Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont, IL
August 5, 2005
Interview by Chris Spice (Darth Spice)

 

THE INTERVIEW
At the Wizard World Chicago presentation from Lucasfilm, I was lucky enough to be granted an exclusive interview with Steve Sansweet on Friday morning. In the aftermath of the summer of Sith, we are all wondering, “What is the future of Star Wars?” Steve was kind enough to give us all a little fuel for our collective fires…

How rewarding was it to see the success of Revenge of the Sith, not only at the box office but with sky high fan approval, did you really think it would be such a blockbuster?
I was very excited to see the kind of reception we got for Revenge of the Sith. I know the fan community was very mixed, especially on Episode I. People liked Episode II a lot better but even in the fan community there was some grumbling. When I first saw the script for EIII and some of the bits as it was being filmed, I started with a high degree of confidence by going out and saying this is the movie you’ve all been waiting for, this is the movie you want to see while not trying set them up. It was a case of saying, “Hey guys this movie really delivers”, and that has proven to be true. It’s really nice to go out like that.

So you knew way ahead of time it was going to be big?
Well, you never really know until you see the final reel of the finished film, but in this case it’s digital. I guess we’re going to have to find a new way to discuss cinema. I had a really good feeling; I thought the script really delivered. As it went along George went and changed things and edited while making the film; which is why we have this built in time to go back and put additional footage in. I thought overall the movie was great.

I don’t think any of us could have anticipated the way we would feel after EIII. I personally remember feeling very sad. Do you think the film was maybe too dark?
I don’t think it was too dark at all. It needed to be like that and I felt the same way. There is a scene or two in there that really brings a tear to my eye. Part of it is a tear of frustration because here you have seen this young character, you’ve seen him grow up and begin to learn his powers and then the guy makes a fairly conscious decision to be bad, to turn to the dark side and get more power. Being a Jedi wasn’t good enough, in his mind it was to save Padme, but who knew what else was going on there. It is a film that leaves you with mixed feelings about the characters.

Now that the new Lucas HQ has been set up in San Francisco, can we really expect to never see another film?
The new Presidio headquarters is a goal George has had for quite some time. It was essential to get all of his companies in one place. There are still things that are going to be happening at Skywalker Ranch, the pre-production/post production, Skywalker Sound is still there. Having ILM, Lucasarts and Lucasfilm HQ companies all in one place is ultimately going to lead to a much-overused word of Synergy among the companies. As for your question about another Star Wars film: I don’t think George could have been any clearer on that; He’s not going to make another Star Wars film and he has said very clearly he will not let anyone else make a Star Wars film. He doesn’t want someone else writing, directing it. Star Wars is George, he is the creator. He said “Look, this is the story I had to tell, I’ve told it, I’m happy and we now move on to other things.” We're set up for television, but also have other goals of feature film animation. That will happen and we are starting to begin work on that now.

So TV shows will be the medium in which fans will get their Star Wars fix?
I would say probably not only TV but interactive through Lucasarts, online through Hyperspace. I think certainly the Expanded Universe will continue, that’s been very, very popular among our fans. Who knows what the next medium will be, perhaps when high definition discs come out, and other types of interactive games with combinations of discs with the Internet, I think we’ll be there. I think Lucasfilm has been frustrated over the years by the inability to get the whole company in one place. Lucasfilm owns one thousand acres in Marin County in Lucas Valley (not named after George) it’s very difficult to develop anything in Marin County. It took 8-10 years of process, not building, but just to get the approval to build Big Rock Ranch, which was on the property he’s owned since the mid eighties. After you go through that and you struggle with everything it takes to get something like that built in a city that was really the birthplace of movies in the U.S., not LA or Hollywood, but the Bay area. It was a vision that George had to make San Francisco the entertainment capitol of the world, as far as entertainment goes.

You mentioned the Expanded Universe, with the popularity things like NJO (New Jedi Order) and the like, is this where the television shows will be going?
No, the TV shows will take place between Episodes II and III and deals with the period of the Clone Wars. What’s happening on other planets, politics and skullduggery and such. I think it’s going to be very much an action show, but with a good chance in a 30-minute show there will be story arcs and characterization that will fill in a period that has been talked about for so long and have only seen a little bit of. The micro series did a lot to spark interest in that area, but we will continue in a somewhat different yet exciting fashion of television.

Other than the upcoming DVD, what do we really have to look forward to?
What would you like to see? It’s not just us going out there and putting things up, it’s more like: what would our fan base like to see? Is there something in the toy and collectible category? Is there some area that we haven’t done a lot on in the books? At some point we’ll be doing a live TV series too. As video games and technology progress, one of the most exciting things I can think of is a real VR interactive Star Wars game. It’s been started and hoping it is a direction we can continue to go.

Will there ever be another event such as CIII?
CIII was a huge undertaking, worked on it over a year. We knew we’d get a lot of people but quite frankly I didn’t expect thirty-two thousand. I kept asking the convention center what the capacity was and they never quite answered me until that Friday afternoon of the show when the said “maximum capacity” at which at that time we had to stop selling tickets. All that said it was a fantastic experience; I know certainly there were problems with lines at the shop that I thought we had resolved, which clearly hadn’t. I had people at the show say when are we going to have C IV? I guess there is that interest and desire, so to make the answer a little shorter we do have a 30th anniversary coming up in two years, that would be an obvious time to celebrate the entire saga. We’re looking at it very carefully right now, and we’ll see whether we have the ability, whether we think the fans are really interested in it, and then it’s a question of where and exactly when. We are giving it very serious consideration.

What is the most impressive item of your legendary collection?
That would be like me asking you to choose which one of your children you love the most. Sometimes I’m wise and say it’s whatever I got in the mail. Sometimes that is true to a certain extent but when I say I love fan made things people may think “Well, easy for him, he’s got props.” To me fan made items, it really says a lot about Star Wars impact. People are using their skills and their creativity and they’ve been inspired and they’ve made these amazing pieces. I’ve gotten pieces from people who are now friends in Mexico when I’ve gone down to do the official convention there. When you see a Darth Vader TIE Fighter and an incredibly detailed R2-D2 made out of Popsicle sticks and tongue depressors and get excited about it or a Bantha and Tusken Raider piņata with a saddle that goes up so you can put the candy inside. I also have a friend who makes incredible aluminum detailed versions of ships from the Saga and prequels. Things like this I really enjoy and admire.

What about the commercial lines is there anything you’d like to see developed?
Yes, I’d like to see a full-sized R2-D2. I don’t have the skills of the R2 Builders Clubs people who do amazing jobs. I’d like to see something not entirely out of reach, that would be an R2 that would be remote control, turning head, speech, lights and even doors that open. I’d really love to have something like that. I think you’ll see as we look toward the future in the collectors market, hopefully we’ll move towards things like that.

Other than the action figures what would be your favorite from the other brands? Gentle Giant? Master Replicas?
See, my problem is I really love it all, I really do. The Gentle Giant pieces are amazing. One of the biggest knocks on them is they’re all scanned. They are not, these are incredibly talented sculptors who are doing great works on characters we are all interested in. The Master Replicas stuff is amazing and keeps getting better. The F/X sabers for the price point they are at, and the improvement over the previous models. Those are quite impressive along with the .45 models, which have some very wonderful craftsmanship as well. I’m looking forward to seeing the mask replicas, from what I’ve seen from the prototypes they are amazing. Sideshow, I’m looking forward to what is coming from them. Attakus in France, which really sort of started that whole market for Star Wars, has done wonderful pieces and when I was over in Paris a couple months ago for the opening of the movie; Attakus showed prototypes of what is to come at a convention. They are doing a new series of 4-inch metal figures in a diorama. They have a prototype Millennium Falcon that you can fit scale figures to, I’m thinking how can you ship something like this? That is going to be an incredible piece when they work out the details on that. I think they are very interested in the aspect of dioramas. Frank D’ Lorio has done amazing dioramas at Celebration; it really appeals to the fans.

Do you think there would ever be a Lucas approved manufactured diorama? I think you could sell quite a few Mos Eisley playsets next Christmas!
Yes, I would hope so, but the question would be what kind of company does that? I don’t think it would be a Hasbro. While they are packaging the figures with small pieces of environment, you have to understand Hasbro is a mass-market company and is not set up to do one thousand pieces of a certain product. So it would have to be a Master Replicas, Attakus that are going to do diorama. I think we’ll have to see. I think Attakus with the Falcon and also action figure scale Dagobah set which also look amazing, and if those are successful, which I’m sure they will be the next problem is how much room do you have?

That isn’t a good question to ask me, we are down to oxygen in my war room! What would you say to people who think Star Wars will burn out and fade away? The people who would say Star Wars is over?
I would say I’ve been there, and that was the late eighties. Jedi was done, George had given some interviews, especially one in Time Magazine, which he didn’t rule out making another picture but he said basically if I do, if the technology ever catches up it’s going to be a long time. He was tired of making movies for ten years straight and doing nothing but Star Wars. There wasn’t much available in the way of licensed materials, it got to be less and less. It was easy to catch up, and there were a bunch of people with fairly large collections started selling them and there were people like me who were very willing buyers. In fact, buying a few collections were the base of my collection. There were a number of people getting divorces and had to sell their collections for the settlement. People were selling major collections and I’d buy large chunks of them for the long haul. I think there are much more people now who have gotten into Star Wars, it’s much more visible with the costuming phenomenon since the Special Editions and we see families involved and an entire new generation of kids. I think TV is really going to attract the kids too. There is nothing like a weekly or daily TV shows to keep interest alive and I think we are really set up good for that.

WRAPPING IT UP
Well, it’s good to know Star Wars fans have a bright future and much to look forward to for light years to come. Thank you very much for your time, and can’t wait for the presentation this weekend.