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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:
Lucas Museum
Star Wars
The Giving Pledge

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George Lucas
George Lucas
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George Lucas Interview (page: 6 / 9)

Creator of "Star Wars"

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  George Lucas

You've testified talked about some of your failures, but you have had enormous success. How do you handle success?

George Lucas: Success is a very difficult thing. It's much more difficult than one might think. And when I first had a successful movie, which was American Graffiti, fortunately it was huge, but it wasn't so huge in terms of monetary things. And it came so slowly that I was able to assimilate it a little bit. Star Wars was much more difficult, and I had a lot of friends who had become very successful and they said, "Boy! Watch out, boy. When that one hits you're really going to be thrown for a loop." I said, "Oh no, no. I went through American Graffiti. I can handle this. I know, you know--" But when Star Wars finally -- you know, the reality of it hit and all of the attendant things that go on around it hit, psychologically it's a very, very difficult thing to cope with. And you really need time after an event like that in your life, especially if it comes very fast, to assimilate what it is that has happened to you and how everybody relates to you and how your life is.

It's hard to explain what happens psychologically, because a lot of the constraints that you've had are now gone. Instead of scrambling to find one opportunity somewhere to do something, you suddenly have an endless supply of opportunities to do anything. So instead of trying to coerce somebody into saying yes, you are suddenly desperate to learn how to say no. I've seen it with a lot of people, the first thing you do is say yes to everything because they're all wonderful, wonderful things that are offered to you

Here you've spent your whole life just begging, and using every means at your disposal to get one person or two people to say 'yes' to your project or to say, "Yes, I'll do this. Yes," you know? And then suddenly everybody says yes. Suddenly everybody wants you to do everything and anything you want. Then you have to start learning how to say 'no' -- and tons of opportunities coming your way. Wonderful opportunities, but you can't do them all. If you start doing them all, your life gets very unfocused. You get overwhelmed and you collapse, basically. And your feelings of invincibility and stuff sort of turn into a morass of depression and -- I've seen it happen to a lot of people and I went through it myself. It's just unavoidable if you're successful. And no matter how much you think you can deal with it, you can't.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

George Lucas Interview Photo
You need to have a lot of close family around you, a lot of friends to keep you honest. Take your time, take a year and just slow everything down a little bit. Get away from the success part, stay with yourself. Go off on a beach somewhere or do something to keep yourself aligned right.

I've made it a habit. When a movie comes out, I always go off on a beach so I miss all the craziness that goes on, all the hoopla, and the hype and the success, and how much it's making, or whether it's doing good or whether it's doing bad. I just miss it all. I don't talk to anybody, and a couple weeks later I come back and it's all over with. So I hear the results but I didn't have to live through them. I think it's a healthy way to handle success. Don't wallow in it. Keep it at arm's length.

In a public art form like yours, how do you handle criticism?

George Lucas: When I started out, like everyone else I read the critics. You read not only the criticism of your own movies but everyone else's movies, and as you start to make movies you also meet the critics. Over time I began to realize that the level of cinema criticism in the last part of this century in the United States was pretty low. The institution itself is not what it's supposed to be, and I realized that I didn't need to take that seriously.

George Lucas Interview Photo
There are a few critics overseas, and occasionally a critic will write an astute analysis of the movie. There is value in reading critics that actually have something intelligent to say, but the journalistic community lives in a world of sound bites and literary commerce: selling newspapers, selling books, and they do that simply by trashing things. They don't criticize or analyze them. They simply trash them for the sake of a headline, or to shock people to get them to buy whatever it is they're selling. The older you get, the less seriously you take it. I've gotten to a point now where I ignore it completely. It's just not relevant to me anymore.

You have to have a thick enough skin to cope with the criticism. I'm very self-critical and I have a lot of friends that I trust who are film directors and writers and people in my profession. I trust them to be extremely critical but I trust their opinion; their opinion is thoughtful, knowledgeable. I also know them personally so I know the psychological slant they are putting on it. I know what their tastes are and I can say, "Well that's great for them but that's not great for me." Technical criticism is extremely helpful but you are only going to get that from your peers.

I've discovered that most critics themselves are cinematically illiterate. They don't really know much about movies. They don't know the history. They don't know the technology. They don't know anything. So for them to try to analyze it, they're lost. But your friends usually know what they're doing and they can critique the technical side of things to say, "This doesn't work. You know, you're putting the cart before the horse." This kind of stuff. And then the rest of it is what you like, you know. It's personal, you know. It's in the eye of the beholder. You know, "I like this movie. I don't like this movie." There are a lot of movies that are badly made that I love, and there are a lot of movies that are just beautifully made but I don't like them. And critics have a tendency - that's all they focus on, which is, "I like it. I don't like it. It's good. It's bad." And it doesn't work that way, and so you really have to not deal with that part of what happens. It's the same thing with the audience. You know, I've made some movies that have -- ten people have gone to see. Nobody wanted to go see the movie. And some films that the people went and saw them didn't like it. Probably, you know, maybe a half a dozen of us actually liked the movies, but that's fine. If I like it, then I'm happy with it. And you have to sort of accept that no matter what. If nobody else likes it. You're not going to stay in business, the business of making movies very long because you need the resources in order to keep going. So you have to try and find a niche audience or some kind of audience that has the same likes, dislikes and aesthetic sensibilities that you have.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

I think one of the reasons that Steven (Spielberg) and I have been as successful as we have is because we like the movies. We like to go to the movies. We enjoy movies and we want to make movies like the ones we enjoy. We want to be able to entertain the audience. We want to be able to startle the audience. We want to be able to blow the audience away and say -- have them walk out of the theater saying, "Whoa, that was fantastic, I was really moved by that." That's where part of the fun of it is. And, you know, you want people to think. You want people to be emotionally moved. And there's a theory behind that in terms of storytelling. It has been around for thousands of years. And that's where something like live theater or a live performance is something that is very valuable because you get instant feedback from your audience and you kind of know the things that work and the things that don't work. That's the advantage that the Greek storytellers had and Shakespeare had, that us in the film industry are -- that's harder to come by. Which is to be able to see an audience reaction and then adjust to what works. So you have to use your experience of sitting through a lot of movies.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

I don't ever see movies by myself. I always see them with other people because I want to know what works. I want to know where they laugh. I want to know where they don't laugh. I want to know what they think about it afterwards because in the end that's what the art that I'm working with is. You know? Trying to communicate in a way that is effective and people react to. So I can't ignore the people I'm telling the story to.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

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