STAR WARS: The Real Secret Weapon — Why George Lucas Has Kept It Hidden?
TMR Editor’s Note:
For those who are uninitiated in the New Age CHURCH OF STAR WARS, there is a fascinating account of the true “Source of the Force” which can be read here:
STAR WARS: The True Back Story About Why It Became The World’s Newest Religion.
There are actually two main sources behind the true inspiration of the underlying Star Wars spiritual theme that revolves around The Force. As stated in the exposé posted below, it was the first wife of George Lucas — Marcia Griffin Lucas — who was well known by insiders to be the heart and soul of the first Star Wars Trilogy. Marcia was the “real secret weapon” who George Lucas has quite purposefully kept ultra-secret over all these years.
However, behind every secret weapon there is often an even bigger secret. As a matter of historical fact, standing squarely behind Marcia’s various initiatives to spiritualize the Star Wars Film Series was a Teacher from the Waldorf School who was steeped in the esoteric wisdom of Anthroposophy. This sublime spiritual science and philosophy was developed by Rudolph Steiner, who was also the founder of the worldwide movement that manifested as the Anthroposophical Society and Biodynamic Farming.
Douglas Gabriel, the actual Waldorf Teacher who advised Marcia, explains much more in the following video about how the original Star Wars Trilogy spawned a full-blown spiritual movement. For many souls who left the membership of organized churchianity, as well as those who never made the transition to Eastern mysticism, the new Star Wars religion filled a deep spiritual void in 1977 and beyond.
Even the timeline of the original Star Wars Trilogy perfectly parallels the direct involvement of renowned Hollywood film editor Marcia Lucas from 1976 through 1983. The first 3 films stand alone in their own universe, especially where it concerns the New Age ‘doctrines and articles of faith’ promulgated by the emerging CHURCH OF STAR WARS. In fact, George and Marcia Lucas ended their marriage in 1983 soon after the release of the last film of the trilogy which occurred on May 25, 1983.
Douglas Gabriel speaks more about the true nature of The FORCE in the following video. It will also become clear why the original FORCE has yet to reappear as it did when the “power of the Divine Feminine” fortuitously manifested in the person of Marcia Lucas and her secret mentor.
Truly, it doesn’t get any bigger than when the soon-to-be highest money-making film of all time is actually an extended cinematic allegory that reflects the sacred principles of Anthroposophy. Take about a REAL blockbuster! Planet Earth has never seen anything like it before … from Hollywood, that is.
The Secret History of Star Wars
In Tribute to Marcia Lucas
Biographer Dale Pollock once wrote that Marcia was George Lucas’ “secret weapon.” [i] Most people are aware that George Lucas was once married, and probably some are aware that his wife worked in the film industry herself and edited all of George’s early films before their 1983 divorce. But few are aware of the implications that her presence brought, and the transformations her departure allowed. She was, in many ways, more than just the supportive wife–she was a partner as well. “Not a fifty percent partner,” as she herself admits, but nonetheless an important one, and the only person that Lucas could totally confide in back then. Today, she has been practically erased from the history books at Lucasfilm. Looking through J.W. Rinzler’s Making of Star Wars, she is mentioned only occasionally in passing, a background element, and not a single word of hers is quoted; she is a silent extra, absent from any photographs and only indirectly acknowledged, her contributions downplayed. In the documentary Empire of Dreams, she is barely even mentioned in passing, except when the narration states that she edited the film and Lucas says he “got divorced as Jedi was complete” in the last two minutes of the supposedly-definitive documentary. Other products fare not much better, since many of them are published through Lucasfilm; her entire existence has nearly been ignored. Marcia Lucas, the “other” Lucas, has basically become the forgotten Lucas.
Perhaps it is the painful memories of the final unhealthy years of their marriage, during which Marcia finally left Lucas for another man and got a large cash settlement, that has prompted him to essentially never speak of her again. Indeed, it is a rare day when her name is uttered by him, even as “my wife” and other impersonal labels. Even in the 70s and 80s she was defined not on her own merits but by her relationship to George–she was not just Marcia, she was “Marcia, the wife of George Lucas”, forever overshadowed. Yet nonetheless, Lucas and every fan of his films owe her a debt of gratitude. She was an instrumental part in the shaping of his scripts, and the primary force behind their final form in the editorial stage, where she cut the pictures herself. But more than that, she had a prolific and successful career of her own as an editor, and was a key figure in the New Hollywood movement of the 1970s; a secondary figure, perhaps, yet unlike other secondary figures such as Walter Murch and John Milius, her existence has been almost entirely forgotten.
In this article I will be taking a look at the life and career of Marcia Lucas (nee Griffin), and the impact and influence she had on her husband’s films.
Such a piece has never been attempted before, whether in print, in video, or on the internet. Even on web pages all one finds is a couple of piecemeal trivia bits; forget about an actual quote from the woman herself or anything more than a handful of sentences. This is the first-ever biography of Marcia Griffin, and the reason why I decided to undertake such a piece. Marcia was a charismatic and talented woman, who had a significant–but basically unappreciated–influence on 1970s filmmaking, both directly and indirectly. In the direct sense, she was the primary picture cutter for her husband, George Lucas, as well as Martin Scorsese, in addition to the other films she edited and assistant edited. Indirectly, she was part of the social scene, as both Lucas’ spouse and as a creative collaborator herself, and part of the inner circle of the influential “Movie Brats”. Her opinions, her suggestions and her interactions formed and shaped the collective movement, and her subtle influence in this respect is especially unnoticed. She also, as I alluded to earlier, was a profound part of the cinema of her husband, who himself is one of the most successful and influential filmmakers in history. In fact, the only Oscar the Lucases ever earned was hers, for editing Star Wars.
Marcia accepting the Best Editing Oscar at the 1978 Academy Awards, with presenter Farrah Fawcett and co-editors Paul Hirsch and Richard Chew
Creating both a portrait of Marcia Lucas and assembling a compelling biography of her and her work is a difficult task. Whether in books or magazines, no matter the publication, one finds only brief mentions of her, always as an addition to the main piece about her husband, supplemented only by the occasional rare glimpse into her thoughts and feelings; she comes to us fragmentary, and often only in publications that are obscure today because of their age. Author Denise Worrell, who was one of the last journalists to speak to her before her divorce from Lucas and subsequent disappearance, introduces her in 1983, when Marcia was closing in on forty years old and had basically retired from the industry to become a full-time mom:
“Marcia Lucas, thirty-seven, is spunky and unspoiled. She wears a huge diamond on her left hand but often has her brown hair in a ponytail on the top of her head, and dresses in blue jeans, sweat pants, sweatshirts, and tennis shoes. She uses the adjective real a lot.” [ii]
Such a description, brief as it is, is rare by comparison to most references, which gloss over her existence or merely acknowledge her in passing. Because of this dearth of sources, any survey of her is by nature somewhat limited, and very George Lucas-oriented. Dale Pollock’s Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas, published in 1983, is the wealthiest source of info, and treats her as an active partner with Lucas, even recalling Marcia’s background history, and includes a swath of interviews with her. Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, published in 1997, includes participation from her as well, and the only participation from her after the 1983 divorce, which affords us a unique view of an older Marcia Lucas reflecting retrospectively on events (often with bitterness, it seems). The remainder of her comes in cubist form by assembling small sections from smaller publications; Denise Worrell’s piece contains involved, but still limited, participation from Marcia, while she is heard from here and there in other publications such as Time and People. John Baxter’s book Mythmaker (also titled George Lucas: A Biography) provides her some attention, while she is briefly discussed in A&E’s Biography episode on George Lucas. One of the only quotations from her in an actual Lucasfilm publication is in John Peecher’s 1983 The Making of Return of the Jedi, where she shares an anecdote about editing the original Star Wars.
Yet from this relatively small sampling, a surprisingly detailed and compelling picture emerges, more than enough to provide us insight and appreciation. “I love editing and I’m real gifted at it,” she stated in 1983. “I have an innate ability to take good material and make it better, or take bad material and make it fair. I’m compulsive about it. I think I’m even an editor in real life.” [iii] Today she has disappeared, and routinely has refused to talk to press; my own efforts to contact her, through a family connection, were unsuccessful, though she wrote to me briefly to offer a small handful of corrections. At the time of this writing, she would be about sixty-five years old. I hope that the following suffices as an informed overview of Marcia Lucas, and recovers her from the dustbin of history.
Marcia Lou Griffin was born in 1947 according to author Peter Biskind, but most publications state she is only a year younger than George Lucas, who was born in 1944. Her date of birth is not quite as significant as the location–Modesto, California. The sleepy town that was home to about 20,000 people at that time was also the closest hospital to Stockton Air Force, where Marcia’s father was stationed, and so, as if joined by fate, Marcia was born in the far-flung town where Lucas himself lived. However, their paths did not cross at that moment, and Marcia was in all likelyhood gone from Modesto as quickly as she arrived. Marcia’s father was a career military man, and often had to move his family when he was re-assigned a new base. His relationship with Marcia’s mother, Mae, was “off-and-on” according to biographer Dale Pollock, but they finally divorced for good when Marcia was two. Mae took off for North Hollywood with her two daughters, where the girls lived with their grandparents. When Mae’s father died, they moved into a small apartment in his neighbourhood, and Mae got a job as a clerk for an insurance agency.
Marcia’s childhood was not the quaint, stable one that her future-husband was blessed with, at the time still blissfully passing through life in Modesto. Her family worked hard to put food on the table, which was not easy for a working, single mom, as Mae was. Marcia remembers the period as “a hard life” [iv]. The Griffin family didn’t have the luxury of much money, and most of Marcia’s clothes were hand-me-downs. “It wasn’t a sad, bad time,” she says. “We had a lot of love and a very supportive family. But economically it was very hard on my mother.” [v] Marcia’s father had meanwhile re-married and was stationed in Florida, and, as Pollock reports, “financial aid was not forthcoming” from him. Marcia, in fact, never knew him while growing up. She went to live with him when she was a teenager, but this never worked out; she left after two years, returning to North Hollywood to finish high school, hoping to go on to college. Yet Marcia felt responsible for her mother, who worked so hard to give her and her sister a good life, and so she began working days and going to school at night. This bold work ethic would characterise both Marcia’s life and career, but also her success.
Marcia took night school courses in chemistry, but by day she worked at a mortgage banking firm in downtown Los Angeles. A boyfriend of hers worked for a Hollywood museum and wanted to hire her as a librarian to catalog all the donated movie memorabilia. Unfortunately, librarians had to apply to the California State Employment office in order to work, and so she was instead sent to the Sandler Film Library, which was looking for an apprentice film librarian without any experience. It only paid $50 a week–less than she made at the bank–but she took it anyway. So began the editing career of young Marcia Griffin. “That’s how I started working in film,” she says. “I just walked in off the street.” [vi] Dale Pollock describes:
“It was hard work. Marcia took orders for film footage that producers required, such as shots of a 1940s Ford turning left on a country road at night. If the material fit the scene, she ordered the required negative prints, a highly technical job that Marcia immediately grasped. She also found herself drawn to the instant gratification of editing.” [vii]
By the time she was twenty she had worked her way up the ladder to assistant editor, but the road had been, and would continue to be, a hard struggle. Breaking into the film industry was tough for a woman in the mid-1960s, and like any technical job the best gigs all went to men. She was lucky she was in editing in the first place–most film related positions, such as camera or lighting, were quite literally all-male; film editing, since the birth of the medium, was the one area where women were allowed in, since it was initially thought of as a task comparable to sewing or cooking. Yet most professional editors were nonetheless men. Marcia, however, was driven and talented, determined to climb the union ladder through her eight-year apprenticeship–commercial editors could make $400 a week, a fact that she didn’t forget, hopeful to have a stable life for once. She cut trailers and promos to keep her skills sharp, but nonetheless advancement was slow. “I thought I was a tough cookie, but I didn’t realise what I was up against,” she admits. [viii] She was told girls couldn’t lift the heavy film cans that the reels came in, or that editors used foul language unsuitable for a girl. Marcia nonetheless forged ahead. “I would have cut films for free because I enjoyed it so much,” she insists. [ix]
Marcia in the Rain People crew photo, 1968; from A&E George Lucas Biography
Verna Fields, one of the few respected women editors in the industry at that time, had a job for Marcia in 1967. Fields often did business with Hollywood film libraries and asked Sandler Films to send her an assistant editor to help on a small project she was working on; it was a government-funded documentary on President Johnson’s trip to the far east for the United States Information Agency, and there was so much footage coming in that Fields needed an additional assistant. Fields had hired a bunch of film school grads from USC to cut the picture, and Marcia was assigned to work with one of them, a young man named George Lucas.
Locked in a small editing room together, they seemed like an unlikely pair, George shy and introverted and Marcia bold and outgoing. “Marcia had a lot of disdain for the rest of us,” Lucas remembers, “because we were all film students. She was the only real pro there.” [x] Yet Marcia too felt a sense of intimidation which she didn’t reveal, for she had never graduated from the night classes she started taking a couple years earlier, and felt intellectually inferior to university grads. But there was something about the young brunette that George found compelling; eventually he asked her to go to a screening of a friend’s film at the American Film Institute with him. “It wasn’t really a date,” he says. “But that was the first time we were ever alone together.” [xii]
The awkward and closed-off Lucas was slow to advance, however. It was weeks before they managed to have a serious conversation, and even more weeks before they ever had a real date. Lucas had also never had a serious relationship before; his girlfriends usually only lasted a few dates. Slowly but surely, however, Marcia drew him out of his shell enough to ask her out. Their dates were usually at the movies, and they both disliked the Hollywood social scene, content with spending time at their apartments arguing about the film industry. The casual atmosphere at Verna Fields’ San Fernando editing house provided a comfy environment for their relationship to grow in. Dale Pollock writes:
“Marcia enjoyed being with George. He seemed so happy, humming and tapping his foot to the ever-present radio music in the editing room. When one of the other female editors asked her what she thought of the shy young student, she had a ready answer: ‘I think George is so cute. If only he weren’t so small.’ Marcia thought she outweighed George, who was as thin as he was short (actually he is taller by a few inches). She loved his nose, set on a handsome face with good features. But Lucas was hard as hell to draw out in conversation. He might discuss the films he was working on but rarely did he bring up personal matters.” [xii]
The Fields house also allowed for a good learning atmosphere for George. While Lucas is well known for his editorial skills, and immediately had an instinctive talent for editing even as a film student, his first professional mentor outside of film school was Marcia. They were paired up by Fields because he was the least experienced editor and she was the most experienced assistant. Pollock writes, “Marcia knew more than George about editing technique, but her job was to help him.” [xiii] She would often look over his shoulder to make sure he was doing alright and lend a helping hand when needed. She was also often impressed by him, saying: “He was so quiet and he said very little, but he seemed to be really talented and really centered, a very together person. I had come out of this hectic commercial production world and here was this relaxed guy who threaded the Moviola very slowly and cautiously.” [xiv]
Lucas for his part respected her as an editor. He says about filmmaking, “It really becomes your life, and it was Marcia’s life, too. That’s one of the reasons our relationship works–we both love the same thing.” [xv] Marcia also won Lucas’ respect due to her sense of independence. “Marcia and I got along real well,” he says. “We were both feisty and neither one of us would take any shit from the other. I sort of liked that. I didn’t like someone who could be run over.” [xvi]
Marcia felt that their relationship was kept in check by a very real sense of balance.”I always felt I was an optimist because I’m extroverted,” she says. “And I always thought that George was more introverted, quiet, and pessimistic.” [xvii] Biographer Dale Pollock concludes that she supplies the aggressiveness that Lucas lacks, while his low-key temperment softens her abraiseness. “We want to complete ourselves, so we look for someone who is strong where we’re weak,” Marcia says. [xviii] Lucas agrees: “Marcia and I are very different and also very much alike. I say black, she says white. But we have similar tastes, backgrounds, feelings about things, and philosophies.” [xix]
Marcia surprised and impressed Lucas’ friends as well. Most of them met her when she was in the cutting room at USC, helping George edit his short film The Emperor. [xx] “She was a knock-out,” John Milius remembers. “We all wondered how little George got this great looking girl. And smart too, obsessed with films. And she was a better editor than he was.” [xxi] Marcia says that George has “a very childish, silly, fun side, but he doesn’t even like me to talk about that because he is so intensely private.” [xxii] His repressive introversion even put off Marcia at times. “I’m capable of envy and jealousy–I’ve felt those emotions throughout my life, and I think they are normal emotions. But they are emotions George doesn’t feel. I honestly have never seen George envious or jealous of anyone.” [xxiii]
George kept quiet about his relationship with his parents, but eventually the Lucases came down for a student film screening where they finally met Marcia. Lucas’ mother, Dorothy, remembers, “The minute I saw them together, I knew that was it.” [xxiv] That Thanksgiving, he took Marcia to Modesto for a formal introduction to his family. Marcia recalls: “He was very, very open when he was with his family…It was the most open I had ever seen him. He was open with me, but as soon as it got beyond just the two of us and our intimacy, he was again very quiet.” [xxv] She was especially touched by an exchange she overheard between George and his brother-in-law Roland. “You know, Marcia is the only person I’ve ever known who can make me raise my voice,” he said. Roland grinned and replied, “That’s great kid, congratulations–you must be in love.” [xxvi]
Undated photo of a young Marcia and George; from A&E Biography
As their relationship grew, Marcia had to think about what she wanted to do with her life. She was happy with staying in L.A. and working her way up the union ladder as an editor, a comfy and secure living that she could be content with. But her boyfriend had grander plans of becoming an independent filmmaker and moving to San Francisco, and thought they could make it there together. This wasn’t exactly what Marcia had seen for her future, but she did like San Francisco and was willing to take the risk out of faith in Lucas. “Everything was a means to an ends,” she says about him. “George has always planned things very far in advance.” [xxvii] In the meantime, Lucas was still finishing up at grad school at USC, and he and Marcia soon moved into a house together in the L.A. area, on Portola drive, while George made his final student project–THX 1138: 4EB . After it was shot, Lucas edited it on the Moviola at Verna Fields’ house, sometimes staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning. It would be surprising if Marcia wasn’t involved in giving him a helping hand there.
Marcia continued to work in the commercial world while her boyfriend won student scholarships and eventually an internship on the set of Finian’s Rainbow, directed by a young ex-film school grad named Francis Coppola. Lucas and Coppola became close friends, and Coppola hired him as a documentarian for his next film, called Rain People. The idea for Rain People was that he would assemble a small crew, rent a few vans and travel across the country, shooting a low budget movie–a very independent sort of movie. Coppola’s one rule, however, was that the women stayed home–wives and girlfriends couldn’t come along for the ride (although this rule didn’t apply to himself). Lucas had already been away from Marcia because of Finian’s Rainbow, and as the Rain People crew assembled in New York in 1967 for the start of the cross-country shoot, Marcia decided she would go there too. “It was so wonderful and romantic and emotional to see each other in New York because we had been separated for a long time,” Marcia remembers. [xxviii] Taking the train on a rainy February day to the next filming location on Long Island, Lucas finally proposed to her.
Marcia and George in 1971 according to John Baxter
“I was beginning to see where my life was going,” Lucas says. “Marcia’s career was in Los Angeles and I respected that. I didn’t want her to give it up and have me drag her to San Francisco unless there was some commitment on my side.” [xxix] This was especially troublesome, as Marcia’s career was just beginning to pick up. If she had made her way on her own willpower, it is due to Lucas’ connections that she was able to break into the feature-film world. Haskell Wexler, who had known Lucas since he was a teenager in Modesto, wanted to hire Marcia to come to Chicago to edit his directorial debut, Medium Cool. But Marcia had a bit of a dilemma: Rain People was in need of her services as well. The production had settled down for a few weeks in Nebraska and editor Barry Malkin needed an assistant to help organize the footage; Lucas mentioned to Coppola that his girlfriend was an editor and he agreed to hire her. Medium Cool promised not only a better salary but much longer work, and her first credit on a feature–but on the other hand, assistant editing Rain People in Nebraska would let her see George. “I’m really going to have to think about this,” she told him. “Don’t you want to be with me? Don’t you love me?” he asked. Finally, she bit the bullet and went to Nebraska. Marcia reflects: “I was poor, right? Financial security was very important to me. I wanted to make it my own way. But we were engaged, we were terribly in love, so I decided to go.” [xxx] As it turned out, after she was done on Rain People, she also ended up cutting Medium Cool as well–and getting her first feature-film credit.
Going to San Francisco
When Rain People was done, Lucas had miles of film footage that he had shot for his documentary, called Filmmaker , and it was Marcia that acted as assistant editor, a fun little project for them to do together as they planned their wedding, cutting the film together in their home on Portola Drive.
On February 22, 1969, Marcia Griffin became Marcia Lucas. George and Marcia were married at the United First Methodist Church in Pacific Grove, not far from Montery, California. Among the friends in attendance were Francis Coppola, Walter Murch, Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins–and Verna Fields, the woman who had brought them together. They had a modest honeymoon in Northern California. While they were there they visited Marin County, just outside of San Francisco; it seemed to be the perfect place for them to settle down in. Marcia was able to find a little house in Mill Valley for only $120 a month. “We were really happy and optimistic,” Lucas says, even if the place was small. “In our lifestyle there were only two rooms we used, the kitchen and the bedroom. We were in either one or the other.” [xxxi]
Coppola was founding American Zoetrope in downtown San Francisco, and a lot of his and George’s buddies were joining them there, such as Walter Murch and John Milius. Marcia’s friends and family were still in southern California. But she liked San Francisco and didn’t mind being there, figuring she would make new friends and find work soon enough. She began to grow worried as time went by and she remained unemployed and homesick. Marcia was ready to have a baby, but George refused the idea, stating that they had only been married a few months and didn’t have a stable income. “He didn’t want the extra responsibility at that time because he might be forced into taking a job that he didn’t want to take,” she says. [xxxii]
Instead, Marcia played the role of den mother while she waited to find her opportunity, tending to their Mill Valley home while George set up American Zoetrope with Coppola. The colorful social scene there at least made for an interesting time: “There’s never a dull moment,” she says of life under Coppola’s leadership. “There are always ten or twenty or thirty people around, with somebody sitting down and playing the piano in that corner of the room, and some kids dancing in that corner of the room, and the intellectuals having a deep conversation about art in another corner of the room. His life is just in a constant state of upheaval.” [xxxiii] Before the production company collapsed, Lucas made his first film–THX 1138. The shoot was quick but hard, and Marcia did her best to support George in whatever ways she could. George’s mother remembers, “Marcia spoiled George terribly when he was making films. She’d bring him breakfast in bed after the nights he worked late.” [xxxiv] When the shoot was over, George got to work cutting the film, with Marcia assistant editing. Marcia was more than just a pair of hands, however, for the two were a partnership more than anything else; Marcia was always full of good ideas, and she was one of the few people Lucas actually listened to. At the same time, however, THX was outside of her tastes; she didn’t go for the strange, abstract filmmaking style Lucas was so fond of, and ultimately she felt non-plussed by the film because she felt it did not engage the audience emotionally. This is the essential difference in approaches between the two Lucases–George more technical and graphic oriented, while Marcia more character and storytelling oriented in her approach.
It also led to some tension in the editing room. Cutting the picture together in the attic of their home, the long work hours and strenuous circumstances of its making sometimes brought out unpleasantries. “I like to become emotionally involved in a movie,” she says. “I want to be scared, I want to cry, and I never cared for THX because it left me cold. When the studio didn’t like the film, I wasn’t surprised. But George just said to me, I was stupid and knew nothing. Because I was just a Valley Girl. He was the intellectual.” [xxxv]
Still, the two had a relatively healthy and happy relationship. Dale Pollock writes that they were “the picture of domesticity,” with a cute little hilltop house with a white fence. George’s parents remember a visit from their son and daughter-in-law during which George playfully ordered Marcia around. “Wife, do this, do that,” George’s mother remembers. “He was just playing, but they had a wonderful relationship.” [xxxvi]
But Marcia needed more than just domestic bliss–and she needed work that wasn’t something made by her husband. To make matters worse, THX had bombed, Zoetrope basically folded, and the future was looking bleak for them–she would take any job she could get. As the ruins of Zoetrope settled from the company’s collapse, George was often on the phone in the Zoetrope office, trying to hustle editing gigs for Marcia and get himself another directing job. Mona Skager, an associate and assistant at Zoetrope, opened the phone bill one day and was furious–“You’ve run up a $1,800 bill with all these calls and none of them are about Zoetrope business.” George felt humiliated and had to ask his father for money, a difficult act for a conservative man like George Sr., who felt his son was wasting his time in the industry in the first place. Marcia came in and gave Skager the check. Looking back, Coppola says that he would never had done that to George and didn’t realise Skager had confronted him about it; “I always believed that incident was one of the things that pissed George off and caused a breach.” [xxxvii] In spite of the slim work available in the area, George and Marcia decided to stick with San Francisco, hoping they would be able to make it.
Coppola meanwhile was making The Godfather to get himself out of debt and gave the Lucases jobs whenever he could–Marcia could edit, so he had her cut together the many lengthy screentests, and George could use the animation camera so he had him film the newspaper montages. Fortunately, opportunity soon came knocking–Bay-area filmmaker Michael Ritchie, whom George knew through Zoetrope’s connections, was making a film starring Robert Redford called The Candidate and wanted to hire Marcia as assistant editor. Not only was it a job on a decent film, but the income came at a time when they were nearly broke, and for the next few months she would be the sole supporter of their household.
George had been searching for another project to put food on the table, but he wanted it to be on his own terms–he turned down a $150,000 salary to direct a movie called Lady Ice, even as he and Marcia struggled to get by. Seeking a more commercial vehicle, if only to get them out of debt, Lucas decided to do a coming-of-age story about young teens in Modesto with a rock and roll soundtrack. Lots of his friends thought the idea was silly, but Marcia was one of the few who had full faith in Lucas, and encouraged him to do a more emotional, character-oriented piece. She says:
“After THX went down the toilet, I never said, ‘I told you so,’ but I reminded George that I warned him it hadn’t involved the audience emotionally…He always said, ‘Emotionally involving the audience is easy. Anybody can do it blindfolded, get a little kitten and have some guy wring its neck.’ All he wanted to do was abstract filmmaking, tone poems, collections of images. So finally, George said to me, ‘I’m gonna show you how easy it is. I’ll make a film that emotionally involves the audience.” [xxxviii]
George was borrowing money from his parents, relatives and friends to stay afloat, but eventually Universal signed on. American Graffiti was shot in less time and with less money than Lucas’ first picture, and the gruelling shoot made him sick and caused him innumerable stresses, so much that he felt that he no longer wanted to direct; no doubt, his inability to communicate did not make this any easier. The film told a simple human drama which relied on editing to interweave four stories in the narrative. Getting her first crack as a feature editor, Marcia stepped up to the plate–working alongside Verna Fields. It was, in fact, Universal executive Ned Tanen who insisted Fields be on the picture, since he feared that George was just using Marcia as an excuse to cut it himself, but both Lucases probably didn’t mind since they had already worked with her when they first met, and George hoped she would be a good buffer between himself and the studio. Minor controversy surrounds Verna Fields’ role on the film–given her high status as one of the great editors of her time everyone assumed she was the genius behind the film’s masterful editing; Marcia, many dismissed, was only on the film because of her husband. Yet Fields only was onboard for half of the film’s editorial lifespan; Fields’ next big editing gig, for Jaws, has a similar situation, in which she admits she gets too much credit.
The two of them–plus, of course, George–cut the film in the spare room over Francis Coppola’s garage, for he had just bought a house in Mill Valley at George’s urging; he was off writing The Conversation in an adjacent house (one of the refugee projects from the Zoetrope fiasco). There were frequent boccie bowling games on the lawn, picnics, and sunbathing. It was the closest they ever got to the original dream of Zoetrope, envisioned as having such a casual atmosphere.
Lucas looked at Graffiti footage every day and explained what he wanted from Marcia and Fields–the only time he ever spoke to his wife during the hectic post-production schedule. Walter Murch came onboard as sound editor, and they together collaborated on the difficult task of cutting the music to fit the scene. Marcia argued George out of his original approach to the structure of the film, which depended on a more rigid construction of cross-cutting the different narratives, and she also was crucial in giving scenes longer time to breathe, as Lucas then insisted on cross-cutting much more frequently (as seen in Attack of the Clones–Marcia’s criticism was that the scenes either never developed or they lost their dramatic momentum by aborting so quickly).
Verna Fields left once the rough cut had been assembled, since she had another job lined up, but the film was almost an hour too long, so for the next six months Marcia cut the film down along with Lucas and Murch. For the next cut, Marcia listened attentively to George and made the film the way he instructed. It was a disaster. Because of the interlocking narrative structures, the film could not simply be trimmed up in a conventional sense because removing one scene, or part of a scene, affected the next narrative thread and threw off the rhythm of the film. Lucas remarks: “You literally can have a film that works fine at one point, and in one week you can cut it to a point where it absolutely does not work at all.” [xxxix] Now it was Marcia’s turn at bat–she took over and re-cut the film on her own this time, while George worked with Walter Murch on the sound design.
By January 1973, Marcia had assembled the film for a test screening. The release would be controversial–the test audiences absolutely loved the film, yet the studio executives thought it was terrible. Lucas was heartbroken as Ned Tanen called the film “unreleasable,” but Coppola defended Lucas at the screening, offerring to buy the film from Tanen and whipping out his chequebook to make the deal on the spot (after Tanen slinked away, he and Coppola didn’t speak for another twenty years). George was devastated by the studio’s negative reaction. Marcia believed in American Graffiti and was irritated by her husband’s inability to fight for his movie, but he didn’t seem to share in her confidence. At the same time, Marcia realised the reality of the situation: “George was just a nobody who had directed one little arty-farty movie that hadn’t done any business. He didn’t have the power to make people listen to him.” [xl]
Eventually, the film was released, though the studio trimmed off a couple minutes of footage. It nonetheless won rave reviews–while most of the post-Easy Rider films of the “New Hollywood” wave of filmmaking had done relatively unremarkable box-office, American Graffiti was a powerhouse hit that was an absolute audience-pleaser. It grossed over $100 million dollars, and when calculated in terms of budget-to-gross may be the most profitable film ever made (Blair Witch Project cost less to produce, but Graffiti only had a marketing budget of $500,000). It also turned George and Marcia into overnight millionaires. After years of struggle, years of living on the edge of poverty, they finally made it big. They bought a large Victorian house in San Anselmo–a bit of a fixer-upper, but a beautiful find nonetheless. Marcia named it Parkhouse (it was on a street called Park Way) and it would become the business centre of Lucasfilm until Skywalker Ranch in the 1980s. One of Lucas’ best films, Graffiti’s entire existence might not have been were it not for Marcia’s influence of expanding his tastes–“I made it for you,” he once told her. [xli] Later, in 1974, the film was nominated at the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay–and Best Editing. Marcia desperately wanted to win, but the picture failed to nab any of the above. George didn’t really care; producer Gary Kurtz was disappointed; Marcia cried. It would be another four years before she would get her dream.
From Scorsese to Star Wars
Even before Marcia Lucas was an Oscar-nominated editor, her career was taking off–Michael Ritchie was impressed with the young woman when she had worked on his The Candidate, and recommended her to his friend Martin Scorsese, who was looking for someone to edit his feminist road movie Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. “We knew her, we liked her, and she was in the union,” associate producer Sandy Weintraub recalls [xlii] ; Scorsese was looking to crew the picture with women in the hopes of making the film more emotionally honest. Once again, George’s connections had given Marcia a crucial stepping stone. It also was an important point of departure in her career–she had worked on things not made by George before, but this was a really important film and she would be the editor, not an assistant editor. Sandy goes on: “It was good for her to get away from George and his house. Here she was, a wonderful editor working on her husband’s films. I don’t think she got taken seriously.” [xliii] Marcia remembers the time:
“Marty called, and asked if I would do his first studio feature. He was terrified of the studio executives, that Warners was going to give him some old fuddy-duddy editor or a spy–the studios were known for having spies on such projects. Marty liked to edit, and I felt like I was being hired to cut a movie so I wouldn’t cut it, so I’d let the director cut it. But I thought, if I’m ever going to get any real credit, I’m going to have to cut a movie for somebody besides George. ‘Cause if I’m cutting for my husband, they’re going to think, George lets his wife play around in the cutting room. George agreed with that.” [xliv]
Marcia cutting Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, with producer Sandy Weintraub (left); from the documentary Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
Lucas meanwhile made Parkhouse his office, and also rented out rooms to his friends to use as offices, such as Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins. They would go down the street to cafes and share ideas and check in on what each other was doing–Lucas was working on writing his next project, The Star Wars. As production on Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore went on, Marcia had to go to Tucson, Arizona, where the film was shooting, to begin cutting the footage. George didn’t like being separated from her and so he packed his things and joined her, trying to hash out his first draft screenplay. Alice’s post-production was finished in Hollywood once production wrapped, again separating the two Lucases.
Marcia in the cutting room on Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore; from the documentary Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
As far as evidence suggests, Marcia stayed out of Lucas’ way when he first started writing the space epic. He made two attempts at a treatment in early 1973, but the success of Graffiti kept him from completing the first draft until the spring of 1974. Marcia was busy with her own career at the time, cutting for Scorsese and dealing with their newfound success like George was. Like many of Lucas’ friends, she didn’t quite know what to make of the first draft of Star Wars when Lucas showed it to her; she wasn’t a fan of the action serials like Lucas was, and found a lot of it too bizarre, and without strong characters or dialogue. Lucas listened to her and his friends’ criticisms, but it would be another year before he finally finished the crucial second and third drafts.
After that time, Marcia landed another high-profile gig. Martin Scorsese had really liked the work she had done on Oscar-winning Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and wanted to have her edit his next film as well, the dark character study Taxi Driver. Marcia was excited to be part of Scorsese’s circle, to be part of what were considered some of the most significant American films being made. Marcia’s respect for Scorsese and non-plussed disposition towards Star Wars seems to have rubbed George the wrong way–he would often tell how his friends thought he should do an “important film” like Taxi Driver but instead he wanted to make an action B-movie for kids, to their puzzlement. Taxi Driver was also cut by Tom Rolf and Melvin Shapiro, but it was Marcia who was the supervising editor on the project, a task probably made more challenging by Scorsese’s heavy drug addiction at the time. Marcia was set to cut the film on her own, and had seen the dailies as Scorsese was shooting, but after a break in production there wasn’t enough time, and so Rolf, and later Shaprio, was added to the roster; Rolf describes the three trading off scenes in a “homogenous cutting process,” a situation to be repeated on her next film. [xlv] Taxi Driver, to everyone’s astoundment, became a commercial hit when it was released in 1976, and it is today considered one of the greatest American films ever made. Marcia received a BAFTA nomination for her editing work on the film, and was later featured, at Steven Speilberg’s recommendation, in an ad by Kodak hailing women in the film industry. John Milius remembers:
“She was a stunning editor…Maybe the best editor I’ve ever known, in many ways. She’d come in and look at the films we’d made–like The Wind and the Lion, for instance–and she’d say, ‘Take this scene and move it over here,’ and it worked. And it did what I wanted the film to do, and I would have never thought of it. And she did that to everybody’s films: to George’s, to Steven [Spielberg]’s, to mine, and Scorsese in particular.” [xlvi]
Marcia’s rising career did not come without its troubles. For one, she had to work in L.A., where Scorsese cut his movies. “What Marcia was doing was very difficult,” says George’s close friend Willard Huyck. “George wasn’t going berserk or anything, but he wasn’t happy about the situation.” [xlvii] The Lucas family tradition had never allowed a woman to have an independent career–Gloria Katz notes, “That was actually a very big step for George; it was consciousness raising.” [xlviii] George hated cooking and cleaning, and hired a housekeeper while Marcia was away. Meanwhile, The Star Wars still had not been green-lit, even if Fox had agreed to develop it, frustrating him further.
Lucas had re-configured much of The Star Wars for his second draft, completed in January of 1975. He had finally come up with the basic backbone of the film–the heroic journey of farmboy Luke Starkiller–but his characterisation and dialogue were arguably even worse than his first draft. Lucas, however, acknowledged that he was a poor writer, and sought the guidance of others. “I’m not a good writer,” he says in 1974. “It’s very, very hard for me. I don’t feel I have a natural talent for it…When I sit down I bleed on the page, and it’s just awful.” [xlix] He had attempted to hire writers for every one of his previous films, but experience taught him a different technique–he would listen to the suggestions others had, but write the words himself. Marcia, along with many of George’s friends, critiqued which characters worked, which ones didn’t, which scenes were good, and Lucas composed the script in this way. Marcia was always critical of Star Wars, but she was one of the few people Lucas listened to carefully, knowing she had a skill for carving out strong characters. Often, she was a voice of reason, giving him the bad news he secretly suspected–“I’m real hard,” she says, “but I only tell him what he already knows.” [l] Pollock notes, “Marcia’s faith never waivered–she was at once George’s most severe critic and most ardent supporter. She wasn’t afraid to say she didn’t understand something in Star Wars or to point out the sections that bored her.” [li] She kept her husband down to earth and reminded him of the need to have an emotional through-line in the film. Mark Hamill remembers: “She was really the warmth and heart of those films, a good person he could talk to, bounce ideas off of.” [lii]
As Hamill has also noted, she wasn’t afraid to tell George if he was headed in a questionable direction. Dale Pollock writes, “only Marcia is brave enough to take Lucas on in a head-to-head dispute and occasionally emerge victorious.” [liii] Marcia explains: “I don’t think George is real close and intimate with anyone but me. I’ve always felt that when you’re married, you have to be wife, mother, confidant, and lover, and that I’ve been all those things to George. I’m the only person he talks to about certain things.” [liv] Walter Murch comments further: “Marcia was very opinionated, and had very good opinions about things, and would not put up if she thought George was going in the wrong direction. There were heated creative arguments between them–for the good.” [lv] When Lucas was having difficulty coming up with ideas or ways of solving scenes and characters, he would talk about it with her; she even helped come up with killing off the mentor figure of Ben Kenobi when Lucas couldn’t resolve the character in the last quarter of the film. Lucas says:
“I was rewriting, I was struggling with that plot problem when my wife suggested that I kill off Ben, which she thought was a pretty outrageous idea, and I said, ‘Well, that is an interesting idea, and I had been thinking about it.’ Her first idea was to have Threepio get shot, and I said impossible because I wanted to start and end the film with the robots, I wanted the film to really be about the robots and have the theme be the framework for the rest of the movie. But then the more I thought about Ben getting killed the more I liked the idea.” [lvi]
Often, Marcia reeled in Lucas’ own sense of ego. She encouraged him to do interviews as a way of raising his spirits, but was also irritated by the auteur theory of critics to credit every element of Lucas’ films to himself; passing by his office as she heard a journalist use the phrase “master director,” she snorted. “Doesn’t he like that description?” the journalist asked. “Oh, he loves it.” [lvii] Mark Hamill also notes in 2005 how her sensibilities influenced the content and structure of his films:
“You can see a huge difference in the films that he does now and the films that he did when he was married. I know for a fact that Marcia Lucas was responsible for convincing him to keep that little ‘kiss for luck’ before Carrie [Fisher] and I swing across the chasm in the first film: ‘Oh, I don’t like it, people laugh in the previews,’ and she said, ‘George, they’re laughing because it’s so sweet and unexpected’– and her influence was such that if she wanted to keep it, it was in. When the little mouse robot comes up when Harrison and I are delivering Chewbacca to the prison and he roars at it and it screams, sort of, and runs away, George wanted to cut that and Marcia insisted that he keep it.” [lviii]
One interesting bit of trivia relating to her and Lucas’ cinema is that Indiana, the Alaskan malamute that gave Indiana Jones his name and also gave Lucas the inspiration for Chewbacca, was in fact Marcia’s dog, not George’s. [lix] On the subject of Indiana Jones, Dale Pollock provides an anecdote which demonstrates how Marcia’s presence in her husband’s life influenced his films in subtle but significant ways–in this case, changing the ending for Raiders of the Lost Ark:
“[Marcia] was instrumental in changing the ending of Raiders, in which Indiana delivers the ark to Washington. Marion is nowhere to be seen, presumably stranded on an island with a submarine and a lot of melted Nazis. Marcia watched the rough cut in silence and then levelled the boom. She said there was no emotional resolution to the ending, because the girl disappears. ‘Everyone was feeling really good until she said that,’ Dunham recalls. ‘It was one of those, “Oh no we lost sight of that.” ‘ Spielberg reshot the scene in downtown San Francisco, having Marion wait for Indiana on the steps on the government building. Marcia, once again, had come to the rescue.” [lx]
Star Wars had a hectic shoot in 1976. This wasn’t anything like the low-budget pictures George had made before–this was a big, expensive epic, shot in north Africa and on giant U.K. soundstages. George was often miserable and homesick, and his inability to connect to strangers left the foreign crews hostile to him. Marcia went with him to Tunisia, but the months in England during pre-production were lonesome; he wrote Marcia letters all the time, and kept a picture of her taped to the inside of his briefcase. Eventually Marcia moved there, renting a cottage for them in Hampstead; while they were away in Tunisia, burglers broke in and stole his video equipment.
When Lucas returned home, he was exhausted and disappointed in his film; Marcia had to rush him to the Marin General Hospital because of stress-induced chest pains not long after they got back. Lucas had hired a U.K. union editor–John Jympson–to cut the film while they were in England, but when Lucas had seen the rough cut he was horrified; the film was dull and without any of the kinetic energy he had envisioned. Jympson was fired, and Marcia took his place, starting over from scratch with George once they were back in California, working in the Parkhouse carriage house which was converted into an editing building. “He asked Marcia to work on the final battle sequence, so ILM could start, but he needed someone else to start at the beginning,” says Richard Chew, [lxi] whom Lucas knew from Coppola’s The Conversation and John Korty’s films, and was hired not long after Marcia began cutting. With the entire Jympson cut junked wholesale, the film needed to be re-ordered back into dailies so that Marcia and Chew could totally start over, a laborious task for the editors, assistants and film librarians. “No one had been editing on the movie for several months,” Lucas states in The Making of Star Wars, “so the first thing we had to do when we got back to San Anselmo was to reconstitute everything that had been cut in England, put it back in dailies form, and start from scratch. It turned out to be even more of a tremendous job than we thought it was going to be. We were running against a terrible time problem, so we hired [another] editor, Richard Chew. He and my wife Marcia, who was also an editor, raced to get a first rough cut of the movie ready by Thanksgiving.” [lxii]
The workload was daunting. Carol Ballard walked in Parkhouse one day at 6AM to find a bleary-eyed Marcia still cutting. Lucas was cutting the Falcon gun-port battle himself, Chew states, “then he went upstairs to his editing room and his Steenbeck editing table and looked through all the trims, while I continued working from the beginning of the film and Marcia was working on the end.” [lxiii] A third editor, Paul Hirsch, whom Lucas knew from De Palma’s Carrie, was later hired since there was so much to do. “Marcia Lucas called me,” Hirsch recalls. “And she said, ‘Things are going a lot slower than we had hoped; our editor in England didn’t work out and we’re having to recut everything. We’ve got Richard Chew on the picture–but we’re not getting enough done!'” [lxiv] He accepted the offer but admits being nervous. “I was a little intimidated,” he says, “because both Marcia and Richard had been nominated for Academy Awards before, and I was just this kid from New York, but they were great.” [lxv] He was stationed on the Moviola, but it did not agree with him. “I had forgotten how many years it had been since I had worked on one, so I was all thumbs, breaking the film, dropping it, and wasting a lot of time just trying to get the film to go through the machine. So Marcia said, ‘I don’t care, I’ll work on the Moviola.’ After that, I was working upstairs in George’s room on the Steenbeck.” [lxvi] Marcia and Chew remained downstairs, closer to the assistant editors and coding machine (used for syncing ILM shots). Marcia continued to work on the film as the months went by, trying to fashion a more emotional experience from what she had to work with.
The Death Star trench run was originally scripted entirely different, with Luke having two runs at the exhaust port; Marcia had re-ordered the shots almost from the ground up, trying to build tension lacking in the original scripted sequence, which was why this one was the most complicated (Deleted Magic has a faithful reproduction of the original assembly, which is surprisingly unsatisfying). She warned George, “If the audience doesn’t cheer when Han Solo comes in at the last second in the Millennium Falcon to help Luke when he’s being chased by Darth Vader, the picture doesn’t work.” [lxvii] One curiosity of note is that she was one of the few people who was in favor of the Jabba the Hutt scene (before the Greedo dialogue was re-written), and initially argued in favour of keeping it in the film. She describes:
“Jabba was a big debatable item. George had never liked the scene Jabba was in because he felt that the casting was never strong enough. There was an element, however, that I liked a lot because of the way George had filmed it. Jabba was seen in a long shot and he was yelling, while in the foreground, in a big close-up, Han’s body wiped into the left corner of the frame and his hand was on a gun and he said, ‘I’ve been waiting for you, Jabba.’ Then we cut to Han’s face and Jabba turned around. I thought it was a very verile moment for Han’s character; it made him a real macho guy, and Harrison’s performance was very good. I lobbied to keep the scene. But Jabba was not terrific, and Jabba’s men, who all looked like Greedo, were made of molded green plastic. George thought they looked pretty phony, so he had two reasons for wanting to cut the scene: the appearance of Jabba’s men and the pacing of the movie. You have to pick up the pacing in an action movie like Star Wars , so ultimately, the scene wasn’t necessary.” [lxviii]
2007’s The Making of Star Wars treats Chew as the primary cutter and only credits the space battle and the (deleted!) Anchorhead scenes to Marcia as a solo editor, but given the book’s tendancy to downplay her (not even including her photo on the editors page) and the fact that she was not spoken to for the book, this is suspect (other publications, like Baxter and Pollock, treat her as the main cutter). By October or November 1976, the editing team had prepared a new rough cut; in the final crunch, the three editors began to trade off scenes as a trio. “We put it all together and spent about three or four days as a tag team,” Hirsch says. “George, Richard, Marcia and I would sit at the machine each for a couple of hours, taking turns and making suggestions. The last day, we did this for about twelve hours.” [lxix] Alan Ladd Jr. flew in for the screening, and walked out elated–he was convinced the film would be a hit.
As Marcia continued to re-work sequences as late as December of 1976, Martin Scorsese called her up–his editor of New York, New York had died, and he needed her to finish the film. Marcia was, frankly, sick of working on Star Wars, and was looking forward to something not made by George and something she considered more artistic. George had another two editors onboard and the film was on its way to being finished. Even still, he was not pleased. “For George the whole thing was that Marcia was going off to this den of iniquity,” Willard Huyck explains. “Marty was wild and he took a lot of drugs and he stayed up all night, had lots of girlfriends. George was a family homebody. He couldn’t believe the stories that Marcia told him. George would fume because Marcia was running with these people. She loved being with Marty.” [lxx] Things at Lucasfilm weren’t as unremarkable as they seemed; Marcia would later confide in Lucasfilm marketing genius Charles Lippincott that if she ever had to work with her husband on a film again, “it would be the end of their marriage.” [lxxi]
In late spring of 1977, Star Wars was screened for studio executives and many of Lucas’ friends. When the house lights came up there was no applause in the silent room, and Marcia, who was always apprehensive about the film, was in tears. “It’s the At Long Last Love of science fiction,” she cried. “It’s awful!” Gloria Katz took her aside. “Shhh! Laddie’s watching,” she hushed. “Marcia, just look cheery.” [lxxii] Marcia tried to raise George’s spirits and give him some feedback, but when the Lucases and a bunch of friends went out to dinner to discuss the film, Brian De Palma mocked and joked about how cheesy it all was; Marcia was terribly upset with him for kicking George while he was down. She later called him up and asked him to talk to George, cheer him up; “he respects you,” she said. De Palma eventually ended up re-writing the opening crawl with Jay Cocks.
Paul Hirsch and Richard Chew finished the edit after Marcia left but she stopped by and helped her husband out when she could as George raced to the finishing line. Marcia, meanwhile, was busy finishing up New York, New York. Marcia and Scorsese invited Lucas to take a look at the movie in the editing room, and he recommended that if the lovers had a happy ending the film would make millions more; such an ending would not have fit the characters or film and Scorsese became depressed, knowing he could never make a movie for the masses. By May, the picture cutting on New York, New York was done, but Marcia was also supervising the film’s sound editing at MGM studios–the same place George was mixing sound on Star Wars. Their two jobs overlapped at a critical point that both had been too busy to even realise: Star Wars had opened. Lucas recalls:
“I was mixing sound on foreign versions of the film the day it opened here. I had been working so hard that, truthfully, I forgot the film was being released that day. My wife was mixing New York, New York at night at the same place we were mixing during the day, so at 6:00 she came in for the night shift just as I was leaving on the day shift. So we ran off across the street from the Chinese Theatre–and there was a huge line around the block. I said, ‘What’s that?’ I had forgotten completely, and I really couldn’t believe it. But I had planned a vacation as soon as I finished, and I’m glad I did because I really didn’t want to be around for all the craziness that happened after that.” [lxxiii]
The vacation was in Hawaii, their first one in years, and they desperately deserved it. Steven Spielberg and his wife soon joined them, bringing news of the growing Star Wars mania, and Alan Ladd Jr., president of Fox, excitedly phoned up Lucas every night to report the staggering box office grosses. George and Marcia were stunned. George wondered how he would spend all the millions of dollars that would be coming their way, but all he could find was a frozen yoghurt franchise on the resort, which he toyed with buying. He then thought of restoring the Parkhouse office to its full splendor–which probably led to his vision of Skywalker Ranch. For Marcia, the success of Star Wars meant something else–they could finally settle down. Graffiti had made them millionaires, but George had funnelled much of it into his film, and neither was sure if the success would last–Star Wars was the darkhorse investment return. George was planning on retiring. Marcia was planning on having a baby. Finally, it seemed like they could have a real life.
The Beginning of the End
Or so it seemed. Marcia is quoted in a summer 1977 article in People magazine as saying “Getting our private life together and having a baby. That is the project for the rest of the year.” [lxxiv] After trying to get pregnant, the Lucases got some bad news from the doctor: George was sterile. As Pollock notes, the news was a bit difficult to accept at first, and must have returned the strain to their relationship that just seemed to have been lifted; Marcia and George would never be able to conceived a child together. But if the thought of adoption seems obvious, it was not something the two of them were ready to jump into just yet. And George, despite claiming to be ready to retire, was about to embark on his most ambitious project to date.
“The idea for [the Ranch] came out of filmschool,” Lucas explained at the time. “It was a great environment; a lot of people exchanging ideas, watching movies, helping each other out. I wondered why we couldn’t have a professional environment like that.” [lxxv] With Star Wars becoming the most successful film of all time by the year’s close, Lucas saw what opportunity he was now given. Here was his chance to institute the dream that his mentor Coppola never had the resources to do. Lucas decided to turn Star Wars into a franchise, intended to support the costly facility. This also meant that Lucas had to use much of his earnings from Star Wars to buy the real estate, in Marin County–an action that no doubt must have worried Marcia. Lucas hired Irvin Kershner to direct Empire Strikes Back, thinking that the film would be relatively quick and easy to make–which turned out to not be the case at all. Even as Lucas said he was going to step back he saw himself becoming more and more involved in the film–Marcia was supposed to take a vacation to Mexico with him in 1978, along with their friends the Ritchie’s, but with screenwriter Leigh Brackett unexpectedly passing away Lucas spent much of the trip in the hotel room writing. He also began spearheading Raiders of the Lost Ark into production, which he was writing and producing as well. Things weren’t as simple as they planned.
A peak of joy finally appeared for Marcia amidst their increasingly hectic lifestyle. On April 3rd, 1978, the 50th Academy Awards ceremony was held, with Star Wars drawing a wealth of nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay–and Best Editing as well. George was unsurprised that he walked away empty-handed, but for Marcia there was a shock of another kind. Star Wars won the Best Editing award, and she and fellow co-editors Richard Chew and Paul Hirsch were all awarded the golden statues. For Marcia, it was the culmination of a constant uphill struggle since she entered Sandler Films in the 1960s and her proudest professional moment. She was also one of the few women to win an Oscar for the craft (only 5 others before her had, including Verna Fields for Jaws two years earlier).
Her husband, meanwhile, was about to enter a world of hurt as Empire Strikes Back began production in early 1979. Lucas wasn’t interested in making Star Wars films so he stayed home in California while Kershner directed it in England. It was much more logistically complicated than anyone had anticipated, and ended up weeks over schedule and millions of dollars over budget. Lucas flew to England a few times, but otherwise watched the picture disintegrate from a distance, horrified as he saw his investment go to waste. He re-edited the film out of desperation but it was a disaster, and Kershner had to re-cut it (sometimes Marcia is thought to have uncreditedly edited the film, though she probably just offered some input). Tensions with producer Gary Kurtz became so great that the two never worked together again. Lucas was soon diagnosed with an ulcer and experienced the same anxiety-related symptoms that had caused him to be hospitalised during the production of Star Wars. Empire was not the fun romp he had envisioned in 1977, and his personal life was not any more improved.
What was Marcia doing during all of this? Apparently, not much. Scorsese had been her number one employer over the previous half decade, but he was between films at the time, New York, New York having done bad business. But did she even want to work? Scorsese finally made Raging Bull in 1980, but he went with Thelma Shoonmaker to edit the picture, whom he hired as editor for virtually every single film he has made since then. Lucas was able to coax Marcia into sorting out the split-screen edits on More American Graffiti, released in 1979, but she did so begrudgingly; Eleanor Coppola asked her to edit her documentary Hearts of Darkness, but she told her she was “too busy putting her house in order.” [lxxvi] Offers apparently continued to role in for her to edit, and even to produce and direct. Marcia, however, seems to have been waiting for George to settle down so that they could get back to starting a family like he said he would do. “She worked so hard for so many years without stopping that she just wanted to stay home for a while,” Eleanor Coppola remarked. [lxxvii] Marcia busied herself by helping out on the business end of Lucasfilm, and doing trivial things like organizing the company softball and sailing teams. Empire later opened to much success in 1980 and with its massive box office and the flood of Star Wars merchandise produced in the interggenum the Lucasfilm corporation had begun to rival Disney. But instead of slowing down, Lucas went straight into production of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1980, and then began construction of the massive Skywalker Ranch, an involved and stressful undertaking which left him perpetually distant. “I don’t know how one person has that much energy,” production co-ordinator Miki Herman observed. [lxxviii]
The company meanwhile had expanded to include many smaller divisions, such as Sprocket Works and the computer division, and Skywalker Sound, requiring careful management and a ballooning business team. In 1979, the company fourth of July picnic included less than fifty employees, but by 1982, there were over a thousand of them–friends and employees began referring to the sprawling complex as “Lucasland.” Producer Gary Kurtz looks back on this stage in Lucas’ life, when the Lucasfilm empire swallowed him up, and muses:
“The saddest thing about watching that process was the slow takeover by the bureaucracy…With that slowly came this thing about dress code, company policy, and nobody talking to press, and a firm of PR people, and it was quite frustrating really. I was there longer than anybody, and had been with him for the longest period of time, and I just felt that I didn’t like it…The bureaucracy grew and grew. You couldn’t talk to George. You had to talk to his assistant. It became more Howard Hughes, in a way. I decided I was more interested in working on interesting films than in being tied to a machine like that.” [lxxix]
Skywalker Ranch was Lucas’ biggest project yet, and Marcia begrudgingly found herself a business person with her husband, overseeing management on the facility. Sacrificing her career, she tried to find some kind of creative outlet by involving herself in the Ranch’s design, hoping that her husband would soon diminish his imperial reach. George’s reciprocation, conveniently, was to continue to work on his Ranch project, rationalising that she could use the facility as well. “Marcia has sort of put her editorial career on hold,” Lucas said in 1981, “and is now working as an interior designer. I don’t really know if she’ll go back to editing–and she’s a good editor. Usually the offers are to go to New York or to go to Los Angeles, and that’s no fun for us. It’s like six months apart, and coming home at weekends maybe. But once we get our facility up here, if a director wants her to edit, it will be much easier to convince him to do it up here rather than wherever he lives. The whole reason for the ranch actually–it’s just a giant facility to allow my wife to cut film in Marin County.” [lxxx] As author John Baxter notes, however, the joke was probably lost on Marcia, who stood by, befuddled why a man who was supposed to be retiring was building a multi-million-dollar mini-studio at the expense of his personal life.
Marcia saw the same process occurring in Lucas’ friend and mentor, Francis Coppola, though Lucas agreed that Coppola’s ego had become unfathomable since Godfather, Godfather II and Apocalypse Now turned him into the biggest director in history, and she especially empathised with Eleanor, Francis’ wife. “It was no secret that Francis was a pussy hound,” Marcia remarks bluntly. “Ellie used to be around for half an hour or so, and then she’d disappear, go upstairs with the kids, and Francis would be feeling up some babe in the pool. I was hurt and embarrassed for Ellie, and I thought Francis was pretty disgusting, the way he treated his wife.” [lxxxi] Following in the steps of Lucas, Coppola too became distant with his grandiose ambitions and attempted to build his own studio as well, alienating even Lucas.
George, however, had been mulling over things after the Empire Strikes Back fiasco, as his life continued to be consumed by work. When he began making the Star Wars sequel in 1977, he thought it would be the first of eleven sequels that would provide the funding for Skywalker Ranch to maintain its annual million-dollar overhead. By 1979, he altered this number to eight sequels. Yet after the film was done production, much had changed, and the business drama of 1980, which included re-organizing Lucasfilm and firing president Bob Greber, left him suffering chronically from headaches and dizziness. He was quite literally working himself to death, not having realised just what an undertaking he was immersing himself in, and Marcia begged him to step back while their relationship still had a chance of surviving; as business partner in Lucasfilm, things were no fun for her either. “He’s doing a thousand things all the time,” she said. [lxxxii] George agreed–and they also began seriously thinking about adopting a child, finally.
“I see [my family] a couple hours a night and maybe on Sundays if I’m lucky,” Lucas said at the time, “and I’m always real tired and cranky and feeling like, ‘Gee, I should be doing something else.’ I sort of speed through everything…It’s been very hard on Marcia, living with someone who constantly is in agony; uptight and worried, off in never-never land.” [lxxxiii] His contract with Fox was for three Star Wars films and so that’s what he would make–his next Star Wars sequel would be his last. It would also be his final ace-in-hole to pay off the Ranch, which he vowed would be his final mega-project before settling down and enjoying the fruits of his labour.
But life wasn’t all bad, of course; the Lucases struggled to remain normal, and remain attached to each other. For George, this was most difficult of all, constantly distracted by his workaholic mindset and often leaving him physically absent, but Marcia’s down-to-earth sensibilities kept him grounded and offered a much-needed alternate perspective for him, and she helped him grow as a person. Pollock writes:
“Marcia admits it has been a struggle. She was never pleased that George’s hobby was also his work. She nags him to read books for recreation, not research. Almost grudgingly, he now reads contemporary novels by James Michener and James Clavell and classics by Robert Louis Stevenson and O. Henry…Marcia also gets George to play tennis with her, his sole form of exercise, as a small paunch testifies. Marcia can still make George laugh–‘She’s a funny lady,’ Bill Neil says approvingly. ‘She’s loosened him up considerably.’ She also serves as the butt of her husband’s dry, sardonic humor: at the Raiders wrap party in Hawaii in 1980, George persuaded producer Frank Marshall to tumble into Marcia’s birthday cake and was ecstatic when the stunt came off flawlessly. Marcia’s off-color remarks still make Lucas blush, but he’s more affectionate now than in the past–he’ll even put his arm around her in public.” [lxxxiv]
Marcia said to Denise Worrell: “I’ve been after him for years to get some other interests to help him relax. He’s been skiing twice now, and he’s a little more interested in exercise. From time to time we have parties if a friend is getting married, or two to three times a year we have six or eight close friends over for dinner and then go see a movie in the projection room.” [lxxxv]
In 1981, an unusual lull in their lives, a child finally entered. Marcia and George adopted a daughter, Amanda. Hoping to clear the table for family life, Lucas hired Lawrence Kasdan to finish writing Return of the Jedi , Richard Marquand was brought in to direct, and producer Howard Kazanjian ensured a smooth production–things seemed like maybe they would be better. Marcia recalls with fondness this one brief glimpse of domestic happiness:
“I make everyone leave at six o’clock so that when George comes home, it’s just the two of us and Amanda. Now that we have Amanda we actually have dinner at the table. I cook, I do the dishes, and we give Amanda a bath together. George sometimes feeds her a bottle in the TV room. We just decided to try to keep our lives as normal as possible. We both have very traditional values. When you get a big jolt of money, it’s very easy to be in awe of it and lose touch with reality. I don’t want to raise children in a fantasy.” [lxxxvi]
Yet it was not to last. George became more and more involved in Return of the Jedi, becoming a permanent figure on the set in England. He supervised each days filming and even directed portions of the material himself, becoming a full-time second-unit director, while in his spare moments he was busy prepping the much-anticipated Indiana Jones sequel. Instead, Marcia was left behind in their empty mansions and hotel rooms.
By the time Lucas realised how far he had slipped it was already 1983, where he was simultaneously finishing post-production on Return of the Jedi and flying to and from the set of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in Sri Lanka. He states early in the year:
“When I was in film school, [work] was 24-hours a day, seven days a week–that was all I thought about and did. I didn’t do anything else! Then when I started working professionally and got married, I had to work all the time in order just to get anywhere. And I didn’t have a vacation until I finished my first film and went to Europe. I had a couple of bucks in the bank, and I said, ‘It’s now or never.’ My wife had been bugging me. I’d been at it for four or five years straight, and she said, ‘You can’t go on like this.’ That was in 1973. I didn’t have another vacation until 1977–when I went to Hawaii, after Star Wars. My wife likes to have vacations. She doesn’t like not to be able to go anywhere, year in and year out. She’d like to be able to say, ‘Look, let’s take off for two or three weeks and just cool out.’ So I promised her that after Star Wars every year we’d take two vacations–two to three weeks each year. That lasted for one year. Now, I try to get in one vacation a year, for a week or so, it always comes down to saying, ‘Next week. Just let me get past this thing…’ By the time you get past this thing, there’s always something else, and you can’t leave.” [lxxvii]
Dale Pollock’s biography, written at the time, offers some sad clues to the state of the Lucases marriage. Both Marcia and George seem to reflect bitterly on the current state of their life. Marcia remarks: “Getting here was a lot more fun than being here.” [lxxxviii] Coping with fame and celebrity was a challenge for Marcia as much as it was for her husband, and his emotional distance only compounded matters. Pollock writes:
“Marcia’s biggest transition was leaving their Medway home, where she and George had lived for nine years; it was so small she could clean it herself. Now she lives in a mansion, dependent on a household staff. ‘Once in a while, it’s a little uncomfortable feeling you really can’t do it all by yourself,’ she says. When Marcia Griffin married George Lucas in 1969, she thought he would never be more than a director of weird movies. So when he became the most successful filmmaker in Hollywood history, Marcia didn’t know how to react. She felt guilty of her sudden prosperity; both she and George feel they don’t deserve it. Marcia resented her rich friends when she was young; now she wears a large diamond ring and does her errands in a Mercedes Benz. ‘I think some of the striving has been taken out of my life,’ Marcia says quietly. ‘I was a great achiever, a self-made girl who started from nothing and worked hard and got rewarded. In a way, I regret having all the obstacles removed.’ ” [lxxxix]
Things did not improve over the months, and despite now sharing a child the emotional coldness only grew. Richard Walter saw the Lucases at a party at Randal Kleiser’s house just before the divorce and recalls:
“I ended up in the corner with Marcia, chatting with her, and what she told me underscored a sense I’d always had that [intimacy] was not a gigantic part of George’s life…She just sort of blurted it out that it was extremely isolating; it was like Fortress Lucas. I’d heard this from people who worked with him at that time. They would say, ‘I can’t stand it. He’s brilliant, but it’s so cold. I feel like I’m suffocating. I’ve got to get out of here.’ Marcia told me she ‘just couldn’t stand the darkness any longer.’ ” [xc]
Marcia had since become a business partner for Lucas, and while he was away shooting Return of the Jedi in 1982, Marcia was overseeing the interior design of Skywalker Ranch as it underwent its final phases of construction, with a staff of twenty-five working under her. She gave the campus-like environment dark-green walls with burnished wood trim, antique desks and tables and a polished oak balcony overlooking the courtyard. “I remember working at Sandler Films, sitting in a dark cubicle. I want every employee to have a decent place to work,” she said. [xci] The facility had a great library which was capped with an elaborate stained glass dome; a local artist named Tom Rodrigues was hired to create the elaborate piece, also acting as production manager of the stained glass studio on-site that created other garnishes for the facility. Somewhere in that time, Marcia fell in love with him.
Given the state of the Lucases’ marriage and the emotional state of Marcia, this is not surprising. Despite having finally adopted a baby, her marriage was in ruins, and Marcia seems to have been in a state of depression. Yet at the same time, she knew she had obligations to George and their daughter as well and stayed with George for the meanwhile. Marcia swore to me, though, that while she was attracted to Rodrigues and later married him, she never had a physical affair with him when she was still with George. Even still, the event shocked George, traumatized him even–which perhaps speaks to the extent he was out of touch with things in his personal life. The Rodrigues incident is often emphasized by him in interviews, but in reality it was simply the visible manifestation of a separation that was already long underway.
Lucas, however, had come from a conservative family that did not get divorced. Perhaps it is because of this that George hired Marcia to edit Return of the Jedi–a last-ditch attempt to bring them closer together, a project to collaborate on, just like in the old days. Journalist Denise Worrell reports, Marcia’s husband says she is “great with emotions and characters, the dying and crying scenes,” and she edited Yoda and Darth Vader’s death scenes, and the space battles as well–“George listens to her very carefully,” Worrell notes. [xcii] Yet according to author John Baxter, it was producer Howard Kazanjian who suggested to George that Marcia come onboard as an editor; “you’ll have to ask her,” Lucas replied. [xciii]
But the act wasn’t enough to mend the wounds that their marriage had been laced with. Baxter reports that staff noticed a general air of coolness between them, and they would leave the office separately each day. [xciv] Marcia tried to do something to save the marriage–she suggested they go to a marriage counsellor to try to work things out. George said no to the suggestion. Marcia then suggested that they have a trial separation, but again George refused (attitudes Marcia surmises were picked up from his conservative father [xcv]). He begged her to wait until Return of the Jedi was finished, swearing that he would settle down and give her and Amanda the attention they deserved–in between flights to the Indiana Jones set, across the world, that is. It was the same old story. “I know George wanted me to stay but it was just too little too late,” Marcia says. [xcvi]
Her husband’s comments in May of 1983, just weeks before their divorce, show a sharp bitterness undercutting:
“It is hard to describe the amount of detail, the amount of work involved [in making a film]…You can do it for a couple of months, but year after year its gets to be grim. I’ve been doing it for god knows how long. It’s more and more pressure and I’m more and more unhappy, and tired and exhausted and dragging home endless problems at the end of the day. I’m not having much fun. It’s all work. It’s very anxiety-ridden, very hard, very frustrating and relentless. The extent to which one’s personal life is usurped cannot be overestimated. It has made me less of a happy person than I think I could be. It has disrupted my family life. I have a wife and a two-year-old daughter, and they are the most important things in my life. My family is it for me. Amanda is two years old now, and she’s magic. She’s this little girl and she ain’t going to wait for me. She’s going, she’s growing. The last thing in the world I want is to turn around and have her be eighteen and say, ‘Hi, dad, where have you been all my life?’ ” [xcvii]
It seems, however, that Lucas’ outreach to re-claim his personal life came much too late to be of any effect. Author John Baxter writes that in early June, 1983, Lucas called his staff into his office and as he and Marcia held hands they announced they were divorcing after fourteen years of marriage. The news was made public soon after. The June 27th, 1983 issue of Time ran a small announcement under the headline “divorce”:
“George Lucas, 39, movie mogul who is the Force behind Star Wars. The Empire Strikes Back and the new supergrossing ($100 million in the first three weeks) Return of the Jedi; and Marcia Lucas, 38, film editor (Taxi Driver, American Graffiti) who won an Academy Award for her work on Star Wars and also cut parts of Jedi; after 14 years of marriage, one adopted daughter, Amanda, 2, whose custody they will share; in San Anselmo, Calif.”
Such is one of the final contemporaneously public mentions of Marcia in the mass media. Lucas too faded away, and by the close of the decade would be regarded as a recluse. But what exactly happened here? There’s a tangle of confusion, and very few sources on the matter. In fact,most of this article is based on Dale Pollock’s Skywalking and Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls–because they are the only publications that have acknowledged and spoken to Marcia, and Pollock’s book was released before their marriage ended.
A fuzzy picture emerges nonetheless. As Time reported, custody of Amanda was split between Marcia and George. In the divorce trial, Lucas lost much of his fortune–she walked away with between 35 and 50 million, depending on the source. Marcia bought a house with Tom Rodrigues in the San Francisco suburb of Belvedere–and quickly became pregnant with her first natural daughter, Amy. Marcia was thirty-eight years old.
Just as Marcia was finally finding happiness, one presumes, George was in a state of depression. He spoke to 60 Minutes about the event decades later:
Lucas: It was very hard. The divorce kind of destroyed me. It did take me a couple of years to sort of unwind myself and come out of it.
Lesley Stahl: You didn’t see it coming?
Lucas: Oh, no, I didn’t.
Lesley Stahl: You were happy, everything was fine and–there was another man. And you didn’t know.
Lucas: Ten years younger than I was. It was one of those classic divorce situations.” [xcviii]
Marcia, however, insists that Lucas uses the “affair” as a crutch–the problems in his marriage were complex and the two were headed to separation long before this, while Marcia was physically faithful to George the whole time. “It was such an easy out for him to say ‘I left him for another man’,” Marcia wrote to me. In many ways, it allows George to avoid having to take responsibility for his very active part in the deterioration of their relationship by pointing to Marcia as the culprit in it’s failure. His incredulity seems nonetheless genuine–perhaps it hadn’t actually crossed his mind that she would leave him. Lucas’ close friend Steven Spielberg, whom Lucas would be working with on the Indiana Jones sequel as the divorce was occurring, remembers the time: “[The divorce] pulverized him. George and Marcia, for me, were the reason you got married, because it was insurance policy that marriages do work…and when that marriage didn’t work, I lost my faith in marriage for a long time.” [xcix]
As Return of the Jedi was released and the Ranch completed, the sacrifice that he thought would grant him personal and financial freedom, Lucas was left in desertion. Yet at the same time, the end of George and Marcia is one of tragedy. George’s preoccupation with work, in many ways, was rationalised as being done for Marcia and his family, in order to guarantee them security; celebrities come and go and no one was sure that Star Wars would last, so it was strategically wise to capitalise on it as much as possible while George was still the flavour of the month. Once things were in place and the Ranch completed, they would be set for life. In many ways, however, this was merely rationalising his own empire aspirations–he claims he was doing it for her, but they were already millionaires many times over, and had been for almost a decade, while Lucas was claiming that he just wanted to make little personal films like he had been doing before, which would not require a million-dollar state-of-the-art facility. Marcia didn’t want or need Skywalker Ranch, she just wanted to have a normal life, and being multi-milionaires they had the ability to settle down, and settle down in luxury, while George could continue to have a career as one of the most successful filmmakers of his time. Lucas was simply too wrapped up in his empire building to see that his personal life was disintegrating, or else recognized it but convinced himself that it was okay. In many ways, it is surprising that Marcia stayed with him for so long. Marcia recalls:
“By the time George could afford to have a film facility he no longer wanted to direct. After Star Wars, he insisted, ‘I’m never going to direct another establishment-type movie again.’ I used to say, ‘For someone who wants to be an experimental filmmaker, why are you spending this fortune on a facility to make Hollywood movies? We edited THX in our attic, we edited American Graffiti over Francis’ garage, I just don’t get it, George.’ The Lucasfilm empire–the computer division, ILM, the licensing and lawyers–seemed to me to be this inverted triangle sitting on a pea, which was the Star Wars trilogy. But he wasn’t going to make any more Star Wars, and the pea was going to dry up and crumble, and then he was going to be left with this huge facility with its enormous overhead. And why did he want to do that if he wasn’t going to make movies? I still don’t get it.” [c]
Yet perhaps some fault also finds her way for not leaving him, for instead putting up with it to the point where things got as bad as they did; that George resents her is not completely surprising, especially given that she was granted so much money in the trial, so much in fact that his dream of independence crumbled and the Lucasfilm corporation was put in dire straits for most of the 1980s. In Marcia’s defense, however, her settlement, either 35 or 50 million depending on the source, was fair when one considers her importance not just as Lucas’ spouse but as his legitimate partner as well–as Lucasfilm president Bob Greber noted to Dale Pollock in his 1983 book, “people sometimes forget that Marcia Lucas owns half of this company and is a very important part of it.” [ci] George himself may have even forgotten this; Marcia was not merely a gold-digger.
At the same time, the separation has a circular irony to it; George emotionally neglected Marcia for years in the hopes of securing his private empire, yet in the end this pushed her away completely, and when she left she took away the private empire that had instigated the process in the first place. His greed cost him his wife, and his empire. It is my opinion that Lucas chose to shape Anakin Skywalker’s arc in the prequels in a similar manner because of his reflections on his own self-created loss.
Walter Murch offers his view on the collapse, stating, “I think what Marcia saw was that his success was winding him tighter and tighter into a workaholic control-driven person, and she thought that this was destructive, which it probably is in the long run.” [cii] Their friends Ronda Gomez and Howard Zieff were unsurprised by the split. “He just didn’t want to have fun,” Gomez says of Lucas. “Marcia wanted to go to Europe and see things. George wanted to stay in the hotel room and have his TV dinners.” [ciii]
Finally, Marcia revealed her side of the story in a rare interview in Peter Biskind’s 1997 book:
“I felt that we had paid our dues, fought our battles, worked eight days a week, twenty-five hours a day. I wanted to stop and smell the flowers. I wanted joy in my life. And George just didn’t. He was very emotionally blocked, incapable of sharing feelings. He wanted to stay on that workaholic track. The empire builder, the dynamo. And I couldn’t see myself living that way for the rest of my life.
I felt we were partners, partners in the ranch, partners in our home, and we did these films together. I wasn’t a fifty percent partner, but I felt I had something to bring to the table. I was the more emotional person who came from the heart, and George was the more intellectual and visual, and I thought that provided a nice balance. But George would never acknowledge that to me. I think he resented my criticisms, felt that all I ever did was put him down. In his mind, I always stayed the stupid Valley girl. He never felt I had any talent, he never felt I was very smart and he never gave me much credit. When we were finishing Jedi, George told me he thought I was a pretty good editor. In the sixteen years of our being together I think that was the only time he complimented me.” [civ]
If George was bitter about the experience, it seems Marcia, with characteristic verve, has a chip on her shoulder as well.
Lucas eventually began dating pop singer Linda Rondstat. Yet the divorce remained a sensitive issue–Marcia’s social circle was the same as George’s social circle, but George was not exactly in the mood to be around the woman who left him and took half of his fortune. With most of their mutual associates being friends to George firstly, he was in a position to dictate terms. “He was very bitter and vindictive about the divorce,” Marcia remembers. “Francis and Ellie [Coppola] used to have an Easter party out in Napa, and the first couple of years after the divorce, I used to get to see everyone, the Barwoods, the Robbinses, and then I stopped being invited. Years later I ran into Ellie down in L.A., and she said, ‘I always wanted to call you to explain that when Francis and George were working on Tucker, George asked him not to invite you, because he was very uncomfortable around you.’ That really hurt. It’s not enough that I’m erased from his life, he wants to blackball me too, with people who were my friends. It’s like I never existed.” [cv] Marcia was slowly fading away.
Lucas and his media interviews seems to give the strong impression that Amanda was raised by him alone–Marcia remarked to me that the 60 Minutes interviews and whatnot portray him as “Mr. Mom,” without any mention of Marcia. While this may be true with his other two children, such is not the case with Amanda. “I might have left George,” Marica wrote to me, “but I never left Amanda!” She had a 50% time share of her daughter, and raised her with George, even though they were divorced. Marcia wrote to me that she has been actively “involved in every aspect of her life. She has become an amazing, wonderful, really good human being.” Marcia legally kept the last name Lucas so that her daughter would have parents with the same last name. Amanda was “Amanda Lucas” while Amy was “Amy Lucas-Rodrigues”. Besides, she told me, it was her professional name for all her years as an editor and the name everyone knew her as. “I had no connection to my birth father’s name because he had abandoned us,” she told me. “I was a sort of a Marcia No-Name but I did have a professional name, the name on all my film credits…I am proud of the work I did as Marcia Lucas. I was part of an amazing era in American cinema.”
Sadly, Marcia did not continue working as an editor. With her and Rodrigues being millionaires, she finally was able to find the sort of normal life she had always been searching for. Still, her talent is missed. John Milius muses, “One of the great losses is that Marcia never became a filmmaker and continued as an editor.” [cvi] Indeed–and Denise Worrel reports that Marcia, by 1983, had gotten offers to direct. Dale Pollock notes this as well, but says the scripts weren’t very good, and Lucas wisely advised her that if she wasn’t passionate about the story then the film wouldn’t turn out well. [cvii] However, since Marcia began family life, Pollock reports that the idea of directing or editing had lost it’s appeal to her. Her number one interest, it seems, was being a mom.
After the Aftermath
Perhaps even more sadly, her marriage to Tom Rodrigues ended prematurely as well, divorcing after ten years of being together, as Tom told me in a personal communication. Marcia told me that she was “married to Tom Rodrigues for less than five years,” and that “he turned out to be a bit of a scoundral.” Take it as you will. “I didn’t really want his name,” she wrote to me, “but during the marriage I wanted our daughter Amy to have a mom and dad with her name, so I was Marcia Lucas Rodrigues.” Rodrigues and his current girlfriend (wife?) Linda Stutz, moved to Maple Creek, California in 2001 to start a vineyard together. His website includes a brief bio:
“Tom knew he would be an Artist from an early age, in fact, at 14 he was apprenticing in a stained glass studio and by 17, he was teaching adult education classes in stained glass. Tom has always followed his dreams and passions. His love and talent for baseball brought him an offer to play for the NY Mets farm team when he was a senior at Los Gatos High School. But Tom chose to pursue his art and continue to develop his talent in art. In the early 1980’s, he was the Designer and Production Manager of George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch Studio that created incredible custom glass work […] He has since designed many wine labels, several which reflect the influence and his love of Art Noveau. Then, in 2001, he decided to combine his passions for Art and Wine, and he and his sweetheart Linda moved to Mendocino to embark on a new life at Maple Creek and start Maple Creek Winery.”
Tom Rodrigues in a recent photo; from his website
“Marcia Lucas” meanwhile is listed as an executive producer on an independent film called No Easy Way from 1996, but there is no further information on her involvement here, or if this is even her. Her memory survives at USC, where the Marcia Lucas Post-Production Building serves as the premiere editing facility of the esteemed cinema school.
Marcia Lucas Post-Production Building. In 1981, Marcia herself broke the ground as millions of dollars in construction re-vamped the USC cinema department, with donations from the Lucases; photo from USC website
Amy was Tom and Marcia’s only child, and it is unlikely that Marcia had any more, given her age when her relationship with him ended. Today, Marcia would be about sixty-five years old. Her whereabouts are unknown.
Marcia Griffin filmography:
-Freelance commercial assistant editor (1964-1969?)
-Filmmaker (1968; editor)
-Medium Cool (1969; assistant editor)
-Rain People (1969; assistant editor)
-THX 1138 (1971; assistant editor)
-The Candidate (1972; assistant editor)
-American Graffiti (1973; editor) *Oscar nomination
-Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974; editor)
-Taxi Driver (1976; supervising editor) *BAFTA nomination
-Star Wars (1977; editor) *Oscar win
-New York, New York (1977; supervising editor)
-More American Graffiti (1979; uncredited editor)
-Return of the Jedi (1983; editor)
Copyright Michael Kaminski 2007-2010, All rights reserved.