He may be one of the most successful and celebrated filmmakers in film history, but George Lucas didn’t reap the fruits of his labor overnight. He practically started like the typical film school guy with a promising portfolio to get his career started, but he was not excused from having to step on a rocky path filled with struggles and compromises.
George Lucas Biography: From Race Car Driver to Student Filmmaker
George Lucas Biography: The Student Filmmaker
After receiving the Warner Brothers scholarship to observe the making of Francis Ford Coppola’s Finian’s Rainbow in 1967, Lucas and Coppola became good friends. In 1969, they formed the independent film company American Zoetrope. The company was geared towards creating quality film projects where filmmakers retained creative control of their works. It intended to provide a liberating environment for filmmakers to direct outside the perceived oppressive control of the Hollywood studio system.
American Zoetrope’s first project was Lucas’ full-length version of his student film THX 1338, which was finished in 1971. Soon after, the company produced Coppola’s The Godfather in 1972.
A major blow in Lucas’ early career was when Warner Brothers’ executives saw his finished project for THX 1138, then they demanded Coppola to return the $300,000 investment for projects of the company. As the fledgling company imploded, Lucas had to find work elsewhere. Lucas and Coppola still kept in touch and had many other types of film collaborations thoughout the duration of their careers.
Lucas started his own film company Lucasfilm Ltd. American Graffiti, his very personal film featuring an affectionate look at teenage cruising in the 1960s, became the company’s first project. He wrote and directed American Graffiti in 1973. Produced by Universal Studios, this Lucasfilm Ltd. production was loosely based on Lucas’ own experiences as a car enthusiast in Modesto, California. This semi-autobiographical film was shot in 28 days under $1 million.
The Birth of Star Wars
Lucas still needed enough clout for his dream project. Initially, he proposed a new Flash Gordon film adaptation, but the rights for the film were not available. Better yet, this led him to developing a story set in space, which would later become one of the most successful film franchises of all time.
He continued encountering difficulties in getting Star Wars made, until Alan Ladd Jr. of Fox Studios saw his potential. Ladd was able to secure him a production and distribution deal, starting off with American Graffiti. The theatrical release of the film became a box office success that ended up restoring Fox to financial stability, after a number of flops. After earning his mainstream reputation with American Graffiti, which became the third highest grossing picture of 1973 (grossing more than $100 million worldwide), the preliminary deals for Star Wars were in place.
Developing Star Wars took much of his time. He was able to utilize his passion and interest for mythology, which kept him going. As he progressed with his writing, it became more ambitious than he ever imagined. In its essence, it became a promising story about the epic battle between a heroic rebel alliance and an evil galactic empire.
“Biography for George Lucas,” IMDb.com.
“George Lucas,” WIkipedia.
“George Lucas Biography,” Academy of Achievement.
“George Lucas Biography,” Biography.com.
“George Lucas,” Encyclopedia of World Biography.
“Inside LucasFilm: George Lucas, Chairman,” LucasFilm Ltd.
“George Lucas Biography,” Filmmakers.com.
“George Lucas: Biography,” TV Guide.
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