The /Empire Strikes Back/ director: Irvin Kershner Page 2
At what point did you know how good Empire was going to be?When you're working on a film for almost six months . . . . It was so difficult - every shot was like pulling a donkey out of a hat. Because things didn't work, you had to make them work and improvise every time. [Director François] Truffaut said it better than I could - something like, "You start a film and you want to make the greatest one ever made. Halfway through, you just want to finish the damned thing." That's the way I felt. Halfway through, my crew was falling apart. Many of the people left; they were ill. So, no, I never stopped and said, "Boy, oh boy, have we made a terrific film." Director Irvin Kershner chats with S&V Movies Editor Josef Krebs.
Despite all that, I really enjoyed working on it. I had a ball. A lot of that is because George is such a great producer. He left me alone. All he'd say is, "What do you want?" and "How do you see it?" I did storyboard the whole film, though.
I didn't know whether it would be good. All I did was to put in a lot of personal stuff because I'd always been interested in Zen, not as a religion but as a philosophy. And I thought Yoda was a perfect vehicle for expressing many of the notions of Zen. Frank Oz did a remarkable job with him. I feel very good about Yoda; I feel that that's a creation. And I liked the idea of this young, idealistic Luke Skywalker, going about making all the mistakes and trying to find himself. He didn't realize it. He thought he was looking for something outside himself. He was looking for himself. And Han Solo is a big blowhard who doesn't need anybody because he's got it all together. But he really was very human - he cared. It's just that he showed it in a different way. These were my thoughts that were guiding the picture.
Were you chosen to direct specifically because you would give more humanity to the characters?We never talked about that. I was just supposed to make a terrific film, one that was better than the first one. But how do you make a terrific film? Do you put in more action than the first one? No, action is not what it's about. It's about characters, and caring about them. And that's where I wanted to put the emphasis - on the people.
Do you think that the new Star Wars films have moved too much toward the technology and away from the characters?Who am I to comment when the audience loves them? But I feel that maybe George is sacrificing some of the potential for drama - the interior drama that that kind of film needs - for the terrific technology. I mean, he's getting giant scenes, thousands of robots rolling along and things flying around. They are amazing. To me, though, they're nothing to do with emotion. And I also wonder about Yoda. I think maybe Yoda should have been kept a little bit closer to what I had, a man who says, "Don't get angry. If you get angry, you're going to lose." Now he gets angry. This is a different interpretation. But nobody knows the subject better than George, so if this is what he feels it needs, that's it. The audience likes them, the kids love them, and they do have a look that no other films have.
Why do you think Lucas directed The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones himself?He doesn't like to direct, you know. About 15 years ago, I was with George at one of his parties on the Fourth of July. He said, "You know, I've got to get away from Star Wars. I don't want to be Mr. Star Wars all my life." I said, "George, it's your fate. You created something. The world loves it. Take advantage of it."
"No!" he said, "I want to do other things. I'm tired of it. I don't want everybody going on about Star Wars."
Three years later, we were talking again. He said, "I've come to a conclusion. I have to use Star Wars and make more of the films - and it's worth it. It's inevitable. I have to do it." So he'd changed. He accepted.