Declaring War You and whose army?
from Starburst Special #40
SPOILER WARNING: This interview discusses plot details
Producer Rick McCallum takes us inside the newest instalment in the
Star Wars saga, and looks to the future…
By Ian Spelling
Rick McCallum is wired. On any given day, McCallum, the producer of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, can talk up a storm. And right now, after chatting up the film with journalists for hours and days on end at a hotel in New York City, McCallum can see the lightsabre at the end of the tunnel. He’s got this interview, then one more, and he’s done for a while. So, McCallum fires up a cigarette and – charged by his natural nervous energy, genuine excitement for his current endeavour and a really good nicotine buzz – ploughs into a straight-forward, you-already-know-the-plot, spoilers-be-damned conversation about The Phantom Menace. “I need another month to separate myself from it,” he explains.

“We literally just finished the film. Most of the time when you finish a film, you’ve got two or three months to play with it, test it and see what’s working and not working. We didn’t have that opportunity, nor is it anything we’d get into. Probably in a month I’ll be able to say, ‘We shouldn’t have done this’ or ‘We should have done that.’ We did have one or two interesting screenings that told me that it does work for the audience we made it for.”

Ah, yes, that intended audience. Star Wars god George Lucas has deemed The Phantom Menace a film for kids (ranging in age from eight to 18). Young boys will no doubt embrace Anakin (Jake Lloyd) and Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) and probably even Darth Maul (Ray Park). Young girls can root for Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman). Yet, the film runs two hours and 13 minutes, rather long for a kid flick. Then there are the adults who grew up with the first Trilogy, who expect to recapture a bit of their youth. They may very well be in for a shock when they realize that Lucas hasn’t crafted a film for them, but for their children.

“We hope that people will say, ‘I want to see how my child experiences what I experienced,’” McCallum argues. “That’s the essence. A studio would ask, ‘Who is this movie going to be for?’ and that’s primarily why we don’t work with studios. Those questions are very hard to ask and to answer. They start to undercut the film you want to make. If you start doing that you can finger-f**k everything, if you know what I mean. Then you end up with a story that is so far departed from what you originally planned on. Quite honestly, that’s the reason films are so bad.

“Adults are going to be so annoyed this summer. Every kid will be imitating Jar Jar. There will be a lot of ‘Mooooey. Mooooey’ and ‘How rude!’ and a lot of Jar Jar talk. The kids at the screenings I’ve been in have loved Jar Jar. As a film-maker and a person I can say I always had problems with Jar Jar as he started to develop in the screenplay, especially in terms of the language. I loved him on paper, actually, more than I did when I saw the animation starting to come out. There was a point where I said, ‘George, is this working? Is this really...’ and George said, ‘Remember, just remember. Try to find that moment. What did you love to do with your parents? Bug them. Annoy them.’

“We will only know if George was right after the film opens,” McCallum continues. “If he is right, then that’s where I think his real talent is, this ability to keep the kid in him. When you think of the jet stream that George inhabits, with the money and the power and the influence and all of that stuff, he and Steven Spielberg are unique in their ability to tap into the mind of a child. It will be very interesting to see if George is right. I actually think the film is very trans-generational. It will appeal to a lot of people, but it’ll just be a different experience if you’re eight or 10 or 12 or 14 years old.”
More plot and production details revealed later in this interview!
Return to the Starburst Special #40 contents page.
Star Warsphotos copyright: LucasFilm
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