#080 George Lucas: Star Wars: A New Hope vs. The Phantom Menace w/ guests Zamar Massey and Daniel Gonzales

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In today’s episode Nate and Austin compare George Lucas’ best and worst rated films, Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999), respectively. Nate talks shit on Georgie, Austin thinks he may have gone too far in some places, and Zamar and Daniel argue about how bad the prequels really are.

Check back next Sunday at 7pm PST for our 81st episode where we will compare Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II (1987) and Crimewave (1985), his best and worst rated films.

Also check out this interview with director George Lucas about the first prequel, The Phantom Menace:

The Phantom Menace Notes

Worst Rated

PLOT: Two Jedi Knights escape a hostile blockade to find allies and come across a young boy who may bring balance to the Force, but the long dormant Sith resurface to claim their old glory.

  • Ratings: IMDb 6.5 | RT 55% C / 59% A
  • Released: 1999
  • Director: George Lucas
  • Writer(s): George Lucas
  • Cinematographer: David Tattersall (The Green Mile, Die Another Day, Con Air)
  • Notable actors: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Pernilla August, Oliver Ford Davies, Hugh Quarshie, Ahmed Best, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Terence Stamp, Brian Blessed, Andy Secombe, Ray Park, Lewis Macleod, Warwick Davis, Steve Speirs, Samuel L. Jackson, Sofia Coppola, Keira Knightley
  • Budget: $115 million
  • Box office: $1.027 billion
  • Fun Facts:
    • During filming, Ewan McGregor made lightsaber noises as he dueled. It was noted and corrected during post-production.
    • 20th Century Fox released the first trailer, with strict instructions that it not be shown before a certain date. When a Canadian movie theater accidentally showed it a day early, they lost the rights to show the movie.
    • Natalie Portman (Queen Amidala) missed the premiere party in New York City, because she had to go home to study for her high school final exams.
    • After the film’s end credits finish rolling, the sound effect of Darth Vader’s breathing can be heard.
    • During the first week of the first trailer’s release, many theaters reported up to 75 percent of their audiences paying full price for a movie, then walking out after the Star Wars: Episode I trailer was shown.
    • According to Star Wars canon, Obi-Wan’s hanging braid is a Jedi tradition common to all Padawan Learners. When his Master feels that he has reached proper maturity, he cuts the braid with his lightsaber, signifying that the student is now a full Jedi Knight.
    • Natalie Portman’s voice was digitally enhanced to distinguish between Padmé and Queen Amidala.
    • Sets were built only as high as the tops of the actors’ heads and computer graphics filled in the rest. Liam Neeson was so tall, that he cost the set crew an extra 150,000 dollars in construction.
    • Qui-Gon Jinn’s communicator is a redecorated Sensor Excel Razor for Women.
    • When fully dressed, and in make-up, Natalie Portman and Keira Knightley resembled each other so much, that even Knightley’s mother Sharman Macdonald, who visited the set, had trouble identifying her own daughter.
    • The word lightsaber is never used in the film and is ultimately the only Star Wars film that does not have a single character to speak the word. When Anakin talks to Qui-Gon he calls it a “laser sword”.
    • The sound of the underwater monsters growling near the beginning of the film was made by the main sound technician’s three-year-old daughter. The sound of her crying was recorded, and the frequency lowered to obtain the sound heard in the film.
    • Benicio Del Toro was originally set to play Darth Maul. Del Toro left the film after George Lucas took most of Maul’s lines out of the film.
    • At the time of the film’s release, the producers ran a disinformation campaign to suggest that Natalie Portman played both Padmé and The Queen at all times. In fact, they are not always the same person. For many sections of the film, notably those where The Queen is wearing the black outfit with the huge feather headdress, she is actually a decoy, played by Keira Knightley. The real queen, Portman, is actually disguised as a handmaiden. Various conflicting public statements make it extremely difficult to figure out who is who. Whole websites are devoted to figuring out which actress is playing which handmaiden or The Queen at any given point.
    • Ewan McGregor studied many of Alec Guinness’ films, including Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), to ensure accuracy in everything from his accent to pacing of his words.
    • Liam Neeson convinced George Lucas to keep a scene where Qui-Gon Jinn puts his hand on Shmi Skywalker’s shoulder. Lucas felt this might be out of character for the monk-like Jedi, but Neeson thought there should be an emotional connection between the characters. In an interview with Premiere magazine, Neeson defended his action, saying, “It may be ‘Star Wars’, but we’ve got to have something in there for the adults.”

A New Hope Notes

Best Rated

PLOT: Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a Wookiee and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire’s world-destroying battle-station while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader.

  • Ratings: IMDb 8.7 | RT 93% C / 96% A
  • Released: 1977
  • Director: George Lucas
  • Writer(s): George Lucas
  • Cinematographer: Gilbert Taylor (Dr. Strangelove, The Omen)
  • Notable actors: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, Phil Brown, Shelagh Fraser, Jack Purvis
  • Budget: $11 million
  • Box office: $775.4 million
  • Fun Facts:
    • George Lucas was so sure the film would flop that instead of attending the premiere, he went on vacation to Hawaii with his good friend Steven Spielberg, where they came up with the idea for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
    • In early drafts of the script, R2-D2 could speak standard English, and he had a rather foul vocabulary. Although all of R2’s English speech was removed, many of C-3PO’s reactions to it were left in.
    • The first film to make over $300,000,000.
    • George Lucas’ decision to accept a lower salary on the film in exchange for full merchandising rights was considered a fool’s gamble on his part. Toys based on movies had never been major money-earners (though some movie-toy combinations had done moderate retail returns) because of the long gap between when a movie would go through its theatrical run and when any products based on it would be available. Star Wars, however, was such a phenomenon that it reached the holiday 1977 sales period in full swing, and changed the way movies were merchandised forever.
    • The skeleton that C-3PO passes belongs to a Tatooine creature called a Greater Krayt Dragon. This artificial skeleton was left in the Tunisian desert after filming and still lies there. During filming of Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002), the site was visited by the crew once more and the skeleton was still there.
    • According to Harrison Ford, during the making of the film, he and Mark Hamill would usually fool around and not commit to their work whenever Alec Guinness was not on set. When Guinness was on set, they behaved much more professionally.
    • Harrison Ford didn’t learn his lines for the intercom conversation in the cell block so that it would sound spontaneous.
    • James Earl Jones and David Prowse, who play the voice and body of Darth Vader respectively, have never met.
    • The actors found George Lucas to be very uncommunicative towards them, with his only directions generally being either “faster” or “more intense.” At one point, when he temporarily lost his voice, the crew provided him with a board with just those two phrases written on it.
    • Prior to the film’s release, George Lucas showed an early cut of the film to a group of his film director friends. Most, including Lucas himself, felt the film would be a flop; Brian De Palma reportedly called it the “worst movie ever.” The only dissenter was Steven Spielberg, who correctly predicted the film would make millions of dollars.
    • Stunt doubles were not used for the scene where Luke and Leia swing to safety. Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill performed the stunt themselves, shooting it in just one take.
    • The scene of Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter spinning out of control was added late in the film at the insistence of George Lucas. Other members of the film crew were opposed to including this shot, feeling that it set up a sequel (at the time sequels were generally regarded as inferior cash-in movies), but Lucas insisted upon its inclusion nonetheless.
    • Due to the limited budget, the American cast members and crew (including George Lucas) all decided to fly coach class to England, rather than first class. When Carrie Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, heard about this, she called Lucas, complaining about how insulting it was for her daughter to be flying coach. Fisher was in the room with Lucas when he took the call, and after a few minutes, asked if she could talk to her mother. When Lucas handed her the phone, she simply said, “Mother, I want to fly coach, will you f**k off?!” and hung up.
    • While George Lucas was filming on location in Tunisia, the Libyan government became worried about a massive military vehicle parked near the Libyan border. Consequently, the Tunisian government, receiving threats of military mobilization, politely asked Lucas to move his Jawa sandcrawler farther away from the border.
    • The lightsaber sound effect is a combination of the hum of an idling 35mm movie projector and the feedback generated by passing a stripped microphone cable by a television.
    • Peter Mayhew and David Prowse were both given a choice as to which giant character they wanted to play, Chewbacca or Darth Vader. Mayhew wanted to play a good guy and Prowse wanted to play a bad guy, so they ended up playing the matching characters.

Intro music by Eric Lynch

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