April 19, 2015 - 7:03 AM
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Stephen Colbert came to the Tribeca Film Festival to interview filmmaker George Lucas, but the "Star Wars" creator had a question of his own.
"The perfect choice to replace that Jon Stewart fellow would have been you," Lucas told Colbert. Why, he wanted to know, wasn't he replacing him?
Colbert, who replaces David Letterman in September as host of "The Late Show" on CBS, tried to explain.
"Trevor Noah is a very funny guy," he said of Stewart's recently named replacement.
Moreover, he said, "I don't want to be the guy to take over from Jon Stewart. I worked for Jon Stewart at that show, and my memories will always be of him being the keenest, most intelligent, most beautifully deconstructive mind. ... And I would never, however successful I'd be, get out of his shadow."
Lucas then suggested that Colbert wouldn't need to get out from Stewart's shadow; he could simply "start jumping on his body and shouting, 'I won! I won!'"
"I'll try that," Colbert quipped.
The hour-long interview focused mostly on Lucas, however, and Colbert, sporting an ample white beard to match that of Lucas and appearing as himself, not as his retired "Colbert Report" pundit, made clear that he's a huge fan.
At age 13, he said, his world changed when he saw the first "Star Wars" with friends, having won four tickets in a radio station contest in Charleston, South Carolina.
"We had no idea what it was going to be," he said.
And then the music began, and the movie's opening scroll appeared and everything was different.
"We couldn't explain to anyone how the world was different now," Colbert told Lucas. "We had no vocabulary for what you showed us."
He says he still keeps a button from that screening, saying, "May the Force Be With You."
The two men didn't speak much about the much-anticipated new "Star Wars" trilogy, directed by J.J. Abrams, with the first installment, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," opening in December. Lucas, who sold the franchise and his Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012 for $4.05 billion, said he doesn't know what the film's plot will be but looks forward to seeing it.
"The one thing I regret about having made 'Star Wars' is that I never got to just go and see it," he said.
"I hope it's successful," he said. "I hope they do a great job."
He added that the original saga was about a father, children and grandchildren.
"I'm hoping they take it in a different direction," he said. "I have no idea what they're doing."
Lucas said one thing is sure: He'll wait to see the movie on a big screen. Asked by Colbert how he feels about people watching movies on their phones, he said it didn't anger him as much as it does some other filmmakers.
"They work best on a big screen," he said. "If you want to see it on a cellphone, that's fine with me, but it won't be the full experience."
Lucas spoke about the history of his biggest hits, starting with the 1973 "American Graffiti." Studio executives didn't like "Graffiti" at all at first, he said, and it ended up being enormously successful: It was made for $700,000, he noted, and earned $100 million.
With "Star Wars," there were similar trepidations. Showing it to a group of famous filmmaker friends, no one liked it and basically said, "Poor George," he recounted — except Steven Spielberg, who immediately declared it was going to be huge.
"And everyone just said, 'Poor Steven,'" Lucas quipped.
When it opened in 1977, the director went off to Hawaii to lie on a beach, wanting to escape the stress. That first weekend, he got a call to turn on the TV; Walter Cronkite was on, describing how the film had become a phenomenon.
"It's the first time I understood this was going to be a hit," Lucas said.
The director, dressed in jeans and sneakers, told his host he is "not a fan of celebrity." To which Colbert replied: "You dress glitzy!"
Lucas allowed that he owns "one pair of Levis and one pair of sneakers."
Lucas said he plans to use his time and money making experimental films. A 21-year-old fan approached the mic and told the director he had notebooks filled with ideas.
"I came here to see if I can help you," the fan said.
Lucas suggested the fan approach a Hollywood studio.
"They're the suckers," he said.
News from © The Associated Press, 2015