George Lucas (Photo by Michael Hickey/WireImage)
As we all know, star wars was a huge blockbuster hit in 1977, not least because of its groundbreaking special effects. So it’s amazing that george lucasjust a year before the film was released, was going to fire the special effects supervisor.
Why such madness from the creator of Star Wars? Was he stressed because his mother had told him one day that he would never be anything? No, that was not the reason for his fury. Let’s explain the details.
On the second episode of the Disney Plus 2022 docuseries Light & Magicthe story of how the special effects of the first Star Wars movie were made is told.
Of course, George Lucas had to start his own special effects company, which he called Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). Indeed, no special effects studio existed at the time, and Lucas realized that he had to create one, if not just to star wars.
The studio was operational in California in 1975 before Lucas left to shoot the film.
However, when Lucas finally returned to the States, he rushed straight to ILM to see for himself the progress they had made. Lucas explains that he was quite annoyed. “When I got on the plane to go home, the first place I went was ILM. When I got back, we had less than a year to do the special effects. They had spent a million dollars and they had, I don’t know, three shots.
The man in charge at ILM was the visual effects supervisor, John Dykstra. The name may be familiar to some, as Dykstra earned accolades for his work on the film and even won two Oscars, including Best Visual Effects. He went on to work on Batman and Spider-Man films, and a host of other projects.
Still, right now, it’s safe to say that George Lucas was irritated.
As ILM employee Ken Ralston describes it: “One day I needed to go to the editorial office and pick up a movie for something – and you had to go through the screening room to get to the editorial office. I ran full of energy, I went flying in the screening room. George and Dykstra were in a heated argument, screaming, and I just ran right in the middle.
Dykstra described the tension, saying, “I know he (George Lucas) was upset, but I don’t know if he was upset with me or the situation. The studio was breathing down his neck.
Lucas, who was soon to suffer severe chest pain from stress, prompting a hospital visit, had to figure out what to do to make sure the film would end on time. However, he seemed so unhappy with Dykstra that he admitted, in an audio clip played during the episode, that he had decided to fire his visual effects supervisor.
“We were going to fire John Dykstra,” Lucas said, then explained, “He’d spent all this money, all this time, and nothing was happening. It was really in shambles and they had no production schedule. They had no plan on how they were going to do all of this. It was very upsetting.
However, other ILM workers, including Richard Edlund, their main special effects cameraman at the time, shed some light on what was going on there. Edlund explained, “Every time we were shooting a scene using motion control with pan and tilt and an arrow and the track and all those things, it was so strenuous to make a shot. And we realized we had so many thousands of elements that we had to film.
At one point in the docuseries, Edlund even mentioned that he started showing Lucas the process, and that it helped Lucas learn what really needed to be done and exactly how it needed to be done. Edlund even concludes that he thinks it was kind of a minor upbringing for Lucas.
Dykstra also added, “We were buried building the equipment and the miniatures [for] 18 hours a day.
It seems Lucas’ only method of judging ILM’s work was from completed plans, hence Lucas’ conclusion that they weren’t getting the job done, despite their success in creating such detailed models up to this point . Lucas’ previous film, the huge success american graffitiwas by no means a special effects showcase.
So what changed Lucas’ mind? Well, it was initially not because of any achievement of the work on the models, but rather for another practical reason. Lucas explained, “When I said there were no other special effects houses – visual effects houses – there were none in the world, in the whole world, There were none. So I had no choice. »
That Lucas did to do was to hire other people, including George Mather and Rose Duignan, to help organize the work at ILM and put them on a more definitive schedule. So instead of firing people, Lucas hired crew help, and things got better.
What does Lucas think of Dykstra now? Well, we should probably explain first that there was one other thing that Lucas didn’t know at the time that partially contributed to not having enough plans when Lucas returned from filming – and it’s not necessarily a bad thing either.
Dennis Muren, who was one of the special effects cameramen at ILM, explains it best. “There were a lot of shots that could have been done with older processes, old techniques, but what John found was an elegance that once you bought into it, you had a system that could do whatever type of shot you wanted.”
Dykstra himself, after saying that Lucas was starting to see the quality of the work, added, “The product was definitely more interesting and evocative than it would have been had we stuck with the ‘good’ approach. market and merry “.”
George Lucas came to appreciate Dykstra’s work and, years later, concluded, “We were doing things that no one had ever done before. John Dysktra played a crucial role in its design and implementation. »
After work on star wars was completed, Dykstra and Lucas parted ways, and Dykstra ended up working on Battlestar Galactica.
It’s a good thing Lucas didn’t fire Dykstra during the filming of star wars, because otherwise it might have been a little less magnificent than it was. Dykstra’s “elegance” in his work probably made a significant difference in the outcome of the film, and all Star Wars fans are grateful for that.