Rick McCallum follows Lucas’s lead, quits Lucasfilm and Star Wars

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Less than a month after George Lucas announced he’d be handing over the keys to the Dagobah System to Kathleen Kennedy, Rick McCallum, instrumental in helping Lucas get such pricey piccies as the “Star Wars” prequel series off the ground, has opted to exit too.

McCallum, who joined Lucasfilm in the ’90s to work on “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” (and shortly after, the ill-fated feature film “Radioland Murders”), says he’s going to spend more time making indy flicks.

The producer, who has long been involved in the long-gestating “Star Wars” TV series, says he’s confident new company CEO Kathleen Kennedy will do a great job representing Lucasfilm, but more so producing the next era of “Star Wars” films.

“There’s only person in the world who could do this, and that’s Kathleen Kennedy,” McCallum said in the announcement via StarWars.com. “There’s no one more suited who is able to bridge the worlds of elite filmmaking within a studio context. The Star Wars saga will always be taken care of under her leadership. She is truly one of the greatest producers in America as well as being a great friend.”

Lucas said in the statement that it’s been a pleasure working alongside McCallum, despite the challenges they faced, suggesting they didn’t always see eye-to-eye.

“No matter how impossible I made the task, Rick was able to overcome the challenges,” George Lucas said in the announcement. “In addition to putting together great crews and working miracles with the budget, he was instrumental in helping push filmmaking into the 21st century. He has a larger-than-life personality and made this amazing 20-year journey with him a fun one.”

Lucas credits McCallum with discovering some of the technical marvels they utilized in the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy.

“We had hit the limit of production technology, and I needed someone with conviction and passion to help us into the digital realm,” says Lucas. “Rick became an evangelist for the endless possibilities digital technology offered filmmakers. Rick and I fought many battles side-by-side, constantly facing nay-sayers who were convinced we could never make the lasting changes in the movie business that we set out to make. I cannot be more proud of what Rick accomplished. We worked with over 60 companies and hundreds of amazing engineers and artists over a 10-year period to bring about overdue changes: now digital cameras routinely capture images, films are released digitally, and the entire production pipeline maintains unprecedented quality by being digital. As I go off to make my own experimental films — and I hope to be able to collaborate with Rick again on one of these projects — I wish him the best and look forward to seeing his new films.”

McCallum, who produced “Red Tails” for Lucasfilm, has moved to Prague where he’s developing a “a Russian film about the Babi Yar Massacre…that is being directed by Sergei Loznitsa. I am also working with Tomás Masín on a Czech story about two brothers who escaped Czechoslovakia during the Cold War while being chased by 28,000 Soviet soldiers in what is still the largest manhunt in history. I’m also working on a film with David Oyelowo and developing a film with Laurence Bowen about the Boy Soldiers of Sierra Leone.”

Lucas says there’s a chance he’ll be working with McCallum on these new projects, since he too left Lucasfilm for the independent – or “experimental” – film world.

Prior to joining Lucasfilm, the German-born producer worked on the TV series “The Singing Detective”, the Elisabeth Shue horror flick “Link”, Nicolas Roeg’s “Track 29″, and Gavin Millar’s “Dreamchild”.