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George Lucas Discusses the Meaning and Mythology of ‘Star Wars’

george lucasIf you’ve been scratching your head for the past four decades trying to figure out what Star Wars is really all about, George Lucas sat down with Charlie Rose and opened up about that very subject.

The creator of the 1977 game-changer and ridiculously influential cultural touchstone reveals that the real origin of Star Wars can be traced back to a long, long time ago — specifically to the days when myths and stories were spread orally throughout expanding cultures from one generation to the next. Lucas explains that these stories had the rules for the fledgling society encoded within them, which made it easy — and entertaining — to instill the values necessary for societal stability into the next generations.

Lucas says he wanted to make a movie to test whether those same techniques could work on a modern audience.

“It’s about good and evil, but heroes — what makes a hero, what’s friendship, what’s the idea of sacrificing yourself for something larger?” he says. “They’re all really basic things, you might say you don’t have to make a movie about that [because] it’s very obvious, but it’s actually not. It’s not that obvious to a lot of people unless you have somebody tell you, every generation, that this is what our country believes in.”

The filmmaker explains to Rose that by placing his myth in a sci-fi setting, he was able to speak to a wider audience. “With Star Wars, it was the religion — everything was so taken and put into a form that was easy for everybody to accept so it didn’t fall into a contemporary mode where you could argue about it. It went everywhere in the world.” Lucas adds that he believes most people share the same basic beliefs.

You can check out the full interview below.


  • bzzbot

    pffffff haha please.

  • Atomic Kommie Comics

    He did Star Wars because he couldn’t do Flash Gordon.
    Lucas has been re-writing history since Day 1.

  • Greg Schaal

    He also wanted to test our tolerance for horrible character names.

  • Jim

    Seems like he may have read Joseph Campbell and re-remembered the truth in true Stan Lee manner.

  • dantes342

    All four commenters below me are wrong. I remember reading Lucas making these kinds of points back when the first movie was released.

    You guys don’t know shit.

  • buzzfeed

    Yeah, pretty typical of cynical bastards these days. And to Jim’s point, yes, Campbell was a direct influence from the earliest days of Star Wars conceptualization, which has been pretty well documented for awhile now. Believe it or not, Star Wars is our era’s Iliad or Odyssey.

  • Liam

    “Star Wars is our era’s Illiad or Odyssey” – I think that is probably the most depressing thing I have ever read. And you call these other guys cynical bastards…

  • Hypestyles

    Why can’t people just accept it as a fun film that became popular, regardless of whatever historical influences presumably informed the narrative?

  • buzzfeed

    I’m not saying the two are of the same caliber, but they are certainly our culture’s equivalent in function. You can call it whatever you want, but yes, I stand by what I said.

  • Liam

    To be honest, I kind of agree with your opinion. I just think that it’s kind of disheartening when you consider the implications of this in regards to our current cultural output. Don’t get me wrong, I like Star Wars (in a sort of nostalgic way), but I find it distressing when people ascribe such significant gravitas to what is essentially a rather hollow and vacuous (but fun) film.

  • buzzfeed

    Absolutely. It’s a “for better or worse” kind of thing.

  • theresa951

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  • Brian from Canada

    Considering much of Star Wars is cribbed from westerns (including a direct copy of a scene from The Searchers), it’s a bit of a stretch for Lucas to claim his intention was always to push the mythology of storytelling — especially when (a) Star Trek had proven science fiction audiences’ willingness to expand through fan-written stories and (b) the old stories were getting redone still, unto and including Monty Python’s successful run at the Holy Grail less than five years before.

  • Disco_Magic

    Japanese cinema. Lucas pretty much based the plot and characters of Star Wars on Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress. Many of Kurosawa’s films were re-told as American Westerns. He was a film student and had exposure to man different forms. But, as nothing is original, let us also consider an appreciation that he did it better than anyone before him.

  • David Fullam

    More baloney there than in that giant gooble gobble Lucas has.

  • Atomic Kommie Comics

    Dantes342 says…”I remember reading Lucas making these kinds of points back when the first movie was released.”

    Feel free to provide links.
    And not to articles from 1983 or later.
    Lucas’ revisionism had already begun.
    1977 or earlier, please.
    You might want to consider Starlog or CInefantastique from that period for starters…

  • dantes342

    Maybe YOU might want to consider those tough guy, I’m not in the business of doing your research for you. Find your own links if you care that much; I have a life.

    Anybody can check out interviews from Lucas during that time period when he talked about the lack of modern myths and his desire to do something about it.

    I’m not interested in Lucas propaganda, I just remember it from back then.

  • Spyder

    For the guy cursing out people on here as not knowing anything and being to cynical you may want to go to movie legends revealed on this very site. The author refutes your and Lucas’ recollection of how these were facts from the very begining and he quotes direct sources involved with the making of the movie as well as interviews during the 70s pre-empire that directly contradict lucas’ current version of history.

  • Alex Hayden

    the burden of proof lies with who declares it.

  • afrocarter

    Or you can read a book. Joseph Campbell talks about Star Wars and mythology in “The Power of Myth”. Campbell’s book “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” had a direct influence on Lucas & his creation of the Star Wars story. So much so that he invited Campbell to his ranch to watch the trilogy once it was done.

  • ronin

    As it does for those declaring otherwise.

  • buzzfeed

    There have been no movie legend entries that specifically or conclusively debunk any speculation of Campbellian mythology influencing Star Wars to my knowledge, which would be a pretty hefty claim to make in the first place. And at the end of the day, all this debate as to what Lucas’s original intentions were is moot – the narrative structure, character archetypes and larger themes are so distinctly outlined in the movies, that they speak for themselves. Even if naysayers want to believe that Lucas just pulled everything out of thin air, Campbell’s whole idea was that the Hero’s Journey was a subconscious, universal framework that storytellers unwittingly adhere to, which he believed reflected the soul’s psychological discovery of the self. Campbell further held that this is exactly why myths endure over time, because the themes are so timeless.
    Star Wars, for all it’s primitiveness and shortcomings, fits all of this criteria, and no quotes or interviews can change that.

    I’m sorry if my language before offended anyone, I had a pretty rough day. ;) Although I do believe we exist in a much more cynical time, and I think a lot of fans’ negativity towards Lucas has been affected by their opinion of the prequel trilogy.

  • dantes342


  • Roger A. Sneed

    And the only reason we give the Iliad or the Odyssey such “depth” is that it is now very, VERY old, and has been enshrined in the canon of Western literary culture.

  • Roger A. Sneed

    I think we can call that a “mic drop”!

  • LibertyDwells

    What a load of BS. Star Wars: WWII-era war epic reset in space, with a poorly conceived psuedo-religion grafted on to serve as a deus ex machina covering plot holes.

  • LibertyDwells

    What a load of BS. Star Wars: WWII-era war epic reset in space, with a poorly conceived psuedo-religion grafted on to serve as a deus ex machina covering plot holes.

  • LibertyDwells

    No, sorry. Nobody “declared otherwise”. He requested sources, preferably of the appropriate time period. The burden of proof rests *entirely* with the person making the initial claim.

  • LibertyDwells

    *derp*. That was witty.

  • Wurnman

    Ive had SW pegged since i was a little boy watching the first episodes in the 70’s. It’s about human politics and love … I now see i have understood what George Lucas was trying to tell us.

  • dantes342

    He describes his desire in the interview to make a new “myth” and “fairy tale”. I’d read other versions of the same sentiment.