|Princess Yuki in Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress is the direct and obvious inspiration for Princess Leia in Star Wars, no matter what George Lucas may think.|
The Hidden Fortress (1958)
d. Akira Kurosawa
Criterion Collection #116
Man I don't know what it is about Kurosawa but I suffer through every single one of his films. It took me 4 days to get through The Hidden Fortress, which is an action film, mind you.
The highlight of the Hulu Plus streaming version of this film is that they include what can only be described as a priceless interview with George Lucas, who borrowed significantly from The Hidden Fortress when he was writing a little movie called Star Wars. To his credit, he cops to it...sort of. After first saying that The Hidden Fortress is his "fourth favorite" Kurosawa film, he admits that he was "inspired" by the two peasants who form the narrative focus of The Hidden Fortress (They were turned into Droids for Star Wars.) He's less forthcoming about the relationship between Kurosawa's Priness Yuki and his own Princesss Leia. At one point he says that Leia is a more active, adventurous character and that this represents a huge difference between Leia and Yuki but he must have been high when he said that because Yuki is like a spitting image of Princess Leia.
The story of The Hidden Fortress: A General must escort his Princess behind enemy lines to get her home after her army loses is a battle, has obvious similarities with the plot of Star Wars, even if Lucas is able to sanguinely state that there are really only 32 plots in existence, so of course movies resemble one another.
Keep telling yourself that George. It is cool that he did the interview though, I'm sure a lot of Artists would be reticient to praise a work that they directly lifted from to make their own breakthrough hit. Obviously though, he got away with it, because how many people actually saw The Hidden Fortress before the video/DVD era. Lucas flat out states that the only reason he saw it was because he was enrolled in film school.