“There are two things that Star Wars films are really about,” says Fake George Lucas, a/k/a Connor Ratliff, the host of UCB’s long-running crowd-pleaser “The George Lucas Talk Show.” He continues: “That’s going fast and blowing things up. It’s interesting to me as we get into these in-between stories that sometimes now they’ll make a movie that’s just about one or the other. Rogue One was about blowing things up, but they don’t really go fast. Solo is about going fast, but they don’t really blow things up. I’m fascinated that they’re now taking the time to zero in. In the regular Star Wars movies, we never really had the time to explore the subtleties.”
Fake George Lucas returns to the stage at UCB Hell’s Kitchen this Friday, ready to talk all things Solo — and give out prizes to costumed fans — with guests including the comic Joe Pera, the journalists Lauren Duca and Brett White, and Chelsea Davison, a writer for The Opposition. That kicks off an auspicious summer at the Upright Citizens Brigade: Tickets have just gone on sale for the twentieth annual Del Close Marathon, which this year opens with a Carnegie Hall performance from UCB’s storied ASSSSCAT, featuring returning members Matt Walsh, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, and Matt Besser. Ratliff also appears in the excellent UCB improv shows “The Stepfathers,” “Asssscat,” and “Damned If You Do,” the last of which is decamping to the Woolly Mammoth in Washington, D.C., for much of June. And here he is singing about Solo in the style of Iyaz.
The Voice checked in with Ratliff’s Fake George Lucas this week about Solo, Ron Howard, and just how bored Harrison Ford looks throughout Return of the Jedi.
The headline on Solo seems to be that it’s not living up to box-office expectations, a first for a Star War. After all the scorn you got for the prequels, do you find it gratifying to see Disney now in the hot seat, getting yelled at and second-guessed by fans?
When The Last Jedi came out and so many angry boys and manchildren became mad at Star Wars, that’s when I realized that Disney had finally started to crack it. I think if people are angry about Star Wars, you’re doing Star Wars right.
I will say this, though: The last three Star Wars have owned Christmas. No more throwing these Star Wars movies away when school’s just getting out. It’s hot outside — nobody wants to see a desert thriller in the middle of summer. There’s a golden Greedo in this movie, and nobody’s talking about it. I had somebody check, and there’s literally no one tweeting about it. That’s a sign that you’ve done something wrong. A golden Greedo at Christmas — now you’ve really got something.
You did fine releasing your Star Wars movies in May.
Not anymore. Not in this day and age. We didn’t even necessarily consider that Star Wars could take over Christmas. Also, all those May releases were just rough cuts of the movies anyway. If they let me take another crack at special editions now, I’d put them all out in December. That’s a holiday gift that everybody can enjoy.
Is a Han Solo movie even a good idea?
Sure. We’re developing this new rhythm here. It was Episode One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six. Now it’s Episode One, Two, Three, Three and a Half, Three and Three-Quarters. I think with one movie a year, we have time to tell all the stories that need to be told. I do love the little origin story in this movie that he’s named by a guy at a check-in counter. That’s fun. It’d be like going up to Delta or United and you get your name when you check in for your boarding pass.
I think it’d be a good idea to do one where Han Solo is just a baby. It could be Sowo, before he’s able to pronounce his name. It would be long before he had that name, of course. What would it be like for Han Solo as a little baby? It doesn’t even have to have words in it.
But I don’t like that they call these movies A Star Wars Story. That’s a little clunky. I would call them Inbetweenies. That’s a very adorable name, and there should be creatures called the inbetweenies, cute little bug-eyed creatures with furs, and they should be telling these stories.
You’ve been Ron Howard’s boss on several projects, and now he’s made a Star Wars. Is this a case of the apprentice becoming the master, like a Padawan/Jedi relationship?
Ron is basically Lucasfilm royalty, the young prince of American Graffiti and the beginning of the Willow franchise. I hear there’s now some buzz that they might make a second Willow movie, which would be thrilling. He is a Jedi master at this point. You watch this movie, and it doesn’t feel like a Star Wars movie from the director of Parenthood. It feels like a Star Wars movie.
When I stopped by the set, they were shooting a scene where they had Han Solo hanging up one of Lando’s capes. I said to Ron, “Why don’t you have him throw it on the floor? That’s what Han would do. Han Solo is a complicated character. He’d never shoot someone first, but he’d throw a cape on the ground.” And that’s in the movie. That’s a little bit of Lucas magic. I know that Han does seem to shoot first at one point in this movie. That’s a classic Star Wars rookie mistake. But, again, this is a May release. There’s no reason you can’t put this out years from now where we see the person draw on Han just slightly before he pulls the trigger. For Christmas.
This is the first time that anybody’s made a Lucasfilm with a title that rhymes with another Lucasfilm. He’s now directed Willow and Solo. There are no others. Unless Rian Johnson or somebody makes a movie called A Sack of the Phones or J.J. [Abrams] helms The Burn of a Red Eye, it’s going to be hard to crack that record. Unless somebody makes a Star Wars movie that’s, uh, Radio Ham Girders.
Radio Nerf Herders. It’s not easy to rhyme a Star Wars title and have it make sense. Ron Howard did.
Solo confirms what you established in the original Star Wars: that Han is a guy who always acts like he’s not going to do the right thing and then does anyway. Are you surprised that despite all these prequels we still haven’t seen what he does in that half-hour in A New Hope between turning his back on the rebellion and coming back to save the day?
I think it would be great to do an Episode Four-B. Han leaves, and maybe Chewie’s griping at him, maybe they meet a weird alien who does something bad and then Han learns by example. I bet Chewie gives him an earful during that half-hour: You always do the right thing. You know you’re going to go back. Why are you even having me chart a course away from here? Chewbacca knows that he’s got to do this dance.
Here’s something I’ve always wondered about Han Solo. Was it your intention that upon emerging from carbon freeze one looks a little bored?
Yes, it’s like being on painkillers. It changes you chemically, and it’s hard for you to engage in the way that you once did. After you’ve been frozen in carbon, you should look a few years older and like you’re there more out of a sense of obligation than actually wanting to be there.
There are a few other movies that Harrison Ford has starred in where I wonder if they cut the first five minutes of him emerging from carbon freeze: movies like Six Days, Seven Nights or Sabrina, where a lot could be done by adding one scene at the beginning where he unthaws. K-19: The Widowmaker would be another one. Hollywood Homicide. I’d be happy to do it for them — I’d add those scenes.
Are there moments watching Solo when you said to yourself — [chef’s kiss noise] — Ron Howard!
Who could forget the scene in Parenthood where Steve Martin accidentally picks up Dianne Wiest’s vibrator? She’s embarrassed by it, but everyone has a good laugh. What is a vibrator if not a droid? And there’s some fun sexual comedy having to do with droids in this movie, in L3’s relationship with Lando. Classic Ron Howard. When you put a robot in a Ron Howard movie, he’s going to make a sex joke.
Francis Ford Coppola wanted you to direct Apocalypse Now. Do you ever wonder what your version would have been like?
I kind of did make one. There’s Vietnam scenes in More American Graffiti. Francis did a great job, but every movie that I made in the Seventies changed the course of cinema. If I had made Apocalypse Now, most movies now would feel kind of like Apocalypse Now. Everything that Star Wars did, Apocalypse Now would have done in its own way. People would be playing with Kurtz action figures. Instead of C-3PO’s cereal in the Eighties, people would have had Dennis Hopper–O’s. Eventually Disney would have bought the rights to the Apocalypse Now trilogy — I would have made a trilogy. I would have gone back and made prequels that take place either during World War II or the Korean War. And now they’d be making new movies that take place between the Apocalypse Now movies: An Apocalypse Now Storys.