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His galaxy is not that far out there

Lucas opens up about 'Star Wars' influences

George Lucas sits in a function room hidden away in Boston's Museum of Science, looking out at the gloaming of a cold autumn day. In half an hour he'll put on a tuxedo and stand in front of a phalanx of Imperial Stormtroopers, the creator with his creations. The opening gala of the museum's new exhibit, '' 'Star Wars' -- Where Science Meets Imagination," is about to unfold on the floors below and all of haute Hub is set to celebrate that galaxy far, far away and the man who invented it. This is the calm before the storm -- literally, since rain clouds are poised to break over Boston Harbor in the distance -- and Lucas is in a quietly talkative mood. He spoke with a reporter about ''Star Wars" closure, about his own lack of scientific expertise and about his own plans for the future.

Q. How much input did you have on the new exhibit?

A. Well, [Industrial Light and Magic] helped put together some of the models, but basically this is done by the museum. They're the science partner, we're the activity partner.

Q. When you created this world, were you scientifically curious about it, or was it mostly about the plot and characters?

A. I'm not much of a math and science guy. I spent most of my time in school daydreaming and managed to turn it into a living. When I was making ''Star Wars," I wasn't restrained by any kind of science. I simply said, ''I'm going to create a world that's fun and interesting, makes sense, and seems to have a reality to it." And a lot of it came from our literary history, our social history, like robots and whatnot. Part of it's based on mythological motifs, the politics are based on history. There's a lot of cultural reality to it that isn't necessarily scientific but is more social.

Q. Did you find as you were making it that you had to address certain physical realities? Did you ever say, ''Oh, we can't do that"?

A. I created a reality, and then I had to be true to that reality. But I kept away from certain things, like teleporting. I didn't want it to be like ''Star Trek" so I said, ''Well, I'm not going to have teleporting in my world." That's a science-fiction given in television for a reason -- it's a fast way to get people on and off planets. Or hyperspace -- hyperspace was invented to get you from one side of the galaxy to the other in a very short amount of time.

Q. Where have these costumes and props been all this time? Out at the ILM ranch?

A. Yeah, we have a storage facility. We've had museum shows from time to time, for ''The art of 'Star Wars,' " ''The costumes of 'Star Wars.' " This one's more fun, I think. To sit and see the speeder that Luke went around in and then to turn and see real speeders that actually exist in the world -- and to see how people are trying to solve that problem -- is really fascinating.

Q. Do you have any nostalgia for these things? You don't find yourself wandering down to storage late at night and rummaging through the props?

A. They're in crates, and they're mothballed away. You can't just go and look at them.

Q. Does walking through the exhibit call up memories of making the films?

A. Well, I finished the films. It's all in the past now. A show like this I don't really relate to the film.

Q. You've had closure.

Definitely.

Q. Do you have plans to make other movies?

A. Oh, yes. Not ''Star Wars" movies. The saga of Anakin Skywalker started when he was 10 years old and ended when he died.

Q. When you're in there creating thenitty-gritty of the ''Star Wars" universe, figuring out how an inhabitant of a given planet might evolve a given way, do you feel like you're playing god?

A. I started out in anthropology, so to me how society works, how people put themselves together and make things work, has always been a big interest. Which is where mythology comes from, where religion comes from, where social structure comes from. Why are these things created? In the case of ''Star Wars," I've taken psychological motifs from 4,000-year-old stories and put them into a modern vernacular. The reason they worked then is that they were told verbally over and over and over and handed down from father to son. Because they were tested by an audience for thousands of years, they have a certain emotional integrity to them, and you can take those little modules and stick them into a story as they are. They work well because emotionally we've not shifted all that much in the last 4,000 years, whereas intellectually we have.

Q. Are you saying that motifs like the lone hero coming to grips with his father are encoded into our cultural DNA?

A. I see mythology as a kind of archeological psychology, in which you take psychological fossils that sit in our brain and test to see if they're still working. I think I've proved that because of the popularity of the movies.

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com.

Ty Burr chats with George Lucas
Audio Ty Burr chats with George Lucas
Listen in as the "Star Wars" creator opens up to the Globe critic about his influences, thoughts on the new exhibit, and the future.
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