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Don't Forget Who Paved the Way, Mr. McCallum

We had planned to post a different column this time around (look for it next time), but after reading some comments made by Star Wars producer Rick McCallum at the recent Star Wars Con in Denver, we felt we had to speak up. Here is the piece, as reported by Cinescape Online (May 2, 1999):

Don't Bet On Jedi Heston…

After offering his services to play Anakin for Episode Two to Star Wars producer Rick McCallum (which drew a great response from the crowd), Cinescape ace reporter Chris Kivlehan opined that the producer may want to hook up with his favorite actor, Charlton Heston, to actually fill the role of a Jedi Master. It didn't take long, however, for Rick McCallum to push a dagger through that thought.

"You don't even want to know what I think about that," the producer warned before concluding his thoughts with a succinct "F*** him." Needless to say, Chris left the podium believing he had a better chance of being cast as Anakin than seeing Chuck in Jedi robes.

We're assuming Mr. McCallom's distaste for Charlton Heston stems from the fact that he is president of the NRA. Several Hollywood celebrities, including Rosie O'Donnell and Mandy Patinkin, have publicly criticized Heston for his views on gun control, particularly in the wake of the tragedy in Colorado. What these celebrities have done (to our knowledge, at least) and Rick McCallum has not, is show some respect. Not only does our Constitution guarantee the right to bear arms, but it also guarantees every citizen the right to his or her own opinion. It's one of the greatest freedoms we have.

McCallum has taken swipes at Internet Star Wars fans before, and even then we wondered if he realizes who butters his bread. Now, we have great respect for the fact, as producer of the three Star Wars Prequels (and even Indiana Jones 4), that McCallum has one of the best jobs in the world. However, his comments sound like something you generally find on message boards, and not from the producer of the most anticipated film of the century. It's certainly McCallom's right to disagree with Heston, but you would think he could find a better way to express his thoughts.

Not only that, but whether he is aware of it or not, McCallum is practicing discrimination. Would he not hire an actor due to his or her gender, religion, or ethnic background? Certainly not. Refusing to consider an actor for his political beliefs is discrimination, plain and simple. Heston marched with Dr. Martin Luther King and fought to end discrimination. McCallum is continuing the practice. On the Official Star Wars website, casting director Robin Gurland commented on how liberating it was to cast the "right actor for the role," as opposed to going for a name actor. I wonder if she would have felt the same way had she tried to cast Charlton Heston.

We also believe that McCallum should realize who helped pave the road upon which he now stands. Before films such as Planet of the Apes (1968), Soylent Green (1973), and The Omega Man (1971), science-fiction films were low-budget, B-grade fare meant for kids. One of the reasons Planet of the Apes was such a risky gamble for 20th Century-Fox was that there really hadn't been a thoughtful, serious science-fiction film made before. The fact that a high-profile actor such as Heston was attached to the project certainly helped convince Fox to take the risk. The success of Planet of the Apes certainly helped clear the way for another science fiction film, called Star Wars, a mere eight years later.

Not only that, but Charlton Heston is a great American icon. He’s played Moses, Michaelangelo, Marc Antony, Buffalo Bill, Andrew Jackson, John the Baptist, Sherlock Holmes, and a host of other major characters. He’s worked with Cecil B. DeMille, Orson Welles, James Cameron (who is King of the World, after all), George Stevens, and William Wyler, not to mention all the actors he’s worked with, too. The man is a walking history of film, and he’s still going at it. Let’s face it, Charlton Heston helped build the industry in which McCallum now makes a wonderful living. And for that reason alone, he should be given the utmost respect. He deserves nothing less.