I didn't walk into my interview with Sir David Hare, one of the world's greatest living playwrights (and the screenwriter of THE READER), looking for a STAR WARS scoop. But that's what I got when I decided to wrap up our chat with a seemingly innocuous question about his having directed an installment of THE YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES ("Paris").
Okay, maybe I led him a little...
Seriously, all I expected to learn was that he had been asked to do an uncredited polish on one or two of the STAR WARS prequels (as his friend Tom Stoppard reportedly did for REVENGE OF THE SITH). Here's what I got instead:
Mr. Beaks: One last thing I wanted to touch on: you directed an episode of THE YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES.
David Hare: You're very good, aren't you? You really are good! Nobody has ever asked me this question. Ever.
Beaks: I didn't realize you'd done one until I saw it there on the IMDb. I would've never put this together otherwise. How did that opportunity come along? And did you ever... because Tom Stoppard has done some rewriting for George Lucas over the years. Did Lucas ever come to you and--
Hare: Do you want a real scoop?
Beaks: Sure! Why not?
Hare: I was asked to co-direct STAR WARS IV.
Beaks: The fourth, so that's--
Hare: The fourth STAR WARS. And I was asked to write the fifth and sixth, but I didn't.
Beaks: So you were asked to co-direct THE PHANTOM MENACE?
Hare: Whichever one got the series going again, that's the one. George said would I co-direct it with him. I would direct the actors, and he would direct the action. So you have a scoop. (Laughs) Nobody has ever asked me that question.
Beaks: Did you seriously consider it?
Hare: I didn't think it was my thing. I shot an episode for George's series, which I really did because I knew I could get some fantastic actors and thought it would be fun. I enjoyed working with him, and he asked me to work more seriously with him. But that is so not what I do. It was a lovely idea that he would be able to do all the action and the stuff that he loves. He loved the fact that the acting was so good in my episode. He said, "You really love actors. I never really feel I understand actors as well as you do, so why don't you direct the actors and I'll do the action." It was a lovely offer, and it would've made me very, very rich. I would be sailing in a yacht on the South of France.
The other two I was just asked to rewrite, but I just couldn't. I just don't think they're me. I like things that, as with Stephen [Daldry]... we go through a long process together. I'm better at that stuff. I don't think I'm a very good rewriter.
Somehow, I think he could've done better than "I wish I could just wish away my feelings, but I can't."*
While Tom Stoppard's deft touch wasn't enough to rescue REVENGE OF THE SITH, I'm intrigued by the idea of Hare coaxing at least semi-natural performances out of THE PHANTOM MENACE's young actors. Obviously, the Gungan problem would've remained, but a great director of actors (and Hare is certainlythat) would've done wonders for the confused duo of Jake Lloyd and Natalie Portman; he would've engaged their imaginations rather than coldly walked them through their blocking. And since he was on set, Hare surely would've polished some of the dialogue, too.
I know we've all moved on from the disappointment of the Prequel Trilogy. And I'm well aware that the the prequels were likely doomed on a conceptual level. But the fact that Lucas was open enough to collaboration to make a co-directing offer to a preeminent dramatist... that's significant. Turns out he wasn't a crazy control freak after all. His greatest failing? Aiming for the best when all he needed was the steady hand of an Irvin Kershner.
I'd like to think the recent hiring of proficient TV director Anthony Hemingway on RED TAILS is evidence of Lucas loosening the reins a little.
I'll have the rest of my David Hare interview up later this week.
*Which could be the work of ATTACK OF THE CLONES co-writer Jonathan Hales, who, coincidentally, scripted Hare's YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES episode.