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THX 1138—Poking the Bear

So this whole column is a nothingburger: turns out I was remembering something wrong!

The name of R2-D2 famously came from postproduction lingo: when George Lucas and Walter Murch were dubbing American Graffiti, Murch called out the term for a film reel he wanted—“R-2-D-2” (reel 2, dialogue 2). George liked the sound of it and made a note.

Only I misremembered: I thought maybe this happened on THX 1138.

And I went looking through my paperwork for making the THX 1138 CD, to see if I had the actual piece of paper that they might be referring to—which I thought would be cool.

I didn’t—above is the page in the music editing log for reel 2, which I photocopied from the studio documentation. But it’s not for the overall sound mix, just the music units.

But it’s the wrong film anyway!

I truly did love making the THX’s a terrific, underrated, subversive film (with a lot of visual and aural precursors to Star Wars) and Lalo Schifrin’s score is strange, memorable and very creative.

However, apparently the CD briefly got our friends at Warner Bros. in hot water. George Lucas was so young when he made THX 1138 that he doesn’t control any of the rights—in fact, its shoddy distribution was one of the reasons why he decided to create his own film company. Still, he’s so famous, the studio defers to him, as a matter of talent relations.

Only for the CD license, apparently nobody thought of it—and we didn’t want to go “poking the bear.”

So we just made the CD as best we could, and a few months later...I don’t remember the exact chronology, but Lucasfilm was surprised to learn it existed. They called Warner Bros., Warner Bros. called us, we called Lucasfilm, sent them some extra copies of the CD...and it ended with Jane Bay (George’s executive assistant) mailing me a polite thank you letter. (Apparently the CD was okay after all, so long as Warner Bros. got the message: “Please don’t do that again.”)

I dimly recall having a short phone call, I think with Ms. Bay, where she said that George and his old friends got a kick out of the CD. Like they were in an office for five seconds and checked it out, and were amused by the fact that it existed.

Which was, to this lifelong Star Wars fan, pretty great!

This was for a brief period where THX 1138 was apparently on George’s mind again; the Director’s Cut (with tweaked VFX) came out on DVD the next year.

And that’s the nothingburger story on this project!

“Remember...let us be thankful we have commerce. Buy more. Buy more now. Buy...and happy.”

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