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CT Gary Kurtz on the Star Wars Special Edition

Discussion in 'Classic Trilogy' started by Darth Voldemort, Jan 12, 2018.

  1. Martoto77

    Martoto77 Jedi Master star 4

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    Aug 6, 2016
  2. Qui-Riv-Brid

    Qui-Riv-Brid Force Ghost star 5

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    Apr 18, 2013
    Which is the point. He didn't want to be the corporate guy hovering over worrying about money. If Kurtz had done his job properly in the first place then it wouldn't have been a major almost business shattering concern.

    Yes it's ultimately Lucas' fault for putting someone who couldn't do the job properly in (when he had misgivings but out of loyalty kept him anyway). Obviously the way Lucas allowed him all sorts of undeserved credit he didn't have hard feelings about it even when Kurtz talked smack about him in return!
     
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  3. Martoto77

    Martoto77 Jedi Master star 4

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    Aug 6, 2016
    I know of no misgivings Lucas had prior to ESB.

    Lucas publicly fired Kurtz for his handling of Kershner (which only became an issue when the bank reversed its policy due to various reasons not restricted to Lucasfilm) before his four time collaborator publicly talked about where his and Lucas's outlook on the development of Star Wars diverged. If that's what you mean by talking "smack". If kindness had been Lucas's concern then a parting that wasn't detrimental to his friend's professional reputation could have been engineered at no cost to anyone.
     
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  4. The_Phantom_Calamari

    The_Phantom_Calamari Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    Nov 10, 2011
    According to that link, there were multiple factors that might have influenced Bank of America's reluctance to loan Lucas more money, two of which had to do with the bank already not having much confidence in Lucasfilm. So it can't possibly have helped matters that, on top of all those other reasons, Kurtz turned the production itself into a financial disaster that no one would want to invest in further. No matter which way you slice it, Kurtz made the situation worse.

    If he wanted to allow Kershner to go at his own slow, plodding, and (if you look at the transcript of the carbon freeze set recording) chaotic and dysfunctional pace, then he should have factored that into the budget re-estimate when things first started getting out of hand. He also should have found ways to speed things along without compromising Kershner's vision--as Lucas did by suggesting to Kershner that he start filming master shots to provide the cast and crew with a better idea of how all Kershner's interlocking shots would fit together, thus allowing everyone to work at a more efficient pace without compromising quality. The fact is, Kershner did contribute to the problems as well, but Lucas never blamed him because he stands by his directors. Kershner has said Lucas was the most supportive producer he ever worked with. I've never heard Kershner say anything about Kurtz.

    e:
    It wasn't detrimental. Lucas kept Kurtz on the production officially and the fact that he had actually been let go was never made public. He personally bailed out another production Kurtz went on to produce that also ran hopelessly over budget. This guy had been his friend and collaborator for years. He never ever talked about Kurtz's less-than-flattering role in what happened until The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back came out--after years and years of Kurtz publicly badmouthing Lucas and characterizing his departure from Lucasfilm as a conflict between his own creative integrity and Lucas's commercial sell-out mentality. Lucas pretty clearly comes off as the good guy here, after he's finally had the opportunity to tell his side of the story that he'd been very kindly holding back for years and years.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2018
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  5. Martoto77

    Martoto77 Jedi Master star 4

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    Aug 6, 2016
    I'm not interested in simplifying the episode into declaring who is the winner in a "good guy" contest.

    But it should be obvious to anyone that The Empire Strikes Back categorically was not a financial disaster.

    Just in logical terms, if the extra money is to ensure the best quality realisation of the script, then the prospects of the movi being unfit for release or the money being spent unwisely by Lucasfilm is not the issue. The issue was the bank's reassessment of the potential for movies as investments based on the box office track record of previous sequel franchises. The relevance of which is questionable since Star Wars itself defied all financial models. It's rerelease added $30m to the original film's gross the previous year and was taking in a further ten million during its limited release that summer of 1979.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2018
  6. Slicer87

    Slicer87 Jedi Master star 4

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    Mar 18, 2013
    I completely disagree with Kurtz here. Lucas's wife at the time really wanted him to keep the Jabba scene in ANH. Kurtz was originally against hiring Ivan for TESB. Plus if you look at his track record, all the films he produced after TESB also went way overbudget and why he ended up not getting much work outside of Lucas hit pieces for the toxic nerd culture. It is also reported by The book, The Making of TESB, that Lucas was advised not to rehire Kurtz and that Ivan didn't like him and thought Kurtz was clueless with handling a budget.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2018
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  7. jaqen

    jaqen Chosen One star 5

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    Jul 22, 2004
    Gary is 100% right.

    And I say this as someone who, on the whole, have nomajor issues with the SE. Hell that was the first time I got to see SW on the big screen.

    I especially agree with him on the awful Jabba scene in ANH, the kind of alterations that did work, and the fact that the changes "didn't ruin the films", they're just minor annoyances in some places.
     
  8. Martoto77

    Martoto77 Jedi Master star 4

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    Aug 6, 2016
    Until someone provides a quote or a source for Lucas hiring Kurtz to produce the movie with Lucas's money (almost double what the first film cost) in the knowledge that the man was not up to it - that just goes down as fantastically conventient conjecture.

    Lucas has traditionally been unsentimental and averse to the the hippy attitudes to work that he felt held back the new cinema in the late sixties and seventies. It sounds completely out of character for him to carry a supposedly disastorous producer around, jepoardising his career as a film-maker and his income (knowing that if ESB failed, Lucas himself would personaly be bakrupted) after having worked with him, successfully, on four films prior to that.

    Nobody is absolving Kurtz of his responsibility for the way Empire's budget increased. It's not a case of, it had the be that way. But neither was it a case of it had to be that way because Lucas had a complete uncharacteristic brainstorm of sentimentality, recklessness and profligacy by placing someone who's qualifications for that role would result in seemingly inevitble failure at it, with life altering (not for the better) consequences for Lucas above all others.

    That kind of oversimplified, confirmational assumptions and conjeccure are transparently designed to provide a narrative that collaboriting with his four time producer on ESB is the biggest (and perhaps only) mistake that Lucas ever made while at Lucasfilm.

    No matter how much or how little of that might be close to the truth, it is completely churlish to promote it as the defining characteristic of ESB considering that it did not affect the success, financially or otherwise, of ESB in any material way.
     
  9. The_Phantom_Calamari

    The_Phantom_Calamari Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    Nov 10, 2011
    If the extra money was needed to make the movie, that should have been figured out beforehand so Lucas wouldn't have to throw himself at the mercies of a bank in the middle of production. The reasons the bank didn't want to increase the loan (of which I think you're overplaying the importance of market forces, even per that article you posted) are secondary. That fact that things like that can happen is why you want to know what you need to borrow up front--not halfway through production--so you can figure out how to get the money you need and be sure that you have it before you begin.

    From Rinzler's book:

    There was a concern that Kurtz would not be able to handle the enormous job of producing the second film; on Star Wars, Lucas had shouldered more of the producer’s burden than he’d wanted, while directing, and had been disappointed with some developments that Kurtz had not helped resolve. For Empire, Lucas had therefore considered having Kazanjian as executive producer and Watts as producer. But Kurtz had pleaded his case: He’d worked with Lucas as far back as Graffiti, he’d been loyal, and he knew the property.

    Against his own misgivings, Lucas had acquiesced.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2018
  10. Martoto77

    Martoto77 Jedi Master star 4

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    Aug 6, 2016
    You can't claim that the Kurtz jepoardised ESB and Lucasfilm by not providing Lucas with the actual final budget right away, inducing the bank to refuse further borrowing and then claim that the bank's reasons for refusing are not relevent when those reasons turn out to have been unrelated to the timescales for asking for the money.

    Empire Strikes Back was an attempt to do many things that nobody had done before and which would make or break the film. Notably, the Dagobah scenes. When the budget had to be revised in order to deliver these things, after technical problems (which did not bother Lucas) and the commitment of the photography unit to produce material of unimpeachable quality, it was a direct consequence of the unprecedent nature of the production and Kurtz underestimation of the final cost. Similar problems arose with Star Wars but ESB was still a leap into many unknowns.[/quote]

    But not predciting it accurately was not the factor that made the bank refuse funds. Being the Executive producer, and effectively the studio, it was also incumbent on Lucas to say that the reason a budget was made in the first place was to obey it. Lucas had no qualms about drawing down more funds from the bank than was originally thought necessary. The problem was when Lucas had to make a face-losing request for Fox to provide guarantees to the bank, as per the newfound hesistance surrouding movie investment.

    And that all proved to be totally academic in the long run.


    From Rinzler's book:

    There was a concern that Kurtz would not be able to handle the enormous job of producing the second film; on Star Wars, Lucas had shouldered more of the producer’s burden than he’d wanted, while directing, and had been disappointed with some developments that Kurtz had not helped resolve. For Empire, Lucas had therefore considered having Kazanjian as executive producer and Watts as producer. But Kurtz had pleaded his case: He’d worked with Lucas as far back as Graffiti, he’d been loyal, and he knew the property.

    Against his own misgivings, Lucas had acquiesced.
    [/QUOTE]

    So it's a quote from JW Rinzler. Fair enough. But it does not say that Lucas knew he was unsuitable and hired him out of kindness.


    Here is a quote from Lucas which shows where his head was at regarding the quality and profitability of his Star Wars movies.

    "We could have made just as much money if Empire hadn't been so good and you hadn't spent so much time."
     
  11. The_Phantom_Calamari

    The_Phantom_Calamari Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    Nov 10, 2011
    You're the only way claiming the budget spiraling out of control wasn't a factor at all in the bank's decision. I say it's absolutely ludicrous to assume that it wasn't. You're completely ignoring your own article which claims a lack of confidence in Lucasfilm as one of the factors influencing their decision. It's inconceivable to think that Kurtz's bumbling didn't contribute to that even further.

    I am also making the argument, in addition, that the reason you get the budget in order beforehand is so you don't run up against unpredicatble financial exigencies like this in the first place. I'm not making contradictory arguments, you're just failing to keep up with what's being said.

    He had to draw down more funds because it would have been physically impossible to finish the movie otherwise. Guess whose fault it was that he was put in that situation?


    Dude, use your head. It's a book being published by Lucasfilm, under Lucas's direct supervision, for which Rinzler had the opportunity to personally question Lucas on many points--and Lucas's internal mindset and feelings are being described. Where exactly do you think Rinzler got that information?

    And where's your source for that quote? That's a rhetorical question, by the way. I know your source. I think everyone can guess who the source is.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2018
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  12. Slicer87

    Slicer87 Jedi Master star 4

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    Mar 18, 2013
    When a lender decides to lend out money, they first my judge how big a risk it is. The more debt a person or company already has, the riskier it is to lend them more money. The bank already lend lots of money to them and probably got reports of the production's budget problems and decided the production had become to risky for them to lend anymore money.

    As for Kartz, he is clearly still harboring resentment toward Lucas and allows it to tint his accounts. BTW, Kartz's accounts do not match most of the official records and other peoples' accounts. The man is still very vindictive and is taking petty potshots at Lucas every chance he is given, likely because it is the only attention he can get after flushing his own career. He is simply pushing his agenda that Lucas was a sellout, ignoring that a lot of effects just did not work out back in 1977, 1980, and 1983. Many of the original effects that were replaced were simply awful. To me, known of what was added in the SE stands out badly, and even Ivan liked the SE version of TESB. Of course Kartz is entitled to his opinion, but he should be trying to present them as facts to push his Lucas is a toy sellout narrative. Its BS like this that makes me have a low regard for Kartz, and every time he opens his mouth my opinion of him drops further. His is just a bitter old loser.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2018
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  13. {Quantum/MIDI}

    {Quantum/MIDI} Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    Dec 21, 2015
    Zombie?

    ;)
     
  14. The_Phantom_Calamari

    The_Phantom_Calamari Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    Nov 10, 2011
    Good guess, but no, even worse: Gary Kurtz. LOL.

    e: To be more precise, it's Gary Kurtz paraphrasing Lucas (not quoting) in an IGN interview decades after the fact. And yet @Martoto77 tried to pass it off as a direct first-hand quote from Lucas with no qualification. Doesn't seem like a very honest thing to do if you ask me, but to be fair I assume it was an accident on his part.

    e2: In that same interview he also slags Raiders and claims that Lucas sold out there too by cynically de-emphasizing the story and instead focusing on mindless action. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that Raiders was an incredibly successful Lucasfilm made shortly after he was sacked, and very successfully produced by the exact man who replaced him on Star Wars. That's just speculation, though. Surely there's nothing to that at all--I mean it's not as if Gary Kurtz has ever displayed any qualities revealing himself as the bitter type.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2018
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  15. Gerald's Game

    Gerald's Game Jedi Youngling

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    Dec 4, 2017
    Gary Kurtz has stated what my opinion is about the Special Editions. The problem with the Prequels is that they needed Gary Kurtz and a studio boss setting better constraints for George Lucas.
     
  16. The_Phantom_Calamari

    The_Phantom_Calamari Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    Nov 10, 2011
    Gary Kurtz didn't constrain George Lucas one iota other than catastrophically screwing up his own job and making it harder for Lucas to do his as a result.
     
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  17. Martoto77

    Martoto77 Jedi Master star 4

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    Aug 6, 2016
    You keep saying it was a "catastrophe" and a "financial disaster". It was nothing of the sort.

    Lucas was involved in the effects and the editing. The overage on the maim unit had no effect on Lucas's ability to do those jobs.

    One of Lucas's jobs was to be the studio, effectively. And as head of the studio he was telling Kershner to keep doing what he's doing and not to worry about delays but later resented Kurtz for not telling Kersh and the DP the precise opposite. And only because it brought Fox closer to the project when George was trying to alienate the studio from participation.
     
  18. Qui-Riv-Brid

    Qui-Riv-Brid Force Ghost star 5

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    Apr 18, 2013
    Gary Kurtz couldn't handle Star Wars in the 70's and that was easy compared to making the prequels which were far more complex, expensive and collaborative. Kurtz couldn't hold a candle to Rick McCallum. If he was actually as good as that then he could very well have done movies for Lucasfilm for decades from Indy to the PT. It's not like Lucas doesn't like keeping people around for years into decades when they are really good.

    Thank goodness there were no studio bosses settting constraints because then we'd never get TESB, ROTJ, TPM, AOTC or ROTS. We've now seen what studio constraints and directives do to Star Wars movies and while entertaining the level of film-making is a long way away from Lucas'.
     
  19. {Quantum/MIDI}

    {Quantum/MIDI} Jedi Grand Master star 5

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    Dec 21, 2015
    Forget all of Kurtz’s involvement with SW.

    When he doesn’t understand that these films were for the young to give them “hope” and wanted them to become more “cynical”(as many adult films were at the time)like in TESB and especially ROTJ, he pretty much loses me on all fronts even if he is right about the SE.

    I was taken aback about his disdain for the beautifully woven Father/Son intimacy within ROTJ.
     
  20. Gerald's Game

    Gerald's Game Jedi Youngling

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    Dec 4, 2017
    My view on the Prequels is that they are good and yes, "complex," films. However, given the success he had, Lucas squandered the goodwill of the public and became overly sensitive to critics post-ROTJ. He has gotten away with playing with his audience unfairly in terms of over-thinking and over-merchandising. We should have had SW sequel and prequel films in late 80s and 90s that featured the original actors.

    The books and comics became a substitute for what George should have been able to do himself. If Lucas had been truly in control of his own creation, this whole ongoing, totally irrational canon debate (Legends, G-Canon, C-Canon, EU, DEU, etc) would have never happened (or it would have been diminished).
     
  21. Martoto77

    Martoto77 Jedi Master star 4

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    Aug 6, 2016
    Two strawmen there.

    "wanted them to become more cynical.."

    ".. disdain for... father/son."

    No such things ever happened.
     
  22. Lt. Hija

    Lt. Hija Jedi Master star 4

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    Dec 8, 2015
    I'd like to know that myself but believe it's genuine. Pollock's Skywalking biography makes one thing crystal clear: George Lucas approached the film with an "If it's good enough, leave it at that" attitude (that's explicitly stated).
    Apparently Kersh and Kurtz mutinied and obviously were not on the same page, i.e. they wanted ESB to be better than just "good enough". This was 1980 and there was considerable concern that the sequel to Star Wars had to appeal to the general audiences, the franchise was still in its infancy.

    As a final result we got the lavish next chapter to Star Wars but never got the opportunity to see George Lucas' "good enough" version.

    "We could have made just as much money if Empire hadn't been so good and you hadn't spent so much time."

    That ultimately remains a theory and a claim, but looking at the audience reception of ROJ I wouldn't exclude the possibility that George Lucas might have been right. Objectively we just don't and can't know.
     
  23. Martoto77

    Martoto77 Jedi Master star 4

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    Aug 6, 2016
    Right @Lt. Hija I saw that quote in Pollock's book a long time ago (before any of Rinzler's books were published) It also describes how the BOA's sudden cold feet came as a surprise to Lucas and everyone else.

    In the "Masters" documentary, Kershner expresses his surprise that George was unperturbed at tortuous pace of the Dagobah scenes completion and how after a ten hour delay setting it up they take many takes to get only got one shot that day. "As the producer, I expected him to be pulling his hair out and pushing things along [paraphrased from memory]". Reportedly Lucas was not inordinately concerned about the budget overages until after BOA declined to open the register again.

    The narrative seems to flip flop from Kurtz simply messing up the production, or Kershner being allowed, by Kurtz, to spend too much time.

    If production was so messed up then it would have shown up on screen. If Kershner was going too slow, it was not kept from Lucas, and he in fact said nothing that made anyone think there was a need to speed up in order to avoid "catastrophe" or "financial disaster".

    One of things which inflates costs is overtime. Lucas has never stopped complaining that he needed to go into overtime at the end of each day on Star Wars and the crew almost always declined. Following the success of the first movie, the crew were happy to do whatever overtime was required on Empire Strikes Back. What did Lucas think would have happened if the crew had been more enthusiastic in 1976 and worked all the overtime he requested? They would have gone (further) over budget. In fact, budgeting insufficient funds started with Star Wars. Lucas agreed to initial budgets for the first movie that he knew were inadequate.

    Of course. Lucas and Kurtz had been successful with low budget movies and avoiding overages, and there was never anything other than a desire to make the movie that needed to be made whatever the cost. It wasn't that anyone enjoyed wasting money. Attitudes changed of course once it became George's own money that was being spent (in order make more, by all accounts), and following the ignominy of having to deal with Fox after Lucas felt he'd dealt them, and the industry, an almighty snub.

    The "good enough" policy seems to have come about after Empire Strikes Back. Lucas decided that, as the producer, he does need to be on set making sure that the material being shot (the "collecting lumber" as Lucas calls it) was good enough and that no more. The budget for ROTJ was still higher than ESB's.

    In my opinion, the footage shot at Arizona and California is just good enough, but inferior to almost all other photography in the OT.
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2018
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  24. Samuel Vimes

    Samuel Vimes Jedi Master star 4

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    Sep 4, 2012
    I can recommend SF Debris series about the production off the six SW films.
    He tries to be fair and look at all sides and not demonize or vilify one or the other.
    No RLM style bash here.

    The second part deals with ESB and RotJ.
    http://sfdebris.com/videos/special/shadowsjourney.php

    A couple of interesting bits,
    That Lucas might have gotten worried about ESB after the SW Holiday special, which made SW into a joke. And the sequel to American Graffiti, that did poorly at the BO and with the critics.
    So he might have felt that a SW sequel might not be a sure thing, that it could do badly.

    And he was working hard to set up Skywalker Ranch and all that. Which cost a lot of money.
    Had ESB failed, it could be the end of his plans for Skywalker Ranch and him creating an independent studio.

    There was budget overruns on ESB but also on RotJ.
    The break even point for ESB was apparently 65 M, which was a lot back then as sequels almost always did less than the original.
    The break even point for RotJ was considerably higher, 115 M.

    The production of ESB was far from easy, the worst snowstorms in 50 years in Norway.
    Having a Muppet play a central part and have it be believable.
    And the first draft of the script was not what Lucas wanted but before he could talk with Brackett and work on a new draft, she fell ill and died not long after.
    So he had a script that he didn't like and no writer.

    Bye for now.
    Old Stoneface
     
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  25. Martoto77

    Martoto77 Jedi Master star 4

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    Aug 6, 2016
    @Samuel Vimes Yep. It comes down to the fact Empire was intended to make Lucas independent (i.e. make him personally very wealthy). He knew it was a risk and anticipated bankruptcy even if it was a mild success. While overage didn't jepoardise the quality of the final film or its eventual success. Once the movie broke even and then exceeded expectations, it sounds like George started to consider what might have been a complete and unqualified rout of the traditional system of making movies if he hadn't had to go to Fox to induce the bank to lend funds. (actually, it was cash needed to meet the increasing payroll. It was mainly a problem of liquidity rather than the final cost). It seems to have given him nightmares of a dream almost denied, due to the story being slightly tarnished by having to go back ("cap in hand" as Lucas saw it, even though it was academic in the end), to his old bosses, after effectively quitting making movies for Fox, who were now going to be working for Lucasfilm, in George's eyes.
     
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