Here's actually some interesting stuff from an IGN interview with Gary Kurtz (back in 2002). Here's the link as well, very interesting and even kind of explains what went "wrong" (in comparison to Star Wars and Empire) with ROTJ. For reference where I started is when they're talking about a movie called "Return to Oz" that Kurtz worked on.http://filmforce.ign.com/articles/376/376873p1.html
IGNFF: Although, technically, comparing it back, the original Wizard of Oz had the same problem.
KURTZ: It did, but it worked better in the Wizard of Oz, I think, just because of the way it was handled and the kind of movie that it was. I think that if I were doing Return to Oz now, I would have eliminated a lot of the celebration in Oz and the whole "stay here with us, Dorothy" and would have gotten the princess out, and gotten her out quicker somehow. A movie is what it is because that's what happened at the time – that is one of the reasons why I rail against this idea about changing movies all the time. This is a very common practice now, which I really don't like – on any movie. I don't like the Special Editions of Star Wars and all these other movies that have come out with a super-duper director's cut like the special edition of Close Encounters. You name it. Practically every movie now does it, because they can do it for DVD.
IGNFF: The ironic thing of it is that no matter how many times someone protests that no, it was their original intention, any choices they make now are going to be colored by their experiences since they made the film.
KURTZ: Oh, absolutely. The reason is that there is a whole emotional vortex around how a movie is made, and it captures a certain flavor of the moment. What's a perfect example? The Sweet Smell of Success, Sandy Mackendrick's film, made in the mid-'50s in New York. It's a very harsh, downbeat, dark, film noir film – terrific film. It's one of my favorite films. If he would have made that film 10 years earlier or 10 years later, it would have been an entirely different movie, even from the same script.
So this idea of adding things – the problem with the Special Edition of the Star Wars films is that fixing a few matte lines and adding a couple of spaceships into shots is fine. I don't think anybody would notice that. But actually adding scenes that don't make any difference – they actually don't have any effect whatsoever on the film... and all of those digitally enhanced shots of robots floating around and creatures walking through the frame... call attention to themselves. Are much worse, actually, I think. Primarily because CGI work – and that CGI work was done by ILM, which is the best there is – the CGI stuff does not fit in with the mechanical style of the original film. If the whole film would have been made today, then the CGI work would fit in much more, because that's the way all the visual effects would have been done.
IGNFF: Oh, I don't know – in Episode I, the CGI still calls attention to itself.
KURTZ: Well, it does, yes, that's true. Even though there's lots of it and most of the shots have some kind of CGI – but it's less annoying, I think, and stands out less than it does in the Special Editions.
If you remember the scene when the robots go down to Tatooine, to the desert, and then later you cut back to the Stormtroopers looking for them, there's a scene where Stormtroopers are sitting up on the hill in the background riding what looks like a giant lizard. In the original, that's a mock-up that we borrowed, rendered from a prop house, and carried all the way out there and stuck it there in the sand. It didn't do anything. There was just a Stormtrooper sitting on a giant lizard, a model. It doesn't do anything – it's just in the background and the Stormtrooper in the foreground stands up with a piece of the robot and says, "They've been here." That's all the scene is supposed to be for. As it is in the Special Edition, that Stormtrooper on the dinosaur in the background moves – it's all CGI.
IGNFF: And it adds nothing whatsoever to the story.
KURTZ: I know, and that's what I mean with the proliferation. Just because you can do it, doesn't make it better. But those animals moving actually distract from the principal purpose of the scene. If they had been horses, if it had been a Western and those were horses, chances are the horses would have just been sitting there, because horses do that a lot. They don't move much. If they're not running or trotting or something, sometimes they just sit there – and maybe flick their ears a bit – for long periods of time.
IGNFF: But they don't do a song and dance number.
KURTZ: No, they don't move around at all. They just stand there. If they had made it that subtle, if they had had that creature in the background move its head an inch to the right or something, a blink – that would have been all that you need to do. But it's not necessary at all, because the way it was in the beginning, in the first place, it was that way because that's all we could afford and it worked fine. I'm just not a great believer in messing with what is done. It may not be perfect, and as I said a long time ago, there's nothing that is. No movie is perfect, and every filmmaker is going to sit and watch a movie that he made 10 years ago, or 30 years ago, or 50 years ago, and say, "Oh, I wish I could have done that better."
IGNFF: You're the person to ask about this – when you're talking about these kind of special editions and changes and are they due to an original vision or changing sensibilities – I have to ask you about your thoughts regarding the infamous redo of the scene with Greedo in the cantina.... the whole shooting first thing.
KURTZ: Yeah, I really was livid about that one. I think it was a total – it ruins the scene, basically. The scene was never intended that way. Han Solo realized that Greedo was out to get him and he had to blast him first or he would lose his life. It shows you how much of a mercenary he is. That's what the point of the scene was. And so the way they've changed it around, it loses the whole impact of that whole aspect of it.
IGNFF: Do you think that's due to George's changing sensibilities as opposed to his argument that, "No, that was my original intention"?
KURTZ: Well, he can say that was his original intention, but we could have shot it that way very easily. There was no reason that it couldn't have been shot that way. It was shot and edited the way it was because that's the way the script was. That's what he wanted at the time.
IGNFF: What is your opinion of why he would try and rationalize it, when he could very well just say, "You know, I just thought nowadays, it's better if he shoots first."
KURTZ: Maybe he just didn't want to say that. Maybe he felt it was a stronger argument to say, "That's what I really wanted to do and I just didn't have time or inclination at the time." You listen to all these directors, they all say that. That's the stock argument ... somehow if they say that, you can't argue with them.
IGNFF: I think Apocalypse Now is now, what, 16 hours or something?
KURTZ: 16 hours? No, no. No, they've added the 50 some odd minutes back ...
IGNFF: With the French Plantation scene.
KURTZ: Yeah, it's mostly the French Plantation scene. That's probably a mistake, too. It's a disease, basically. I suppose they can do whatever they like, but I just would like to see the original version of everything preserved. When Star Wars comes out on DVD, the only version that's going to be available is the Special Edition. They're not going to do the original – unless he changes his mind.
IGNFF: Which is unfortunate, because that's the perfect medium for it.
KURTZ: Yeah, the idea is that you could do both. I'm sure you'd have an audience out there that would buy both. Maybe it will be both, who knows. Be interesting to see how that would work, marketing wise. But I just don't like changing whatever a film is like when it's finished – good, bad, or indifferent, that's the way it was it released and the way the audience perceives it. To keep fiddling with it, long after the fact... Jean Renoir said in a documentary interview that we did with him when we were all film students, that something that he learned from his father was that, for an artist, the most important thing is to know when you're done, and leave it. Of course for a painter, it's absolutely crucial, because you put too much extra paint on and you've ruined the painting. With a filmmaker, you have a certain amount of recourse and you can change it again, but the principle is still the same – to know when you're done, and when it's over, and when it's finished – and you walk away. It's critical, because you can be like Kubrick, and you can work on it forever, and it's still not going to get any better.