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“What Is This ****?” How Brian De Palma & Steven Spielberg Reacted to the First Star Wars Screening

George Lucas invited his pals to an early screening of Star Wars, without the music or effects in it yet. The results were not good.


Brian De Palma (left) and George Lucas (right) were longtime friends, and De Palma didn't mince words when he thought Star Wars was terrible.

It was early 1977, and though George Lucas was still waiting on the music and special effects to come in, he thought it was finally time his friends see his film.


It had been nonstop tension all through production, and now George felt he had the makings of a decent film. Unfortunately, it was difficult for anyone else to see it yet. (Except for his friend Steven Spielberg, of course.)


Though Martin Scorsese couldn't make it, George and Marcia Lucas welcomed Steven, Brian De Palma, writer Gloria Katz and a small handful of others, including executives from Fox eager to see Star Wars.


It would end up being one of the worst experiences of George's life. You can hear the scene unfold in Episode V of the hit podcast series BLOCKBUSTER, available free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all other platforms.


George had already had a panic attack that resulted in a trip to the hospital, and doctors warning him to reduce his stress level or risk a heart attack. He felt he'd been able to make something of this mess of a film, finally.


"Oh, before we get started," George told his friends before the screening, "the effects aren't in yet ... and the music isn't in either."


"Have you shot anything yet?" Brian quipped.


Brian was often the most caustic in his critiques of his friends' films. You could count on him to point out the weaknesses, as painful though they might be.


When the opening credits rolled, they were shaky and lasted much longer than the version that would eventually end up in the final film.


Later, George and Marcia spliced in footage of WWII dogfights, because the shots of the TIE fighters weren't ready yet.


And maybe worst of all was the lack of John Williams' now-iconic music.


When the film ended, there was silence.


"That bad, huh?" George remarked as he sunk down in his chair.


Marcia began to cry.


Next spoke Brian: "I don't mean to sound harsh, but ... what is this shit?"


Only Steven voiced support for the film's potential.


It was an intense and painful realization for George, but it led to Brian helping George re-write the opening crawl.


The creative relationship and long-running friendship between Spielberg, Lucas and Williams is explored in detail in BLOCKBUSTER. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, as well as Spotify and all other podcast platforms.


BLOCKBUSTER has been painstakingly researched, compiled and referenced from thousands of sources, and details many of the events that led to the creation of JAWS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, and STAR WARS — and the very idea of "the blockbuster" film.


It's a story too incredible not to be told, with the richest, most immersive sound design ever created.


Put on your headphones, close your eyes, and enjoy.


This is a sonic experience that invites you into the offices, film sets and homes of the most influential dreamers, rebels and world builders in Hollywood film history. You won't just be listening; you'll feel like you're there.

It's free to listen. But please consider a donation!


We've made the decision to release Blockbuster for free and without ads interrupting the story. But this production did take about $80,000 to produce from start to finish, so if you enjoy the experience, please consider giving $10, and you'll earn some cool bonus perks in the process!


You can subscribe now at Apple Podcasts for weekly episodes, as well as Spotify and all other podcast platforms.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@Blockbuster_Pod), and Instagram @BlockbusterPod, and the show's creator Matt Schrader on Twitter (@mattschrader).