Lucas & Coppola: the inspiration for Obi-Wan and Anakin’s relationship.
So I was going through this old article of The New Yorker and came across this quote:
“Just as a benevolent father figure (Obi-Wan) helps Luke in his struggle against his dark father, the older Coppola took young George under his wing at film school, and helped him get his first feature film made.”
– John Seabrook, The New Yorker, 1997
Now, it’s known that Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas were close friends, but after looking further into it, there’s some interesting parallels to be made:
Coppola started out as a mentor figure, taking Lucas on as a protégé.
He helped George get THX-1138 and American Graffiti off the ground. Lucas filmed second unit shots for The Godfather and assisted in the editing, developed the script for Apocalypse Now with John Milius.
Overtime, their relationship had blossomed into a more brotherly one, with them becoming “equals”.
“[Our relationship is] sort of "mentor-mentee”. I mean, he’s taught me everything. He’s five years older than I am but, you know, when you’re 20 and 25 years old, that’s a big gap.
And so, he’s always been my mentor and helped me get through everything. You know, we’ve know each other for, you know, what? Over 35 years now. And so, the relationship is more brotherly than it probably is mentor-mentee at this point. It’s more older brother-younger brother kind of thing. […] We pretty much are equal in terms of what we know about what we’re doing.“
Wait ‘til you hear about the dynamics of their friendship:
"Francis and I, we were very good friends right from the moment we met. Uh, we’re very different.”
“Francis is very flamboyant and very Italian and very, sort of, “go out there and do things!””
“I’m very, sort of, “let’s think about this first, let’s not just jump into it.” Um, and so he used to call me the “85-year-old man.””
“But together, we were great. Because, y’know, I would kinda be the weight around his neck that slowed him down a little bit to keep him from getting his head chopped off. ”
“And, uh, on— aesthetically and everything, we sort of had very compatible sensibilities in terms of that. I was strong in one area, he was strong in another, and so we could really bounce ideas off of each other.
But we were very much the opposite, in the way we operated and the way we did things… and that, I think, allowed us to have a very active relationship.”
- A mentor-mentee relationship that turned into a brotherly one.
- Two men with opposite personalities – one more outgoing, the other more cautious – that complemented each other’s beautifully.
Yin and Yang.
Just like Obi-Wan with Anakin (or Obi-Wan with Qui-Gon, if we wanna talk about the mentee needing to slow the mentor down a bit so he doesn’t get into trouble).
So I dunno if there’s more to it, but when I read all this… I read one more reason (in addition to the others) for why the “Anakin and Obi-Wan weren’t compatible enough, Qui-Gon should’ve been the Master because they had more in common” interpretation doesn’t track.
Like, if that’s your opinion/theory, cool.
But there is no way you’ll convince me that the author – who had almost that exact bond with Coppola – would then go and intentionally write Obi-Wan and Anakin’s bond as lacking and “a failing for Anakin”.
Star Wars Dudebros: Star wars shouldn’t be political. Fuck your SJW bullshit
“The film starts with corrupt corporations doing things behind people’s backs. The Jedi are trying to solve the mystery. A corporation is a shark without a conscience. All it cares about is eating. It’s not responsible. It’s the stockholders’ fault, or the CEO’s fault, or the board’s fault. It’s always somebody else’s fault, but of course the golden rule is ‘make money, no matter what,’ so that’s what everybody follows. They’re not doing it to be nice people. Our central characters-Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Padmé, and Anakin-are all trying to do the right thing, but they’re completely overwhelmed by forces that are way bigger than they are. The Jedi Council and the bureaucrats in the Senate are the inactive forces working against them; while unbeknownst to them the active one is Palpatine.”
— George Lucas, The Star Wars Archives (1999-2005) by Paul Duncan
May the 14th be with you.
I’m continuing on my quest to find interviews with Lucas so I can chew on what the creator of Star Wars has said about his universe, and boy there are so many interesting gems that I never see fandom talk about. These are from a 1999 interview with Bill Moyers:
BILL MOYERS: Are you going to be prepared for that
moment when your daughter says-~your older daughter is about to go off
already and — and say, ‘This is the way I want to go, Dad.’
GEORGE LUCAS: I think there is a point where, even
though you love your children a great deal, you must let go, which is
actually what “The Phantom Menace” is about.
BILL MOYERS: “The Phantom Menace” is about letting go?
GEORGE LUCAS: It’s about letting go.
BILL MOYERS: In what sense?
GEORGE LUCAS: In the sense that you have this young
boy, who’s 10 years old, who has to leave his mother and go off on his
own and the mother has to let him go because otherwise he would be a
slave the rest of his life.
This is FASCINATING to me because fandom likes to squabble over Anakin and Qui-Gon, and fandom especially likes to get mad over Shmi “getting left behind”, but this scene was actually about Shmi letting go of Anakin. It’s about Shmi letting go of Anakin so that he can live a better life. A parent letting go of their child. Her staying behind is crucial to the message Lucas was trying to send.
GEORGE LUCAS: I make these films for myself more than I make them for anybody else.
I mean, I’m lucky that the things I believe in, and the things that I
enjoy and the things that entertain me entertain a large population.
Sometimes they don’t. I mean, I’ve made a bunch of movies that nobody’s
liked so that doesn’t always hold true. But I certainly wasn’t out to
become successful, it — it happened.
BILL MOYERS: You are financing your own movies.
GEORGE LUCAS: I’m financing my own movies and it
allows me the freedom to have my own — my own vision be accurately
portrayed on the screen, and I will, you know, be successful or
unsuccessful based on how people relate to that vision. But I don’t have
a lot of other people coming and telling me really what to do.
(bold added by me)
This is one of the reasons I personally like the first 6 movies better than the rest of the content floating around. They tell the story that Lucas wanted to tell. Anything made by other folks is going to have different intentions and different biases and different worldviews that aren’t necessarily going to line up with Lucas.’
There are more gems in here, but I’ll leave this at just the two for now xD
George Lucas on Anakin’s deal with Palpatine: “Anakin got sold a bill of goods because he wanted it so bad that he’d believe anything anybody would sell him”
GEORGE LUCAS: Anakin wants to have a family. He wants to be married to Padmé and have children. When he sees in his dreams that Padmé is going to die, he doesn’t know how, but it’s preordained. He’s in love with her. He doesn’t want her to die. He wants to possess her, to control that. He keeps getting himself deeper and deeper into this pickle. He wants a family but at the same time he knows he can’t have one. Now the greed has taken over and the fear of losing his wife and baby. The whole point is you can’t possess somebody because they are their own person. You can’t dominate and make them do everything you want them to do.
PAUL DUNCAN: He had dreams about his mother as well, and he could not save her.
GEORGE LUCAS: Right. He’s walking into a death trap. And there’s no way out.
PAUL DUNCAN: Palpatine has been grooming him by saying how powerful he is.
GEORGE LUCAS: And also saying that ‘My mentor told me that there was a way that could stop death.’ Which was a lie. They can’t. Anakin got sold a bill of goods because he wanted it so bad that he’d believe anything anybody would sell him.
PAUL DUNCAN: Palpatine’s a snake oil salesman.
GEORGE LUCAS: It’s a scam. Anakin’s made a pact with the Devil: “I want the power to save somebody from death. I want to be able to stop them from going to the river Says, and I need to go to a god for that, but the gods won’t do it, so I’m going to go down to Hades and get the dark lord to allow me to have this power that will allow me to save the person I want to hang on to.” Ultimately, it’s about power. He traded his soul for power. It’s Faust. The more power he wants, the more power he gets, the more he loses. The Devil says, “You can become more powerful but you mustt pass this first test. The first test is you must kill your mother. The second test: you have to kill your wife. And the third test: you have to kill your best friend.” In the end you have all this power but you have nobody to share with, expect some wizened old man who’s even more evil than you are. If you’re going to sell your soul to save somebody you love, that’s, as we say in the film, unnatural. You have to accept the natural course of life. Death is obviously the biggest of them all. Not only death for yourself but death for the things you care about.
Star Wars Archives 1999-2005
That’s the summary of Anakin Skywalker right there–he started out as a nice kid, he was kind and sweet and lovely, but then he was trained as a Jedi and Jedi can’t be selfish. They can love, but they can’t love people to the point of possession. It’s fear that takes you to the dark side and Anakin’s fear was of losing his wife, he became greedy and possessive of her.
That is the narrative arc of Anakin Skywalker and it’s not the first time George Lucas has laid it out like that, that the problem wasn’t that he loved her, the problem wasn’t that he was a Jedi, the problem was that he loved her in a greedy, possessive way and so he made a deal with the devil to keep her.
It’s one of the things that most breaks my heart about Anakin, that his childhood was as a slave, that the arc of him in that first movie was how he became free, how he wasn’t a thing to possess or keep, but his own person with his own wants.
And, by the end of Revenge of the Sith, he had come around to the negative image of that–he didn’t care what Padme wanted, he didn’t care that she was horrified by what he’d done, he wanted to keep her. He couldn’t let go of her, he wanted to possess her, it wasn’t about her, it was about how much he loved her and wanted to have her, how he couldn’t let go of her.
He had become the very thing he swore to destroy.
“You can’t really possess somebody, because people are free.” and that was the problem with Anakin’s love for her, that it crossed the line because of his fears, from something that started out so very sweet, to greed and possession. And Padme felt it, “You’re not the person I married. You’re a greedy person.” / “I don’t know you any more. You’re breaking my heart. You’re going down a path I can’t follow.”
And that arc, that echo and rhyme is beautifully told. That’s why it’s so important that the prequels and the originals echo each other, that’s why it’s so important that Luke have a chance to do the same thing, because mirror images and negative images in the story, the sense of something coming full circle so it can go in the opposite way, are one of the fundamental building blocks of Star Wars.
George Lucas: “You have to work not to be angry”
“Obviously, there are people that just do the easy thing, and the easy thing is to be angry, which turns to hate. It’s not an active thing; it’s a passive thing. Being angry with somebody is a passive thing. You have to work not to be angry, and if you don’t work at it, you’ll just be angry for the rest of your life. Bitter, angry, and of course that leads to suffering – it’s the bad side.”
– George Lucas, Star Wars Archives