Life is full of its fair share of famous "what ifs?" and Academy Award-winning director, writer, producer (and winemaker!) Francis Ford Coppola has tossed out an interesting comment on the legacy of George Lucas, speculating on the sad loss of potential classics had Lucas steered away from Star Wars.
In an excellent interview with Vanity Fair, Coppola shared his thoughts on the secrets of life, creating art, winemaking and the downfall of Lucas and what might have been:
"George [Lucas] is kind of a genius but I think it’s a pity he got so [absorbed in that one franchise]. I hope George isn’t offended, but the truth of the matter is that Star Wars cost us 10 new George Lucas films that would have been wonderful."
Coppola speaks from a seat of experience, authority and first-hand knowledge as a lifetime friend of George Lucas, both film school students coming out of the turbulent '60s to become mavericks in the industry, and acting as the executive producer of Lucas' first two movies, the dystopian sci-fi feature THX-1138 and, what I believe to be his best film, the nostalgic slice of California car culture, American Graffiti.
The Godfather director obviously feels the filmgoing public might have been robbed of a potential treasure of provocative indie movies from Lucas had he not traveled deep into that Star Wars galaxy far, far away. While we can speculate until the end of time as to what could have been, Coppola does have a point that the pressures and restrictions of mega-budget cinematic spectacles and ever-mounting fan expectations had a profound influence on his creativity and dampened his ambitions into other film genres and experimental storytelling forms.
Sure, Lucas did venture into the Indiana Jones franchise and the Ron Howard-directed Willow, but those were collaborative projects and not exclusively his own. However, let us be reminded of more recent projects, post-Star Wars, that Lucas shepherded, like Red Tails and Strange Magic. Being a huge fan of THX-1138 and American Graffiti, I can see where Coppola is coming from, offering a backhanded compliment to Lucas, but I wouldn't trade one hypothetical masterpiece if his Star Wars brainchild would be wiped from my memory.
Are Coppola's words valid? Did Lucas make the correct decision by concentrating on lightsabers and dark lords, or would the planet have been gifted some other entertainment enterprise had he jogged left instead of right?
What do you think? Was Star Wars the creative ruin of George Lucas or his crowning achievement?