In response to “The Life and Films of George Lucas are the Focus of Dale Pollock’s Skywalking” by Alex Diaz-Granados. Read it here…
A decade or two ago in a galaxy far, far away, Dale Pollock’s “Skywalking” reigned as the definitive and unofficially official biography of filmmaker and visionary George Lucas, and Alex Diaz-Granados’ effusive review suggests that it’s still on top. But with the “Star Wars” prequels came waves of merchandise and a renewed interest in the man’s career, including more biographies, and an addendum to “Skywalking” by Pollock. This article will look at “Skywalking” in the context of more recent things come to pass, and shed light on what Diaz-Granados’ review leaves out.
Where “Skywalking” succeeds most is in the telling of shrouded, early tales of Lucas’ growing up in California, his college days, first brushes with film, meeting Francis Ford Coppola, et cetera-material one really can’t find anywhere else, and indeed a full third of Diaz-Granado’s article is a quote from this section. Pollock frames his biography in the context of a car crash that nearly killed a teenage Lucas, setting it as a jumping-off point, a transformative experience for the young visionary. Even as Lucas’ story proceeds beyond life in Modesto, CA, Pollock is quick to refer back to when his time as a young racer or experimental filmmaker or anthropology student influenced him in the more famous portions of his career.
Admirably, “Skywalking” digs deep into the dirty side of filmmaking and tells us just how hard it was to make “Graffiti”, “Star Wars” and “Empire”; from acquiring funding to just getting the shoot happening to post-production and distribution troubles, “Skywalking” makes for refreshing reading if your only account of life behind-the-scenes is studio-released cheerleading. Diaz-Granados discusses this adequately, and is right to point out the rather emotional quality of the struggles inherent in creating these classic films, even if only in the frustrations of dealing with studio men behind desks.
Perplexingly, Diaz-Granados closes on the note of amusing trivia that the seeds for “Apocalypse Now” were planted by Lucas. Pollock’s book is well-commended for sharing the fascinating tale of the germination of “Apocalypse Now”, its passing from Lucas to Coppola and what Lucasian influences still remain in the film we know today. However, Diaz-Granados only lightly touches on the falling out between Lucas and Coppola, the dramatization of which led Lucas to not wish to cooperate on further revisions to “Skywalking”.
Whatever rift between Lucas and Coppola there once was seems to fade day by day-if nothing else, Coppola’s participation in the gentle spoof “R2-D2: Beneath the Dome” and his visits to Skywalker Ranch detailed in “Revenge of the Sith” behind-the-scenes material have shown that these days things are chummy. Nonetheless one can hardly discuss “Skywalking” without incorporating its subject’s reaction to how the whole thing played out.
Indeed, Lucas tends to dismiss “Skywalking” as “as accurate as the National Enquirer”, which is, sadly, probably a defensive move on the filmmaker’s part. Pollock claims that “the reality of seeing his life on a page disturbed him.” You be the judge. Lucas himself is painted quite positively, to be frank, and it is difficult to discern what the director finds so disconcerting in the text.
One important note for the prospective “Skywalking” reader that Diaz-Granados fails to mention is that “Return of the Jedi” is only covered as an afterthought in an addendum; it gets its due, yes, but as an add-on, unincorporated into the thrust of the main narrative. Obviously the book was published when “Jedi” came out to capitalize on the “Star Wars” dollar, but it is a little odd to read a story that stops two-thirds into the trilogy. Said addendum is not quite written in the same style as the rest of the narrative, either, but as a look back rather than a text containing the immediacy of the main work. It’s not hugely distracting, but still easy to notice; Pollock’s style got more sardonic as he got older, it seems.
Still a solid read, though less definitive with each passing year, “Skywalking” offers a fascinating trip into the life of a man who continues to impact the motion picture industry in new ways every day, bringing us to the stars.