Georges Lucas is an American screenwriter, director and producer. Although his beginnings were modest, he is now considered a pioneer in the world of the seventh art. And for good reason? If we had to sum up his career in a few simple words, we’d say he’s the man who created Star Wars, the saga.
From birth to youth
Real name George Walton Lucas Jr. was born on May 14, 1944 in Modesto, California. Unlike many celebrities, he was not related to any well-known showbiz personalities or people. He was related to the famous actor Marlon Brando, but not very closely. So it’s not hard to confirm that this was not what motivated him to go into film.
The son of a paper mill owner and a mother in frail health, George Lucas grew up on a farm where he lived a simple life.
From racing to cinema
Surprisingly, nothing predestined George Lucas to become the successful director and producer he is today. On the contrary, despite his passion for comic books from an early age, George Lucas never aspired to become a screenwriter, much less a producer. Untalented and unmotivated at school, he developed a passion for motor racing. At the age of 16, he obtained his driving license, with a single ambition in mind: to become a pilot.
But two years later, he was involved in a serious accident. After several months of convalescence, he had to give up his dream, as fate had not been kind to him from the outset. In the end, he chose to return to film studies. His choice was not well received by his father, who wanted him to take over the family business. But he persisted, enrolling at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles to study film.
His short-film debut
At film school, George Lucas made a hesitant but remarkable debut. He made a few short films to get started. To name but a few:
- Look at Life in 1965
- Herbie in 1966
- Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB in 1967
The latter caused quite a stir. The masterpiece won first prize in the dramatic film category in 1968, at the third Student Film Festival, held in New York. This earned him a six-month internship at Warner Bros. studios. It was there that he met the man who was to become his mentor: Francis Ford Coppola.
His first feature films
During his internship, he worked on the set of the musical film “La Vallée du bonheur”. He quickly befriended Francis Ford Coppola, who recognized his talent, and became his assistant. That same year, the director asked him to make the documentary “Filmmaker”.
In 1969, the two men decided to break away from Warner Bros. They set up their own production company, American Zoetrope. And so, at just 25 years of age, George Lucas became the company’s Executive Vice President. But the partnership won’t last long. After the flop of their first feature film, an adaptation of the short Electronic Labyrinth, the two friends went their separate ways.
In 1970, George Lucas founded his own company, Lucasfilm. He reworked THX 1138 on the instructions of Warner Bros. The film was released in 1971 to mixed reviews. The director was not to be deterred, signing a contract with Universal Pictures that same year to direct two feature films. The first, entitled “American Graffiti”, was released in 1973 and was an unexpected and phenomenal success. Shot in 29 days, the film earned him $7 million.
The birth of Star Wars
An avid comic-book fan, George Lucas has dreamed of adapting a science-fiction film ever since his early days in the film industry. At the time, he wanted to turn his plans into reality by adapting the Flash Gordon TV series. But negotiations with the creators regarding copyright were inconclusive. He therefore decided to abandon the idea, but not completely.
In 1973, he decided to make his own film, entitled Star Wars. When he launched the project, however, he was turned down by a number of backers, including Universal Studio and United Artist. Past experience has taught him that he must retain total autonomy in the direction and production of his films. Something that didn’t sit well with investors at the time.
Towards the end of 1973, he finally obtained financing from 20th Century Fox, initially for one feature film, then for two sequels. At the same time, in 1975, he set up his own special effects company, Industrial Light & Magic. Shooting began in March 1976, in Tunisia.
George Lucas film: the first trilogy
Star Wars: A New Hope
More than a year after shooting began, in May 1977, the first film was released in 37 cinemas to phenomenal success. Now a blockbuster, Star Wars has entered the annals of history and left its mark on the cinematic world ever since. It doubled FOX’s shareholding and made the director financially independent of the producers.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
George Lucas is the sole producer of the second opus. Filming for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back began in Norway in March 1979. It lasted over 5 months and was released in 127 cinemas in May 1980. Here again, success is the order of the day. The film breaks all records and is the highest-grossing film of the year worldwide.
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Two years later, George Lucas began shooting the third feature again. It began in January 1982 and ended in May of the same year. The film was released in over two thousand cinemas in May 1983. And to no one’s surprise, the success is still there. Like its two predecessors, it was an incredible success, once again breaking the box-office record for 1983.
Star Wars: a second trilogy
It would be several years before George Lucas took another interest in Star Wars. Between 1983 and 1990, he fulfilled his long-held dream of working on a project with Steven Spielberg. Together they produced the film Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. Directed by Spielberg, and produced and co-written by Lucas, the film was released in 1981 to great acclaim.
Such was their success that two years later, the two men went back to the drawing board, releasing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 1984. Like the first, the project was a great success. The film became the biggest hit of the year. This was followed by a third opus in 1989 and a TV series in 1992.
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
It was finally in 1994 that George Lucas decided to go ahead with his plan to create prequels to the Star Wars saga. Writing for Episode I began in 1994. Shooting began three years later and lasted 3 months. The film was not released until two years later, in May 1999. It was not as successful as the first three opuses. But it still earned the director close to a billion dollars.
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
George Lucas doesn’t have long to wait before shooting the second installment. This prequel, which will be considered the saga’s second installment, will be shot at FOX studios in Australia just one year after the release of the first opus. Filming began in June 2000 and ended two months later. It will be different, because Sony has developed a high-definition camera especially for the occasion. This will be the director’s first 100% digital film. Launched in 2002, it was a box-office success.
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
George Lucas quickly set about filming the third part of his prequel. Revenge of the Sith will be filmed largely in Australia, but some scenes will also be shot in London. The film was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005 and, like its predecessors, was a worldwide success. It’s famous for the confrontation between master Obi-Wan Kenobi and his apprentice Luke Skywalker, then renamed Vader by Sidious.
Star Wars: the series
Director George Lucas is not stopping there. Following the success of the Star Wars franchise, he decided to turn it into a TV series in 2003. His idea wasn’t very well received. In fact, FOX will refuse to broadcast it. But Lucas is undeterred. He turned to Cartoon Network and once again won his bet. The successful series ran for 7 seasons and 133 episodes.
After that, in 2012, he decided to sell his production company to The Walt Disney Company for the astronomical sum of over $4 billion. But before he bids farewell to the franchise, he announces the cinema release of the seventh episode of the Star Wars saga: The Force Awakens. This will be the first in a new trilogy produced by Disney, with the introduction of new characters such as Rey and her yellow saber.