Reddit AMA Chat With J.W. Rinzler - Recap

Bespin refugee - July 16, 2014
Jonathan Rinzler, executive editor, author, and the official Star Wars ďhistorianĒ over at Lucasfilm, participated in a Reddit AMA Q&A earlier today, here are some of the Star Wars related highlights:

Question: Jonathan, if you had your way, would we see Leia follow in her father's footsteps to become a Jedi, or her mother's and continue serving as a politician? What path do you think would be most interesting?

Rinzler: Obviously I canít say anything about the new movies. But, what I have always liked about Leia is that she was a strong female character. I hope that what people take from her character is that she is the leader of the Rebel Alliance, and that she was able to go head to head with Han Solo and everybody else.

Question: Jonathan, In your mind, does Boba Fett Escape the Sarlacc Pit?

Rinzler: Yes, he does. I have been in meetings with George where he confirms that Fett survived. If it comes from George then itís true!

Question: Hi Jonathan, in all of your research and digging through the archives, what was your most unexpected 'find?'

Rinzler: The most unexpected was finding Charles Lippincottís lost interviews. The interviews that he did in 1975 and 1976 for the making of the original Star Wars. Thatís what formed the basis of the book; he had literally done hundreds of hours of interviews and theyíd never been used. We thought they were lost but, in fact, the librarians at Skywalker Ranch knew exactly where they were and were just waiting for someone to ask for them.

Question: Tell us something about the movies that you think not many people would know?

Rinzler: Everybody thinks George negotiated for all of the licensing rights. Not true. We only got half of the rights for the first movie. Because he had the sequel rights he was able to renegotiate. In fact, the smart thing with George and the sequel rights was that nobody thought they were worth anything, but he knew they were.

Question: who is your favorite character?

Rinzler: Skywalker. Because he is the one who has compassion and sort of shows the way for everyone else in the saga.

Question: Any chance of another Lucasfilm archives book, or a Lucas biography?

Rinzler: I think fans can rest assured that thereís going to be a couple of really big archives books coming our way. In fact, we could say we just got some good news. Iím breaking that story here on reddit!

Question: Hi, Johnathan! Your job sounds amazing! My question is: What parts of the Star Wars expanded universe do you like the most? Which books, video games, etc...

Rinzler: I was always partial to Rogue Leaders and Dark Forces. I like the comic book we did that was an adaption of Georgeís rough draft. Shameless self-promotion! The bind up version is actually available July 22nd.

Question: What are you most looking forward to about the new films?

Rinzler: Whatís great is that Star Wars is going to sort of explode for a new generation. Iíve lost count now of how many generations it has been, but it was great to see it with the prequel trilogy. Kids whoíve grown up with the prequel trilogy prefer that. There are kids who have grown up with The Clone Wars, and now another generation is going to grow up with Episodes VII, VIII and IX.

Question: What's the best screenwriting advice you would give to a young writer?

Rinzler: I would say watch a lot of movies. Read the screenplays apart from the movies. Read great literature, and stick to the classics. Remember that writing is rewriting.

For the original Star Wars, George did something that I donít think many people do...when he rewrote he wouldn't just edit. He would take all of those ideas and completely rewrite a new draft until he had a story that worked for him.

Question: I never really hear of SW characters exercising or lifting weights on their planets or on space stations. Have there ever been any stories of characters at the gyms pumping up? Do SW characters exercise and who in the SW galaxy is the most pumped up?

Rinzler: Well what I would say is that in the real world, Mark Hamill should be given many kudos for all of the work he did to learn how to fight with a lightsaber. He was in fantastic shape and he was really proud of the fact that he did nearly all of his own stunts. He got an official union stuntman card in the UK which is a very hard thing to achieve. Heís kind of the big athlete of the Star Wars saga. Luke trains with Yoda after all. And for the prequel trilogy you have Nick Gillard who was the stunt coordinator who just did an amazing job with all the modern lightsaber fights and the different fighting styles.

Question: Hi Jonathan! Big fan of all your Making Of books for the Wars, to call them a treasure trove of information would be an understatement.

There are so many specific nerdy questions I'd love to ask, but I'd rather just know your personal opinion on one thing that's always fascinated me: what would you say is the most significant event in the creation of the entire Star Wars franchise? So many of the early drafts, as your comic series has shown, seem so far removed from what we know Star Wars to be today. Was it a piece of concept art from McQuarrie or Johnston, the decision to stray away from making a straight-up Hidden Fortress or Flash Gordon remake, something that happened on set, or something I've never even considered that had the greatest seismic shift in making Star Wars the mainstream pop culture icon that it is today? I know it's probably hard to break it down into a singular answer, but the more specific the better! ...

Rinzler: George wanted to get the rights to Flash Gordon, but it was too expensive. At that point, he decided to do his own saga in which he would be free to do what he wanted. That was the beginning of Star Wars. The big Ďahaí moment for George was as an adult when he watched the Flash series and realized they were awful, but he LOVED them as a kid. He asked, what if I could do something good, with state-of-the art effects and good storylines? How that would affect kids?

Question: Real world history question - George was part of an elite group of filmmakers coming out of school, all of whom have gone on to have successful careers. Looking back at history, what influence do you think his peers had on the original Star Wars and the subsequent sequels? I know Spielberg helped direct part of Episode III, but were they involved in the originals at all?

Rinzler: Well thatís a big question. George had so many influences that went into Star Wars. The one consistent person he turned to was Francis Ford Coppola. In fact, I got to sit with Coppola and George when he was directing animatics on Episode III. I got to see them working together--not that Coppola was directing or anything. I think George was really close with that group, which includes Walter Murch, Carroll Ballard, and quite a few others. I like to say the unsung hero of the Star Wars saga is Fred Roos who was the unofficial casting director and really pushed for Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. George met quite a few of the key people through Coppola.

Question: Which concept artists consistently blow you away with their work?

Rinzler: I think there are two concept artists that consistently blow me away. They would be Ralph Mcquarrie and Joe Johnston. They were the concept artists on the original trilogy. For the prequels I was blown away by Iain McCaig.

Question: Would you be interested in a cameo role in a future Star Wars movie? If so, what type of character would you like to play?

Rinzler: Sure, I definitely would be interested. I have already been in THX 1138 and Episode IIIÖ Iím up for another one. And I want to be a Jedi.

In THX 1138 I was a clone. In Episode III I was a mourner at Senator Amidalaís funeral.

Question: Hi Jonathan, Any funny moments you can share about having Mark, Carrie, and Harrison back on set together again? Is it true they only agreed to do it if all 3 came back together?

Rinzler: A story that jumps to mind is Mark made tacos for Harrison back in the day (they would all have dinner together). I think it goes back to Fred Roos. When he pitched the three of them to George it was an ensemble. He knew they would have good chemistry. It was genius in the casting department.

Question: ...Are there any plans to go and write a new version of the Making of TPM, AOTC and ROTS? I loved those books as they are, but would love an even deeper dive into the events as well as same design style for my bookshelf

Rinzler: Well that would be nice, but it's highly unlikely. I would like to put out an edition of the Episode III book that includes the last chapter which was only available online. That would be fun. But now with all the new movies, I think weíre going to be looking forward to the next decade or so.

Question: I think you have such a cool job and was pretty surprised to know a position like that actually exists! 1. What does your job specifically entail? (Responsibilities/roles in the company) 2. Star Wars is amazing and is one of the biggest classics in sci-fi film. Why do you think it gained such a following and have kept people loving it for so long? What do you think it brings to or represent in our culture? Thanks so much for doing this AMA! Amazing work with Force for Change, and I'm totally psyched for the next film

Rinzler: Thank you very much! My actual job is as an editor. I edit all of the Dorling Kindersley books and Iíve edited Scholastic books and Abrams books. I help develop and edit them. The actual writing I do during mornings, nights and weekends. It is actually a position I created for myself. I met with the producer of the prequel trilogy and we were talking about what kind of ďmaking ofĒ book we could make. I was tired of books that only talked about the effects. I wanted to tell the whole ďmaking ofĒ story. I went to the very first art department meeting of Ep: 3. and Ep: 2 hadnít even come out yet. I got to be the fly on the wall, and that is how it all began.

Iíd say that each saga is slightly different. When the first saga started in 1977 most movies were really depressing. In general the heros either got killed, or their whole world was completely messed up by the end of the movie. Star Wars was a breath of fresh air. It was an old fashioned movie with good guys and bad guys. When Darth Vader was introduced people pegged him as the villain. George told an interesting story about how a good kid goes bad. That is not a story that most studios want to tell. It was uplifting because he was able to combine all the elements of story-telling in such a way that it feels good, even though it is bad.

George was also tapping into this need to have fun at the movies, and we had kind of forgotten that. The prequel trilogy was able to pull together all of the visual effects he wanted to do on the original but wasnít able to. He could do whatever he wanted Thanks to technology, the production designer was king again. Even if it looked fake, people didnít know it looked fake.

Question: Which of the star wars films do you enjoy the most?

Rinzler: I personally enjoyed the 1977 Star Wars because it was the one that broke all the new ground and blew everybodyís mind. I went to a sneak preview of the film and apparently George Lucas was there!

Question: As someone who has never watched any Star Wars film, because I'm not really interested in Fantasy and Sci-Fi, why should I watch Star Wars?

Rinzler: Star Wars is in the top 10 greatest films ever made. The parts are so well harmonized, like a symphony, and you can enjoy it on so many levels. It is such a wonderful thing to see all of the acting and stories and music and sound come together. And you can always go back and find so many other great reasons why you should watch it.

Question: What's your opinion of The Clone Wars tv series?

Rinzler: I think itís great. I was honored to be included with the fourth season writers group and was happy to write a couple of episodes. Although, I was somewhat dismayed when George said I had to do two episodes with Jar Jar Binks.

Thank you for joining my reddit AMA. Iím sorry, I didnít get to all of the questions. Iím going to be in San Diego for Comic-Con with Joe Johnston doing a panel on the original trilogy storyboards. Iíll also be signing the bind up version for the Star Wars comic book. So come say hi, and particularly, come see Joe Johnston, whoís as responsible as anyone for the greatness of the original saga. Iíll also be on a panel about a Ralph Mcquarrie story book with Tony DiTerlizzi.

And if you would like to be in Star Wars: Episode VII, enter Force For Change for your chance to win!
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