Fresh off the black stormtrooper controversy involving “Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens” newcomer John Boyega, BFI interviewed Billy Dee Williams about Lando Calrissian’s race, and Williams also talked about George Lucas’s decision to make Anakin Skywalker’s morality difficult to pigeonhole.
Williams said he doesn’t talk about “the black experience, per se.” He said he’s more interested in viewing himself as a person of the world, and he decided to give Lando the same outlook. “I didn’t want to talk about his ethnicity as much as I wanted to talk about living in the future, far beyond those questions,” Williams said.
Williams also defended his friend George Lucas for creating a touchstone villain in the “Star Wars” universe (Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker) who wrestles with good and evil, and who is eventually redeemed, even after a lifetime of villainy. Williams said Vader’s plight is simply understood as the human experience. “We’re all involved in the good guy/bad guy question,” Williams said.
Speaking of the resident good guy/bad guy…in 1971, six years before the launch of “Star Wars,” film journalist Gene Youngblood of Los Angeles Public Television Station KCET interviewed Lucas (via Eyes On Cinema), who had just finished “THX 1138.” The filmmaker talks about his early interest in still photography and “obsession with the form” of moving pictures (shout out to Lucas haters, he was never in it for the acting).
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“I like of being thought of as a toy maker who makes films,” Lucas said. “I was fascinated with the mechanics of it… that you could take real life, put it onto an image, and make it move, and manipulate it, play with it.”
Lucas recalled that he tried working on Hollywood sets, but union rules kept the doors “completely closed, and there was a solid brick wall at least twelve feet high around the whole thing.” He eventually decided to attend film school where his passion for movies was born.
Hear more from Williams and learn Lucas’s origin story in the videos below.