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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. The_Phantom_Calamari

    The_Phantom_Calamari Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Nov 10, 2011
    What does "explicitly" stated mean? Is that a direct quote from Lucas? Or is it someone else's characterization of the situation from their perspective?

    And how do we know this? Who and what are the sources? Specifically. Because I've never heard Kershner mention anything of the sort. Only Kurtz.

    Except there's no good evidence Lucas ever said that. So stop repeating it as if it's a quote from Lucas. It's dishonest.

    He didn't want his director to have to worry about the production problems because, for obvious reasons, Lucas feels very strongly about supporting directors. However, it was clear that Kurtz wasn't giving Kershner the logistical or consular support that he needed. Lucas rectified this by coming in, replacing Kurtz with someone more competent, and giving Kersh advice that helped speed up the process without meaningfully impinging on his autonomy.

    Anyway, are you going to admit fault for passing off a second-hand Gary Kurtz paraphrase as a direct quote from Lucas? If so, I will gladly accept that it was inadvertent, which I can understand. If not, I see no point in continuing this discussion with someone so willing to lie and obfuscate with no compunction in order to support an untenable narrative.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2018
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  2. Lt. Hija

    Lt. Hija Jedi Master star 4

    Dec 8, 2015

    I don't have my copy of Skywalking with me right now, but the "if it's good enough" statement is in there. Here are some quotes from the book I'm writing which I have with me:

    According to Kurtz “it is costing a little bit more and it’s gone over budget, but it has to be better or it’s not going to work”.[1] Lucas acknowledged that director Irvin Kershner was trying to make a good movie: “It was just a lot better than I wanted to make it … (but) everything I owned was wrapped up in that damn movie. If he blew it, I lost everything.” What had occurred was an unfavorable combination of unrealistic expectations with insufficient communication and Lucas would conclude “if anybody is to blame, it’s me.”

    Joe Johnston, then art director, felt that people wouldn’t remember THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK as an Irvin Kershner or Gary Kurtz film (“It’s just that George has such a good influence over people that they’re willing to accept his ideas”).[2]

    [1] The Making of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, J.W. Rinzler, page 196

    [2] Skywalking, Dale Pollock, Chapter Eight, pages 218-222


    You are right, unless we have the source for the other quote you criticized we should ignore it. However, I will never forget Dean Devlin's statement in Sci-Fi Universe how George Lucas reacted to the VFX of Independence Day. According to Devlin Lucas told him they should have let ILM do the VFX because that would have been "cheaper" (which according to Devlin wasn't true, but I couldn't help but notice that Lucas didn't say "better"...)
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2018
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  3. Martoto77

    Martoto77 Jedi Master star 5

    Aug 6, 2016
    Where exactly is it clear that Kurtz did not provide Kershner with the support that you are claiming? Do you have a direct quote from Kershner?

    I'm pretty sure that Kershner is in a better position than you to describe what the expectations of a producer would reasonably have been on a shoot like Empire's. That's why he found it incredible. And he makes the admission himself that he took time with scenes.

    A production problem, and reason for the budget increasing, was that Kersh and his DP took a long time to shoot scenes. It's why the quality of the photography hasn't been bettered in a Star Wars film since (rivaling Geoff Unsworth's work on the first two Superman movies). The balance of quotes from various parties makes it sound like Kurtz was more anxious about the shoot than Lucas was. Kershner talks about Gary "pulling out his hair" while George told him that this is what making a bug budget special effects filled movie is like and not to worry.

    So what you are saying is that Lucas told Kersh everything is fine because he didn't want the director troubled by pressure to go faster even though the speed of the shoot. dictated by Kersh and the DP's choices, was a big factor in the increasing cost.

    Either Kersh was supposed to go faster in spite of Lucas telling him not to be concerned about it, or Kurtz was supposed to say to Kersh beind George's back "to hell with what he says. Hurry up and wrap it up. It does matter how long you take."

    Lucas later reviewed his policy of allowing the director to hire his choice of DP in the case of Empire. It was just something he thought was right at the time. Little did he know that Kershner's choice would play its part in causing "catastrophe" and "financial disaster". Commentators can look his name up if hey are desperate for scapegoats to sling mud at (where no scapegoat is even needed).

    Kurtz is not alone in being subject to the kind of altered perspectives that Star Wars unprecedented success gives or gave people. Star Wars, arguably, wouldn't have been made if it wasn't for Laddie, Alan Ladd Jr. It certainly would not have had the same support throughout its production, and Lucas would not have been able to make the deal that permitted him to control any future Star Wars films and so many more things. But in spite of it being Fox's biggest money maker ever, resentment about the terms not being altogether in Fox's favour gave them the excuse to alienate Ladd for the precisely the same thing that soured Lucas's experience ESB.

    Loss of face.

    The idea that it's Lucas's job to tell the director to go at his own pace because he's supportive of directors, but Kurtz's job is to tell him instead to hurry up on George's behalf is absurd. Even more than the suggestion that Lucas already knew that Kurtz wasn't up to it and gave him the $20m production out of kindness.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2018
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  4. The_Phantom_Calamari

    The_Phantom_Calamari Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Nov 10, 2011
    That's clearly not what I said, though. I said it's Kurtz's job to help Kersh stay on target without impinging on his creative autonomy. I pointed out how Lucas managed to do this where Kurtz failed. I'm not sure how you could have missed that (answer: You didn't miss it, you just chose to ignore it).

    And Lucas himself indicates that he was worried Kurtz wouldn't be up to it. Notice that he was worried. It's not that he didn't know for sure that Kurtz wouldn't be up to it and hired him anyway. That would be ridiculous, and nobody ever claimed that. But again, you know this.

    It also seems like you're not going to admit your mistake with that supposed Lucas quote you provided, which can only lead me to conclude that you were being intentionally dishonest and don't want to own up to it.
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  5. Martoto77

    Martoto77 Jedi Master star 5

    Aug 6, 2016
    @The_Phantom_Calamari You haven't shown where Lucas helped Kershner to keep on target or anything like that. You have just made up your version of events as opposed to that attested by Kershner himself.

    Lucas hasn't indicated anything. You've shown how someone else has indicated that Lucas is said to have known that Kurtz might not be capable of the job he gave him before he gave it to him (hindsight co-opted only to justify their departure at a later date and also because it's consistent with the oft volunteered narrative where everything that happens at Lucasfilm is consistent with a plan laid by Lucas or something he always knew would happen and was prepared for), because the material effect on Lucas's ultimate aims was non existent.

    Just logically speaking, why would Lucas be so reticent to Kersh about the need to not take the time it was taking if he knew before and during production that Kurtz's employment would ensure that this would not come to pass if Lucas left that job solely up to Kurtz?

    The fact is that everyone was flying somewhat into the unknown.

    It's rather churlish to petulantly shoehorn a discussion about Kurtz's handling of the budget on Empire into a thread about the Special Editions and then demand an "admission" purely on the basis of your skepticism about the veracity of a quote, while providing no direct quote yourself, and then to claim to be uninterested in the conversation which you imposed on the thread.

    Pollock's book, Skywalking, has been out for nearly forty years. It's publication was only permitted via a deal where Lucas was allowed to censor anything that was totally untrue or considered harmful to Lucas's professional livelihood.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2018
  6. Samuel Vimes

    Samuel Vimes Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 4, 2012
    About Kershner and Kurtz.

    I have read a quote, about the very difficult shooting of the Hoth scenes in Norway.
    They had terrible blizzards and avalanches.
    And Kershner said that Kurtz was invaluable, being elbows deep into the work and keeping a positive attitude and thus helping the mood of the crew.

    Consider that the shooting of ESB was not easy.
    The worst blizzards in 50 years in Norway.
    A studio fire that set them behind schedule.
    And when they created second unit to make up for lost time and hired John Barry, who was happy to do it.
    He had caught a disease and died suddenly.
    Not only very tragic but is also meant that the crew had to be checked as this disease was contagious.

    Calling Kurtz incompetent because he could not foresee the worst weather for 50 years, a studio fire and the second unit director dying.
    That is a bit unfair.

    From what I know, Lucas got cold feet when the budget issues got big.
    And it is understandable.
    As I've mentioned, the Holiday special and More American Graffiti showed that SW might not do well.
    Plus he had seen what his close friend, Coppola, was going through with making Apocalypse Now.
    He financed that himself and the shooting was hellish and the budget grew a lot.
    And Coppola had banked everything on it, including personal assests.
    And the stress caused him to loose a lot of weight.
    Had it failed, it might have broken him completely.

    So Lucas worries are not all that strange and Kurtz was put in a difficult position.
    Lucas was his boss and it was his job to get the production in line.
    But he could also see that what they were getting was great.
    So he choose to back Kershner.

    I do know that there were conflict with the editing that Paul Hirsch and Kershner was doing. And Lucas was not happy with the first rough cut that he saw.
    And he tried to make his own cut. But the problem was that Kershner did not shoot like Lucas did.
    Lucas filmed in a way that gave him lots of options when editing.
    Kershner had a vision and filmed accordingly.
    So trying to edit it differently did not work.

    Bye for now.
    The Guarding Dark
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  7. Qui-Riv-Brid

    Qui-Riv-Brid Force Ghost star 5

    Apr 18, 2013
    Which is the point. The last person to thank for TESB is Kurtz. He plays it up like Lucas wanted to penny-pinch and do things quickly and cheaply and compromise the artistry. This of course is completely the opposite of the actual Lucas we know to exist. The person who actually created the story, wrote the script and chose the director. All good moves except the one where he chose the wrong producer. IK simply wasn't used to movies of this scale (no one was except Lucas). Kurtz was supposed to be the guy who could help guide Kershner, he failed, so Lucas once again had to take a hand where if GK had done as he was supposed to then he wouldn't have to.
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  8. Samuel Vimes

    Samuel Vimes Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 4, 2012
    First, Kershner might have been not used to films of this scale but he managed to do it. And made not just a good film but a great one. At least to me.
    Marquand is a different story.
    He was not that experienced and had done mostly TV at the time.
    He was not a bad director, far from it, just one that had little experience with this kind of budget or effects work.

    Direct actors, he could do that. Work with the crew, he could do that.
    The big effects part? Not so much.
    This forced Lucas to be on set more than he had wanted to.
    He had originally planned to be less involved with Jedi and so he could take it easy and patch things up with his wife.
    But instead he had to become more involved.
    So much so that the actors at times got one order from Marquand and then another from Lucas.

    So if we are looking at Lucas choices, then Kershner was, to me, a better choice than Marquand.
    As a) Lucas didn't need to supervise him so much and b) he made the better film.

    Second, Kershner has praised Kurtz and said that he was invaluable when they were shooting in Norway for ex.
    So the idea that he added nothing good to the film and only caused problems, that I don't think is a fair assessment.

    Third, the were budget overruns on Jedi as well. From what I've read, the break even point for Jedi was almost twice that of Empire.

    Lastly, I do think that Lucas was a bit worried about the budget, why wouldn't he?
    If Empire failed, it would not only cause him to loose a lot of money but it would also destroy his big plans for Skywalker Ranch and his independence.

    Bye for now.
    Old Stoneface
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  9. Lt. Hija

    Lt. Hija Jedi Master star 4

    Dec 8, 2015
    Grabbed my copy of Skywalking and did some homework. But reading the ESB chapter it becomes rather obvious that the main problem for Lucas during the production of ESB was Kershner's style, the way he modified storyboards, changed scenes etc.

    The last part of Chapter 8 reads like an epilogue (IMHO):

    Lucas takes responsibility for the near fisal disaster on Empire, although at the time he blamed Kurtz and Kershner for going $ 10 million over the budget. A lack of communication was the real villain - Lucas couldn't be in two places at once, and wherever he wasn't, problems invariably arose. "Gary did the best job he could, he made enormous contributions, but he was in over his head," Lucas says. "If anybody is to blame, it's me. Because I was the one who knew and I stayed over here [in Marin] until it was too late."
  10. Martoto77

    Martoto77 Jedi Master star 5

    Aug 6, 2016
    Don't let the truth get in the way of a good character assassination.

    In The Brits That Built The Galaxy, Watts describes how much improved the relationship with the crew was on Empire after they'd seen the results in Star Wars. Overtime was no problem. They would do whatever it took to make the best film possible. The strain of the Elstree shoot had soured Lucas so much that he gave the main unit in England a wide berth as much as he could.

    Some of the crew remarked it was a pity that they didn't get to work with Lucas, on Empire or any subsequent LFL shoots in England. since he'd pretty much decided not to direct again.
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  11. CLee

    CLee Jedi Padawan star 1

    Jun 18, 2017
    I think I'm forced to agree with him.

    Films are a visual medium so having some (more) eye candy isn't necessarily bad or damaging (I did like the revised, extended approach to Mos Eisley) but too much, let alone other, not-merely-visual changes, can and does hurt the pacing.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2018
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  12. Qui-Riv-Brid

    Qui-Riv-Brid Force Ghost star 5

    Apr 18, 2013
    Yes. It was ultimately his fault for the behind the scenes just as it also is ultimately his credit for the final movie.

    Where it gets bizarre is when there are those who want to separate them and only give him blame and take away all the credit.
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  13. Martoto77

    Martoto77 Jedi Master star 5

    Aug 6, 2016
    Which works both ways.
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  14. InnerSanctum

    InnerSanctum Jedi Youngling

    Mar 5, 2018
    Howard Kazanjian, who produced RETURN OF THE JEDI, did not produce RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Frank Marshall did.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  15. AndyLGR

    AndyLGR Jedi Master star 4

    May 1, 2014
    Lucas and Kazanjian both got executive producer credits on Raiders, which usually means they didn't do the bulk of the work that the actual producer did.