An excerpt from a 1999 Empire Magazine interview with George Lucas is currently making the rounds, in which Lucas recounts how 20th Century Fox executives were less-than enthusiastic about the director deciding to center the first film of the Prequel Trilogy around a 10-year-old Anakin Skywalker.
The piece, which came out a few weeks after The Phantom Menace opened (to a huge box office), featured Lucas admitting that the film would have been more easily marketable if he’d started Anakin’s story with him as a teenager falling in love with Natalie Portman’s Queen Padmé. “I kept it as it was originally intended,” he said. “You can’t play too much to the marketplace. It’s the same thing with the fans. The fans’ expectations had gotten way high and they wanted a film that was going to change their lives and be the Second Coming. You know, I can’t do that, it’s just a movie. And I can’t say, now I gotta market it to a whole different audience. I tell the story.”
“I knew if I’d made Anakin 15 instead of nine, then it would have been more marketable,” he continued. “If I’d made the Queen 18 instead of 14, then it would have been more marketable. But that isn’t the story. It is important that he be young, that he be at an age where leaving his mother is more of a drama than it would have been at 15. So you just have to do what’s right for the movie, not what’s right for the market.”
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“You’re going to destroy the franchise, you’re going to destroy everything.” Lucas said of the Fox execs reactions to his story choices. He also recalled telling others at Lucasfilm that he was “making a movie that nobody wants to see.”
If you’re looking to get inside Lucas’ head even more when it comes to The Phantom Menace, check out this time capsule of his first day writing Episode 1.
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