American film producer, screenwriter, director, and entrepreneur George Lucas Childhood photos. George Walton Lucas, Jr. born May 14, 1944. He is an American film producer, screenwriter, director, and entrepreneur. He founded Lucasfilm Limited and led the company as chairman and chief executive before selling it to The Walt Disney Company on October 30, 2012. He is best known as the creator of the space opera franchise Star Wars and the archaeologist adventurer character Indiana Jones. Lucas is one of the American film industry’s most financially successful filmmakers .
As a child, the future film-maker’s abiding passion was cars, and his earliest ambition was to become a motor racing champion. Signs of this “magnificent obsession” can be seen in one of his movies from the 1970s, ‘American Graffiti’. Lucas attended Downey High School as a teenager, and although he didn’t perform that well academically, he did become very interested in the sport of drag car racing. But a few days before his high school graduation, Lucas was involved in a car accident; luckily, he wasn’t seriously injured, but the accident put paid to his dreams of becoming a professional racing driver.
He decided instead to enroll at Modesto Junior College, where he began to explore his newfound interest in film photography. Lucas eventually enrolled at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, having decided that he would make his career in the motion picture industry. The USC faculty was one of the first universities to have a film school, and whilst a student there, Lucas shared a room with Randal Kleiser. The two men were hugely inspired by their film tutors, who included film-maker Lester Novros, and Slavko Vorkapich, a former colleague of the great Russian director, Sergei Eisenstein.
Whilst still a student, Lucas made several short films, including ‘THX-1138 4EB (Electronic Labyrinth)’, which won first prize at the 1967-68 National Student Film Festival. Around the same time, he won a scholarship from Warner Brothers, which enabled him to observe the making of the film ‘Finian’s Rainbow’, which was being directed by the film-maker Francis Ford Coppola at that time. Lucas and Coppola became good friends, and they then decided to form a production company, American Zoetrope, which was based in San Francisco. The two young directors dreamed of making films outside the Hollywood studio system, exercising more creative control over their own original projects. The company’s very first production was a full-length version of Lucas’ prize-winning student film, ‘THX 1138’, made in 1971.
Lucas and Francis parted company in 1973 when Coppola became involved in the making of ‘The Godfather’ and Lucas decided to form his own film production company, which he called Lucasfilm Ltd. In 1973, he wrote and directed the quasi-autobiographical film, ‘American Graffiti’. This film was a massive hit, earning him a Golden Globe Award, the New York Film Critics’ and National Society of Film Critics’ Award, as well as five Academy Award nominations. ‘American Graffiti’ was the breakthrough movie that established Lucas as a top film-maker.
In 1975, Lucas established his company ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) in order to help him produce the audio-visual special effects that he was already planning for ‘Star Wars’. Two years later, ‘Star Wars’ was born. This was a movie that Lucas wrote and directed himself, a timeless tale of an intergalactic battle between the forces of good and evil, starring famous actors such as Sir Alec Guinness amid a dazzling array of uniquely groundbreaking special effects. Despite the fact that the movie was turned down by nearly every studio that Lucas pitched the idea to, ‘Star Wars’ broke all box office records and won a staggering total of seven Academy Awards. The winning formula lay in the fact that it combined heart-warming storytelling with cutting-edge movie-making technology – a formula that Lucas repeated with the same degree of success in the sequel movies, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Return of The Jedi’.
In business terms, ‘Star Wars’ turned out to be one of the most successful films of all time, and generated a huge personal fortune for Lucas himself. Ironically, this was partly because Lucas waived his initial director’s fee in return for a 40% stake of the profits, along with retaining the licensing rights, which the production studio had mistakenly believed to be worthless. In 2005, it was estimated that the lifetime revenue generated by the ‘Star Wars’ franchise was in excess of $20 billion.
From this point forward, Lucas seemed to possess the proverbial golden touch, as every film he was involved in became hugely successful, and generated massive returns. As the 1980s dawned, he teamed up with his good friend Steven Spielberg, and was executive producer on the ‘Indiana Jones’ series: ‘Raiders of The Lost Ark’ (1981), ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ (1984), ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ (1989) and ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ (2008). These movies have also set their own box office records, and helped to re-define the word “blockbuster”.
Lucas’ phenomenal success has enabled him to build his own business empire. From 1980-1985, he masterminded the construction of Skywalker Ranch, which is the base of operations for the administrative, technical and creative departments of Lucasfilm, his own production company. The business wealth generated by ‘Star Wars’ enabled Lucas to finance the production of subsequent movies, thus placing him in an enviably powerful position in Hollywood. He also established Lucasfilm games, which later changed its name to LucasArts, in order to develop and market computer games based on his movies.
Lucas claims that his favourite part of the whole film production process is editing, and he has helped to develop various industry-standard post-production tools, such as the Avid Film and Video nonlinear editor, and also the Digidesign Pro Tool sound editing and mixing software.
In 1994, Lucas took a sabbatical from running his film production company in order to spend time writing the story scripts for the three “prequel” episodes of ‘Star Wars’. After a series of special premiere screenings that raised over $5 million for charity, the long-anticipated first chapter in the ‘Star Wars’ series, ‘The Phantom Menace’, opened in 1999. On its opening weekend, this film demolished all the weekend opening box office records in 28 countries, and made over $922 million within a year, making it the second-highest grossing film ever. The two remaining chapters in the ‘Star Wars’ series, ‘Attack of the Clones’ and ‘Revenge of The Sith’ were released in 2002 and 2005, respectively. ‘Revenge of The Sith’ succeeded in breaking all previously held box office records for a single day on the day it opened, taking an astonishing $303.2 million worldwide in its first day alone.
On a personal level, George Lucas is a quiet, fairly private man, who often retreats from the public glare to his home in Hawaii when his movies are released. He married film editor Marcia Lou Griffin in 1969, who incidentally, has also won an Oscar for her editing work on the original ‘Star Wars’ movie. The couple adopted a daughter, Amanda, in 1981, but sadly divorced in 1983. George has subsequently adopted two more children – Katie, born in 1988, and Jett, who was born in 1993. He has also been involved in a long-term relationship with the singer Linda Ronstadt, to whom he was once also engaged. Lucas has not re-married since his divorce, but has recently been seen in company with the businesswoman Mellody Hobson. Hobson is president of Ariel Capital Management and she accompanied George to the 79th Academy Awards Ceremony in February 2007.
George Lucas was born and brought up in a firmly Methodist family, and his Christian values are plainly evident, not only in the storylines of his film-scripts – “May the Force be with you” – but also in his charitable works and donations. In 1991, he founded the George Lucas Educational Foundation as a non-profit foundation to enable and celebrate innovation within schools: the work of this foundation can be observed via the internet link to Edutopia. In 2005, he donated $1 million to help build the Martin Luther King Memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. as a tribute to the murdered civil rights leader. And in September 2006, Lucas donated a mega-generous $175 million to the University of Southern California, to help expand the film school where he himself had been a student. Not surprisingly, this is the largest single donation that has ever been made, not only to a film school, but also to USC itself!
In 1992, Lucas was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Award by the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his lifetime achievement in films. According to Forbes.com, as of 2007, he is ranked no. 243 on the The World’s Billionaires list.