Small World

Curious George

Oh, god, how George Lucas and I laughed—I’d almost forgotten just how funny he is. I realize a lot of people don’t get George’s sense of humor, especially if they catch him on some TV awards show when he’s cracking up those of us who know him. We all love the way he just stands there, one of America’s most popular filmmakers, sourly balancing his head on his chins and putting on that pained look that suggests he’d rather be at home on the can reading The Firm. It’s a sly routine, so it’s easy to miss. But I should know better.

We became friends in the mid-’70s, back when George was busy making the first Star Wars and I was busy making handprint ashtrays in the third grade. George was in his 30s and I was 8, but we never let that stand in the way of our weekly beer. We were simpatico from the beginning. Eventually, however, we did lose touch, as people like us do.

I called him up the other day, though, after I’d caught a screening of Attack of the Clones and found all that Lucas wit rushing right back at me. How brilliant to use a multimillion-dollar budget to make a film almost completely devoid of human feeling! There I was, packed into the Cinerama with a couple hundred other fans—ersatz Jedis, comic book conventioneers, and people who’d taken time off from their busy jousting schedules—rediscovering the man’s epic anarchy.

“I thought it would be a fucking scream to remove all life from a movie,” he admitted over the phone, excusing himself while he took another bite of his hoagie. “I mean, The Phantom Menace was a hoot, don’t get me wrong, but holy Christ, I just went balls out this time.”

I tried to catch my breath as we discussed all the moments in which there is not a single human being on the screen and howled about the clever attempt to have even the real actors come off like robots.

“Yeah, the British guys kept trying to act anyway,” he chortled. “But once they’d seen how goddamn hysterical [Natalie] Portman’s stuff was in the rushes—how she’s barely blinking and seems to be on methadone—they knew they’d been beat.”

I asked him if the deadpan humor was maybe too subtle for American audiences.

“Are you kidding me?” he laughed, cracking open a Hamm’s. “Who’s gonna miss Hayden [Christensen] saying lines like ‘Now that I’m with you again, I’m in agony’ as if he’d just requested a side of ranch with his fries?”

Lucas kills me, man.