Conceptual designer Ralph McQuarrie, who created the looks behind Darth Vader, Cewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO died at his home Saturday in Berkeley, CA, BBC reports. He was 82. In addition to helping George Lucas create the Star Wars look, McQuarrie designed the original Battlestar Galactica television series, E.T., Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Jurassic Park and others. In 1986 he shared an Oscar win for Best Visual Effects for Cocoon. McQuarrie’s work with Star Wars may nevertheless be his most memorable. He worked as the conceptual designer on sequels The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi, but he later declined to work on the Star Wars prequels.
UPDATE: A notice on McQuarrie’s website reads: “It is with the deepest sadness that we announce the passing of Ralph McQuarrie. People say you should never meet your heroes. Ralph was the exception to that rule. We were all fans of his amazing art long before we were blessed with his friendship. But once you got to know Ralph it was impossible not to become a fan of Ralph the man…His influence on design will be felt forever. There’s no doubt in our hearts that centuries from now amazing spaceships will soar, future cities will rise and someone somewhere will say, ‘that looks like something Ralph McQuarrie painted.’”
The USC School Of Cinematic Arts will be the new home of famed TV executive Brandon Tartikoff’s thousands of pieces of professional and private correspondences as part of a donation by his widow Lilly Tartikoff. The architect of NBC’s longtime run as the No. 1 network with such hits as The Cosby Show, Miami Vice, The Golden Girls, Cheers, Hill Street Blues and Family Ties was the youngest programming chief in the network’s history. he died of cancer in 1997. USC alum George Lucas urged the gift of Tartikoff’s writings — including programming and project evaluations, industry addresses, speeches, presentations, and press interviews — which will be made available to scholars for study after they are received in the fall. “We are very grateful to Lilly Tartikoff for this unique and generous gift,” Lucas said. “It is a staggering collection for students of television and popular culture, providing rare insight into the mind and achievements of arguably one of the most prominent and influential creative executives in television history.”
The Panavision PSR 35mm camera that George Lucas used for principal photography on the first Star Wars movie in 1977 was sold at auction over the weekend for $625,000, a record price for a movie camera. The winning bid came during an auction of Debbie Reynolds Hollywood memorabilia auction put on by Profiles in History. The lot featured a complete camera package: two 1000-foot. magazines, a Panaspeed motor, matte box, follow focus, a Moy geared head, an Italian-made Elemack camera dolly and lens. The camera was fully restored and is in working condition.
EXCLUSIVE: David Oyelowo has joined the cast of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. He has headed to Virginia and will play the role of a cavalryman. Oyelowo takes the job while he’s concurrently shooting the Christopher McQuarrie-directed One Shot with Tom Cruise starring as Jack Reacher in the Lee Child novel series. Oyelowo plays the lead detective investigating a sniper massacre in Pittsburgh. Oyelowo, last seen in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Help, recently wrapped the Lee Daniels-directed The Paperboy, playing a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who teams with another reporter to investigate the possible wrongful conviction of a murderer. Matthew McConaughey, John Cusack and Nicole Kidman also star. Oyelowo will next be seen starring in Red Tails, the George Lucas-hatched drama about a crew of African American pilots in the Tuskegee training program who persevered through segregation to get their chance to show their stuff in the air under the guidance of Col. A.J. Bullard. Oyelowo is repped by ICM, Inphenate and UK-based Hamilton Hodell.
LucasFilm has confirmed some very controversial changes in its upcoming 9-disc Blu-ray release of Star Wars: The Complete Saga with 40 hours of extras. To hardcore fans, even the concept of changes is hard to fathom. For instance, Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi specifically yells “Nooooo! Nooooo!” when the Emperor is trying to kill Luke. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Krayt Dragon howl is noticeably different in Star Wars aka A New Hope. (One Internet site said the new version “sounds like a pedophile getting his dick caught in a screen door”.) The Ewoks’ eyes have been CGI’ed and now blink. Yoda’s not quite the same Yoda of yore because of digitalized alterations. As you know, this isn’t the first time George Lucas has released special editions, adding new scenes and special effects. But there are widespread online campaigns cropping up to boycott this new Blu-ray collection when it goes on sale September 16th. As Deadline’s Mike Fleming summed up succinctly: “Nobody has found a way to squeeze more cash out of a film franchise than George Lucas has done with Star Wars, and he’s at it again.”
UPDATE: These hardcore fans, reacting to today’s news, are telling me this is ”about film preservation and our cultural heritage. Lucas has every right to make as many new versions of his films as he wants — fine, go crazy, George — but he has no right to replace the original versions of his films.” As … Read More »
Nobody has found a way to squeeze more cash out of a film franchise than George Lucas has done with Star Wars, and he’s at it again. Here’s a trailer for the release of the six films on Blu-ray. I caught the bug on the original trilogy that was far ahead of its time, but I found the prequel uninteresting compared to films like The Matrix, the first of which was released around the same time as that first prequel. Still, Lucas is serving up 40 hours of extras in these releases. But does anyone other than the hardcore geek really care?
After a judge last week denied a motion to dismiss, a lawsuit is tentatively scheduled to play out in LA Superior Court on August 8 that pits former William Morris literary agent Dave Phillips against William Sherak, president of the 3D conversion house StereoD. Phillips alleges in court papers that after inviting Sherak to be his 50/50 partner on emerging 3D technology that Phillips had been retained to shop in Hollywood, Sherak betrayed him. By the time 18 months worth of meetings culminated in the deal that led to the formation of StereoD, Sherak emerged with a 32% stake in that company and signed a 3-Year $14 million deal to run it after Deluxe acquired StereoD in May. Phillips was offered $30,000 to sign a release and go away.
Sherak, the son of Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences president Tom Sherak, is accused of breaching an oral agreement and his fiduciary responsibility to Phillips. At issue is whether the technology Phillips plugged Sherak into (it originated with Kerner, an offshoot of George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic) led to the deals that formed StereoD and should be counted in the 50/50 3D deal split Phillips said he and Sherak agreed to in an oral (not written) contract. Phillips claims in his complaint that Sherak often assured him their position would be protected because of his father’s industry clout, but that he eventually became evasive after Phillips was offered the $30,000. Stereo D has quickly become a major player in 3D conversions of films that include Captain America, Avatar, Jackass 3-D, and Thor.
Phillips claims that he brought Sherak into the 3D mix because they were longtime friends and he knew Sherak’s father would use his clout to put them in rooms with the Hollywood heavyweights needed for deals that would enrich the duo with finder fees. According to Phillips’ complaint, the elder Sherak orchestrated meetings with the likes of Ron Perelman, Deluxe’s Cyril Drabinsky, Legendary’s Thomas Tull and Lightstorm’s Jon Landau. The elder Sherak also arranged for Fox to provide a print of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to be converted into 3D for demos.
Along the way, the younger Sherak arranged meetings with Christopher Mallick, the financier of Middle Men, a film Sherak produced. These meetings evolved into a focus on 2D to 3D conversion technology called VDX that wasn’t owned by Kerner, but rather a Japanese inventor named Kuniaki Izumi. The filing indicates Phillips and Sherak were involved in bringing Izumi in from Japan to meet Mallick, who shortly after dropped his Kerner pursuit. He struck a deal with Izumi that paid the inventor $1 million for technology that became the core of Stereo D. Mallick gave equal ownership stakes in StereoD to himself, Sherak and Middle Men star Giovanni Ribisi. Phillips was not included. Read More »
The UK Supreme Court today upheld a 2009 appeals court ruling that Andrew Ainsworth, the engineer who designed the Imperial Stormtrooper helmets for George Lucas’ original Star Wars, didn’t violate British law by selling copies of the helmets. Lucasfilm had already won a $20 million judgment against Ainsworth and his Sheperton Design Studios in California back in 2006, arguing successfully that Lucas already had figured out the look of the helmets before coming to Ainsworth to design them. In the UK, Lucasfilm had to prove that the helmets were works of art to qualify for copyright protection under the law. “It was the Star Wars film that was the work of art that Mr. Lucas and his companies created,” the justices wrote. “The helmet was utilitarian, in the sense that it was an element in the process of production of the film.” Said Lucasfilm in a statement that the ruling “maintains an anomaly of British copyright law under which the creative and highly artistic works made for use in films — which are protected by the copyright laws of virtually every other country in the world — may not be entitled to copyright protection in the UK.”
George Lucas gave a long-winded explanation of why the re-release of the Star Wars prequel trilogy will be important, in an interview with G4′s Attack of the Show. Personally, I was underwhelmed by the prequel and am not as sparked up for a 3D conversion as I would if The Lord of the Rings were being converted. But Lucas dropped a nugget that will have Star Wars fans salivating. He said that on his planned Star Wars TV series, he’s got 50 completed scripts that are ready to go, if they can just find a way to chop down the cost of shooting them. That’s a lot of Star Wars, and Lucas seems determined to find a way to get them done. Here’s the interview, and you might also notice that Lucas does the chat with Disney Imagineering’s Tom Fitzgerald. He must be a silent partner in this operation, because Lucas doesn’t even let him get a word in:
Fox said earlier this month that the 3D Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is due to be released Feb. 10, 2012. Today’s release:
LOS ANGELES (March 29, 2011) — Lucasfilm, one of the world’s leading film and entertainment companies, and Prime Focus, the global visual entertainment services company, are proud to announce their collaboration on the 3D conversion of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace for theatrical release, heralding an exciting new era in Star Wars entertainment. Prime Focus was selected by Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) following an exhaustive testing process.
“It was incredibly important to me that we have the technology, the resources and the time to do this right,” said Star Wars creator George Lucas. “I’m very happy with the results I’ve been seeing on Episode I.”
Two notable announcements from Discovery Communications’ portion of TCA’s winter press tour:
- Feature director Ridley Scott has signed on for Prophets of Science Fiction, a new eight-episode series for the Science Channel, which will profile sci-fi visionaries such as Isaac Asimov, Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas and examine how their work inspired future discoveries decades before they took place. The series will premiere in the second half of 2011. Ridley and Tony Scott are producing.
- Discovery Channel has greenlighted a Chicago spinoff of game show Cash Cab. Hosted by comedian Beth Melewski, the new series will premiere in the summer. The original New York Cash Cab with Ben Bailey returns with new episodes in the spring.
UPDATE: This is big news and Lucafilm intends to make a big announcement about this long-awaited live-action Star Wars Saga conversion to stereoscopic 3D tomorrow. Can you imagine the Death Star trench run and the Tatooine Podraces in that format? Yikes! Plus, with Industrial Light & Magic supervising the project, led by John Knoll, this won’t just just another cheezy 3D conversion. According to tomorrow’s announcement, obtained by Deadline, ILM’s visual effects supervisor Knoll says, “Getting good results on a stereo conversion is a matter of taking the time and getting it right. It takes a critical and artistic eye along with an incredible attention to detail to be successful. It is not something that you can rush if you want to expect good results. For Star Wars we will take our time, applying everything we know both aesthetically and technically to bring audiences a fantastic new Star Wars experience.” Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is expected to be released theatrically in 2012. A release date has not yet been set for the other five films in the saga. This is sure to be a cash cow for everyone involved. Star Wars creator George Lucas acknowledged publicly earlier this year that the 3D conversion had been stalled but that seeing first Avatar and then Alice In Wonderland become such successes gave him new impetus to make the conversion. Lucas has said he’d been looking “for years and years and years” to add 3D to the Star Wars Saga but felt the … Read More »
The London-based sales company is handling international sales on the documentary that explores the love/hate relationship that fans have with the Star Wars creator. Director Alexandre O. Philippe has boiled down over 700 hours of footage submitted by fans. Clips include online parodies lovingly created in needlepoint, Lego, claymation and puppets. Witnesses including original Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back producer Gary Kurtz, Neil Gaiman and Dave Prowse (Darth Vader) all give evidence.
Producers Denver-based Exhibit A Pictures are hanging on to Canada and UK rights themselves. The People Vs. George Lucas is wending its way through the festival circuit, having had its world premiere at SXSW.
Samantha Horley, MD of Salt, said the plan is build the audience through social networks and online. “It’s the future of film sales. As a huge Star Wars fan myself I loved this film, so I know there’s a clear audience out there for this. We plan to find them.”
Let’s face it, we all loved Star Wars until Lucas went out and ruined it. First, he tinkered with the originals, then he made the prequels, and let’s not get started on Jar Jar Binks. The film asks the question: who truly owns that galaxy, far, far away — the man who created it, or the fans who love it?
MONDAY AM: Paramount’s Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull keeps piling up the box office gross domestically and internationally. After a 19-year hiatus, the fourquel mega-hit became the 10th biggest Friday-through-Sunday in the U.S. of all time, the 5th biggest international opening of all time, Steven Spielberg’s biggest opener (passing War Of The Worlds), and George Lucas’s second best opener behind Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith. But there’s been very mixed morning-after watercooler talk about whether the actioner was even worth watching — leading many Indy faithful to complain that Spielberg and Lucas just phoned it in. (However, my sources maintain the filmmaking duo thought they’d made a good pic. Go figure.) Monday’s North American box office gross is expected to be $25M. That makes the total domestic box office gross $151M for the 5-day Memorial Weekend (including Thursday’s opening haul of $25M, Friday’s $31M, Saturday’s $37M, and Sunday’s $33M as well as Monday’s $25M), $126M for the 4-day holiday, and $101M for FSS. The foreign estimate through Monday is expected to be $160 million — shattering the record for the Hollywood studio’s best overseas opening previously held by the opening of Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds ($102M). So, with North America’s $151M total take through Monday, that’s a $311M worldwide total.
In second place for the 3-day weekend was Disney/Walden’s sequel The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian whose gross fell 58% from a week ago to $23M for FSS from 3,929 venues and $28.6M for the 4-day holiday for a new cume … Read More »
MONDAY AM: It’s officially a mega-hit for adventurer Indiana Jones after a 19-year hiatus. The 10th biggest Friday-through-Sunday in the U.S. of all time, the 5th biggest international opening of all time, Steven Spielberg’s biggest opener (passing War Of The Worlds), and George Lucas’s second best opener behind Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith. This tentpole kept going strong all weekend despite the very mixed morning-after watercooler talk about whether the actioner was even worth watching — leading many Indy faithful to complain that Spielberg and Lucas just phoned it in. (But my sources maintain the filmmaking duo thought they’d made a good pic. Go figure.) The North American box office gross on Paramount’s Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull will be $151M for the 5-day Memorial Weekend (Thursday’s $25M, Friday’s $31M, Saturday’s $37M, and Sunday’s $33M as well as Monday’s expected $25M), $26M for the 4-day holiday, and $101M for FSS.
Internationally, Paramount’s Indy 4 is also piling up the box office gross. The foreign estimate through Monday is expected to be $160 million — shattering the record for Paramount’s best overseas opening previously held by the opening of Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds ($102M). So, with North America’s $151M total take through Monday, that’s a $311M worldwide haul.
In second place for the 3-day weekend was Disney/Walden’s successful sequel The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian whose gross fell 58% from a week ago to a big $23M for FSS from 3,929 venues and $28.6M for the 4-day … Read More »