As the whole moviegoing world knows by now, George Lucas grew up on cliff-hanger movie serials, so it's especially momentous that the 60-year-old writer-director-technological innovator is at last about to wrap up all of the plot threads and close the book on a three-decade phase of his career that he still, surprisingly, refers to as a ''detour.'' This week brings the long-awaited arrival of the revised (he prefers ''completed'') editions of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi on DVD, with retoolings that will delight many fans and frustrate some film preservationists.
At the same time, a double-disc edition of Lucas' first film, 1971's dark, dystopian THX 1138, in which Lucas directed a young Robert Duvall, offers buffs a chance to see a considerably grimmer vision of a George Lucas future world and get a taste of the semi-abstract experimental filmmaking that he once expected would define his career. And next May 19 will bring the release of Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith, the movie that finally reveals just how and why Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, and is likely to push the Star Wars franchise's worldwide grosses close to the $4 billion mark.
On a recent visit to New York City during which Lucas, his early boss Francis Ford Coppola, and his THX 1138 coscreenwriter-sound designer Walter Murch reunited to celebrate THX's rerelease, Lucas sat down with EW to talk about Star Wars' past, present, and future.