Brian Volk-Weiss unearths the secrets of ‘Star Wars’ with Marcia Lucas

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Brian Volk-Weiss, writer-director of documentary series “Icons Unearthed: Star Wars,” said his interviews with those who worked behind-the-scenes on the films, including Marcia Lucas, offered numerous revelations never before discussed in a documentary. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Kleinman/The Nacelle Company

July 26 (UPI) — Documentary series Icons Unearthed: Star Wars features Marcia Lucas, editor and ex-wife of George Lucas, giving her first on-camera interview, and writer-director Brian Volk-Weiss said the conversation was wrought with emotion.

Volk-Weiss, founder and CEO of the Nacelle Company, the production house responsible for Netflix docu-series The Toys that Made Us and The Movies that Made Us, wrote and directed the six-part Icons Unearthed series.

The filmmaker said he aimed to chronicle the making of the original Star Wars trilogy and the prequel trilogy in a way that sets his show apart from the dozens of other documentaries made on the subject.

“You can really take all Star Wars documentaries and put them into two categories. Category one, they were made by Lucasfilm before Disney, or by Disney after Lucasfilm, and when they’re making a doc, there might be a couple of things they don’t want to put in,” Volk-Weiss told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.

The second category typically involves “somebody in their garage, or even a beautiful $10 million house, making a documentary, but they have another job,” he said. Such documentaries are often hindered by years-long production times and often lack the time and resources to do the level of research and interviews that went into Icons Unearthed.

The Nacelle Company has “a full-time research team that’s been operating for six years. So in 90 days of research, we can find out the stuff we need to find out, but equally important, we can find the people we need to get,” he said.

“For example, Marcia Lucas has done one interview before us, and it was for like a newspaper in 1978 or something like that, and then we got her first televised, recorded interview ever.”

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

Volk-Weiss said he knew when he set out to cover Star Wars that Marcia Lucas would be his “white whale.” He said Richard Edlund, who worked on the visual effects for the original Star Wars trilogy, turned out to be the key.

“We had been trying to book Marcia for a month or two, and then it was Richard Edlund — we interviewed him, and after the interview, he was like, ‘Who are you trying to get?’ And I was like, ‘Our white whale is Marcia Lucas,'” the director recalled. He said Edlund put him in touch with Lucas’ assistant.

“We had the interview booked less than a week later — maybe two weeks,” he said.

Marcia Lucas won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing in 1977 for her work on A New Hope, and went on to edit the next two films — even working on The Return of the Jedi while she and George Lucas were going through their divorce.

Volk-Weiss said he spoke with Marcia Lucas for nearly six hours about the Star Wars saga about her contributions inside and outside of the editing room, as well as previously undisclosed details about the end of her marriage to George Lucas.

He said the conversation became especially emotional when Marcia became candid about the divorce.

“It was an hour drive from her house to my hotel, and I just sat there in silence looking out the window. I didn’t return one email, one text, I didn’t check in with my office, nothing,” he said.

“I just literally stared out the window, it was like I had been hit in the gut with a 2×4. She was crying, I was crying, I probably cried about a half a dozen times.”

Volk-Weiss promised the documentary will show how “the divorce absolutely affected the history of Star Wars.”

He said only about a half-hour of the nearly six hours of interview footage with Marcia Lucas made it into the series, but the rest might one day find another home.

“I think it’s very valuable for Star Wars history,” he said.

Other break-ups

Volk-Weiss said the end of the Lucas marriage isn’t the only messy separation to be examined for the first time in a documentary — the series also explores the rift that formed between George Lucas and his hand-picked producer, Gary Kurtz, during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back.

“I’ve known since I was 17 that Lucas and Kurtz had a falling out. It’s funny, we’re always talking about Marcia Lucas, but the interview with Howard Kazanjian was equally bonkers, in a good way,” he said.

Kazanjian came on board during Empire and took over the producer’s role entirely for Return of the Jedi.

“Kurtz, to me, was always, for lack of a better expression, a Phantom Menace type,” Volk-Weiss said, explaining the producer “was always kind of in the background, always smiling, [a] nice guy.”

Volk-Weiss said his interviews with Kazanjian, Marcia Lucas and C3PO actor Anthony Daniels changed his mind.

“I came away with a very different opinion of what Kurtz was doing on A New Hope and Empire, and we go into it quite a bit,” he said.

He said Kurtz’s bitterness over his falling out with Lucas led to his ensuring that Kazanjian didn’t receive any credit for his work on Empire.

“Kurtz was in charge of doing the credits for Empire, even after he had been fired … and he went out of his way to make sure Kazanjian did not have a credit on Empire. Even though Kurtz basically got fired off of Empire, and Kazanjian produced 85% to 90% of the movie, if you include post. It was bad, like it was really bad,” he said.

Lucas and Monet

Volk-Weiss said the enduring appeal of Star Wars, especially the original trilogy of films, can be attributed largely to the genius of George Lucas.

“I would say it’s really two things,” he said. “Number one, George was a genius who literally cherry-picked the best parts of storytelling from a million different stories. … I think that he loved movies, and he loved television.”

Volk-Weiss clarified that he wasn’t accusing Lucas of “stealing,” as all of his influences, William Shakespeare included, were “picking from something else” when they were creating their own stories.

“He cherry-picked the best of the best, put it in a blender and came up with the perfect story for human beings,” he said.

The second reason “is the exact opposite of number one,” Volk-Weiss said.

Lucas “took everything that had been done before, then with staggering precision and relentlessness, created the most unique character names, vehicle names, alien species, planets [and] the ‘lived-in’ universe.”

Volk-Weiss compared Lucas to French painter Claude Monet.

Star Wars is what I like to call ‘a Monet.’ Take someone my age, or someone younger. You show them a Monet, and if they don’t know the history, they’re like, ‘Yeah, this is pretty boring.’

“If you show them what art looked like before Monet, and what art looked like after Monet, it’s like, ‘Oh my god, how did Monet think of this?’

“That’s what George did. He revolutionized everything the audience saw and heard, even though the plot line and the character interactions are as old as human storytelling is.”

Icons Unearthed: Star Wars airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. EDT on Vice.

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