Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Star Wars

(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired (or in this case help us better understand) George Lucas’s iconic universe. In this edition:Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.)

Losing the screenwriter William Goldman was a blow to the world of cineastes last month. He was one of the sharpest writers ever to come to Hollywood and he had a distinct way of playing a tense scene for laughs and making giggle at how good is writing could be. 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is no exception. It’s as much a comedy as it is a legitimately thrilling western film. Headlined by Paul Newman and Robert Redford, the film is charming and suspenseful in equal parts, following the (mostly) true adventures of the train robbing pair and their gang.

Goldman’s writing is as sharp as it ever would be, and under the direction of George Roy Hill, they collaborated to create a master blend of wit and western.

Though it wasn’t the first film to pair a couple of smartass outlaws, it set the standard moving forward and every line of dialogue pairing characters like that followed the mold. Star Wars was no exception.

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(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired or help us better understand George Lucas’ iconic universe. In this edition: Girl Shy.)

Among film nerds, Harold Lloyd is a household name. Saying his name instantly evokes images of the bespectacled actor dangling from a clock or in other improbable and impossibly dangerous situations. Made in 1924, Girl Shy was Harold Lloyd’s first production independent of Hal Roach and he wanted it to focus less on the stunts he’d been known for and more for his character work. That doesn’t mean Girl Shy doesn’t have its own thrilling stunts, as the climax of the film might have been the most exciting sequence Lloyd ever accomplished in his career, but the character work leading up to that sequence was the most well-developed Lloyd had pulled off. He plays a young tailor’s apprentice who wants to be an author. He’s also impossibly shy around girls and has a terrible stutter when he’s nervous. Think about that: Harold Lloyd is able to portray a verbal stutter in a silent film from 1924. He’s clumsy and shy, but that doesn’t stop him from falling in love and the climax plays out like an early version of The Graduate, with Lloyd’s character breaking up a wedding in order to reunite with the love of his life.

Though during his time making films through the ‘20s and ‘30s, Lloyd was spoken of in the same breath as Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, it was Lloyd himself that prevented his legacy from flowering as much as it should have. He controlled the rights to all of his films and very rarely allowed them to be played for a variety of reasons. Now, almost a hundred years after the peak of his popularity, Lloyd is taking his more rightful place in the history of cinema.

But how does that connect to Star Wars?

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Star Wars and Apocalypse Now

(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired or help us better understand George Lucas’ iconic universe. In this edition:Apocalypse Now.)

Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is a frenetic look into the final days of the Vietnam war. Where other films might have looked at the war from a more classic war film perspective, Coppola brought an insanity to it that matched how many felt about the conflict. Martin Sheen stars as Captain Willard, assigned to seek out Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), deep behind enemy lines. His journey is insane, like any war might be. There’s no comfort to be had there, only madness. Based loosely on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the John Milius script and Coppola’s documentary style of filmmaking made this film an instant classic, pushing us into dark places we’d rather pretend war doesn’t take us.

There are a lot of interesting things about the making of Apocalypse Now, it’s an incredible film and was made in an incredibly unorthodox way, but maybe the most interesting thing about Apocalypse Now in the context of Star Wars was that it was originally going to be a George Lucas film.

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What Lies Beneath is a film I really didn’t like when I saw it upon its release in 2000. As a fan of Robert Zemeckis, I was looking forward to him taking on a Hitchcockian thriller with a cast top-lined by Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer. And when I left the theatre that first time, I wholly rejected it. The supernatural elements of the film turned me off, feeling like a complete betrayal of the human monsters of Alfred Hitchcock’s oeuvre. I went in expecting one thing, got another, and let that bad taste simmer in my mouth for almost twenty years.

But I think it’s time we go back and take a look at What Lies Beneath with fresh, more mature eyes and meet on a level with the intentions of the filmmaker in mind, rather than the baggage we brought to it.

This post contains spoilers.

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(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired or help us better understand George Lucas’s iconic universe. In this edition: Doctor Who.)

There’s a lot of crossover between Star Wars fans and Doctor Who fans. There’s a lot to love about both franchises, but some might not know how closely the two franchises have intertwined from the beginning. Doctor Who began in its historic run in 1963, close to fifteen years before Star Wars would ever hit the big screen. Since both franchises were filmed largely in the United Kingdom, it’s no wonder there would be some crossover in talent, but some might not realize how much crossover there really is.

For those Star Wars fans who don’t know, Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction television series of all time and it’s about a timelord who calls themselves the Doctor. They travel through all of time and space righting wrongs and saving the world. It’s exactly the sort of thing Star Wars fans might love, and after you’re done with this article, maybe you’ll love it twice as much.

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Bill George is one of the living legends of ILM. He’s been with the company since 1981 and has built some of the most iconic models in sci-fi film history, from Star Wars to Star Trek. He built the models for Ghostbusters 2 and even won an Academy Award for his work on Innerspace. In the world of Star Wars, he built the incredibly detailed models for the B-Wing, the Shuttle Tyderium and the second Death Star all at the dawn of his career.

These days, he works with Walt Disney’s Imagineering department to work on attractions at the theme parks. He worked on updating Star Tours, the incredible new vision of Pirates of the Caribbean in Shanghai Disneyland, and is currently working on Galaxy’s Edge.

You can imagine our surprise when we discovered that he’d built models for use in Star Wars Resistance, the new animated Star Wars television show that begins airing this week.

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The Leviathan Influenced Solo

(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired or in this case help us better understand George Lucas’s iconic universe. In this edition: The Leviathan)

Ruairí Robinson isn’t a filmmaker that’s a household name, but maybe he should be. He’s an Academy Award nominated Irish filmmaker known for his science fiction shorts. He was nominated in 2002 in the Best Short Film, Animated category with the film Fifty Percent Grey, but ended up losing out to Ralph Eggleston’s comedy short For the Birds. At one point, he was signed on to direct the live-action version of Akira, but that fell through. Most recently, he put together a short film called The Leviathan(2015)that was a proof of concept for a feature film he wanted to make.

It went viral and found itself inspiring the Star Wars universe in unexpected ways. Read More »

Darth Maul Solo Scene

Darth Maul has been in the collective conscious for 20 years. His debut was in 1998 with the release of the first trailer for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. That film is aging better than anyone expected, and one of the key ingredients in that mix was this enigmatic villain. From that first image of the doors on Naboo separating to reveal that demon-faced monster unveiling his double-bladed lightsaber, we’ve all been captivated by him, before we even knew his name.

Before the film came out, his face was on every bit of marketing. Every package had that distinctive red facial tattoo pattern and horns. And we still didn’t even know what his voice sounded like.

When The Phantom Menace hit theaters, he was instantly a favorite character, though some were intensely disappointed by his ending. Being chopped in half at the end of the first film of a trilogy didn’t bode well for the villains in the future of the franchise.

But Maul still endured in our hearts. And with the help of actor Sam Witwer, he has lived longer than anyone ever expected.

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(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired or in this case help us better understand George Lucas’s iconic universe. In this edition:Robotech)

Cobbled together out of three distinct different anime series from Japan, Robotech became a cult phenomenon in the United States and continues to maintain its popularity. Whether one likes what was done to the original Japanese cartoons in their crossover to the United States or not, there is no doubt that the television series as it first aired in the 1980s left an indelible impression on the culture of the United States and opened the door for more imported animation to makes it way to American shores.

Robotech tells the tale of Earth after the crash landing of an alien spaceship on Macross Island in 1999. Another alien species, the Zentraedi, arrive in 2009 wanting to take the battlefortress back from the humans, but humanity has spent the last ten years reverse engineering the ship and developing Robotechnology; transformable fighter jet mecha that can be used in the coming war. The show followed the lives of the fighter pilots and civilians who had their lives affected by the war over three generations. It was epic and each episode had consequences for the rest of the series. It’s great space opera storytelling at its best and it was on television in the 1980s when audiences were most thirsty for it.

There were a number of important creatives watching Robotech during their formative years and found inspiration in the episodes of the show. One of those was a young Dave Filoni.

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(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films that inspired (or help us better understand) George Lucas’s iconic universe. In this edition:the James Bond films)

Ever since the 1962 release of Dr. No, James Bond has occupied a place in the hearts of cinema-goers. The films were brash and adventurous in a new way, offering a realism in their stunts and thrills that hadn’t been at the forefront of cinema to that point. Naturally, Steven Spielberg was a fan of franchise. In the 1970s, Spielberg revealed to George Lucas that he wasn’t just a fan, but that he wanted to direct a James Bond film. Spielberg had been turned down by the producers of the Bond films and was looking for something else. George Lucas told him to forget about James Bond, he had a better idea. Indiana Smith.

Obviously, this idea morphed into what became the first Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. And it’s why Sean Connery, the first actor to play James Bond in the official Eon Productions on the big screen, was tapped to play the father of Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade. The Indiana Jones films were inspirational in a number of ways to Star Wars, and taking a step back, you can see where the influence of James Bond comes into a galaxy far, far away as well.

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