Movie Picture

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith: This month, Vanity Fair magazine celebrates the upcoming release of Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith with magnificent photos of the actors and crew taken by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz, and an exclusive interview with George Lucas. The Star Wars creator reveals several secrets, including explaining midi-chlorians once and for all, as well as giving his own views as to why Darth Vader should be regarded less as the ultimate monster than as a potential hero who made all the wrong choices throughout his journey.

This issue commemorates the entire Star Wars saga with a special fold-out cover that features Lucas posing with actors and characters from all the films, photographed by Leibovitz. Included are Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker), Jake Lloyd (young Anakin), Natalie Portman (Padmé Amidala), Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Christopher Lee (Count Dooku), Ian McDiarmid (Supreme Chancellor Palpatine), Pernilla August (Shmi Skywalker), Liam Neeson (Qui-Gon Jinn), Jimmy Smits (Senator Bail Organa), Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa) and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian). Among the characters spotlighted on the cover are Yoda, Darth Vader, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), R2-D2, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), Jar Jar Binks and General Grievous.

Vanity Fair contributing editor Jim Windolf talks to Lucas about his feelings regarding a saga that has encompassed 33 years of dedication and passion, and examines how a simple tale of a hero's journey became an epic legacy.

"I was interested in learning why George Lucas sat down with a pencil to write Star Wars in the first place, and where the story came from," Windolf explains. "I read plenty of biographies about George as well as The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, who was a big influence on him. If you tried to explain the plots of these films to someone who had never seen them, they might seem wacky. But as I read Campbell's work, it really began to make sense how George boiled down the common elements about heroes and their struggles."

Throughout Windolf's discussion with Lucas, the filmmaker revealed not only his appreciation for Campbell's work but also his own opinions on why Vader should not be viewed as a monster but instead as a sad man who made a deal with the Devil...and lost.

"It occurred to me as I was watching the movies again how strong Palpatine is and that Darth Vader is more or less a henchman," Windolf says. "It was exciting to hear George say that in Anakin's defiant quest to save someone he loved from death, he literally wanted to be able to stop them from going down the river Styx. But to do that, you have to ask permission from a god. He was denied, so he made a pact with the Sith...with dire consequences."

In addition to revealing comments about Anakin's dark journey in Revenge of the Sith, Windolf received a rather detailed explanation from Lucas about the intricate concept of midi-chlorians and the Force, as well as the misconstrued view that Vader was the all-powerful bad guy.

"Even in the very first movie -- A New Hope -- when Vader is in the meeting and he chokes the guy for mocking him, someone else tells Vader to ease up," Windolf explains. "There's always someone there giving Darth Vader an order. It also comes back to the idea that the Force has a physical embodiment. Because Anakin's body is so injured in Episode III, he isn't as strong in the Force as the Emperor had hoped. And that's why it was so important to the Emperor in the original trilogy to replace Vader with Luke, who was stronger in the Force than his own father. In fact, George mentioned that Anakin and Luke's lives are extremely parallel but while Anakin chooses the dark side at almost every turn, Luke chooses the right path."

In the article, Windolf also points out parallels between the Skywalker family and Lucas' own past, whether it's comparing young Anakin's adrenaline rush from Podracing and Lucas' own fascination for race cars, or Luke's dream to leave the homestead to have adventures and Lucas' quest to escape what he considered the boredom of selling stationary in his father's store for the exciting life of a filmmaker. Windolf is quick to point out in the article that the Star Wars saga does more than gives moviegoers a glimpse of what it feels like to be a hero, but also gives fans a brief insight into the bits and pieces of Lucas' own experiences as a filmmaker who broke through to make movies his own way.

"George said to me during the interview that in his opinion the really great authors like Shakespeare and Tolstoy could write beyond their own experiences through research and reporting, and just observation of other people, but all he had to go on was his own experience because he didn't have time to research other peoples' lives," Windolf recalls. "It's a good sign, especially in the context of Hollywood movies where so many of them are written by committee and mapped out as devices to manipulate audiences rather than act as someone's self expression. He's invested a lot of his own life story into the characters with personal details, so he's not just cynically coming up with some systematic storyline. He's writing from the heart. Showing that his biography is intertwined with the stories of the characters is a way of explaining that he means what he writes."

Claiming that he's earned the "right to fail," Lucas also explains to Windolf the desire to return to his THX 1138 roots and make more experimental films now that the cinematic element of the Star Wars saga is coming to a close.

"I think the one thing George wanted to make clear was that there aren't going to be any more Star Wars movies after this," Windolf explains. "However, I am curious now if that means he'll consider making a historical epic like Troy. I wouldn't be shocked to see him making a film about Napoleon or another legend. But more than likely, I believe he's craving a chance to make smaller movies on the fly. It's going to be a pleasure for him not to have a huge machinery around him when he's trying to make a movie. But I wouldn't be surprised in a couple of years if the bug bites him again and he wants to show that he can make a grand movie that's not a Star Wars movie, just to make one final statement."

One of the main elements Windolf hopes fans grasp from the article is Lucas' passion in telling a tale that mirrors his own hopes and regrets as a person. Fans may sit mesmerized by the fight scenes, the vivid special effects and the memorable creatures, but underlying all the sensational aspects of Star Wars is a strong sense of iconic storytelling that only a talented filmmaker can pull off.

"I wanted to point out that many directors with lofty reputations have made a movie for hire, but not Lucas," Windolf says. "I wanted to write against the conventional ideas about Lucas; everyone assumes that he's a studio director and all these other things that just aren't really true. I wanted to show that George does invest himself in these movies, and that they're not machine-made products created to manipulate audiences. He has something to say by expressing himself through an artistic statement that just so happens to be in this unusual medium of adventure sci-fi fantasy."