Brian De Palma Refutes Steven Spielberg's Story of the First 'Star Wars' Screening
“The fact that Steven says that only he saw the possibilities of ‘Star Wars,’ that’s not really true,” De Palma says
Some tales of the original “Star Wars” production have been greatly exaggerated, at least according to Brian De Palma. The filmmaker is setting the record straight about a notorious early screening of the iconic sci-fi film, claiming his reaction was far more positive than film history has made it out to be.
De Palma, the visionary director behind classics like “Carrie” and “Scarface,” recently appeared on the “Light The Fuse” podcast to discuss his work on the original “Mission: Impossible” film. However, the subject of conversation pivoted to another blockbuster franchise: “Star Wars.”
As the story goes, in early 1977, George Lucas assembled a group of his New Hollywood contemporaries, including De Palma, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola, to watch an early cut of his next flick, which would eventually be known as “Star Wars: A New Hope.” On the podcast, De Palma recalled what really went down and how it differs from Spielberg’s recollection of the screening.
“Everybody who was involved in that meeting, everyone has a different version of what happened,” De Palma said. “I was just watching the biography they did of Steven and he related how he saw it.”
For decades, the legend has been that no one believed in the throwback space opera except for Spielberg, who’d recently hit the box office jackpot with “Jaws,” widely considered the first blockbuster and a precursor to “Star Wars’” massive success.
“They always portray me as the guy that says the worst thing that drives everybody crazy, but if you’re gonna show me something, I’m gonna tell you what I think about it,” De Palma continued. “Why am I there unless I’m gonna give an honest appraisal of what I’ve seen? And in this case, the fact that Steven says that only he saw the possibilities of ‘Star Wars,’ that’s not really true.”
In “Star Wars” lore, that screening is often framed as yet another point of discouragement for Lucas amidst the famously turbulent shoot. But De Palma remembered having a much more empathetic outlook on the then-unfinished masterpiece.
“We all saw it as a terrific thing that George had done and we were well aware of where the special effects weren’t there, and how they had cut in all these planes from other movies that were supposed to be the ships and stuff like that,” he explained.
De Palma admitted that not all of his “Star Wars” takes proved prescient, though. In fact, he took issue with one of the franchise’s most integral elements.
“I did make a joke about The Force, that’s true. … I just thought the idea of The Force, you know — ‘The Force,’ I would say, and I kept repeating it, [saying], ‘It doesn’t seem like a great name for this kind of spiritual guidance.’ So needless to say, I had a lot to say about The Force, which obviously I was terribly wrong about.”
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