George Lucas has shown his nearly finished “Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace” to his friends Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Frank Darabont and Larry Kasdan, “whom I trust,” Lucas told Variety columnist Army Archerd. Their reaction? “Quite frankly,” Lucas said sheepishly, “they were blown away.” Lucas admitted he hadn’t expected a “Return of the Jedi” type of jubilant reaction, he said. He says he’ll be happy with “Empire Strikes Back”-style audience approval. “But you never know. However, this one is the funniest, as well as being very exciting and very emotional … I’m very happy with it.” Lucas said he’ll take his friends’ comments into consideration as he makes final edits. Archerd reports he’s now a week and a half away from completing the final 100 shots and does about 40 of them a week. “He’ll be more than ready for the May 19 launching.”

  • As for the next “Star Wars” prequel, Lucas will start writing the script in January to shoot in June 2000. “I have an advantage,” he says. “I don’t have to get the director’s approval.” He’ll need only three years, instead of the usual four, to complete the next adventure, given he already has at hand, thanks to “Phantom Menace,” the preliminary designs of the established characters, as well as the costumes, planets and sets.
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