January 1999 -- George Lucas: The force behind Star Wars

Does it bother you that several websites have posted a rough version of the plotline to TPM?

We [Lucasfilm] don't pay much attention to what occurs on the Internet. It's the fans' domain . . . Some fans want to know every detail of the film prior to its release while others don't. I respect both, but to truly enjoy a Star Wars film; you need to know as little as possible about the storyline. I guess some fans are unable to resist because they have waited so long for a new film.

Are you surprised by the sheer number of prequel spies that have reported accurate news about TPM?

Since most Star Wars fans don't use the Internet, the film is still a complete mystery for millions of people . . . However, the Internet is a powerful means for fans to share information about the new films. It will alter the secrecy measures we'll use for the next films to some degree. There is no way to keep a film production 100% leak free.

Should fans read the storyline prior to the film's release?

The story will be made available in an official format that precedes the film's theatrical release. You won't have to wait for the film to know what happens in it if that's what you want to do.

How much has your editing of the film and alterations using computer animation made TPM different from the shooting script you used on location?

A new scene has been added, some pickup shots are new and some other minor and major changes have been made to the dialogue and to the look of the film.

Does Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson's) character survive the first film?

For emotional reasons related to Anakin's development, it is important for Qui-Gon to die at the end of the first movie. The death of Qui-Gon is a crushing blow to Anakin. As a result, Anakin develops a much stronger bond with Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan takes over where Qui-Gon left off with Anakin's training in the ways of the Force. Qui-Gon serves the same role that Obi-Wan played in the first Star Wars.

Is there any possibility that you will have to delay the release of TPM?

No, the film will be ready by May.

Has FX (special effects) technology really caught up with your imagination from a monetary perspective?

Not really. I expected to make the prequel films for about $ 60 to 70 million each. Unfortunately, the pioneering digital effects, that we are using, are so expensive that this film will end up costing $ 120 million. If I didn't own ILM (Industrial Light & Magic), the cost would be closer to $ 150 to 160 million. These films are still extremely expensive to make. I hope to spend less on the next two, but I expect the next two to cost well over $ 100 million each.

What's been the single most expensive and frustrating FX sequence for ILM?

The 20-minute battle sequence that appears at the end of the film has been the most troublesome. We're tying to do so many revolutionary things on so many levels with digital animation that it's almost impossible to pull off with the hardware and software we have available. This sequence is incredible and it will take us up to the last second to finish. It will make the 16 year wait for a new Star Wars film more than worth it.

How well is this film going to perform at the box office?

I don't worry about that aspect of filmmaking. If my artistic vision makes it onto the final print of the film, then I'm going to be happy and satisfied regardless of how much business this film does . . . When you see this film for the first time, you'll realize that you're seeing things on the screen that have never been attempted before in a motion picture . . . It's hard and sort of unfair to compare this film to the original Star Wars or to Titanic. Those films are phenomenoms that defied everyone's wildest expectations . . . It's going to be difficult for this film to make as much as much money as some of the ridiculous figures that are being thrown around. The fans, ultimately, will determine the success of this film. It's out of my hands.

When do we get to see the next Indiana Jones?

We've got the script. We just don't have Steven or Harrison. We're still waiting for them to clear room in their schedules for another film . . . We haven't been able to set a firm time frame for the release of the next Indy.