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Marcia Lucas: The woman behind the ‘Star Wars’ magic

| Friday, October 1, 2021

Claire Reid | The Observer

Marcia Lucas, known for editing the films “Taxi Driver” and “American Graffiti,” gives a peek behind the curtain to some of the greatest classics in cinema in a recently published book, “Howard Kazanjian: A Producer’s Life.” In the foreword, she mentions the casting of Harrison Ford for “Indiana Jones,” while expressing her passion for editing. Even long after working in the business, she identifies herself with the craft.

“I’m an editor, and I loved what I did,” Lucas says. “I was a post gal.”

But then she reveals her opinions on the “Star Wars” sequel trilogy, Disney’s rendition of the absurdly profitable franchise. Now, using the memoriam of a dead friend to speak out against a conglomerate’s commercial product is an odd approach, but I was intrigued because of her past experience with “Star Wars” as a whole. She’s not just an experienced, professional editor — she is the ex-wife of George Lucas.

This sudden news story caught my eye because Marcia Lucas had a major role to play in the editing of the first “Star Wars” film. George Lucas’ first cut was deemed bloated and overlong; the visionary wanted to pack as much of his galaxy as he could into the projector. It was nearly unwatchable. Marcia Lucas and Paul Hirsch (another editor) saw to it that the magic would remain on screen, but the fat would be cut. Over 40 years later, we are still writing about it. Marcia knew what she was doing.

And in her eyes, J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy don’t.

I was expecting her concerns to be related to the editing of the trilogy. She definitely has qualms with how they approached the films, claiming directly, “They don’t know ‘Star Wars.” Yet she puts her professional analysis away when voicing her passion. Without her name connected to the quotes, she sounds like every other fan posting a YouTube rant for clicks. Her main concern was Abrams killing off Han Solo, not his rehashing of the same plot as “A New Hope.”

What I find strange is the paradox involved in comparing the two trilogies’ craft. The original trilogy is a wellspring of brilliant choices with frame-by-frame decisions in the edit. The cuts are the beating heart of those films. In the new trilogy, every ounce of energy is put into the VFX. The music swells, the lasers go boom, but the pacing feels clunky under the weight of branching stories that never culminate. I wanted to see what Marcia had to say about these choices, and what she herself would do differently if she was in the editing room.

Instead, she talks about the failed feminism of Rey: “We don’t know how she got Jedi powers, or who she is. It sucks.” She also mentions the useless death of Han Solo: “They killed Han Solo. They killed Luke Skywalker. And they don’t have Princess Leia anymore.” We hear these critiques all the time — why bother saying them anymore?

Marcia Lucas loves “Star Wars” more than anybody save George himself, because even though he was the one imagining it and crafting the world with his own two hands, she was the one making sure he stayed on target. In the decades after her success — even after she won an Oscar — most fans ignore her credit among the famous men she worked with. She had a chance, though brief, to re-enter the spotlight with Kazanjian’s book, and she took it. Multiple news sites and critics are writing about her opinions now (possibly more than ever before), but her words feel empty. Sometimes, I just want the magician to reveal the trick — where she was hiding the rabbit and why the newer magicians don’t get it — but instead I am reading the same, boring complaints about new blood killing old heroes.

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