curious statement by Dir. of Lucasfilm Archives on Prequel pieces in the original prop market

Tommy

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
A FB post by The Propstop just reminded me of a curious exchange that occurred during an episode of Ryan Condal’s and Dave Mandel’s props podcast, “The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of,” last summer. While interviewing Laela French, the Director of the Lucasfilm Archives, they seemed to me at the time to land a bit of a bombshell regarding the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy’s presence in the high-end original prop market… yet I’ve encountered no discussion of Ms. French’s cryptic (though implication-heavy) statement in the nearly year-and-a-half since.

The Propstop Facebook Post

Here's my transcription, and the episode is linked below:

David Mandel
Over the years, obviously – and I’m sure fans want to know about this – you know like on the Prequels for example, obviously you were gathering everything, and yet there are still, I’ll simply say Prequel items that are out-and-about, you know what I mean? Things that, you know, just – I don’t know – I guess slipped through the cracks... I guess, how much – I’m not even going to get into the legality of it – I guess, how much are you paying attention? Do you worry about it? You know what I mean? Like, are there things, I guess I’ll simply say that are ‘missing’ from the Archives that you feel like should be there that you’re still looking for, I guess? Like is there a – so not necessarily the holes, but things going like ‘we had this; it’s gone,’ like are there anything like that?

Laela French
No… no, no.
For the Prequels, I personally supervised almost all of the collecting. And we were SO strict. So… there’s nothing missing. And I watch, you know, what goes – we watch everything going on for auction. I’ll just say that I’m pretty confident that we got it all. So… I’ll leave it at that.


[The exchange takes place at 01:15:40]

The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of: To The [Lucasfilm] Archives!


Have I missed a discussion of this anywhere? If not, I’d love to hear any thoughts.
 
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robstyle

Master Member
I'd assume there is a difference between items cataloged as archive items VS items not prior cataloged as archive items. The latter being the items out in public. The paramount star trek archives would be a decent example of how not to run things. Items were swapped with replicas or strait up stolen.

With the prequels I recall unrest within the Australian film crew with moulds and items themselves walking away. I don't recall the full story. I'm sure someone here knows.
 

Sluis Van Shipyards

Legendary Member
I was also curious about this because you see a lot of stuff up for auction, like the stunt lightsabers. Heck I have a Naboo communicator that was cast from the original molds, and they were for sale right after TPM came out on here! I remember either SW Insider magazine or the official site at the time telling about how all the props had serial numbers and everything was kept track of.
 

blewis17

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I'd assume there is a difference between items cataloged as archive items VS items not prior cataloged as archive items. The latter being the items out in public. The paramount star trek archives would be a decent example of how not to run things. Items were swapped with replicas or strait up stolen.

With the prequels I recall unrest within the Australian film crew with moulds and items themselves walking away. I don't recall the full story. I'm sure someone here knows.

Laela French's statement does seem odd... Star Wars prequel background actor/voice actor Christian Simpson just purchased the screen used Darth Maul hero non-dueling saber. He and his wife, actress Orly Schuchmaker, recently showcased it on their YouTube channel. So does a hero prop count as an archive item?
 

drusselmeyer

Sr Member
It is a funny issue to be discussing. At the time of the making of SW, any leftover props from productions were largely considered trash and dumped. There are numerous stories about this. Some involve immediate dumping and others relate to recovery of valuable storage space. We could reference A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, Battlestar Galactica, Space:1999, Batman and a host of others.

The heroes of the story are the dumpster divers, not professional "archivists".
 

thd9791

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I always was under the impression the hero Obi Wan and Maul sabers are missing. I’ve seen a Qui Gon hero on display, namely the tarnished emitter plate giving it away.
 

Tommy

Sr Member
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I'd assume there is a difference between items cataloged as archive items VS items not prior cataloged as archive items. The latter being the items out in public. The paramount star trek archives would be a decent example of how not to run things. Items were swapped with replicas or strait up stolen.
Maybe it’s just my interpretation, but it seems to me that she wasn’t talking about items swapped or stolen from the archives, but rather items on set during production that should have ended up in the archives but never made their way there in the first place. Dave refers in his question to items that “slipped through the cracks,” and Laela French says in reference to the strict “collecting” process that they “got it all.”

Either way, unless I’m completely misunderstanding, she’s pretty clearly suggesting that there are no major Prequel artifacts floating around in private hands that should be in the archives. That seems to leave two possibilities:

Possibility #1. All high-end Prequel pieces outside the archives were sanctioned by Lucasfilm.
Possibility #2. Any unsanctioned high-end Prequel pieces outside the archives are not quite what they’re claimed to be.

We don’t necessarily have enough information to go on to say one way or the other, but I feel like it’s a worthwhile question to consider since she came across as very straightforward, level-headed, and knowledgeable in the interview.

[EDIT: I originally messed up my logic on Possibility #2, along with a bit of the concluding point; I think it's fixed now - sorry!]
 
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Tommy

Sr Member
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I was also curious about this because you see a lot of stuff up for auction, like the stunt lightsabers.
So does a hero prop count as an archive item?
I’ve definitely found the number of Prequel sabers and other items on the market over the years surprising. I have no particular evidence to question authenticity, but I would have expected Lucasfilm to hold onto almost everything akin to what Weta did with the LOTR around the same time. Maybe they would have released a select few pieces as giveaway prizes, or as reference for licensed replicas, or crew gifts… but yeah, I would not have pictured the volume that’s out there.

It is a funny issue to be discussing. At the time of the making of SW, any leftover props from productions were largely considered trash and dumped.
That’s true about ANH, and to a lesser extent ESB and ROTJ, but this discussion is 100% specific to the Prequels. By this point, the value could be easily anticipated and the production would have had the motivation and means to keep a relatively tight ship.

Those older stories are well-worth exploring, but probably best left to a separate thread.
 

PoopaPapaPalps

Master Member
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I guess at face value, it is odd that something as important, at least to the Prequels, like Darth Maul's "Hero" hilt is in private collection but then again, I imagine much of these were crew gifts without much consideration for their "importance." Hero hilts for both Obi-wan and Qui-Gon are out there (with the latter being in Liam Neeson's possession) along with their stunts, and who knows what else.

This isn't uncommon for the OT, either. Mark Hamill owns a few things from each of his films, Vader's ESB Hero hilt is in private collection, as well as a number of stunt hilts; Alec Guiness' original costume, and a number of model ships. Heck, even I have a chunk of the original homestead set. As collectors, and film enthusiasts, I guess we all find a way.
 
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Tommy

Sr Member
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I guess at face value, it is odd that something as important, at least to the Prequels, like Darth Maul's "Hero" hilt is in private collection but then again, I imagine much of these were crew gifts without much consideration for their "importance." Hero hilts for both Obi-wan and Qui-Gon are out there (with the latter being in Liam Neeson's possession) along with there stunts, and who knows what else.

This isn't uncommon for the OT, either.
The OT is kind of a different situation altogether (especially ANH), so while you're not wrong, it's probably best to keep the focus on the Prequels.

I can certainly see there having been some approved crew gifts; I'm just surprised by the sheer number. On a quick skim of recent(ish) auctions through Propstore, Profiles/Heritage, ScreenUsed, and Julien's, I count at least 49 sales of finished (i.e. not just unpainted resin) Prequel lightsabers. How many OT lightsaber sales did I come across in the same search? Four. Granted, some of those 49 may have been resales, and more sabers were presumably made for the Prequels, but still... If at least several dozen have changed hands within the last 5-10 years, how many are out there?

If I had to guess purely from the numbers, my gut would tell me that likely some of these high-end pieces left the set / production facilities with studio approval, and some did not. But to align with the Archive Director's statement, it seems they all must have been sanctioned in order for all to be fully authentic (and I struggle to interpret her careful choice of language as conveying that all were sanctioned).

[Edit: I originally messed up my logic in my final point; I think I've fixed it - sorry!]
 
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joberg

Legendary Member
Before LFL/20thCentury Fox new that the OT was going to make $$$ a lot of stuff disappeared from Van Nuys (the Death Star would be the biggest item in my book). After; I remember numerous articles (Starlog Magazine for example) mentioning pictures, negs, props, models, etc...missing from the studio, or during the move to Marin or other.
Same for the Prequel: actors getting some props/pieces/full costumes, etc...crew getting some too for good measure; happens more than the public knows about it.
 

Mottrex

Sr Member
Same for the Prequel: actors getting some props/pieces/full costumes, etc...crew getting some too for good measure; happens more than the public knows about it.
Its always been this way..
Parting gifts from a director as a way of thanking an actor or Crew.
Its why we still have props collections from movies going back to the silent era..
Once something was made used rented... the production had scant regard and usually tossed it, they didn't want or have space for these things..
If you have ever been to a prop house which I have, the re use re purpose re painted props,Flats General scenery from well known Big movies would make you weep!

For instance.. What ya gonna do with 500 Egg chambers ?
And don't get me started on plaster of Paris molds.. just one head cast and split molds can take up a huge amount of work space and for that reason and posterity William Forsche has been 3D printing a lot of old head casts of old Hollywood death masks including William H Pratt and other classics.
Rick Baker has a great many of his pieces Scanned too..
Sam Jackson has his personal hilt, I cant see someone asking for it back Indiana Jones styli..

"This belongs in a Museum"



But this does give me an excuse to post this classic pic of James Dean surrounded by plaster death masks..

Screenshot_20221002-181219_Gallery.jpg



My point is there are thousands of un cataloged pieces that were bona-fide gifted to a great many people, some for services rendered or for admiration of their commitment to a project..
I dont see why these items in the case of TPM or Any other movie should be brought back just to be completest and have the full set as it where.

With all the amazing copies also made today will there be a point in time where these too hold some form of merit,copies of museum pieces can and do..
Not a rant more an observation
 

Tommy

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
My point is there are thousands of un cataloged pieces that were bona-fide gifted to a great many people, some for services rendered or for admiration of their commitment to a project..
I dont see why these items in the case of TPM or Any other movie should be brought back just to be completest and have the full set as it where.
I’m definitely not discounting crew gifts; that happened with The Lord of the Rings. Still, it’s a fairly notable occurrence when a major auction offers a single high-end LOTR piece, whereas it’s becoming equally-notable when a major auction doesn’t offer multiple Prequel lightsabers. Again, maybe every high-end Prequel piece that’s come to market has been studio-sanctioned. I find that surprising, but it’s possible.

It's just that if that’s not the case, then it seems like the Archives Director's statement implies that no Archives-intended Prequel items slipped through the cracks, so any unsanctioned pieces can't be fully authentic. And it doesn’t sound as though she’s suggesting that all have been sanctioned.

This isn’t so much about our opinions on the justification of studio archives. As a collector, I see pluses and minuses, but regardless of how we feel about Lucasfilm, the Archive Director’s statement is potentially questioning the authenticity of a portion of what’s out in private hands. In other words, if I owned a $100k or even $10k Prequel piece, or if I was appraising one, I would take a second hard look after hearing Laela French’s interview.

With all the amazing copies also made today will there be a point in time where these too hold some form of merit,copies of museum pieces can and do..
I think we already see value placed on the very best replicas as works of art in their own right and significance placed on the provenance of highly-regarded makers. I expect that will continue to grow, though I can’t imagine replicas ever matching originals in value (unless the maker has celebrity status like Adam Savage).
 

Mottrex

Sr Member
I’m definitely not discounting crew gifts; that happened with The Lord of the Rings. Still, it’s a fairly notable occurrence when a major auction offers a single high-end LOTR piece, whereas it’s becoming equally-notable when a major auction doesn’t offer multiple Prequel lightsabers. Again, maybe every high-end Prequel piece that’s come to market has been studio-sanctioned. I find that surprising, but it’s possible.

It's just that if that’s not the case, then it seems like the Archives Director's statement implies that no Archives-intended Prequel items slipped through the cracks, so any unsanctioned pieces can't be fully authentic. And it doesn’t sound as though she’s suggesting that all have been sanctioned.

This isn’t so much about our opinions on the justification of studio archives. As a collector, I see pluses and minuses, but regardless of how we feel about Lucasfilm, the Archive Director’s statement is potentially questioning the authenticity of a portion of what’s out in private hands. In other words, if I owned a $100k or even $10k Prequel piece, or if I was appraising one, I would take a second hard look after hearing Laela French’s interview.


I think we already see value placed on the very best replicas as works of art in their own right and significance placed on the provenance of highly-regarded makers. I expect that will continue to grow, though I can’t imagine replicas ever matching originals in value (unless the maker has celebrity status like Adam Savage).
So unless an item is catalogged by the studio it can't be seen as a legit item..is that what they were alluding too, my guess is they want more control over these items its prolly a money thing as usual..

I am going to be flippant here but at some point in the near future and being digital I am half expecting a slew of green/blue screens to be auctioned off with those ping-pong morph suits up for grabs too because of a movie they were involved with.. I bet it will happen..
I was visiting a company that was repairing a certain boy wizard Prosthetics, they literally threw the split appliances "cough!" In the bin.
I bet they have been auctioned off at some point.
I was gifted a full size Egg chamber screen used from Promethius and some fake flexi rebar from Superman Returns.. the set guy had literally told to load up the props and get rid of..
What I'm saying is they Never have complete control with props on a movie set.
Things always go missing get mislaid.
I remember watching Donald Sutherland practicing a pub brawl for The Eagle has Landed.
It was all rather exciting, when Dino the producers runner ran past shouting where the "F" is Michaels(Caines) costume..they couldn't find it.
I had walked past one of the old barns earlier in the day and seen stacks of Army uniforms pressed against the glass with his name tag..
I was too shy to say but told mum, who not being a shrinking violet told him where it was..Dino overheard and was delighted saw my sister and offered her a walk on part in the movie!
And that was a huge movie set..


As someone once said


Its a logistical nightmare!
 

Stairstars

Well-Known Member
"But this does give me an excuse to post this classic pic of James Dean surrounded by plaster death masks.."

In his late stage GIANT costume, and aged makeup, in Perc Westmore's studio space.

Second mask is Brando. I think the first is Raymond Burr (CRY IN THE NIGHT).

Also, I think Jimmy put his glasses on the lower head.

I think examples of 'gifts' given to cast and crew, from silents through the Golden Age, are few are far between. Proof is the many estates that have come to market, that lack almost anything from that period - to my great disappointment.
 

Tommy

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
So unless an item is catalogged by the studio it can't be seen as a legit item..is that what they were alluding too, my guess is they want more control over these items its prolly a money thing as usual..
Hard to tell… but for what it’s worth, I got a very positive impression from the interview. Granted, it’s just 90 minutes of audio to go on, but she came across as genuine and down-to-earth. In fact, immediately preceding this answer, in regards to items that Lucas did not save from earlier films, she said “we’re not an archives that goes out and acquires to fill the holes.” So it didn’t sound to me like they’re terribly concerned in the present moment with existing outside pieces at all. I suppose a lot comes down to what “SO strict” meant on the Prequels. I’m surprised she made the statement – I would have expected a different answer – but since that’s the one she gave, I guess I’m inclined to give some benefit of the doubt that she knows what she’s talking about relative to those particular productions.

In the case of Harry Potter, I understand that some pieces walked, but after 8 films, you’re still far more likely to see a high-end Prequel piece at auction than a high-end Potter one, so WB evidently kept a relatively tight hold on that stuff overall – at least the high-value material, if not stray damaged appliances, or paper props, or set dec. It goes without saying that not every little thing goes to the Archives, so what they were really talking about in the interview was the high-end arena. It seems to me it’s one thing if people pocketed Prequel stuff that was destined for the bin or otherwise not so remarkable (at a point when the value of props was becoming well-known), but another thing to pocket finished lightsabers that would sell for bare-min $5k, and more often $10k+. [Not that both can't happen; I'm just not sure they're directly comparable scenarios.]

Cool story about The Eagle Has Landed, by the way. It’s less applicable to this situation since so little value was placed on props in the 70s versus the late 90s / early 00s, but that’s awesome that you got to be on set for that! It's been a while since my last watch, but I loved it growing up.

Oh, and sorry to disappoint, but the floodgates have already opened on mocap suits. Propstore’s 2018 Warcraft auction included a bunch!
 

robstyle

Master Member
Golden age items were looked upon as memorabilia and not as collectable/valuable. A few people though saved items viewing them as history pieces. When a neighbor passed in the mid 70's, he was a working actor, his wife tossed near everything. On the curb was mounds of scripts from the original Twilight Zone, wardrobe, photos... And what did I keep. A Hamms beer display.

Of the few items I have people recognize they are more interested in a silly rubber hammer than the lipsticks from Garbo, Mansfield and Monroe. On the flip side a friend has an absurdly huge collection of mass produced and bootleg super hero statues. Value is in the eye of the beholder.

With LFL and the archives it goes well beyond props. The amount of notes, scripts, production information... Is staggering. Consider were talking just six theatrical SW films, pre Disney sell off, and nothing else. It's mind blowing most of that was kept much less cataloged. That itself brings into question the statement of discussion, if the archives are so well cataloged how was it the more recent making of books uncovered photos, notes and such that had not been seen since their intended use for production? Rational thinking would be the box storing that information may be cataloged as a base with nothing inside individually cataloged or noted.

Should also note that while working on EP3 promo commercials I had asked the horses mouth about items at Star Tours and what they were. He had stated when Jedi wrapped and everything went to storage/the archives that was it as far as those items intended purpose. Then Star Tours came up and they simply sent out stuff sitting around. We also had prequel props and wardrobe on hand for many of these commercials as well as OT costumes. We also made some costumes and props for those promos and let the actors keep them.
Those are instances of original items sent out and PT era items used on a production that are out in the world.
 

Pwrsrce

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Well...I think this is a bit of a reach on her part. For example, I know for a fact that an original trilogy era R2 dome never made it back to the archives after filming of ep1...It floated around for a while in the UK, and was eventually paired with a bunch of other R2mparts and sold at auction for a LOT of money. It was NOT given away or legally gifted to anyone...

That dome had direct lineage to the OT and is no longer in the archives...Bottom line.
 

Tommy

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
That dome had direct lineage to the OT and is no longer in the archives...Bottom line.
That's a fair point; I forgot about that R2 dome. Hey, was there ever a thread about the 2017 auction? I see threads about the dome from 2006 and 2013, but nothing addressing how the full amalgamation came to be, the authenticity / provenance of the rests of the parts, any LFL involvement...

Looking at the quote again, I suppose I see one more possibility, that she was trying to subtly suggest to unsanctioned owners of Prequel props not that the Archives wants control over those items, but rather the opposite: that the Archives won't be going after them and they don't have to worry...? It doesn't seem particularly likely, and if so, it's an odd way of communicating the message, but I guess it's at least possible. It feels like you can read so much between the lines of her statement and get so close to deciphering her meaning, and yet at the same time, it ultimately remains cryptic.

Maybe it was just a mistaken reach, but somehow the way she said it makes me suspect she was holding back some key piece of information.
 

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