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The Anatomy of Star Wars Class - Reviewed

Posted By Chris on May 19, 2011

Here's a wonderful review by one of our readers regarding the recent two-day class that Gary Kurtz and Sandy Lieberson hosted in London.


Thanks to your website I attended the below event. Here is my review of a great event.

The Anatomy of Star Wars with Gary Kurtz - Renoir Cinema London Saturday 14th - Sunday 15th May

I recently attended a 2 day event in London called Anatomy of Star Wars with Gary Kurtz. This was organised by the Guardian newspaper in the UK. It was part of a Masterclass series they are running whereby leading people from the arts talk about their field. Advertising for this Masterclass was minimal; unless you read the Guardian (I do not) you probably would not have been aware of this event taking place. Thanks to TheForce.net I found out about it a few weeks ago and I quickly snapped up a ticket. It cost ?150 for the two day event, and I can say it was worth every penny and then some.

It wasn't a sell out (I?m sure due to the poor advertising). I would guess 75-100 people attended. Attendees appeared to be either film students, people who work in film and television, people who write about Star Wars and people like me who have a regular job and are just a fan. The level of each individual?s fanaticism with Star Wars varied, but everyone who attended obviously had far more knowledge of Star wars than your average film fan.

The event ran from 10am until 5pm on both days. It was held within a screening room at the Renour Cinema. Gary Kurtz sat at a desk at the front with a laptop and behind him the cinema screen showed photos and clips.

The agenda covered him being a 1960's film student and 1960's cinema, then moved on to the 70's, the story inspirations and influences of Star Wars, the drafts of the script, visual development, getting studio interest, pre production, casting, the forming of ILM, shooting, editing etc and then ended with merchandising and the Special Editions and the legacy of Star Wars.

At the start of the two days Gary Kurtz stated that he didn't want to spend time debating the prequels or what he thinks of Lucas the filmmaker now. Much like the Rinzler Star Wars book he wanted to explain the whole process of how the film was made from its inception, through to it?s release and success and up to the changes in the special editions.

He thought that a certain amount of history revision had taken place (either intentionally or not), and legends and lore about Star Wars that most fans know are not necessarily accurate. He believes some names involved with Star Wars have unfairly been forgotten or diminished (Marcia Lucas for one) and he wanted to highlight the collaborative work the incredible crew did with limited time and resource. Gary Kurtz asked that we try to forget about what Star Wars became after 1977 and think about what it was like in the mid 70?s and the creation of a modest budgeted, unpopular genre film that had relatively low expectations.

For a man of 71 his memory was incredible. He modestly spoke about his film school days, and then working with Roger Corman and actors such as Jack Nicholson, and then on to meeting Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas and the inception of Star Wars during the making of American Graffiti. The people he has met and worked with from Billy Wilder to Kubrick was fascinating and at no time were the references unnecessary or an excuse to show off.

He showed hundreds of photos, some I had seen before, many personal pictures that I hadn't. For example Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher playing croquet in the back garden of the house whilst filming in London, or pictures of Spielberg, De Palma and Lucas at one of the rough cut screenings.

Midway through the first day we had a break and I went outside to buy some lunch at the nearby busy shopping area. The first thing I saw were two young children running around both wearing Star Wars T-Shirts. It reminded me how huge Star Wars still is and how bizarre it was that in a nearby independent cinema was the man who second only to George Lucas was responsible for all of it.

We have all seen actors or directors talk about their old work and it can often be disappointing to here them talk about it with a knowledge that seems less than the fans. This was not the case with Gary Kurtz. He referred to ships, minor characters, planets all by their correct names. This wasn't because it's all he ever thinks about, it was because he was right there from the start. Everything was decided upon for a reason and Gary Kurtz was a major part of that decision making process. I may be being unfair but could Rick McCallum refer to the names of the random vehicles created in the prequels? Would he know the names of the arena animals in Attack of the Clones (I can?t!) or why they were designed that way? That might seem trivial, but I can't express how great it was to listen to the producer of a film that I have been obsessed with for over 30 years, in a room full of fellow geeks that have all read dozens of books and websites on the subject and yet still feel like our knowledge of the subject was far less than his.

Questions could be asked at any time and he didn't shy away from answering the inevitable questions about Lucas and what happened after Empire. When asked about the Special Editions and Lucas' various tweaks he was the least critical person in the room. He hadn't been notified about the Special Edition changes and hadn?t expected to be.

His main issue with what Star Wars has now become was to do with the creation of filling in back stories and the explanation of peripheral characters and plot points that were mentioned in the original trilogy, which up to 1983 were filled in by our imaginations. He would prefer new stories to be told rather than have detailed explanations of The Force or the origin of Boba Fett.

Listening to Gary Kurtz made me wonder what Jedi and the prequels would have been if he had been the producer.

I asked if he planned to write a book about his career and Star Wars and he said it was a possibility. I hope he does because he has many great stories and his involvement in two films that affected so many people should not be under estimated.

At the end of the two days, it had exceeded my expectations. Even to a fan, spending two whole days discussing Star Wars could seem overkill, but this certainly was not the case. And this was all down to Gary Kurtz, who was always fascinating, has an almost unparalleled knowledge of Star Wars, was modest and was always happy to converse with the fans who probably have been asking him the same questions since 1980.

These two great days made me remember why I like Star Wars in the first place, why it has been part of my life for 33 years, why I have kept childhood toys, posters and books that have cost me so much time and money and why I still don?t get bored of watching it for the umpteenth time.

Thanks again to TheForce.Net for advertising the event. I was so glad to have been there.

Gary Kurtz, an intelligent, modest, and definitely unsung hero.

Ian Croft

Thanks for writing in with your report, Ian!

Related Stories

November 9, 2011   UK SW Course With Kurtz & Lieberson
October 5, 2011   Star Wars Guardian Masterclass
April 5, 2011   The Anatomy Of Star Wars

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