FINDING TRUE NORTH
having little inspiration to draw on. What Madison Avenue still lacked, Hollywood was catching on to. Star Wars and the Hero with a Thousand Faces In the 1960s, when George Lucas was a student at the USC Cinema School, he made a discovery that would inﬂuence his fate and would irrevocably change the art and craft of ﬁlmmaking: He stumbled across the writings of Joseph Campbell. Lucas’s Star Wars, created over a decade later, drew heavily on that discovery and on the Arthurian myth cycle. In the myths, the farm boy Parsifal must become a knight and ﬁnd the Holy Grail, lest the land die; in Star Wars, the farm boy Luke Skywalker must master the Force and uncover the secret to destroying the Death Star in order to save the galaxy. The wizard Merlin is mentor to the young Arthur; the Jedi Knight ObiWan Kenobi becomes Luke’s mentor. Arthur pulls the sword Excalibur from the stone in which it is lodged; Luke learns to use his father’s light saber, which he will use to set things right. As codiﬁed by writer, producer, and story analyst Chris Vogler, the deep structure of Star Wars reveals an almost perfect parallel to Campbell’s model of the Hero’s Journey, summarized in Figure 6.5.1 Yet, unlike the parallel of E.T. and the foundling myth, Star Wars seems to have been modeled in a more deliberate and conscious way. Star Wars, of course, became the box ofﬁce winner of all time. And what Lucas did paved new ground. There had been countless “script templates” before. Aristotle had codiﬁed the ﬁrst principles of drama in his Poetics in 321 b.c., and over a millennium later, Lajos Egri’s The Art of Dramatic Writing (1946) also emphasized the importance of the lesson or the premise. In 1979, Syd Field offered a simple, easy-to-grasp three-part paradigm in The Screenplay, and great ﬁlmmakers such as Akira Kurosawa and Jean Renoir had long recognized the similarity between ﬁlm structure and symphonic structure—three or four movements, including exposition, development, and resolution. But what Lucas did with Campbell’s work went far beyond improving the “craft” or narrative ﬂow of the story: As Wolansky points 1. Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (Michael Wiese Productions, 1998).