Could the live action Star Wars: Underworld TV series be what we have been waiting for? Maybe, just we are going still be waiting awhile. Long time George Lucas cohort and producer Rick McCallum (the dude that gave us the underrated Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV show) recently dribbled out some information to Collider on the project that sounds promising. Ok, he called it ‘The Empire Strikes Back on steroids’. I know, but hear him out.
“Basically, it is like The Godfather; it’s the Empire slowly building up its power base around the galaxy, what happens in Coruscant, which is the major capital, and it’s a group of underground bosses who live there and control drugs, prostitution.”
That. Sounds. Awesome.
Maybe I am just starved for good Star Wars, but what McCallum describes sounds very promising. With 50 scripts ready to roll it’s safe to say there is a strong vision of what the show will be, and in his words, it will be darker.
“It’s much darker [than the movies]. It’s a much more adult series. I think, thematically, in terms of characters and what they go through, it will be…if we can ever get it together and George really wants to pursue it, it’ll be the most awesome part of the whole franchise, personally…It’s Empire Strikes Back on steroids.”
McCallum says the show was envisioned as a Sci-fi Deadwood from the start. So… does that mean f-bombs and savage beatings? Not quite.
“Obviously, we changed it for where we couldn’t go in terms of language. It was to be serious performances, very complicated relationships, unbelievable issues of power and corruption, greed, vanity, pride, ego manifesting itself at levels that only equal the world that we live in now, but, as I said, on steroids.”
Alright. I’m sold. When does it come out? I want to set my Tivo now.
“This is the best way to put it into perspective: we did Episode III—which is one of the larger of all the Star Wars films in relation to set construction, visual effects, the amount of visual effects and everything else—and that was made for $100 million which was unheard of even five years ago, because had it been made by any studio or anywhere in the United States it would have been easily double that price. So imagine an hour’s episode with more digital animation and more visual effects and more complicated in terms of set design and costume design than a two-hour movie that takes us three years to make, and we have to do that every week and we only have $5 million to do it. That’s our challenge.”
Hang on, ‘a challenge?’ This sounds a little more that just a challenge, can you even do this on a TV budget? That is a lot of digital work to pack on to the small screen, and McCallum was just starting to describe the assload of work involved.
“[George has] come up with so many extraordinary digital characters that are onscreen for 30-40 minutes. Most people who love movies and kind of understand the process realize that if you do a character like Gollum or Jar Jar or any major digital character, that costs twice as much as having Tom Cruise in a movie. You get 150 people working for two years on a 40 minute performance and they all make serious money, you just add it up; that’s gonna be a serious $20-30 million character. That’s our problem, how do we get that down?”
Sounds really time consuming and expensive, right? Almost to much for TV. Well, McCallum isn’t done yet.
“[With] digital 3D matte paintings, how do we cut the time from 2-3 weeks to 2-3 days? On a television budget, on television screens it doesn’t have to be film res, but each one of these are major challenges for us. How do we get virtual set software? Because we can’t build any of this stuff. I mean we could do it if we did it in a traditional format where we have one set with all the characters, but George doesn’t work that way. We have 40-50 set pieces per hour, every minute and a half to two minutes there’s another set. Well we can’t build that and do that every week, that’s virtually impossible, so we have to come up with virtual set software and an environment that allows us to be able to do that on blue and green screen and be able to turn those backgrounds around really, really fast. We’re getting there, but it’s not perfect yet and it’s still too expensive.”
Come on man, give us something to go on here. I want this TV show, I want this TV show now.
“It’s not a challenge that I think can be dealt with in the next year or two years, I think it’s gonna be a little bit more longer term goal.”
Damn it and damn you. The first Star Wars related production I have been excited about in decades and it’s still so far out of reach. At the very least we can see that they are working on an incredibly ambitious TV show here, maybe the most ambitious ever and something that could quite possibly be the Star Wars we’ve been waiting for.
We just have to keep waiting.