The DGA’s 75th Anniversary celebrations got a rousing kick-off on February 19, 2011, with George Lucas on the Impact of Star Wars. The afternoon was the first of a year-long series of events designed to recognize directors and their teams whose impact on film, television, documentaries, and commercials forever “changed the game” and influenced generations of filmmakers that followed and featured a screening of the DGA Award-nominated Star Wars, now known as Episode IV: A New Hope.
“We’re specifically focusing on directors and their teams that changed the way people think about this medium,” said DGA President Taylor Hackford in his welcome to the capacity audience in DGA Theater One in Los Angeles. “The first Game-Changer honoree tonight has truly been a transformative force in this medium.”
Hackford then introduced DGA Past President Michael Apted, who chairs the 75th Anniversary Advisory Committee. Apted spoke briefly about the Committee’s plans for 25 events that will take place in Los Angeles, New York, and London. “The caliber of participants for these events are truly stellar, as evidenced by our guest tonight,” said Apted. He then introduced a short film about the many game-changing influences Lucas brought to the industry, from the reinvention of what is considered state-of-the-art in visual effects, to the revolution of movie theater sound with his THX systems.
After the short film, Apted welcomed to the stage the evening’s guest of honor, director George Lucas. The creator of the Star Wars saga and co-creator of the Indiana Jones series, Lucas is also the critically acclaimed director of the DGA Award-nominated classic American Graffiti. He also served as the producer and executive producer of a myriad of projects including Akira Kurosawa’s Kagemusha, Ron Howard’s Willow, and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. Currently, he is executive producing Anthony Hemingway’s Red Tails, a fictionalized aacount of the heroic exploits of America’s first all-black aerial combat unit, as well as continuing the saga of his own “galaxy far, far away” as executive producer on the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Joining Lucas onstage to serve as the moderator of the event was Director Christopher Nolan, a three-time DGA Feature Film Award nominee for Memento, The Dark Knight, and Inception.
Nolan began by welcoming Lucas and launched right into his questions. “For people my age, there are movies before Star Wars, then there’s Star Wars, and it changed everything afterward ever since,” said Nolan. “I don’t want to talk so much about the enormous cultural impact of Star Wars, but rather, to take you back in time and try to get a sense of what it was like to make this film.”
Looking back, Lucas recalled that at the time the only pure quality science fiction film around was Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. “It was real genius and I didn’t think anyone was ever going to make a better science fiction film than that,” said Lucas. “So I went and focused on doing a space opera. I loved Saturday serials when I was a kid and cliffhangers and I really wanted to do something in that genre. I started out in college as an anthropologist and I always wanted to take the psychological underpinnings and motifs of mythologies from around the world and boil it down into things that resonated everywhere. So I combined that with the action and adventure of a Saturday matinee serial and that would be a cool movie.”