CE Panel: Rick McCallum - Producing The Prequels
Posted By Jeremy on July 15, 2007
From 3:45 to 4:45 pm Warwick Davis presented an hour-long talk chat and question and answer session with prequel producer Rick McCallum. Warwick opened with a welcome to ExCel and asked what he thought of the event. "F 'you-can-imagine-the-rest' Awesome!" He then explained that he was glad to be at Celebration Europe since he was unable to make C4 because he had been meeting potential writers for the live action Star Wars TV series.
Davis then joked about McCallum's abilities as a stuntman during his early movie career, which prompted McCallum to speak about how he started working in cinematography while at Elstree Studios, which is where he met George Lucas. McCallum recounted how they had been using the studio while working on different project. Though McCallum joked that Lucas was only interested in McCallum because he was cheap, the truth was that Lucas was beginning to think about doing a TV series based on Indiana Jones.
McCallum then spoke briefly on the advantages of digital film production, and referred to the Chronicles of Indiana Jones series being the first TV show to have digital effects in it, and how it had always been Lucas's intention to give each episode the production values that he would put into a feature movie.
Continuing on the topic of TV series, McCallum then explained that how he and Lucas were interviewing writers for the upcoming live-action Star Wars TV series. The interview process would be finished by September and during the last three months of 2007 the story outlines would begin to take shape. Though he would not reveal any new information about the plots or characters McCallum did say that he was looking forward to working on them because they would be much darker than the movies, character-based and written for adults. The big shocker was that Lucas now planned on making 400 episodes! Davis broached the subject that even though Star Wars was thirty years old there was life in the franchise, to which McCallum said that the new Clone Wars animated series was well on its way, with 15 episodes written.
The next subject discussed was his work on the Star Wars prequels, and Warwick asked which crew member he had been fondest of. "You think I was fond of any of the cast members?!" McCallum joked. He then went on to say that he had recently received a postcard from Ewan MacGregor (who is currently motor-biking through Africa as part of the Long Way Down), he had spoken to Ian MacDiarmid recently but hadn't heard from Natalie Portman.
Davis continued the discussion by introducing a clip from Revenge of the Sith showing the opening sequence of the clash between Anakin and Obi-Wan on Mustafar, and McCallum told us how how Hayden Christensen had worked with Nick Gillard for 8 weeks, and Ewan Macgregor for 4 weeks on an intensive regime to learn the choreographed fight sequence. MacCallum added further information about the production of the Mustafar duel when he explained how he and Lucas had discovered that Mount Etna in Italy was erupting The next day McCallum was on a flight to Italy to find an Italian cameraman to spend 4 days shooting the eruption from a distance of a few miles. The plates they shot survived and can be seen in the background of the movie.
Keeping to the topic of producing the Star Wars movies, Davis spoke about how McCallum was flexible and happy to get his hands dirty, drawing on the example of how during the filming of the podrace in Tunisia McCallum disappeared up a crane to shoot an overhead shot. McCallum admitted it had nothing to do with being flexible but purely because he wanted to get some peace and quiet for a few hours. Warwick went on to talk about how McCallum had asked him to be Yoda in a short scene in The Phantom Menace, who had to continually prompt Davis to speed things up because he was playing an aged Yoda (from the Original Trilogy) instead of a vibrant Yoda who was not burdened by the loss of the Jedi Order.
The floor was then opened up to questions (the following is paraphrased):
Will there be any more films?
McCallum laughed and said "The way George Lucas is spending money he needs to make the next six!"
When are the Indiana Jones TV series coming out on DVD?
The delay was due to the time Lucasfilm making the 100 documentaries that make up the extra content. The first set of DVDs will come out on October 13th, the second in January and more to follow after Indiana Jones IV.
Four hundred Star Wars TV shows - really?
*Laughs* Yes! McCallum said that there was a possibility that the live-action show would be several different series, each telling a different story.
What was your favourite episode to produce?
Episode III, because it was more character driven, they were all older and it brought closure to the prequels as well as many of the questions left unanswered in the Original Trilogies.
Why not use the authors and writers of the Star Wars books and comics for the live-action TV series?
Yes, they will be looked at as part of the final process in September. (This got a big cheer from the audience.)
Can you tell use more about the 3D versions of Star Wars?
Lucas and McCallum are planning to convert all six episodes but because there are not enough digital theatres, as well as the cost of buying the equipment, it is not financially viable so Lucasfilm is waiting for the cost of the process to drop and the number of digital theatres to increase. McCallum added that 2009 would be the start of the 3D revolution, with the release of James Cameron's Avatar, as well as the Terminator and Lord of the Rings films.
When will Star Wars HD DVD be available?
Lucasfilm is waiting for the Hollywood studios to settle down and pick a format from the three that are being fought over. If it does not end soon there is a chance that Lucasfilm will look at doing direct downloads.
With the release of Star Wars HD version is it likely that Lucas will make further adjustments?
Warwick interjected at this point and dubbed the new cut Star Wars: The Tinkered Edition. McCallum said "It wouldn't surprise me!"
Will the deleted scenes from A New Hope ever be included in a later edition?
He didn't know. Since Lucas does not consider the dialogue/events to matter, including them would be a marketing decision.
What happens to unsolicited fan films that get sent in to Lucasfilm?
McCallum referred to the final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and then asked if the question asker had his fan film with him and invited him to bring it up and hand it over.
Will the live-action series be shot in Sydney, Australia?
Yes, and casting would begin in June, 2008.
How many people acted as clonetroopers in Revenge of the Sith?
Six - the rest were digitally created.
What has been your favourite filming location?
McCallum explained that he loved working in the desert (Tunisia for Star Wars and Morocco for the Chronicles of Indiana Jones) because of the distances involved, the temperatures, accidents as well as cast and crew antics.
"Jar-Jar Binks - what was that all about?"
*Big laugh from the audience* George did it for the kids. *shrugs*
Can we see the new 3D Star Wars footage recently shown in Spain?
Unfortunately it wasn't possible to set the necessary cameras up at ExCel. McCallum went on to explain that in his opinion 3D is not the ultimate cinema format but will certainly help get the audiences back in the seats.
The show then ended with a short clip of footage called "Star What", an irreverential look at the general public's knowledge of Star Wars.
Check out the full gallery from the Rick McCallum: Producing the Prequels panel.