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If you like George Lucas's story, you might also like:
James Cameron,
Francis Ford Coppola,
Ron Howard,
Peter Jackson,
James Earl Jones,
James Rosenquist,
Julie Taymor,
Kent Weeks and
Robert Zemeckis

George Lucas can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center


George Lucas also appears in the videos:
Education in the 21st Century
Passion, Creativity and the Arts: Writing for Motion Pictures
The Arts, Sciences & Creativity
The Power of Words
Media and Social Responsibility

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring George Lucas in the Achievement Curriculum section:
The Power of Words
Talent and Vision

Related Links:
Star Wars
Edutopia
The Giving Pledge

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George Lucas
 
George Lucas
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George Lucas Interview (page: 4 / 9)

Creator of "Star Wars"

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  George Lucas

Was the original Star Wars a tough sell? It seems obvious now, but what was it like to get that off the ground back in the 1970s?


George Lucas: I had a very, very difficult time my first two pictures. And when I started working on Star Wars, my second film, American Graffiti, had not come out yet. So, in the beginning it wasn't something anybody was interested in and I had taken it to a couple of studios and they had turned it down. And then one studio executive saw American Graffiti and loved it, and I took him the proposal. He said, "You know, I don't understand this, but I think you're a great film maker and I'm going to invest in you. I'm not going to invest in this project." And that's really how it got made.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance


Star Wars is so far removed from a film like American Graffiti.

George Lucas Interview Photo
George Lucas: Yeah, it was. All of my films have been very hard to understand at the script stage because they're very different. At the time I did them they were not conventional. The executives could only think in terms of what they'd already seen. It's hard for them to think in terms of what has never been done before.

Would you say your career has been marked by going against the conventional wisdom?

George Lucas: Yeah, and it's made it considerably more difficult. It's funny when you look back now, because everybody's sort of copied those films. They're so ingrained in the culture now, it's almost impossible to think there was a point where those things were completely odd and unique.

George Lucas Interview Photo
The funny thing is the two movies I directed that were my conventional movies, were slight twists on very, very conventional movies, the kind that I loved when I was younger. One genre was the teenage hot rod movies made by American International Pictures, which were sort of the lowest rung of the movie ladder. The other was Republic Serials, Saturday morning serials from the '30s, which were an ancient lowest rung on the ladder.

So I was taking the lowest genre that was available and then twisting it and making it into something completely different, something that was more mainstream in terms of the quality and acceptability of the modern movie-going audience. I think the prejudice against those films was really that they were cheap B movies; not that they were so out there.


American Graffiti was really my first attempt at doing something mainstream, so to speak, and even it was so -- one, it was in a genre that was looked down upon but I loved when I was a kid. It was about my life as I grew up, so I cared about it a lot. And then on top of it, it was in a style that was different from what everybody was used to. It was intercutting four stories that didn't relate to each other, which nobody had really done before. Now it's sort of the standard fare for television. And it had music all the way through it; not just the score but actual songs from the period, and that is something that nobody had done before. And they just sort of described it as a musical montage with no characters and no story, and so it was very, very hard to get that off the ground, and on top of that it was a B movie. I almost got it set up at American International Pictures, where they liked doing those kinds of movies but it was too strange for them in terms of the style. And Star Wars was kind of the same situation where it was a genre they weren't that interested in. Science fiction was not something that did well at the box office. It dealt with robots and Wookies and things that -- generally most people -- they couldn't read it and say, "I understand what this is all about." They just were completely confused by it. And really on top of that, it was aimed at being a film for young people, and most of the studios said, "Look, that's Disney's. Disney does that. The rest of us can't do that, so we don't want to get into that area." So I had so many strikes against me when I did that. I was lucky that I found a studio executive that just believed in me as a film maker and just disregarded the material itself.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance


In these groundbreaking circumstances, were you afflicted with any self-doubts, fear of failure?

George Lucas: Whenever you're making a movie, especially when you're writing, you always have self-doubts. I did the first location shooting in Tunisia. I didn't get everything shot, but I had to get out of there in ten days regardless. What I had shot was the very beginning of the movie, and I was very worried about the creative quality of it. I just didn't know.


I was working with an editor I hadn't worked with before -- I started out as an editor -- I was working with a British editor and the scenes would come back, and I'd go on the weekends and look at the scenes with the editor, and they just weren't working. And I was very down about the whole situation. So I went in myself on Sundays and started re-cutting the movie. The editing wasn't obviously bad but it just wasn't working. I couldn't quite figure out what was going on. I mean it was either I was doing a terrible job directing this thing, or something else. As I started to cut the film together, I realized that I was making cuts that were, you know, a foot away from where the editor had been making them. And I had been using the same takes that I'd given him, but I was just slightly moving it ever so slightly in one direction, and it suddenly clicked and it started working, which was a great relief to me because up to that point I was feeling very desperate about the whole situation.


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This page last revised on Dec 10, 2013 01:03 EDT