Skip to main content

The Key Advice George Lucas Gave Lawrence Kasdan While Writing The Empire Strikes Back And Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Side-by-side pictures on Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back
(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

If you’re in any way a fan of the Star Wars and/or Indiana Jones franchises, you can thank Lawrence Kasdan for a big chunk of their respective successes. Lawrence Kasdan helped kick off Indiana Jones’ adventures as Raiders of the Lost Ark’s screenwriter, while over in the Star Wars world, he took over writing duties on The Empire Strikes Back following Leigh Brackett’s passing, and would work on three more Star Wars movies after that. Regarding Kasdan’s work on those early ‘80s movies, Kasdan recalled with CinemaBled some key advice George Lucas, who created both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, gave him when it came to crafting certain sequences in his head.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Lawrence Kasdan about Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), his six-episode docuseries that tells the story of visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic, which Disney+ subscribers can now stream. Visual effects have come a long way from those early years in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones sagas, and as such, I asked Kasdan if how much these technological limitations were in his head when he was writing sequences that would need to be effects-heavy. He responded:

Yeah, not at all. I had no limitations in my head, and I'll tell you why. Because my boss was George Lucas, and George Lucas said, ‘Don't worry about any of that. Don't worry about how we're gonna do it. Don't worry about it what it costs. We'll worry about that. What do you think would be the best thing to see here?’ And my hero, my favorite director is Akira Kurosawa. When he was writing, he would say, ‘What's the best thing that could happen next?’ And I think that is the spirit that George brought to the movies, and that's the spirit that ILM has made a reality for 50 years, 40 years. What can we do that's new? A lot of times these wonderful directors didn't know exactly what they wanted. They know where they wanted to get to, and ILM had enormous impact on what we see today, where they honed it, where there was something in the script or a director said to them, ‘Can you do this?’ And they came up with a solution that was even better than the director hoped.

As Lawrence Kasdan laid out, George Lucas urged for him to not hold back when it came to crafting effects-heavy sequences for for movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back. The sky could be the limit for Kasdan, and once his job was done, Lucas was content to figure out how to bring these sequences to life with the people who were working at ILM and other members of these film crews. Like Kasdan said, he admires Lucas for wanting to push the envelope in those early years, which subsequently paved the way for ILM to make great strides in advancing VFX and other areas of filmmaking.

So George Lucas’ advice to Lawrence Kasdan to not let effects limitations dictate what he’d like to bring to the big screen paid off, as not only are The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark among the more beloved entries in their respective franchises, they’re also considered cinematic classics. Looking further into Kasdan’s career, while Raiders of the Lost Ark (a production packed with behind-the-scenes facts) was his only time contributing to the Indiana Jones lore, he returned to the Star Wars mythos to co-write Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story. While those three movies also earned decent amounts of positive reception, Kasdan shared in 2019 that he felt “the studio blew it” on Solo, a movie that dealt with multiple behind-the-scenes issues. 

You can delve into Lawrence Kasdan’s exploration of ILM’s history and how much the company has changed the filmmaking industry by watching Light & Magic on Disney+. Those of you who’d rather look to the future should browse through our 2022 release schedule and 2023 release schedule.

Adam Holmes
Adam Holmes

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.