How does this story compare with what you imagined when you first mapped out the trilogies?
The original idea was that I was going to take a 30s-style genre - the Saturday matinee serial - and use that as my vehicle for a new reworking of old mythology. When I wrote it, it grew from one little movie - which was "Episode IV" - to a six-hour movie, which then got labelled "IV", "V" and "VI". But I wanted very much to start in the middle - I didn't want to start at the beginning, I don't like beginnings. The first act is always not that entertaining but you have to have it. But I figured out this method by saying, Well, you just came in in the middle, you weren't there last week, you were on a picnic. In order to get there, I had to write a back story, I had to figure where everybody came from.
So "Episodes I-III" emerged from writing the back story?
In the first three movies, the story was very narrow, very controlled. But the back story wasn't. The back story was: they go to Coruscant, Yoda has fights, all these things happen... but I didn't think I'd ever make that into a movie. So when I finished "Return of the Jedi", I basically said, "OK, that's it, movie's finished now. I'm gonna go off, raise my family, do a bunch of other things, produce some films." When I came back and decided I was going to direct again, by that time we'd moved the technology forward at Industrial Light and Magic to the point where I conceivably could go to Coruscant, the capital of the galaxy, and it wouldn't cost me $50 million for a miniature set. And I could probably get Yoda to fight, things like that. That's when I made the decision to do "Star Wars" again, even though it's a ten-year commitment, because I thought technically I could tell the story.
How much can you assume an audience knows for each movie?
My primary concern is to make the two-hour movie work for an audience, and that it is not necessary for them to have seen the movies before or after to be entertained. And then I've got the challenge beyond that of telling a six-part story, so there's a lot of things I've got to fit in there that have to do with, say, "Episode IV" or "VI".
You're director, producer, and writer here. What's the most rewarding thing, and the most frustrating?
Being the director is the most rewarding part of the process. I'm just the executive producer here, the real hard part is what Rick [McCallum] does. That's the frustrating part, but I avoid that as much as I can. The writing is difficult, but it's just difficult because you have ideas, and you don't have anybody to blame but yourself if getting them onto the page is a struggle.
Read Episode Two of the interview.