While some may criticize an overabundance of Star Wars media on TV today, the new docuseries Icons Unearthed stands out as a compelling and informative deep dive into one of the most influential films ever made.
The series is directed by Brian Volk-Weiss, the dynamic producer and director responsible for such nostalgic hits as The Toys That Made Us and The Movies That Made Us. Featuring interviews with Billy Dee Williams, Paul Hirsch, Phil Tippett, Rick Baker, and Ken Ralston, this exciting behind-the-scenes experience also features an unlikely interview subject: Marcia Lucas, the Academy Award-winning editor of Star Wars and ex-wife of series mastermind George Lucas. This appearance is Marcia’s first ever on-camera interview, and she does not hold back.
To enjoy this series, you don’t have to be a devout Star Wars fan. In fact, Icons Unearthed might reignite the love of fans who have fallen off during the release of the latest film trilogy and subsequent television products.
A Long Time Ago in Modesto, California…
The first episode of Icons Unearthed chronicles the early days of George Lucas in Modesto, California. Right away, they compare the relationship between Lucas and his father to Darth Vader and Luke in an attempt to showcase the universal truths explored across the Star Wars franchise.
His father didn’t want him to go to college. Instead, he expected him to run the family business: a stationery store. Attending college was Lucas’s first act of defiance, and it’s where he met some of his contemporaries, including Francis Ford Coppola.
Inspired by a love for science fiction radio serials and the Flash Gordon TV series, Lucas aspired to work in film. However, it’s only because he could not secure the rights to Flash Gordon that Lucas set about creating his own space opera.
The episode then explores his initial efforts to pitch Star Wars and his contract with 20th Century Fox. The studio paid him $15,000 for the development, $50,000 to write the screenplay, and $100,000 to direct. Lucas added two amendments to the contract: he would get the rights to any sequels and merchandise. After the failure of Doctor Doolittle in 1967, the studio didn’t believe there would be a sequel, nor did they see any potential profits in merchandise.
For the Fans, by the Fans
“Everything I’ve done and will do, career-wise, started with Star Wars,” director Brian Volk-Weiss told us.
What the docuseries does well is convey the love and passion fans have for the multi-media series without the negativity and grandstanding that has dominated the fandom in the wake of The Last Jedi. While fans often turn to bullies on social media in a misdirected display of love for a franchise, Icons Unearthed takes us back to a simpler time when people could enjoy art without all the vitriol. It highlights a world before trolling, and these days, that feels pretty refreshing.
“It has been the joy of my lifetime to be able to try to help the world understand that as impressive as Star Wars may seem, from box office to cultural impact, it’s actually more amazing than what George Lucas and his team accomplished,” says Brian.
Volk-Weiss’s direction captures the wild west mentality of making Star Wars appropriate for a film that changed cinema forever. A point he continues to make in the first episode is that so many involved in the production – particularly the dismissive British crew – did not believe they were working on something special.
In an interview with Anthony Daniels, famous for portraying the original Debbie Downer C-3P0, the actor remembers his first time seeing a mock-up of the Death Star, which he describes as “a big ball thing.”
Marcia, Marcia, Marcia
This series has the distinction of being the first behind-the-scenes look at the Star Wars saga that includes Marcia Lucas. Besides being married to George Lucas, Marcia worked as an editor on Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Taxi Driver, American Graffiti, as well as her work for Star Wars, which won her an Oscar.
“I knew he was an intuitive genius,” says Marcia early on in the episode. But a teaser at the top of the show hints at more candid and personal confessions later. In one clip, she says, “The way he dealt with my leaving him is to decide that I never existed.”
Still, for its ominous foreshadowing later in the series, the first episode allows us to meet Marcia as a talented crew member in her own right. Besides her strong editing skills, she was also Lucas’s main council for ideas. He went to her for every little thing, she says.
“What if Darth Vader kills Obi-Wan Kenobi?” Marcia asked George. A seemingly innocuous brainstorming session changed the trajectory of the saga forever, a reality that makes Marcia laugh today. “I sort of pride myself on killing Obi-Wan,” she jokes.
Loaded with insight and trivia, Icons Unearthed is a fabulous documentary, even if you aren’t a mega fan. Its story is as timeless as America, and while it may talk about galactic empires and lightsabers, the documentary is really talking about the undying myth of the American Dream.
The series airs on VICE TV.
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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
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Justin McDevitt is a playwright and essayist from New York City. His latest play HAUNT ME had its first public reading at Theater for the New City in September. He is a contributor for RUE MORGUE where he lends a queer eye to horror cinema in his column STAB ME GENTLY.