The Story of a Revolutionary Mind: George Lucas

He's regarded as one of the greatest directors alive. The main architect of the Star Wars saga, Lucas can be seen as one of the founders of science fiction. After many turning points, he eventually came closer to one of the most spectacular revolutions cinema has witnessed.

Mentors and Fate

George Lucas was born on May 14, 1944, in Modesto, California. He began filming with a 8 mm camera, which was given to him as a gift,  at a very young age. With this gift, Lucas began to reveal his imaginative and creative side. And cinema began to occupy a crucial place in his life. Chasing after his dream of making films, Lucas enrolled in the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts after he had an education in English at the San Francisco University. During his college years, he was influenced by significant figures such as John Ford and Orson Welles. One year later, he was one of Francis Ford Coppola's assistants in Finian's Rainbow. In 1969, Lucas and Coppola founded an independent film production company in San Francisco: American Zoetrope.

Their first project was THX 1138, directed by Lucas and produced by Coppola in 1970. American Graffiti was the second film of the Coppola and Lucas cooperation and took its place in American Film Institute's list of The Best 100 Films of All Times. American Graffiti took a nostalgic look at the 60s' sense of entertainment and was nominated in five categories in the Academy Awards.

After negotiations with 20th Century Fox, Lucas managed to convince Fox to invest $9 million in his new project. The year was 1977. He  wrote the script for and also directed Star Wars, which is to date the most successful and the highest-grossing film of all times. The revenue was immense for those years: $200 million! After this commercial success came The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He didn't receive a director credit on the latter. In the summer of 1977, in an unexpected statement, he announced that he quit working as a director and was going to continue only in the capacity of a producer.

In the 1980s, Lucas produced three Indiana Jones movies, all of which were directed by his close friend Steven Spielberg. If it was Coppola who played a huge role in the early part of Lucas' career, Spielberg played a similar role in his later career.

In 1988 Lucas produced Willow, a fantasy/adventure film directed by Ron Howard, and Tucker: The Man and His Dreams, directed by Coppola. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade collected most of the awards in 1989 and topped at the box office. The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles is the television series created and produced by Lucas that started to air in 1992. This show was nominated in 26 categories and won 13 awards at the Emmy Awards. Lucas received the Academy's Irving G. Thalberg Award  in 1991. In 1994, Lucas wrote and directed Radioland Murders.

Life-Changing Accident

12th of June 1962. Unaware of the fate awaiting him, 18 years old Lucas was riding in his Fiat car a couple of days before graduation. One of his classmates took a fast turn at a curve with his car and crashed into Lucas' car. Lucas' car flipped over four times and Lucas was badly injured. There were big scars on his head and his lungs ruptured. He almost suffocated in his own blood until they took him to a hospital. The doctor told his mother that he had lost a lot of blood.

Lucas missed his graduation ceremony but in the comments he later made about this incident, he would say that he became a new person on the day he survived. Lucas remembers those days saying &ldquoIf you had gone through something like this, you ask yourself every second why you are still alive. I told myself that from now on I would spend my time finding that reason.&rdquo

It's a strange coincidence that the tragic incident George Lucas had experienced in his lifetime is similar to what his close friends Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese experienced. Scorsese lived a childhood that was in the grip of a chronic asthma. Francis Ford Coppola couldn't get out of bed for a whole year due to polio. But Scorsese and Coppola believe that the struggles they endured during their childhood are the elements that had a great impact on their lives, and through which they found salvation in the films. The incident that Lucas went through was the most dreadful.

After this accident, Lucas started to pay more attention to his education. After his studies in the English department at the San Francisco University, he decided to go to Los Angeles to study film. This is when he started to get interested in films. About those days, he says &ldquoI used to go to movies just because of the girls.&rdquo In college, he says he was influenced by masters such as John Ford and Orson Welles.

The Age of Star Wars

Lucas' first film THX-1138 didn't get any attention from critics. Lucas' relationship with Warner Bros. declined and the film produced by the studio was a failure at the box office. Lucas had the idea of filming a space opera but Coppola managed to convince him to write a script that would appeal to the mainstream viewers.

American Graffiti, released in 1974, was a big success both at the box office and according to the critics. Lucas started to shape his space opera project that eventually became Star Wars. He was writing the script and in the meantime was looking for a distributor.

In 1975, he established his own company ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) which later produced the effects in the Star Wars films. The Star Wars project was declined by a few studios but eventually accepted by 20th Century Fox. The contract they made was very uncommon for that period. In order to secure the sequel films, Lucas gave up his revenue rights almost completely but kept the ownership of licensing and merchandising rights for novelties, t-shirts, toys, etc. 20th Century Fox reckoned that Star Wars wouldn't do well against summer films such as Smokey and the Bandit and so set the release date at an earlier date. In the little time left, Lucas almost lost his health in order to finish the film in time. And on May 25, 1977, it was like nothing on the face of the earth.

Besides becoming a very profitable film, Star Wars became a cultural phenomenon. There were long lines in front of the movie theaters. Only three weeks after its release, Fox's stocks doubled in price. They made a novelization contract right away. This was followed by a comic book deal made with Marvel and a fan products deal made with Kenner Toys. All of these helped Lucas make a fortune despite the fact that he had relinquished his right of box office revenues.

For the 20th anniversary of the launch of the series, Lucas released the trilogy again having enhanced and added certain scenes using newly available digital technology. He launched a new era for Star Wars in May 1999: he filmed the prequel trilogy to the previous Star Wars films that coincided with the 4th, 5th and 6th episodes in the narrative. The interest again was phenomenal.

A Big Surprise from Disney

And in recent exciting news, Lucasfilm, founded by George Lucas who has become an outstanding figure both as a writer, producer and director with the productions he accomplished, has been bought by The Walt Disney Company. Walt Disney announced that the payment for the $4 billion deal would be made with approximately half in cash and half in shares of Disney stock. Disney also announced the  future release of Star Wars films as sequel to the 6-films saga made up of two trilogies. On the other hand, the fans of the Star Wars saga have reservations on a new Star Wars film without Lucas, which is announced to be released in 2015. Under the deal, Lucas will create the structure of the story like in the previous films and will serve as a creative consultant throughout the whole process. The spokespersons underlined that they will not interfere with the structure of Lucas' works.

Even though the episodes began to be filmed in 1977 when the available technology was very primitive  compared to our current day technologies, even recent science fiction movies can't achieve the same degree of realism. The saga ended with Revenge of the Sith, released in 2005. It's not yet clarified which episode of the story the new film will be based on. George Lucas sums up his ideas on the deal with these words: &ldquoThe time has already come to hand over Star Wars to new producers.&rdquo