Just as Star Wars fans got news of the far, far away release date of the new installment from J.J. Abrams (Episode VII will debut December 2015), George Lucas is offering a walk down memory lane by cherry-picking 1,416 of his favorite images from the first six movies. In the mammoth two-book Star Wars: Frames collection (Abrams), Lucas distills the entire saga down to its visual essence.
Lucasfilms executive editor J.W. Rinzler says "In a way, you get to see each film through George Lucas's eyes. For anyone who's studying how to make movies, I'd think that would be a wonderfully useful thing."
The two-year image selection process began shortly after Lucas completed Revenge of the Sith in 2005. First up: Phantom Menace. In a Skywalker Ranch basement editing suite, Lucas, Rinzler and post production supervisor Mike Blanchard watched the movie on a 42-inch Plasma screen and gradually whittled it down from 184,196 frames to 236 keeper shots.
Rinzler recalls "We'd sit there for hours at a time every Friday and go through each film, two or three frames per second. If George saw something he liked, he'd say, 'Stop, go back' or 'Go forward.' We'd toggle back and forth until George found the exact frame he wanted."
By isolating single shots, Rinzler explains, "George wanted to take cinema and slow it down to a standstill so people could look at the compositions, the costume design, the cinematography, all the disciplines that go into make a movie."
The assembly of still photographs also allows each reader to leaf through the story at his or her own pace, says Rinzler. "In the prequels, sometimes there was so much happening in a single frame, there was no way for the [movie] viewer to take it all in."
Lucas and company scrutinized the Star Wars films with the sound turned off. To enliven the silent movie sessions, Rinzler says, "Sometimes George got a little loose and started making up voices for some of the characters where we'd all ad lib what they could be saying. It's not like we all went reverential."
Check out the Star Wars gallery featuring 12 key images hand-picked by George Lucas.