George Walton Lucas, Jr. (born May 14, 1944) is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is most famous for his epic Star Wars saga, the Indiana Jones franchise, and his collaborative work with director and friend Steven Spielberg.
Biography[edit | edit source]
He was born in Modesto, California and went to the Thomas Downey High School, where he was an uninterested student with dreams of becoming a professional race car driver. He later matriculated at Modesto Junior College, where he earned an AA degree, then transferred to the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television where he made a number of short films, including an early version of THX 1138, which later became his first full-length feature film.
Later he co-founded the studio American Zoetrope with fellow Francis Ford Coppola, hoping to create a liberating environment for filmmakers to direct outside the controlling Hollywood studio system. After the financial success of his films American Graffiti (1973) and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), Lucas was able to set up his own studio, Lucasfilm, in Marin County in his native northern California. Skywalker Sound and Industrial Light and Magic, the sound and visual effects subdivisions of Lucasfilm, respectively, have become among the most respected firms in their fields.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is considered by some to be the first "high concept" film, although others feel the first was Steven Spielberg's Jaws, released two years prior. Lucas and Spielberg had been acquaintances for some time and eventually worked together on several films, notably the first Indiana Jones vehicle, Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981.
On a return on investment basis, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope proved to be one of the most successful films of all time. During the filming of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Lucas waived his up front fee as director and negotiated to own the licensing rights—rights which the studio thought were nearly worthless. This decision earned him hundreds of millions of dollars as he was able to directly profit from all the licensed games, toys and collectibles created for the franchise. In 2004 Forbes Magazine estimated Lucas' personal wealth at $3 billion. In 2005 Forbes.com estimated the lifetime revenue generated by the Star Wars franchise at nearly $20 billion.
Lucas was fined by the Directors Guild of America for refusing to have a standard title sequence in his Star Wars films. After paying the fine, he quit the guild. This made it hard for him to find a director for some of his later projects. According to some, he wanted his friend Spielberg to direct some of the later Star Wars movies, but as a member of the guild Spielberg may have been unable to do so. Spielberg has repeatedly stated that Lucas consciously did not let him direct any Star Wars films, despite the fact that Spielberg wanted to. Other directors Lucas pursued to aid him were David Lynch and David Cronenberg, both of whom declined.
On October 3, 1994, Lucas started to write the three Star Wars prequels, and on November 1 that year, he left the day-to-day operations of his filmmaking business and started a sabbatical to finish the prequels.
The American Film Institute awarded Lucas its Lifetime Achievement Award for 2005. He received the award on June 9, 2005.
On June 5, 2005, Lucas was named 100th "Greatest American" by the Discovery Channel.
Entrepreneur[edit | edit source]
Besides his directorial and production work on movies, Lucas is the most significant contemporary contributor to modern movie technology. In 1975 Lucas established Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) in Van Nuys, CA, which was responsible for the invention of the special computer assisted camera crane "Dykstraflex" (named after special effects innovator, John Dykstra) that was used for most of the space fight sequences used in the Star Wars movies (technology which was later adopted by most other visual effects production units, such as those responsible for Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek: The Next Generation). Through ILM, Lucas spurred the further development of computer graphics, film laser scanners and the earliest use of 3D computer character animation in a film, Young Sherlock Holmes. Lucas sold his early computer development unit to Steve Jobs in 1986, which was renamed Pixar.
Lucas is also responsible for the modern sound systems found in many movie theaters. Though Lucas didn't invent THX, he is responsible for its development. The acronym ostensibly stands for "Tomlinson Holman eXperiment" after its chief engineer, however, it is obviously a reference to Lucas' first film.
Now Lucas is spearheading digital cinematography for movies. Though personal digital photography is now mainstream, most movie studios still use traditional cameras and film for movie production. Lucas departed from this model by filming Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones almost completely digitally. He showed the result to a select audience of the Hollywood elite, before the movie's general release. For the presentation, Lucas used a special digital projection system. The attendees said the movie had the clearest and sharpest presentation they had ever seen.
Despite the successful demonstration of the technology, movie studios are slow to move to this new model, in part because of the high price of the digital equipment. ControversyEdit
Controversy[edit | edit source]
Being the creator of an extremely popular work (Star Wars), Lucas has undergone severe criticism from Star Wars fans when he has gone back and altered Star Wars. This first occurred with the Star Wars 1997 special editions, which primarily consisted of cosmetic changes, but had some controversial elements such as the anti-hero Han Solo shooting in self-defense instead of in aggression. It occurred again with the 2004 DVD release of the original trilogy.
In addition, the mixed reviews and an increased level of vocalized disappointment by some fans relating to the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy films have greatly stoked the debate concerning Lucas' treatment of certain characters and concepts in comparison to the 1977-1983 Star Wars films.
The frequency and vehemence of debates on these issues has led to the identification of extremists within debates as Lucas Bashers and Lucas Gushers, for anti-Lucas and pro-Lucas fans respectively.
Changes Lucas personally made to THX 1138 for its 2004 DVD release further re-enforced criticism from fans who felt that he was spoiling the integrity of his original films.
Lucas is also viewed by some to be anti-union. He dropped his membership in the directors guild when they fined him $250,000 for the fact that Star Wars had no opening credits. He subsequently filmed the remaining Star Wars films primarily outside of the United States, and primarily with non-union crew.
These anti-union allegations, however, have been contradicted by major national unions. The AFL-CIO awarded Lucas with the Top Labor Management Award in 2002.
Notable Films[edit | edit source]
- American Graffiti (1973) (director, writer)
- THX 1138 (1970) (director, writer)
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977),
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980),
- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981),
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983),
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), (co-writer, executive producer)
- Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) (executive producer)
- Willow (1988) (writer, executive producer)
- Labyrinth (1986) (executive producer)
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989),
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999),
- Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002),
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005),
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
- Red Tails (2012) (producer)
Other Films[edit | edit source]
- Radioland Murders (1994) (story)
- Beverly Hills Cop III (1994) (cameo as "Disappointed Man")
- Hook (1991) (cameo as "man kissing on bridge")
- The Land Before Time (1988) (executive producer)
- Captain Eo (1986) (producer, screenplay)
- Howard the Duck (1986) (executive producer)
- Mishima (1985) (executive producer)
- Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985) (executive producer, story)
- Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (1984) (executive producer, story)
- Twice Upon a Time (1982) (executive producer)
- Body Heat (1981) (uncredited executive producer)
- Kagemusha also known as The Shadow Warrior (1980) (Executive Producer of International Edition)
- More American Graffiti (1979) (executive producer)
Trivia[edit | edit source]
- George was parodied as Randall Curtis on The Simpsons
- Made a cameo appearance (in a film of his own direction) in the Star Wars series in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
- In 1976, Lucas published a novelization of A New Hope, which was initially (like the film) titled just Star Wars. Although Lucas was credited as author of the book, it was later revealed that the book was actually ghost written by Alan Dean Foster, who would also write Splinter of the Mind's Eye, the first original Star Wars novel and, in many respects, the first Star Wars sequel.
- As a tribute to his first film, THX-1138, it is said that each of his films (most notably the Star Wars saga) contains the number 1138 hidden as an Easter egg, and each of his movies are also made with the sound company, THX. It is also rumored that while growing up in California, the last seven digits of his home telephone number were 849-1138, where the 849 corresponds with the letters THX on a standard telephone.
- Was an executive producer of the box office bomb Howard the Duck. He disowned the film shortly after its release.
- Lucas credits his friend John Milius with introducing him to the films of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, whose works (particularly Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress) inspired the Star Wars films. For example, The Hidden Fortress includes two ubiquitous and sometimes humorous infantry soldiers who are said to have inspired R2-D2 and C-3PO; an aging master samurai on a quest to deliver a princess back to her people, said to be the inspiration for Obi-Wan Kenobi and Princess Leia in Episode IV; and the hidden fortress itself, belonging to the princess's people, which the dominant clan is trying to find and destroy, said to inspire the rebel base on Yavin and the Empire's quest to find and destroy it in Episode IV. He would later repay the favor by signing on (along with Francis Ford Coppola) as executive producer for Kurosawa's film Kagemusha.
- Lucas also based his Star Wars films on the scholarship of Joseph Campbell, particularly Campbell's 1949 text, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which deals with the idea of common elements across hero mythologies in many or all human cultures. These include, for example, the hero being called on a quest, the hero initially being reluctant to go but then receiving new motivation by unfolding events, the hero being guided by a wise elder who cannot remain to help the hero, and the hero wielding a magic or shining sword; all elements incorporated into the story of Luke Skywalker in Episode IV. Campbell's publisher returned the favor by depicting Luke Skywalker alongside mythological heroes like Gilgamesh and Odysseus on the cover of a later edition of The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
- George Lucas was honored by the AFI, and was given a Life Achievement Award for his contribution to the movie entertainment industry. This was awarded shortly after the release of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which he jokingly made reference to in his acceptance speech, stating that, since he views the entire Star Wars as one movie, that he could be given the award now that he had finally "gone back and finished [the] movie."
- Lucas is a member of the United Methodist Church, though conflicting reports describe him as either stating that he doesn't adhere to a specific religion or as a "Buddhist-Methodist"
- In his spare time, Lucas enjoys playing Star Wars video games with his children. He has also been known to read some of the Star Wars comic books, including Dark Empire. At one point, Lucas even said that he liked the story presented in the Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire multimedia project so well, that if he had had the story in the 80's, he might have produced a film based on the events in it.
- Friend Steven Spielberg called Lucas a pure independent filmmaker, as Lucas is very ensconced in Northern California in Marin County and the San Francisco area, and actively rejects the institutions of Hollywood.
- He based the character of Han Solo on his friend Francis Ford Coppola.
- His nickname in high school was Luke. This later became the name of the hero of his original Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker.
- Sold Lucasfilm's Computer Graphics Division to Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs, and it later became Pixar Animation Studios.
- Made as an action figure in 2002 with the name "Jorg Sacul." In 2006, a toy based on his appearance in Revenge of the Sith was created, as well as a mail-away special figure of George Lucas in Stormtrooper Disguise.
[edit | edit source]
- George Lucas at the Internet Movie Database (IMDB)
- Write George Lucas and read other fan mail to George
- Star Wars: Bio | George Lucas
- The George Lucas Educational Foundation
- Resource and Entertainment by FilmMakers Magazine
- Inside Skywalker Ranch
- A Tribute for 28 Years of Star Wars, Sign the Letter to George Lucas.
- AFI Life Achievement 2005
- The online bibliography section of "DROIDMAKER: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution"
- Interview with Lucas, including video and full biography at Achievement.org
- "Life On The Screen": The filmmaker argues that students must learn a new language of image and sound in order to succeed from Edutopia
- "Life after Darth": an in-depth look at George Lucas's artistic influences and future aspirations from Wired magazine
-  George Lucas at Yahoo! Movies