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Lucas with Luke S. (Mark Hamill)

"George has never stopped asking 'Any ideas?' and the world has been a better place for it."
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George Walton Lucas, Jr. (born May 14, 1944, Modesto, California), is the man behind Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

In high school, George was a car buff, and wanted to be a professional racer, until a near-fatal crash days before graduation; EMTs actually declared him dead at the scene. After recovering, he attended a community college and turned his passion to filmmaking. As a student, his initial interest was anthropology but a visit to college film societies, and screenings of international films, especially Akira Kurosawa's films made him switch interest to cinema, albeit anthropology (by his own admission) still informed many of his films.

His early student films attracted much praise and support from his peers, being considered far in advance in terms of editing and cinematography than others of his class. Experimental film-maker Thom Andersen, who was a classmate, still considers them to be significant avant-garde films. His first work was Freiheit followed by a number of other shorts, including Electronic Labyrinth : THX 1138 which he would later convert to a feature. A program by Hollywood studios offering students internships led to Lucas working on the sets of Francis Ford Coppola's Finian's Rainbow. The two hit it off, with Coppola being his Big Brother Mentor and remaining very close friends for most of the '70s and '80s before their different careers branched offnote .

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He co-founded American Zoetrope with Francis Ford Coppola, to get away from the oppressive Hollywood studio system, and with the success of Graffiti and Star Wars, founded Lucasfilm. Coppola produced his film debut THX 1138. That film's commercial failure sunk their initial plans for independence. Albeit it remains a talismanic film for Lucas, the source of references, with "THX" and "1138" appearing in various forms, providing the name for the THX soundsystem. Lucas' main point in making that film was to show that present day America was close to the dystopias of science-fiction, and he proved his point by using extensive location shooting of what, at the time were, futuristic looking urban development in San Francisco and Northern California. The failure led Lucas to go in what he saw as a commercial direction, i.e. making films about the problems of young people, and proving he can direct a serious drama. Produced by Gary Kurtz, American Graffiti was a major success sold on the Nostalgia Filter (It's tagline was "Where were you in '62?") of the America just-before Vietnam and the counter-culture. It led Lucas to go one step further.

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Believing that his fellow New Hollywood directors had ignored the market for young children and teenagers, who hadn't grown up with the pirate, westerns, and serial films that his generation had, Lucas set out to revive the old serials' spirit but with a more updated and modern polish. His initial idea was to adapt Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials, while also thinking of a concept based on Republic serials with an Adventurer Archaeologist. They became Star Wars and Indiana Jones respectively. For Star Wars, Lucas wanted to revive the old B-Movie serial but he wanted to update it, and give it the scale of an Epic Movie, with sound and visual effects far in advance of anything currently available. To create his vision for Star Wars, George formed his own FX studio Industrial Light and Magic and they revolutionized special effects and post-production techniquesnote . For sound, Lucas wanted to go away from the common electronic synth sounds of conventional science-fiction and incorporate natural sounds with advanced technology to make it more tangible. Ben Burtt was of a similar inclination, breaking new grounds in using unconventional sources for sounds that felt truly alien.

Star Wars released in 1977 was the biggest film in American history, toppling the record for highest-grosses, making more money than several studios had over the last 10 years, and adjusted-for-inflation, it still trails Gone with the Wind as the second-highest grossing film of all time. It also changed the film landscape thoroughly in ways that are too big to go here. Lucas had plans to make multiple serial films but initially conceived it as a standalone. The success demanded sequels and follow-ups, and Lucas believed initially that it could be done by other directors but he became so ubiquitously associated with the brand, and likewise believed he had to protect it from becoming the parody of the serials that many initially expected it wars, that he gradually assumed more executive control than he expected. The disastrous Star Wars Holiday Special also confirmed these views, as did a rational belief that Star Wars might plateau its interest and become a fad. The Troubled Production of the first film also exhausted him from directing, and Lucas has repeatedly stated that he prefers the conceptual pre-production and post-production processes to the actual on-set process of directing.

For most of The '80s, Lucas worked as a producer and writer of his own and other projects. He has collaborated with Steven Spielberg, another close friend, on the Indiana Jones projects, as well as Francis Ford Coppola. He worked on a number of other films both mainstream (Labyrinth, Willow) and avant-garde (such as the Koyanniqatsi documenaries, Paul Schrader's Biopic on Mishima which was the first mainstream Hollywood film entirely in Japanese, and Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha) but most of these were commercial failures. With the exception of Star Wars and Indiana Jones, none of Lucas' later ideas ever found commercial favour, and many of his solo producer work has often been Cult Classic or niche items, with the exception of Howard the Duck being the biggest failure and still considered an embarrassing failure. Alongside that his company, Lucasfilm made many important innovations such as investment in CGI animation, chiefly Pixar studios, which Lucas sold to Steve Jobs. While not involved in the creative process, his name resonates in the video game scene thanks to a branch of his empire, LucasFilm Games — later renamed LucasArts — which experienced a golden age in the 1990s and was responsible for creating many iconic Adventure Games and Space Simulation Games, which are often ranked among the best games ever.

After Return of the Jedi, Lucas announced the end of the franchise. But later discussed plans for either a sequel or a prequelnote . Eventually in The '90s, he set out on making the prequel trilogy. The commercial successes of the Special Edition re-releases also convinced him that the interest hadn't died down in Star Wars. Unlike the made-as-it-went-along threadbare approach of the original films, inspired by casting contingencies, and uncertainty on whether a sequel would be made, the prequels were conceived as a three-part work, with all scripts written at first. Lucas again tried to interest other film-makers, including Spielberg and Ron Howard, but they all insisted that he should direct it. After a twenty-year gap (1977-1999), Lucas returned to the director's chair on the prequels, which were again technical marvels, innovating on CGI with one of the first entirely CGI motion-captured character Jar-Jar Binks in a mainstream film. For the second and third film, Lucas shot the films in digital, being the first major director to embrace digital film-making, a process that became a norm later in the decades. After finishing Revenge of the Sith, Lucas again retired and went to producing, before announcing his landmark sale of Lucasfilm to Disney in October 2012, in a whopping $4 billion deal.

Lucas was married to film editor Marcia Lucas (formerly Griffin) between 1969 and 1983 and he has several adopted children, most of whom have cameos in his films. Marcia worked as an editor for A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, participating in the production of all the three original trilogy movies. In a notable example of Creator Couple, her main contribution to the original trilogy was to serve as The Heart, balancing out Lucas' highly technical, visual-minded vision with an emphasis on character development, plot and emotional response — Mark Hamill in particular has confirmed this. Lucas' divorce from Marcia, occurring at the same time as Spielberg's divorce from Amy Irving, is cited as a leading cause for the Darker and Edgier nature of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, as well as the fate of the Prequel Trilogy. In June 2013, he married his girlfriend of seven years, investment executive Mellody Hobson.

Lucas has always been a controversial figure, despite being personally quite modest and disarming, even a little shy, and renowned for being a good sportnote  as well as being very generousnote . The success of Star Wars and its revolutionary technique were met with praise but also dismay since it was seen as a shift away from the analog qualities of cinema (chiefly focusing on actors performances, good dialogue, real locations) to the technological, and this criticism has been constant since the beginning. In The '80s and The '90s, Lucas was held as symbolic for the turn in Hollywood away from the adult audience to a more family and child-centric approach, which along with the extensive merchandizing of Star Wars, and the drying up of funds for films with more serious matter, has led him to being accused (with Steven Spielberg occasionallynote ) for "ruining the movies". Lucas' embrace of digital cinema and CGI was also driven by similar mix of resentment and technological skepticism. But for most of that time, Lucas could count on being popular with the audiences, rather than the critics. This changed in the Turn of the Millennium, where Lucas experienced a considerable vocal backlash against the prequels, which in turn led to a backlash on himself. Not just from his regular critics who usually disliked the prequels for the same reasons they hated the originals (i.e. the fact that it existed), but from his own fandom, who had formerly been loyal to him, with many now deprecating and questioning his skills as a director and writer. The fact that this period coincided with the rise of the internet and widespread use of online forums and social media spread this to a wider audience than it would have beforenote .

Lucas himself admits that he is "the King of Wooden Dialogue". On the other hand, collaborators and actors do not dispute his incredible eye for casting, conceptualization, visual style, and his dramatic instinct (i.e. making Vader Luke's father, the all-time greatest plot twist which was entirely written by him). As a director, Lucas is known for constantly iterating (for instance, he brought back the cast and crew for reshoots for Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, removing entire subplots that had been entirely filmed and finished as seen in deleted scenes) on set, as well as emphasizing wide and detailed backgrounds within which his characters interact, communicating a sense of place and setting. He's also considered a great director of immersive large-scale action scenes with impressive choreography of multiple moving parts as objects move through the screen. As a producer, a careful glance at Lucas' body of work shows that the number of uncommercial, avant-garde, and niche films that he has produced equal the number of mainstream works he has made, and that he is considerably more risk-taking than many give him credit for.

Lucas is also considered inconsistent when it comes to representation, being progressive and regressive at various points. On the one hand, Lucas deserves credit for making a fantasy series with decidedly Buddhist and Taoist inspirations. He also introduced strong female leads in mainstream movies via Princess Leia, and a major African-American character like Lando Calrissian who had a complex dramatic character arc that made him something more than Black Best Friend or sidekick (becoming in effect a "fourth musketeer" by the end of the original trilogy)note . His production of Willow was a fantasy epic with a dwarf actor (Warwick Davis) as the Hero, preceding Peter Dinklage's celebrated turn as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones by thirty years. On the other hand, his Indiana Jones series was criticized for playing the Mighty Whitey Adventure Archaeologist trope straight and for the hilariously offensive portrayal of India in Temple of Doom, while Jar-Jar Binks in the Star Wars prequels was seen as a neo-minstrel portrayal of a black sidekick (though Ahmed Best, the actor who played Jar-Jar Binks points out that this was entirely unintentional), and the fact that the Nemoidians of the prequels were coded as amoral inscutable Asian businessmen while Watto was seen as a fantasy coded version of anti-semitic stereotypes. As a producer, Lucas has funded Red Tails which dealt with the Tuskegee Airmen, and was a notable case of a mainstream film with an African-American story and setting, while also producing Mishima an American film entirely in Japanese, while also playing a major part in mentor Akira Kurosawa's Career Resurrection in The '80s. On one hand, Lucas has done a great deal more than most American producers and film-makers in raising diversity in mainstream cinema, on the other hand, his films thanks to its great fame, continued to perpetuate a bunch of negative stereotypes.

Lucas is still indisputably a pioneer in film technology and special effects, both in his own films and through Industrial Light and Magic. He's a strong advocate for digital filmmaking, having shot the last two Star Wars prequels digitally (and turned Robert Rodriguez onto the technology), and firmly believes that digital filmmaking will lead to an increase of independent productions (at a much lower cost than studio films, due to film reel development) and be surprise successes. He predicted this in the early 1990s, well before the release of District 9. Martin Scorsese remarked that whenever he wonders what the future of cinema would be like, he would simply visit Lucas at Skywalker Ranch and pick his brain, noting he has never been wrong.

In 2016 he was the subject of a biography by Brian Jay Jones, whose previous work was about Lucas' sometime collaborator Jim Henson. This is Jones' third biography, and his first on a still living person. There are other books including J. W. Rinzler's series on the making of Star Wars, a book of interviews edited by Guy Flatley, The Cinema of George Lucas by Marcur Hearn, and Masters of Cinema: George Lucas by Karina Longworth.

Filmography

Director

  • Freiheit (1966, Student Film) — Showing a refugee trying to escape the Berlin Wall.
  • 1:42:06 (1966, Student Film) — Featuring a car race.
  • Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB (1967, Short Film) — Later elaborated into a feature, and first got him notice.
  • Filmmaker (1968, Short Documentary) - Showing the making of Coppola's The Rain People, Coppola has said that this is an example of a making-of film better than the actual film.
  • THX 1138 (1971, Feature Debut) - Iconic science-fiction albeit commercially unsuccessful.
  • Bald: The Making of THX 1138 (1971, Short) — Largely showing shots of the various actors and actresses having their head shaved for his film.
  • American Graffiti
  • Star Wars: The creator, writer and chief visionary of the overall franchise. He directed four of the films (the most by any)

Writer and Producer:

Other Work

  • Gimme Shelter: 1970 Rockumentary about The Rolling Stones in which he worked as a cameraman.
  • The Godfather (1971): Worked as a second-unit director, shooting the footage used in the gangland murder montage, done in the style of a newspaper montage, that happens between Solozzo's death and Sonny's murder.
  • Apocalypse Now (1979): Provided financial support with no request for screen credit. Was originally supposed to be directed by him, planned alongside THX-1138 but eventually taken over by Coppola. Harrison Ford appears in a small cameo at the start as Colonel Lucas, as a tribute to his friend.

George Lucas and his works provide examples of:

  • Action Girl: A common Trope in his movies. Whatever his shortcomings as a writer, his works are never short of strong, powerful female characters.
  • Author Appeal: High-speed chase sequences. There's always at least one per movie. His car enthusiasm is also evident, all of his films have Technology Porn to varying degrees.
  • Auteur License: Wrote, issued, and certified his license after the huge success of Star Wars. He actually said "screw you" to the Directors' Guild in 1981 and left the union after they demanded he put credits at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back. In his last movies he didn't even need it, as he owned his own studio. In addition, George dislikes production companies messing with other people's movies, violating their "moral rights", and has spoken before Congress to advocate legal recognition of directors as creators entitled to copyright (it didn't take unfortunately). He argues that only a work's creator should be allowed to make changes to their work as they see fit.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: Experienced so much artistic neutering with his pre-Star Wars movies so much that it literally traumatized him, which led to a near-pathological fear of being told how to make his own movies, which led to his habit of updating Star Wars every few years.
    • This has ended up making him somewhat of a pariah in the general Hollywood system. When Empire came out he dropped out of the Directors' Guild when they started demanding more traditional opening credits for them. Ever since, he strove to make himself completely independent from Hollywood so that he could make his movies his way. With the financial clout Star Wars gave him, he noted about the time Revenge of the Sith came out that he has become his own meddling Hollywood system.
    • Star Wars originally began as a modest homage to science-fiction serials which no major Hollywood studio would have given the attention and detail to what would be regarded as a B-Movie in the 50s and 60s, and yet the success of Star Wars led to the rise of the blockbuster and the success of the merchandise (whose rights Lucas entirely possessed), which in turn was cited by Lucas' friends and colleagues (Scorsese and John Milius), and lately Lucas himself, as closing the doors on the New Hollywood.
  • Creator Breakdown:
    • His divorce from Marcia is often considered one. It led him to cancel his initial plans for Star Wars films, and it led to the mean-spirited nature of Temple of Doom.
    • He seemed to let the Fan Dumb of the Star Wars prequels get to him over time, which probably showed the most in the "Why would I make any more [Star Wars movies], when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?" quote.
  • Determinator: With the original Star Wars, he was insistent on getting the damn thing made through an infamously Troubled Production.
  • Fan Nickname: The Maker, especially by the fan organization the 501st. Also known to some elements of the fandom as "The Flannelled One", after his love of flannel shirts.
  • Fanservice: Puts it in his movies quite regularly.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: His own father was a Real Life example, never supporting his filmmaking ambitions. Though he did attend the premiere of Star Wars, and spent a good amount of time afterwards proudly telling people who his son was.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: Trope namer. He altered Star Wars and THX 1138 significantly after their initial releases (though the latter was done in response to the Executive Meddling that occurred during production rather than for personal taste).
  • Genre Throwback: Formerly "George Lucas Throwback", his works include several well-known examples:
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Steven Spielberg and also Francis Ford Coppola. Lucas modelled Han Solo on Coppola's personality, mostly his larger-than-life swashbuckling personality, who never let "the odds" get in the way of executing his projects (as seen in Filmmaker). He later gave Harrison Ford a cameo in Apocalypse Now (originally a Lucas project) with the nametag of Lucas.
  • Iconic Outfit: His flannel shirts and jeans.
  • Irony: Lucas survived his near-fatal car accident because his seat belt failed.
  • Long Title: The title of his student film, Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Part of what caused the Broken Base is just how much George has licensed for his various properties, especially Star Wars. Here's a brief overview.
  • Occidental Otaku: Like many in his generation, he was a huge fan of Japanese cinema, especially Akira Kurosawa's Jidai Geki. The "Jedi" derive from "Jidai" and they are modeled on Samurai, and Vader's outfit is also based on Samurai battle armor, especially the shape of the helmet.
  • Old Shame:
  • One Degree of Separation: Lucas is the linchpin of the New Hollywood era, being one or two degrees away from Coppola (starting as his apprentice and co-producing many movies together), Spielberg (collaborating on Indiana Jones), Scorsese (via Marcia Lucas who edited Taxi Driver), De Palma (who suggested a modification for the title crawl of Star Wars), Milius (collaborator on the first drafts for Apocalypse Now), Schrader (producing Mishima). When Martin Scorsese was nominated for Best Director on The Departed, Lucas presented along with Coppola and Spielberg (which was itself a tell on who was going to win), and it turned into an impromptu roast on Lucas still not winning any oscars among their generation.
  • The Other Darrin: A trope he seems to despise using unless absolutely necessary. Lucas has said that before he started searching for a company to sell his own to, he had contacted Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford, essentially saying that if they didn't have an interest in coming back for the next trilogy, he could write their characters out. This was also why the original series ended in a trilogy when it was intended to go for longer than that. Mark Hamill's car accident before Empire and Harrison Ford constantly going back-and-forth in terms of wanting to continue the series, led Lucas to believe he couldn't maintain the cast for long, and so he had to provide closure for the characters audiences cared for from A New Hope.
  • Pet the Dog: He could have spent the money he got from the $4,000,000,000 deal he made with Disney on anything ... but he donated it to public education facilities. In fact, his philanthropy work in general is probably the greatest argument to make against those that see the man as an egomaniacal control freak.
  • Production Posse: With Harrison Ford, albeit not intentionally. They got along well as friends but he didn't want Ford to be a part of all his movies, like Martin Scorsese had done with Robert DeNiro. But they brought in Ford to read for Han Solo just in the casting process and the crew fell in love with his take on the character. For Indiana Jones, scheduling issues with Tom Selleck led them back to Ford once more.
  • Re-Cut: There was precedence of filmmakers re-editing their movies after the original release long before Lucas became the poster-boy for it, including Steven Spielberg for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It's often a source of parody, if not outright flanderization, South Park featured a joke that had Lucas remastering home movies.
  • Retcon: The Special Editions of the original Star Wars movies and the prequels to said movies count. Of course the biggest and most successful retcon was the twist of Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back which was not planned in the first film and which Lucas himself introduced into the second film.
  • Self-Deprecation: His biggest critic of the dialogue of his movies is likely himself.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: His films are more on the idealistic end of the scale.
  • Special Edition: Trope Namer and, with Steven Spielberg, the co-Trope Codifier.
  • Stock Scream: He loves using the Wilhelm Scream in his movies, and it became so famous in Star Wars that everybody started using it.
  • Technician vs. Performer: The Technician to Steven Spielberg's Performer. He's actually expressed a lot of discomfort personally directing his movies, early in his career he preferred being an editor and only turned towards directing because they had more control over the footage. Most of the films he has made were partially testbeds for new filmmaking technologies.
    • In fact, Lucas only ever directed six feature films throughout his career: THX 1138, American Graffiti, Star Wars, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith.
    • On the other hand, many consider Lucas to be brilliant as an action film-maker, with the space battle in A New Hope and Revenge of the Sith cited as being the best of their kind.
  • Terse Talker: Mark Hamill has spoken about how short and straightforward his instructions are, such as "Faster, more intense".
  • Tribute to Fido: In the 1970s, he had a dog called Indiana, who helped inspire two characters of his: Star Wars' Chewbacca (being a big, furry dog that always sat up front with in his car) and the titular Indiana Jones (referenced in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where we find out Indy took the nickname from his childhood dog).
  • Troperiffic: Rather than try to avoid cliches, his works often embrace them wholeheartedly. As he himself once pointed out, "They became cliches because they work."
  • Troll: Wanted to build a production studio on his ranch in Marin County, California, but his wealthy neighbors protested the development, claiming that it would ruin their views. Rather than fighting them, Lucas backed down... and began work on a low-income housing project on the property instead. Served as both a hilarious "screw you" to his neighbors and as a sweet Pet the Dog moment, as affordable housing is a pressing issue in the Bay Area and Lucas pledged over $150 million of his own money to fund the project.
  • Trolling Creator: One possible interpretation of his remarks about Star Wars. Then again, if you had a fanbase like that, you would too.
  • Uncredited Role:
    • He had a brief uncredited cameo in Hook, alongside Carrie Fisher.
    • He was executive producer on Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat, mainly as a favor for Kasdan's help with the script for Return of the Jedi. Lucas went uncredited because he didn't want his work on an erotic thriller film to affect his family-friendly reputation from the first two Star Wars films.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: He and Francis Ford Coppola have had countless ups and downs since their first meeting in 1967, which Lucas still nevertheless describes as the closest relationship with anyone he's ever had.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Or in this case, what might not have been. Lucas abandoned his quest to become a race car driver due to a near-fatal accident. If he hadn't had the accident, he might have become a race car driver. On the other hand, he might have died. Eerily enough, he survived because a special protector for race cars that he'd installed failed and he was thrown from the car before its final impact, hitting a walnut tree hard enough to rip out half its roots.
    • John Milius first wrote the script for Apocalypse Now while he and Lucas were at USC together, intending for Lucas to direct it. Francis Ford Coppola later joked that this would have involved California Doubling with just two helicopters. Some reviews of Return of the Jedi also pointed out that the scenes on Endor were pretty much Lucas finally making his Vietnam movie.
    • He offered Disney several ideas for their Star Wars films upon turning over the rights, and was quite upset that none of them were used.
    • In a rare case of him completely missing the boat on an emerging new technology, he turned down the chance to get in on the ground floor at Pixar when some of the Lucasarts employees got involved with it.

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