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If like me you’re under the age of 35, take just a minute and ask your parents about Star Wars. For us the original trilogy is something we saw on VHS tapes and lusted after as toys, but for them it was this revelation which burst on to the screen and changed the way they looked at movies forever.
When people talk about the original Star Wars movies today, there’s this tendency to dismiss them as though they were for kids, but that’s not even remotely true. When the first Star Wars was released in 1977 it was as heavily attended by adults as anyone. And not just adults who were into science fiction, all adults. My parents have told me stories about going to see it over and over and over again, even though they weren’t the type to normally go to movies at all. Why did it work? Why did it change the way we go to the movies forever? And why didn’t the prequels George Lucas made later work at all? Harrison Ford already had the answers, back in 1977
Embedded below is a rare 1977 interview with a very wide-lapelled Harrison Ford in which he talks about the film with legendary Dallas journalist Bobbie Wygant about the film. Back then he seemed to be still genuinely in love with Star Wars, still in awe of it, still appreciative of it. This is Harrison before he’s really famous, this is a Harrison who doesn’t really believe he’ll ever truly be famous enough for people to recognize him on the street. Watch:
If you’re a Star Wars fan, a few things are going to stand out to you. Note how amazed he seems to be of the sets and how important he thinks that craftsmanship, which George Lucas later abandoned for the prequels, was to the magic of the movies. And then there’s this quote, in which he explains why he believes the movies speak to so many different kinds of people and transcend the science fiction genre: “It’s finally about people and not finally about science. So the energy of the movie goes towards exploring these human relationships and I think that’s what makes it so accessible to people.”
I wonder if that’s when Harrison stopped caring about Star Wars, when he started to get the feeling that Lucas didn’t actually care about those human relationships, that maybe Lucas was just some tech nerd and that any of the character stuff which worked in the films was more just some happy accident or the result of hard work from he and his co-stars than anything Lucas had planned. It’s just a theory.
The world was in awe of Star Wars once. Not as a marketing tool or as a brand, but as a work of art. Harrison Ford seems as though he was, perhaps, as in awe of it as everyone else.