For years, George Lucas has flirted with the idea of returning to the sort of small, so-called personal movies that he toyed with at the outset of his career, before Star Wars diverted him off the path of the iconoclastic New Hollywood directors and straight onto the blockbuster highway.

Set aside for a moment the fact that every film Lucas has made in the last 13 years has been personal — the Star Wars prequels were done by him, his way, with his money, and the upcoming Red Tails is the product of more than twenty years of interest in the Tuskegee Airmen — and what starts to emerge is the idea that Lucas is tired of being second-guessed, criticized and scrutinized.

And so, after Red Tails is released, Lucas wants to walk away from the high-profile filmmaking world and make the sort of films that his friend Francis Ford Coppola has been making in the past decade.

In an extensive, rather fascinating profile, Lucas tells the New York Times,

I’m retiring… I’m moving away from the business, from the company, from all this kind of stuff.

And longtime Lucas producer Rick McCallum says,

Once [Red Tails] is finished, he’s done everything he’s ever wanted to do… He will have completed his task as a man and a filmmaker.

Even if his ‘retirement’ plan materializes, I have a difficult time seeing Lucas sticking to it. For one, his movies don’t lend themselves to small scope, and he’s got the money to make ‘personal’ movies on a huge scale.

And he’s already talking about Red Tails prequels and sequels — his original vision for the story was a three-part Lawrence of Arabia-style epic, with one part taking place during training in the US, one in the skies over Europe, and the last part back in the US when the Airmen return to find that their personal victories changed nothing for African Americans in the States.

“I can’t make that movie,” Lucas told the NYT. “I’m going to have make this kind of . . . entertainment movie.” But he talks, perhaps in jest, and perhaps not, about having filmmakers like Spike Lee and Lee Daniels make the other films he thought he couldn’t get away with.

The NYT profile paints Lucas as a man who holds onto a naive style of storytelling, and who has really been hurt by the waves of criticism that crashed over the Star Wars special editions and prequels. He compares fanboys to studio execs who didn’t understand Star Wars or wanted to control how he made movies. And he expresses disbelief that studios didn’t want to release Red Tails. Fox ended up agreeing to release the film, but it is Lucas that is footing the bill for the endeavor, including the cost of prints.

I wonder if it occurred to him that studio disinterest in Red Tails was based on the fact that the prequels weren’t good movies, and a film like those, but without the inherent marketability of the Star Wars films, wouldn’t do well?

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