Director of Star Wars
“When you’re directing, you have to get up at four thirty (A.M), have breakfast at five, leave the hotel at six, drive an hour to location, start shooting at eight, and finish shooting around six. Then you wrap, go to your office, and set up the next day’s work. You get back to the hotel about eight or nine, hopefully get a bite to eat, then you go to your room and figure out your homework, how you’re going to shoot the next day’s scenes, then you go to sleep. The next morning it starts all over again.” George Lucas on the making of Star Wars (1977)
Oscar nominated American film director, screenwriter and producer George Lucas first attracted the attention of the public as the director and co-writer of the multi-Academy Award-winning semi- autobiographical American Graffiti (1973). He netted a New York Film Critics Circle Award, a National Society of Film Critics and a Bronze Leopard Award from the Locarno International Film Festival, as well as received two Oscar nominations for his bravura work in the movie. The accomplished filmmaker gained even more recognition and praise when he wrote, helmed and executive produced Star Wars (1977), a futuristic movie that broke all box office records and received eleven Oscar nominations, including one for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. The highly successful film also brought Lucas two Saturn Awards, a Hochi Film Award, a ShoWest Convention Award and an Evening Standard British Film Award. Since then, Star Wars has spawned the sequels Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980, directed by Irvin Kershner) and Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi (1983, directed by Richard Marquan) as well as the prequels Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace (1999, earned two Razzie nominations), Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones (2002, earned a Razzie nomination) and Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). In addition to being widely known as the creator and mastermind behind all the Star Wars movies, Lucas is famous for his Spielberg’s Indiana Jones films: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
One of the most independent, financially successful directors and producers in Hollywood’s cinematic industry, Lucas is the owner of Lucas film LTD, one of the most influential post-production and special effects companies in the world. During his tenure in the business, he has been awarded several Lifetime Achievement honors, including one from the American Film Institute (2005), the Visual Effects Society (2004) and the Sci-Fi Universe Magazine (1995). He also received a Filmmaker’s Award from the 2005 Motion Picture Sound Editors and a BAFTA/LA Britannia Award, among other accomplishments.
Aside from his filmmaking activities, Lucas, who was ranked No. 11 on Premiere’s 2005 “Power 50 List,” is known as the founder of the 1990 George Lucas Educational Foundation, which provides computer-based technology for schools to stimulate learning among teens. As for his married life, the diabetic actor was married to film editor Marcia Lou Griffin from 1969 to 1983. A single parent, he currently resides in the Skywalker ranch compound in Marin County, along with his three adopted children, Amanda, Katie and Jett. Lucas once had a long romantic involvement with country singer Linda Ronstadt.
Childhood and Family:
George Walton Lucas Jr., professionally known as George Lucas, was born on May 14, 1944, in Modesto, California, to George Walton Lucas Sr. and Dorothy Lucas. His parents managed the L M Morris Company stationery store in downtown Modesto. George has three sisters, Ann (born in 1934), Kathleen (born in 1936) and Wendy (born in 1947).
The film director was educated at Downey High School and later attended Modesto Junior College. In high school, George, who earned the nickname Luke from his high school peers, was interested in comic books and drag car racing and planned to become a professional racecar driver. He did not develop a love for filmmaking until after experiencing a near-death accident while driving on a black road. He then enrolled at the University of Southern California film school and later graduated in 1962.
At age 25, on February 22, 1969, George married Marcia Lou Griffin, a movie editor, and they adopted a daughter, Amanda, in 1981. The couple divorced after 14 years of marriage in 1983. Since then, George has adopted two more children, daughter Katie (born in 1988) and son Jett (born in 1993).
When his dream of becoming a professional racecar driver ended, George Lucas turned his attention to filmmaking, and as a film student made several short movies, most notably the 1967 THX-1138: 4EB (Electronic Labyinth). The futuristic movie earned a Grand Prize for Film at the1967-68 National Student Film Festival and led him to a position at Warner Bros. Studios, where he worked as observer-administrative assistant to Francis Ford Coppola on 1968’s Finian’s Rainbow. Lucas and Coppola became good friends and when Coppola set up his American Zoetrope production company in a San Francisco depot in 1969, Lucas became its vice-president. The newly-formed studio’s first production was the 1971 expanded version of Lucas’ award-winning THX-1138: 4EB, which became a cult favorite. The same year, while Coppola went into production for 1972’s The Godfather, Lucas founded his own company professionally called Lucasfilm Ltd.
Lucas’ first big breakthrough arrived two years later when he directed and co-wrote with Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck the semi-autobiographical American Graffiti, starring Richard Dreyfuss and Ron Howard. Co-produced by Coppola and Gary Kurtz, the movie won a Golden Globe and five Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. Lucas also picked up a New York Film Critics Circle and a National Society of Film Critics for Best Screenplay, and was handed a Bronze Leopard from the Locarno International Film Festival. Budgeted at $780,000, American Graffiti became a massive success with earnings more than $145 million. After the 1973 film, Lucas’ career skyrocketed and he became a significant Hollywood figure.
From 1973 to 1974, Lucas, inspired by Flash Gordon and the Planet of the Apes films, started writing for the upcoming mega blockbuster Star Wars (a.k.a Episode IV: A New Hope) (1977). In 1975, he formed Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), a special effects subsidiary of Lucasfilm, in order to produce the visual effects required for the film. After being rejected by numerous studios, Star Wars finally earned its theatrical release in 1977, thanks to a chance given to him by Twentieth Century Fox. The futuristic movie went on to collect eleven Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, and break all box office records, grossing over $400 million. Lucas also took home such awards as two Saturns for Best Director and Best Writing, a Hochi Film for Best Foreign Language Film, a ShoWest for Director of the Year and an Evening Standard British Film for Best Film.
After Star Wars, Lucas took a long-term hiatus from directing, but remained busy with producing and writing. He took home a 1981 David di Donatello for Best Producer- Foreign Film for the Japanese film Kagemusha (1980), directed by Akira Kurosawa, and wrote for the Star Wars installment, The Empire Strikes Back (1980), helmed by Irvin Kershner. The same year, he also established Sprocket Systems Inc. (later Skywalker Sound), a research and post-production company. Next up for Lucas, he teamed up with director Steven Spielberg for 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, a box office adventure starring Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. The success of Raiders of the Lost Ark led to the sequels Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). Later, during 1992 to 1993, the movie also spawned a television series, “Young Indiana Jones,” but it was considered a flop. Meanwhile, he continued to provide the screenplay for Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi (1983), this time directed by Richard Marquan. His other projects include the movies Howard the Duck (1986, as executive producer) and the 1988 adventure-fantasy film Willow (as executive producer and writer), which both were critical and commercial failures. He also executive produced and wrote the television movies The Ewok Adventure (1984) and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985), which brought Lucas two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Children’s Program, honors he shared with Thomas G. Smith (producer).
In 1999, Lucas returned to the director’s chair after more than twenty-years to direct the much anticipated Star Wars prequel: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (made in 1997). Starring Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor, the motion picture was met with much publicity, but a tepid response. For his effort, he was handed two Razzie nominations for Worst Director and Worst Screenplay. He went on to direct Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones (2002), where he netted a Razzie for Worst Screenplay, and Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), the final film in the Star Wars saga.
“Right or wrong this is my movie, this is my decision, and this is my creative vision, and if people don’t like it, they don’t have to see it.” George Lucas regarded Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
As for his upcoming projects, the producer-writer has 4 projects set to be released. They are “Untitled Clone Wars TV Series” (2008), “Untitled Star Wars TV Series” (2009), as well as the Fourth Installment of the Indiana Jones Adventures (2008). He also serves as the executive producer for the Red Tails (2008).
- American Film Institute: Life Achievement, 2005
- Motion Picture Sound Editors: Filmmaker’s Award, 2005
- ShoWest Convention: Galactic Achievement, 2005
- Visual Effects Society: Lifetime Achievement, 2004
- Razzie: Worst Screenplay, Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, 2003
- Satellite: Nicola Tesla, 2003
- PGA Golden Laurel: Vanguard, 2003
- BAFTA/LA Britannia: Excellence in Film, 2002
- National Board of Review: Special- visionary cinematic achievement, 2002
- Young Artist: Jackie Coogan Award, 2000
- Sci-Fi Universe Magazine: Lifetime Achievement, 1995
- David di Donatello: Best Producer - Foreign Film, Kagemusha, 1981
- Evening Standard British Film: Best Film, Star Wars, 1979
- Kinema Junpo: Readers’ Choice, Best Foreign Language Film Director, 1979
- ShoWest Convention: Director of the Year, 1978
- Hochi Film: Best Foreign Language Film, Star Wars, 1978
- Saturn: Best Director, Star Wars, 1978
- Saturn: Best Writing, Star Wars, 1978
- New York Film Critics Circle: Best Screenplay, American Graffiti, 1974
- National Society of Film Critics: Best Screenplay, American Graffiti, 1974
- Locarno International Film Festival: Bronze Leopard, American Graffiti, 1973