Guys, you guys: Today we get to pick the brain of award-winning screenwriter, Christian Taylor! What would you do without me?
MandyB: Christian, thanks so much for agreeing to a chat! The folks here at TFN have greatly enjoyed your writing on The Clone Wars. First things first, why Star Wars?
Christian Taylor: I was lucky to get asked. There are a lot of people who would love this job and it is quite something to get to write the words “Obi-Wan fires his lightsaber.” I also get to work with some great people including Dave Filoni and George Lucas. All things I never thought I would get to do. BUCKET LIST!
MB: Have you had any prior experiences with the franchise or Lucasfilm in a professional capacity before?
CT: I worked for Casting Director Maggie Cartier as her assistant on Indiana Jones III in London. I was just out of high school and we were actually casting two films at once: INDY III and VALEMONT staring Oscar-winner Colin Firth. I remember driving Maggie across London in my beat up Mini from Steven Spielberg to Milos Forman, quite an incredible experience for one so young. They were filming Indy at Elstree (Where Star Wars was shot) and we went on the set one day when they were shooting the bi-plane fight sequence against a green screen. All I remember was that Spielberg was so lovely to Maggie and Sean kept shouting “Junior.” I met George once, but when I told him about it recently, he looked at me blankly. Ha! I think he had other things to worry about 20 years ago.
MB: Your writing background is fairly diverse (Six Feet Under, the first season of Lost, New Amsterdam, among others), what were the challenges you faced writing in a such an established world as Star Wars?
CT: I’ve said this before but I think when you write in such a beloved and established universe it’s like being on a cliff, if you look down you will get serious writers block. I really try to come at it from character and make sure we are telling a great story. I grew up with the movies at a very seminal part of my childhood and I truly loved them, but you cannot be a slave to the world or the fans or else nothing very inventive will be created. And the truth is I don’t think fans would want that.
MB: With any such undertaking I can imagine there is generally a fair amount of research involved. What did you use to familiarize yourself with the current state of the Star Wars universe?
CT: I re-watched the movies and tried to get in touch with how I felt as a child when I first saw them. The mystery, the magic, the Force, the adventure, the fun and the epic nature of the films. There are incredible people on The Clone Wars including Dave who can tell you if what you are pitching is crazy or has been done before. Luckily we only have one true master and that is George. What George says or likes, goes. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is not to have to answer to a committee of TV executives!
MB: The three episode arc you crafted is notable for several reasons, not the least of which is the controversial physical embodiment of both the light side and the dark side of the Force. What sort of reactions did you expect when these episodes aired?
CT: When George mentioned these concepts, I knew they would be controversial and hard to write. As crazy as it sounds, that’s exactly why I picked them. Either they would be a disaster or an amazing journey into the unknown. I was thrilled that there are so many fan postings about these episodes. This was the first time in a while that George actually wanted to discuss the nature of the Force. What people need to realize – or how I saw George’s interpretation – was that these are “Force wielders,” they are not the source of the Force; they merely are skilled and adept in controlling it. This has both corrupted and enslaved them. When Obi-Wan asks Qui-Gon “How are you here?” he answers “Because you are here.” The nature of the Force and how these beings use it allows them to take what flows through our heroes and manipulate that to their advantage. This was big stuff and allowed us to have an epic battle of temptation and redemption outside the established world of Star Wars. Of course, some fans were going to take issue with that but that’s exactly what is great about Star Wars and specifically Clone Wars the series – there is something for everybody. You want clones running around in battles, you got it! You want Jedi and Padawans growing up? You got that! You want Force Wielders? Well, we wanted to give the fans something they can really chew on! I am very proud of how the episodes came out, and they are stunning to watch. I just wish the fans could see them projected on the big screen the way I did. The sound, the visuals… BLEW ME AWAY.
MB: Did you receive any instructions from Lucas or Filoni that guided you to write this particular situation in regards to the mystical aspects of this arc?
CT: Everything on Clone Wars starts with George. For Season Three, the season I started, they established a writer’s room and it was around eight of us sitting at the Main House working through three stories a day with George. It was a fantastic experience. It all starts and ends with George, with Dave in between and the writers filling it out. Then the incredible artists who make the show bring it to life!
MB: To touch back on these embodied representations of the Force… where did the idea originate?
CT: With George.
MB: The Mortis trilogy seemed to reflect several mythical archetypes from various inspirations: LOTR, the Camelot mythology, the Ring Cycle among others. Do you think that this addition adds too much transparency to the current mythology behind Star Wars? (I am, of course, referring to previous complaints from fans that take issue with the idea of Midi-chlorians being behind the Force and deeming that explanation as "ruining the mysticism" behind the Force.)
CT: For me the Mortis Trilogy was a big metaphor, everything is symbolic of themes and events that take place the films. When you are dealing in an arena that epic, things tend to cross over in fiction. As for transparency, all I know its that George has this all very well thought out. It isn’t fluff, but deeply spiritual stuff about why we as humans do what we do and can rise to great heights and intense depravity.
As for Midi-chlorians, I never understood the uproar. The Force is the FORCE and the term “Midi-chlorian” is the Jedi trying to quantify that. That’s what intelligent beings do, they quantify things. That doesn’t diminish the mysticism of what the Force is. Just because scientists call water H2O, doesn’t make it any less magical as the fluid of life that exists in everything, creates everything.
MB: What prompted you to create a reveal to Anakin of his destiny while preserving continuity with a deus ex machine "mind tap"?
CT: Because it would be AWESOME! As storytellers on this show, we struggle with the fact that we are hemmed in to the specific time frame of the Clone Wars. To reference the future was an amazing opportunity and not one that I thought we’d get to pull off. You never see FLASHBACKS in Star Wars; it’s just not part of the fabric of how stories are told in Star Wars. I’ve never asked George why, but I think it would slow down the momentum. Here was a special opportunity to show what Anakin would become and the things he would do, and to see that iconic image of Darth’s mask was thrilling. I have to give credit to Dave, as I didn’t know what we were allowed to see. I left it very open in the first draft. He slipped that in and didn’t tell me until I saw it 30 feet high in the Skywalker Ranch theater. I think I might have squealed a bit!
MB: Are there plans in place to bring you back to The Clone Wars for another story arc?
CT: I’ve actually been working on the show for the past three seasons. Because this is such a technically complicated show, we have to have scripts ready years in advance. I’ve written 15 in total. There are things I know but can never tell...“I seen things you wouldn’t believe! Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. Sea beams glitter in dark near the tannhauser gate… all those moments will be lost, in time, like tears in the rain.” WHOOPS wrong world, but one of my favorites. Gold Star to those who know!
MB: Where can fans of your writing look to see more of your work?
CT: Well I am lucky that I have worked on some great shows, the first two years of Six Feet Under, the first year of Lost, I created the short-lived New Amersterdam, worked on a the first season of Miracles (On DVD) and wrote, starred and Co-Directed the award winning independent film Showboy; be warned, it’s craziness.
MB: Truth Time: You're selling tickets to a cage match between the Daughter griffin, the creepy Son gargoyle, and Falkor. How does this end?
CT: You see there is this guy named Gary Scheppke (Lucasfilm Animation employee) who I email when I have any weird questions like which robot does what and which ship would be used in this attack. And has Yoda ever…. before. I frankly had no idea who Falkor was, but Gary knew. See, he saves our writer’s hides!
I never liked The NeverEnding Story. Sorry. The SON of course would eat that creature as an appetizer. The Daughter would chastise him for it. By the way, the Son wouldn’t be the The Son without Sam Witwer’s acting chops! I think The Son should have his own reality where he becomes a Rock Star…. THOUGHTS?
MB: Sam Witwer in bedazzled leather pants? HOW MUCH MONEY DO WE NEED TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN? Christian, you've been a real sport and I've loved chatting with you. I speak for everyone here at TFN when I say that we cannot wait to see what you have in store for us, you replicant, you.