Last night George Lucas was on The Daily Show. I watched the clip and it was fascinating. He spoke about all the haters of the prequels and how the younger generation of viewers actually liked them better. But something he said was even more interesting. The sequence was detailed here by MTV.com:
"I love doing 'Star Wars,'" he said. "In the beginning I thought it was going to be one little movie, move on. It's not at all what I expected my life to be."
Not one to let a comment like that be, Stewart immediately asked the filmmaker if he's in any way disappointed with the way things have turned out for him.
"Yeah I was actually. I expected to turn in something great," he replied, perfectly deadpan. "You know, you take what you get." That's when the wry grin came out, an acknowledgment of the joke. Lucas started his career as a storyteller; of course he's pleased with how things have gone. "I'm having fun now doing television. It's a lot more goofy and fun."
I watched the clip several times to see if Lucas was joking and I don't know if he was. Yes, he created the Star Wars universe and became a zillionnaire. But I wonder if Lucas wasn't being serious.
Think of it. George Lucas had contemporaries like Stephen Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese. Those men went on to produce not only blockbusters but also cinematic classics. I would put the original Star Wars movies in the classics category, but they're not quite in the same category as Schindler's List or The Godfather or Raging Bull.
I wonder if Lucas was joking or not.
Maybe that's all in my head.
I say all this because I'm constantly asking myself this question: "What does success mean?" When I see things like the Oscars, I get caught up with awards and accolades and achievements and all that. But none of those things really matter, not in light of eternity.
The poster of Hemingway in my office is not only a symbol but a reminder: the idea of THE GREAT AMERICAN WRITER is a myth and a tragedy. You can achieve greatness but for what?
So going back to Lucas. Maybe he was joking, maybe not. I'm sure there are things he wish he could have achieved as a creator, movies he wish he could have made.
What is Lucas's definition of success? I don't know. Mine changes as I get older, realizing that the word itself might be as mythical as that poster on my wall. I strive and fail, strive and fail, and will keep doing so until I take my last breath.
But I believe this. After I take that last breath, there'll be no more failures.
Every now and then, I try remind myself this.