A look inside Hollywood and the movies : THE ROAD TO ‘RADIOLAND’ : Mill Valley Murder-Mystery, or the Not-So-Young George Lucas Chronicles

After 20 years with no production signal in sight, it looks like George Lucas just may see one of his longtime pet projects, “The Radioland Murders,” finally broadcast on the big screen at Universal Pictures.

While there is still no director attached or start date assigned to the low-budget period comedy murder-mystery, writers Jeff Reno and Ron Osborn (“Moonlighting”) are working away on a rewrite of the script that was originally penned by Lucas’ “American Graffiti” writers Bill Huyck and Gloria Katz.

“Radioland Murders” is a period comedy set in 1939 about a series of murders that take place at various radio stations.

Well-placed sources at Universal say the studio hopes to see Lucas back in the moviemaking loop at the studio with this project--which he will executive produce--by year’s end.

Lynne Hale, director of public relations at Northern California-based Lucasfilm, confirmed that after two decades there is some movement on the project, but cautioned: “This is still in the very early stages. We are doing a rewrite of the script, but there’s no projected start date.”


Lucas has reportedly agreed to make the film inexpensively--for less than $15 million--and Universal has agreed to distribute it. The Lucasfilm Ltd. production will be produced by Rick McCallum (“The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”) and longtime Lucas associate Fred Roos.

Hale said Lucas first began developing “Radioland” around the time of “American Graffiti,” which was first released by Universal in 1973, but the project remained inactive “due to the other film and television projects George was involved in.”

An interesting aside is that “American Graffiti,” which was made for $750,000 and grossed $80 million, is Universal’s most profitable comedy ever on a cost/return basis, according to a senior executive at the studio.

“Radioland Murders” aside, Hale said Lucas’ “primary film project” right now is another long-in-the-works property called “Red Tails,” about the Tuskegee Airmen, a unit of black fighter pilots who served in World War II. Thomas Carter (“Swing Kids”) is set to direct and Charles Floyd Johnson to produce. Lucas will executive produce the picture, for which there is no distributor or production plan as yet.

While Lucas doesn’t plan to direct either “Radioland” or “Red Tails,” Hale said the filmmaker “would like to direct again,” but it’s anyone’s guess when and what. Though he has produced and executive produced a number of works, Lucas has only directed three movies: “American Graffiti,” 1977’s megahit “Star Wars” and the 1971 release “THX 1138.”

So will there ever be another “Star Wars” installment?

Hale insists: “George does want to do more ‘Star Wars’ films and expects to get started (on the trilogy of prequels) within the next five years.”