Brian De Palma Harvey Weinstein

Artists often show their friends and fellow creatives their work before it’s finished. It’s a great way to get feedback and new ideas, and you hope your friends will be more honest with you than people who rely on you for a paycheck. Apparently, that level of honesty was a bit too much when director George Lucas screened his unfinished cut of Star Wars: A New Hope for his Hollywood friends, including filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma. This screening is the stuff of legend – the only person who was positive at all was Spielberg. (To everyone else’s credit, Lucas had substituted airplane footage for unfinished special effects shots, which is more than a little jarring.)

Now, De Palma, the legendary director of Carrie, Scarface, Blow Out, Mission: Impossible, and more, is reflecting on that debacle of a screening, where he made fun of one of the most famous movie concepts of all time.

In a recent interview with the Mission: Impossible podcast Light the Fuse (via Collider) De Palma set the record straight on that infamous screening. He was supportive of Lucas, though he wasn’t exactly sold on the name for “the Force.”

“We all saw it as a terrific thing that George had done and we were well aware of where the special effects weren’t there, and how they had cut in all these planes from other movies that were supposed to be the ships and stuff like that,” he said. “But I did make a joke about The Force, that’s true… I just thought the idea of The Force, you know – ‘The Force,’ I would say, and I kept repeating it. It doesn’t seem like a great name for this kind of spiritual guidance, ‘The Force.’ So needless to say I had a lot to say about The Force, which obviously I was terribly wrong about.”

A Force by Any Other Name (and a Classic Crawl)

De Palma might have been wrong about “The Force,” but he did have some great practical advice that changed the future of the franchise. (What could Lucas have even really used anyway? “The Magic Power”? “The Shining”? “The Stuff”?)

Because Star Wars: A New Hope is technically the fourth chapter in the saga, some of its first viewers felt a little lost. De Palma suggested that Lucas could riff on the old Flash Gordon movies and do an opening crawl, and then he and screenwriter Jay Cocks rewrote Lucas’ original notes. That original opening crawl, which explains the roles of the Empire and the Rebels and the characters at play, was De Palma and Cocks’ creation.

“But the other thing was the movie starts in chapter [four], we’re in a world nobody knows anything about, he’s got all these funny names for people, I said, ‘George you’ve gotta set this up somehow like those crawls in the Flash Gordon movies,'” he said on the podcast. “George had that idea, but it was all gobbledygook basically, so I and Jay Cocks went over the crawl and basically rewrote it so it made some sense. And that was our contribution.”

Check out the two Light the Fuse Brian De Palma episodes for tons of more candid, behind-the-scenes knowledge from the man himself.

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