George Lucas closely resembles his fellow polymath Rolf Harris but is less effusive and multi-toothed and shuffleboard-crazed. He has the quiet mildness and unembellished speech of the sort of man that I suspect he is at his heart, a small town inventor who has created a better paper clip out of sheer annoyance with the existing one, and thus accidentally made billions; a man so enriched and empowered thereby that he has nothing much to prove anymore, except his own civic decency perhaps, and he has visible acres of that – transforming, as he has, the equally mild-mannered high school graduates of his home town in northern California into the advance army of the new computer animation technology and pioneering, like Disney, with whom he has considerable kinship (small town cleanliness, boy’s-own suspense, the elaborate clarity and split second choreography of the pounding spectacle of the chase) a new yet old form of cinema, one close, as he says, to the earliest silent movies, one that transcends nationality and history, and pushes the universal childhood experience of the ghost train ride to its outer limits, a cinema that gives us again the emotions of audiences at the first Lumiere screenings whose onrushing steam train had everyone ducking for cover in the church hall.
A man so qualified has every right to be pretentious but he was not. His laconic brevity and nuts-and-bolts crispness of detail had me inwardly cheering. It was good to absorb his presence and his understated kingship, his mana I suppose, however briefly.
He was the best of SPAA of course, but there were present as well a lot of American droogs and drongos of the usual kind, proudly unveiling the glass beads and wooden nickels we have seen before. We are here to help you and help your fine little country – whose name for the moment escapes me – not colonise and enslave it, as we did Canada, Spain and Great England. Believe me, if you have a script that’s good enough, with big enough stars in it, and you bring it to us, and we look it over, it is very likely that at the end of the day we will thieve it from you and hunt you down and kill you and your children and your children’s children. Trust us. We’re Americans. The important thing is to learn how to spell my name. I can’t abide that kind of authorial carelessness. When I see my name misspelled I become a beast. And the Quislings swarmed round them, eager for approval. ‘Each one hopes,’ as Winston Churchill said of their predecessors in Vichy and Norway, ‘that he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last.’
I have written a book about these empire-building mongrels, and I like them even less now than I did before. The food, as always, was indifferent and the Pitching Competition marvellous, the result less so. I myself would have given it to Zodiac, or the one about the incontinent, bank-robbing nonagenarians. Sandy George, its compere, however, continues to be one of the better stand-up comedians on the planet and it is a privilege, or something like it, to have witnessed her at work.