot Threepio at the mouth of the cave Luke is huddled in, apparently on Tatooine.
"You can see my cleft chin sticking out of the hood, but the first thing that gets applause is my lightsaber," quips Hamill with a smile.
Next, Carrie Fisher arrives on stage to join Lucas and Hamill, reuniting two of the central characters from the original trilogy along with its creator. "We're getting the band back together!" jokes Stewart.
And with the band indeed back together, Stewart closed with some final words for Hamill, Fisher, and George Lucas: "For me, as someone who discovered the films when they first came out and has rediscovered them through the eyes of my children, it has been an absolute pleasure to be here today to see all you guys and have the chance to have a conversation with you."
With that, Lucas offered his thanks to Stewart and to the audience: "I will say that the most important thing is, none of us would be here if it wasn't for you. You were behind me, on all levels, through all those forty-something years. I make movies for fans, I make movies for people who like going to the movies. And it's great to be appreciated."