George LucasTHX 1138, American Graffiti, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Backthe list goes on and on.
Although many have not heard of each of these films, everyone certainly has to know the man behind them. George Lucas has, in many cases, written, produced, and directed, not to mention edit, his own films. His vision was the driving force that imagined and created these movies. All have made back the cost of the film and most have received millions of dollars in profit.Although it sounds as if he had an easy life, in reality, Lucas had to struggle in order to get ahead. Not being interested or involved in school, Lucas turned his attention to cars. When he reached driving age, his father gave him a nice, small, “safe” car.
However, passionate about cars and racing, Lucas revved up his engine and turned it into a hot rod. Each day following, he went cruising around town, drag racing often. However, this passion led him to a drastic change in his life. It ultimately led him to success.
Lucas was in a car crash in 1962, which ended his racing career before it even started. He missed his graduation ceremony at his high school, but joked that the only reason he got a diploma was because his teachers felt sorry for him. As a result, Lucas looked for other options to fill his void in life. Since his grades were not good enough for a four-year college, he decided to go to junior college. For the first time in his life, he hit the books. He fell asleep trying to earn the highest grades he could in order to have a future for himself. During junior college, Lucas formed other interests.
Instead of racing, he filmed them on an 8-millimeter camera his father gave him. An old friend, John Plummer, told George that he should apply to the University of Southern California. His friend remarked that it was not that hard to get into as reputation indicated. Lucas applied, and was accepted, for his junior year. Although the idea was unpopular with his father, Lucas was not stopped in pursing his career.
At school, he realized that he had to work his but off to stay on top. He did not mind the hard work. Lucas actually felt relaxed staying up all night editing film. Even when a lot of college students got high on drugs, “Lucas got high on films (1, 45).
” After receiving his BS degree from USC in 1966, Lucas had to decide what to do with his future. He contemplated whether to enlist in the Vietnam War, but when he tried to join the air force, he was rejected for his police record. All of the speeding tickets he had received when he was younger were coming back to haunt him. Unable to decide, Lucas finally had to face the draft for the army. However, he failed because he was diagnosed with diabetes. In the fall of 1966, Lucas decided to teach a training program for navy filmmakers.
This way he could make his film, an idea he had rolling around in his head, called THX: 1138:4EB. After twelve weeks of writing, filming, and editing, the film was finally done. “I didn’t expect it to turn out so well,” Lucas said (1, 68). This little film was what made Hollywood notice George Lucas. After this success, Lucas won a scholarship offered by Columbia Pictures and producer Carl Foreman for work on the movie McKenna’s Gold in Arizona. He, along with one other winner, had to make a ten-minute, 16-millimeter film that related to the movie. Also, before going to Arizona, he entered a scholarship competition sponsored by Warner Brothers.
He won and was able to choose a studio in Hollywood to observe for six months. Unfortunately, only one studio was open at that time and he was unable to work in Warner’s animation studio. Instead, he observed a musical called Finian’s Rainbow, directed by Francis Coppola, a man that would have a tremendous impact on his life. After talking to Coppola about his plans to make THX a two-hour feature, the director warned him that the studios would only rip him off. He then offered to Lucas that, if he took a permanent job on Finian’s and his next screenplay, The Rain People, Coppola would help him on the THX screenplay. Lucas agreed and Coppola made a package deal with Warner Brothers.
They would get The Rain People and an option on THX. They also advanced Lucas $3,000 to work on the screenplay. Also at that time, Lucas decided to make a documentary depicting the real people behind the camera of Rain People and how hard it is to make a movie. Filmmaker, the documentary, “remains one of the best documentaries about the production of a movie, as fresh and insightful today as it was in 1968 (1, 77).” This, too, also helped advance Lucas in his career.Even though THX was a commercial failure, it still remains Lucas’s favorite film. “The experience was frustrating and character-building for Lucas, who had spent the better part of two years making a very personal movie that had been dumped into the marketplace without attention or care (1, 98).
” Marcia Lucas stated, “Directing that movie THX) was a great thing for George. It was a breakthrough. Now he was really a filmmaker (1, 98).”After THX, Lucas wanted to make a movie that would “dispel his image as a techno brat, a cold, mechanical filmmaker devoid of warmth and humor (1, 101).” He offered the movie, American Graffiti, to United Artists, whose president suggested a two-picture deal (the other being Star Wars). Lucas had Richard Walters, a classmate at USC, writes the film with Gary Kurtz as producer.
After he read the script, Lucas was disappointed. He then had Bill Huyck and Gloria Katz, close friends, writes another script. Finally, Universal Studios was the one to finance and release the movie.
Finally able to work on Star Wars, Lucas wrote a synopsis of the story, which was very different from film that was released. Wanting the film to be released by Fox Studios, Lucas had to first offer it to Universal since they had an option on it. After they rejected it, Fox bought it, giving it a budget of $3.5 million.
However, this soon skyrocketed to $8.5 million dollars. After finishing the script, he gave it to Bill Huyck and Gloria Katz to sharpen the dialogue. Lucas realized that if he made two more Star Wars movies, he would have enough money to “have financial security and Skywalker Ranch (1, 191).” Skywalker Ranch would be a place where entire films could come together. Writers, directors, sound mixers, etc., would all be under one roof.
In essence, it would be another version of USC’s “USCinema,” a group of friends that George was with in college that worked on films together. Also, in order to make the sequel to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas decided to finance it himself so that he would have final say in the movie and not Fox. Unfortunately, producing his own film was not as easy as it seemed.
Although originally thinking that he would have enough money, Lucas soon came into a huge debt. Borrowing $25 million from two banks, Lucas was able to just barely finish the movie and pay his employees. However, within three months, Lucas recovered his $33 million investment. It had sold more than $300 million worth of tickets and $165 million dollars in film rentals. After this success, Lucas turned his attentions to Raiders of the Lost Arc, which sold almost $335 million worth of tickets and $49 million in film rentals. Also, he focused his attention on Industrial Light and Magic, his special effects Company, and Lucusfilm Ltd. Furthermore, Lucas finally released of Return of the Jedi, the third film in the Star Wars trilogy.
Even after all his success, Lucas was still not sure if he had fulfilled his purpose in life. He was not sure if it was Star Wars, Skywalker Ranch, or something else. He had been successful because he was able to put his visions on film. However, afterwards, he felt that his visions were too big for him. Lucas was afraid that God would say to him when he dies, “You’ve had your chance and you blew it. Get out (1, 277).
” This is very unlikely. He saw what he had to do and he did it. “There is no try,’ Yoda lectured Luke. There is only do or do not.’ When it came down to that choice, Lucas did (1, 278).
“Another interesting thing that I have learned is that George Lucas wrote a movie prior to American Graffiti. Even though THX: 1138 bombed, I thought I should have at least heard about it when The Star Wars Trilogy was re-released, but I heard nothing relating to it or any other movie, such as the hit American Graffiti. Although, THX: 1138 was not a great success, I still have a desire to see it, just because George Lucas made it.. Finally, one never realizes how hard it is to make a movie.
When you see one on the big screen, everything looks so perfect and in sync. However, to get to that quality of the movie, there was much stress and many problems everyday on the set. Only the director knows how much pressure.Work Cited1) Pollock, Dale. Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas. New York: HarmonBooks, 1983.