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Tribeca Film Festival Matches George Lucas with Stephen Colbert: “I’m gonna tear you a new one, George”

Tribeca Film Festival Matches George Lucas with Stephen Colbert: “I’m gonna tear you a new one, George"

When Stephen Colbert interviewed George Lucas on stage before a packed Tribeca Film Festival audience Friday afternoon–just as the new “Star Wars” trailer is going viral–it was an event that promised, at worst, an intellectual exchange between two fascinating minds, and at best a showdown of galactic proportions (“I’m gonna tear you a new one, George,” Colbert promised at the outset).
But Colbert, looking extremely relaxed and sporting the white beard he’s been showing since leaving the “Report” back in December, proceeded to let Lucas tell the same stories he’s been telling for 40 years. For his part, Lucas comported himself as if he had no familiarity with Colbert’s style, talking through him and stepping all over what were some pretty great ad libs. Their rapport was real; the “interview,” such as it was, contained some pretty amusing moments. But if anyone came expecting revelations or even insight they hit the twilit Manhattan streets sadly disappointed.
But more likely, the audience was happy to be in the room with the two men, who engender no end admiration, affection and even obsession.
Introduced by Tribeca’s Paula Weinstein (no relation) the two appeared on stage to rapturous applause, Colbert clapping along in respect to Lucas — and then, after the director had sat down, standing back up and hogging the ovation in the way he’s done a million times on Comedy Central. It was, however, the only time Colbert even feigned parity with Lucas. When an audience member tried to ask Colbert a question he deflected it, deferring to Lucas – who then started asking Colbert his own questions, about why, for instance, he hadn’t taken over for Jon Stewart, all of which Colbert answered in sensible, humble fashion.
But Colbert WAS half the attraction at Friday’s event, and it would have been really interesting if he had grilled Lucas the way he first jokingly promised. One of the better moments of the afternoon was his recollection of seeing “Star Wars” as a 13-year-old and thinking that the whole world would never be the same. “We went to school on Monday and wanted to tell everybody about it,” he said, but “we had no vocabulary for what you showed us.”
Colbert in so many ways was the perfect person to interview Lucas. He makes no secret of being a practicing Catholic and a spiritual person. Had he asked Lucas about the spiritual nature of his movies, the hunger for mythos they inspire in audiences and how they appeal to a hunger for meaning, it would have been great.
As it was, it was more funny than anything else. Lucas’s reminiscences — which can be boiled down to the idea that behind every massively successful movie is a studio executive who didn’t want to make it – involved his travails with the studios who tried to thwart “THX 1138,” “American Graffiti,” and even “Stars Wars,” and finally figuring out that if he owned the movies, and financed them himself, he wouldn’t have any more problems. “And that’s how I got rich,” he said, to a roar of laughter from the crowd, and what turned out to be the afternoon’s best moment.

“I’m writing this down,” Colbert said. And did.    

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