(On the importance of having a “no” person in your life.)
If you’re a Star Wars fan, chances are you’re mostly a fan of the first three Star Wars films, and either barely tolerate or have extreme anger towards the last three. The “prequels,” as they have been labeled, were unilaterally dismissed as lacking any real character development, or emotional engagement. They were technically masterful and visually amazing, but in the end, you didn’t care about any of the characters. And that would never have been said about the first three. So what went wrong? How could one filmmaker have such masterful facility with the audience at one part in his career but then have it so sorely absent in the latter?
Was it simply that he’d gotten too rich? Too isolated from real human experience? Too “successful” to invest the countless drafts and revisions that separate a mediocre story from a compelling one?
The answer is probably something else entirely, I’ve recently learned. The secret to the first three films might have been his then wife and editor, Marcia Lucas—the woman who helped guide and edit the first series, but whose presence was entirely gone from the latter series, because by then they had long since been divorced, and no longer even speaking. You might say she was his Yoda, or at least an Obi Wan, and when they were no longer allied, his judgment seemed to depart as well.
They say true power always lies behind the throne, and it might be especially true in this case. This is of course not to assert that Lucas was a talentless hack who owes all his success to his estranged wife, but by many reports, Lucas’s scripts and editing instincts always leaned toward the cold and unemotional, whereas it was always his wife Marcia who constantly challenged him to involve the audience more. She fought for him to add a bit more humor, more humanity, and more lighthearted moments like Pricess Leia kissing Luke “for luck” just before they evaded the stormtroopers by swinging across a trench on a suspension line. It appears that she was the lone “no” person in George’s life, constantly pushing back on him and saying it wasn’t good enough yet. She not only had a major hand in editing his films (receiving the Oscar for the original Star Wars), but consistently giving him feedback in the multiple draft of his scripts.
And it appeared the younger George welcomed it. Or at least valued her input enough to keep her involved, and even though she’d become a mother by the 3rd film, insisted she be hired back as one of the key editors. Although, by all reports, he was sparing with his appreciation and was barely able to mutter out “you know, you’re a pretty good editor” in the end.
But alas, whereas Marcia wanted to take their success and millions and relax and enjoy life a bit (she’d worked very hard for years, and now wanted to be a mom before it was too late), George wanted to plow ahead, delving into the other films and beginning to build the all-encompassing Skywalker Ranch, the commitments to which would eventually leave him both physically and emotionally distant from his wife. (It’s been said that even he didn’t actually want this, but felt some strange paranoid need to build an empire around him just to be safe, eventually creating the same kind of huge bureaucratic studio that he and his wife railed against in the beginnings of their careers.) With her husband never around, and seemingly more committed to building his empire than to his family, she one day fell in love with another man, and eventually filed for divorce.
And the film-going public has forever been the worse for it. Because, while the loss hurt George tremendously for years, when he did finally return to filmmaking, it was without the one person who had perhaps been the key difference between technically-brilliant filmmaking and emotionally-engaging filmmaking. And of course, since at this point George was worth billions of dollars and had established an army of supportive people around him (and even had issued policies that most employees were never to speak to him directly), there was no one left to question him and offer criticism like, “Wait, George, you haven’t established enough of a reason for Anakin and Amadala to fall in love yet. You’ve got more work to do before you can roll camera.”
And so in the last 3 films, we got the real George Lucas. One who people say was always a bit emotionally blocked. One who didn’t socialize much, didn’t communicate very well with others (as many crewmembers will attest), and one who was too blind to realize he was neglecting his wife so badly that he was basically driving her to another man. As a result, George has gone out of his way to remove the appearance of her input on all his films and she appears as merely a footnote in most cases.
So what can we learn from all this?
That no matter how talented you might be, chances are you can’t really reach your full potential on your own. That we all need a “no” person in our lives, a partner whose support often comes tinged with constructive criticism, a personal Obi-Wan. Someone who will challenge us, question us, and push us to do one more draft, try a little harder even when we think we’ve already tried hard enough. You have to trust in having someone in your life that you may not always understand or agree with, but somehow can’t help but acknowledge is enhancing your life through some mystical way. And without this person in our lives, rather creating than a roguish, conflicted and interesting character like Han Solo, what do we come up with?
Jar Jar Binks.
So no matter how cocky or successful you get in life, if you wanna stay that way, keep a “no” person around. It might sting a bit from time to time, but in the end, your judgment will be all the better for it.