Thursday, September 9, 2010

1977 Star Wars Interview

Reader Michael Anderson sent along a link to an old interview with Harrison Ford by Bobbie Wygant of KXAS-TV in 1977. It's short (a little under 6 minutes) but interesting, if only for historical purposes. And it adds more fuel to the fire regarding the eternal "science fiction or not" question, with Mr Ford weighing in on the "not" side of things.


17 comments:

  1. That's a pretty interesting interview in and of itself. Thanks for sharing (& thanks to Michael Anderson!).

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  2. Yeah, he does hit on the head by calling it a space fantasy...I wonder if he used fantasy in the psychological sense - that is pure escapism or in the genre sense. I speculate it is a of both.

    What I found interesting is that Star Wars was one of the first films that he had seen which was bringing the science to the people. As much as the Golden Age authors may have struggled with but still remained scientists. I think that RPGs and especially SFRPGs (and especially Traveller) also had an important role in bringing along the literacy, numeracy and a social awareness, nay, even historical awareness... as the kids wanted more. But, this should not be another post praising RPGs.

    I think the popularity of Star Wars was yet another attempt at dumbing down the literature of SF. Yet, on other hand, as Harrison said it was bringing it to a larger audience.

    Here are my interests...Why in the late 1970s was such a resurgence in the interest in science mixed in with the fantastical? Or was Star Wars at the conclusion of the Tolkien decade - in which those trippy, hippy paperback editions had reached their mass audience and people were yearning for that type of fantasy and Star Wars provided it on a platter. Or maybe currents were already afoot for the Straussian political project embodied in Reaganism.

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  3. The term "space fantasy" that Harrison Ford uses to describe Star Wars is precisely the one I use.

    I particularly like his story of watching Star Wars with another couple who, even though they conversed with him, didn't realize that he played Han Solo.

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  4. holy cow, that dudes a weirdo in interviews even back then. awesome.

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  5. @Referee-Late 70s was post-Vietnam, post-civil strife of the 60s, post Watergate, just had the Bicentennial in '76; the country had just been through a lot and finally had a chance to look forward. and SciFantasy became one of the mediums. maybe RPGs as well. And it all predated the us vs. them delineation of virtually everything that started in the late 80s.

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  6. Ok, I have heard the theory of Star Wars representing Spaces of Hope...indeed the title is a New Hope. For there still was much angst that the young Lucas had to work out - his heroes are rebels fighting an almost impossible task but needed something to propel them dare we say utter the term - Force. The fact that violence was glorified, it was perhaps, that Spaces of Hope needed to proliferate. The way forward, I think was undecided and RPGs do sort of represent that break.

    For they began to construct narratives and mythologies around new social spaces - that gamers sought to colonize - the library, the school, the church with new forms of expression. Sometimes, these institutions pushed back hard (especially true of some of the Churches) which in turn generated the Moral Panic surrounding them. As one generation could not speak to another...some had insider knowledge (like the wargamers) but others were simply were bewildered or hostile. So, Star Wars, far from offering a reconciliation punched a hole in the established order (the studio's beliefs around Science Fiction as being only about the fringe crazies or science types).

    RPGs did their part by resurrecting storytelling as the medium and codifying the art form that made it widely accessible in the form of rules.

    So, I might agree with you, in the sense Star Wars showed the way forward but not a chance to look forward. For even in the first films, we knew what the Rebels were against but not what they stood for. Similarly, RPGs offered a proliferation of alignments but no real purpose to get the loot. This is where Traveller began to challenge some of those assumptions (without ever setting out to do so consciously) as not being a Leveling-Up Game, it postulated there were higher rewards than Loot & Power ie treasure & level progression.

    Similarly, perhaps, even for Lucas before he descended entirely to the Dark Side...-:)

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  7. A)You could glide a fair distance on Ford's lapels. Awesome.

    B)How hilarious that they have the interview in front of what looks to be the prop computer from Star Trek.

    God, that really was over 30 years ago, wasn't it?

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  8. Space Fantasy or Science Fantasy or Space Opera are all sub-classes of Science Fiction. Or to put it another way, Science Fiction is the genus and Space Fantasy et al are the various species. Wrangling over whether Star Wars is more Sci-Fi than say, the Lensman series is right up there with debating whether angels defecate, as medieval theologians used to do.


    I think the popularity of Star Wars was yet another attempt at dumbing down the literature of SF. Yet, on other hand, as Harrison said it was bringing it to a larger audience.

    This nonsense was tedious and fatuous when Stephen Hart first wrote it in Salon.

    Star Wars wasn't an attempt to do anything with sci-fi literature, let alone an attempt to dumb it down. It was a successful attempt to fill a niche that Hollywood had abandoned: the swashbuckling/shoot-em-up adventure film aimed at grade school age kids. In the 30s and 40s, this slot was filled by Errol Flynn or Tyrone Power movies, and serials with Buster Crabbe and Johnny Weismuller. In the 50s and early 60s, it was westerns. By the early 70s the western had been beaten to death. Hollywood simply stopped making decent kids' movies.

    I remember what it was like as a kid back then: Aside from the occasional re-release of a vintage Disney animated film, there wasn't much of anything worth watching. Disney had even given up on cartoons in favor of one truly awful live action movie after another.

    What Star Wars really accomplished was rescuing science fiction from the wearisome prison cell of so-called "hard science fiction".

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  9. If you go back and look at the Marvel series it was always labeled a "Space Fantasy" so it was branded as such from the word go. I'd be willing to bet that Lucas stressed that phrase a lot when pitching the film initially. Certainly Ford was using some press tour directive to label the film as such.

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  10. Wow, Harrison Ford comes off as fun as a tax audit. I wonder if he was able to dig out a big ol' glob of wax from his ear when he went digging.

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  11. [quote]
    Star Wars wasn't an attempt to do anything with sci-fi literature, let alone an attempt to dumb it down. It was a successful attempt to fill a niche that Hollywood had abandoned: the swashbuckling/shoot-em-up adventure film aimed at grade school age kids. In the 30s and 40s, this slot was filled by Errol Flynn or Tyrone Power movies, and serials with Buster Crabbe and Johnny Weismuller. In the 50s and early 60s, it was westerns. By the early 70s the western had been beaten to death. Hollywood simply stopped making decent kids' movies. [/quote]

    Ok, I think, 30yrs on, we all agree with that...but we are content to use Space Fantasy (as I eluded to the two meanings of fantasy ought to be considered).

    However, Star Wars did have an impact upon Science Fiction and especially Science Fiction RPGs...and that is something we should consider. Have we been playing D&D in Space all the time or do we venture toward that elusive horizon - called Science Fiction when we play a game like Traveller or even Transhuman Space...a game that I found utterly unplayable but a fascinating read.

    Tying it into the narrative of history...what place then does emerge? A New Hope? A reconciliation? A rebellion?

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  12. Why in the late 1970s was such a resurgence in the interest in science mixed in with the fantastical?

    I think it's actually a backward-looking synthesis: the 60s had seen a bunch of forward-groping authors and film-makers trying to show us what the future might be like - especially if we didn't listen to our better angels and gave into our fears. Doing so, they'd expanded the vocabulary of film-making and provided cool stuff to noodle over, bu they tended to do it in the company of prickly messages or heavy-handed manifestos. Star Wars gave you all the cool tech toys, unprecedented polish, a real state of the art experience, tied to a story as traditional as anyone could wish for. It was shiny and comforting, and irresistible.

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  13. Why in the late 1970s was such a resurgence in the interest in science mixed in with the fantastical?

    Because whizz-bang action, adventure and excitement tends to be more popular with younger audiences than navel-gazing?

    But it's not just sci-fantasy vs "hard" sci-fi. Star Wars was an old-style movie and was a useful antidote to the kinds of films that predominated in the early and mid-1970s -the kind of tedious films only movie critics could enjoy.

    If you stripped away George Lucas' camera artistry and the special effects, there is little difference between Star Wars (or Indiana Jones, for that matter) and The Adventures of Robin Hood or The Mark of Zorro.

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  14. One more thing: The reason Star Wars worked is because it has elements from genres outside of sci-fi/space fantasy that gave it much more crossover appeal than other sci-fi/space fantasy.

    The two main inspirations are The Searchers (a western) and The Hidden Fortress (a samurai film), and it owes at least as to these genres as it does to sci-fi/space fantasy.

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  15. @richard - yes, I completely agree with you. Star Wars was big step backwards for the Science Fiction films of the 1970s but it still did contain messages even if they were not constructed as lengthy monologues/manifestos. So, contra @Jelperman, I do believe that Star Wars was not an innocent escapist fantasy, although, the narrative is underneath flash-bang special effects...it was still a product of its era and not a simple yarn.

    Therefore, what were the sediments that filled the content?

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  16. A lot more people are interested in using my services...much to my delight.

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  17. Star Wars was a step backwards for sci-fi movies? Star Wars made it possible for Star Trek movies to be made, as well as bringing back the TV series. It also made it possible for Alien and Aliens to be made -especially since both Ridley Scott and James Cameron were inspired by George Lucas to start making sci-fi films.

    It also helped re-ignite interest in science fiction in general.

    I do believe that Star Wars was not an innocent escapist fantasy, although, the narrative is underneath flash-bang special effects...it was still a product of its era and not a simple yarn.

    Really? Then what was it?

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