Culture & Literature
LIFE George Lucas

LIFE George Lucas

LIFE George Lucas

George Lucas, the creative force behind the Star Wars franchise, revolutionized filmmaking with his special-effects company, Industrial Light & Magic. Now, this special edition celebrates and chronicles the man behind some of the most powerful cultural stories of the 20th century. Lucas first scored with 1973's nostalgic American Graffiti, inspired by his suburban California youth. Four years later came Star Wars, an epic thrill ride with spectacular visuals and captivating characters both human and not. Here you'll go behind the scenes with interviews and anecdotes about the film that some argued helped America reclaim itself after the fall of 1960s cultural idealism and the Vietnam War. Then, visit the epic and productive friendship with Steven Spielberg and consider how Lucas changed the way we watch films. Many years and many blockbusters later, the famed creator sold his Lucasfilm production company to Disney, in 2012, and now spends most of his time and much of his $5.5 billion fortune on philanthropy. This special edition helps you retrace the brilliant risks and epic successes of one of America's most successful filmmakers.

United States
Meredith Corporation
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$22.30(Incl. tax)

in this issue

2 min.
hollywood wars

A LONG TIME AGO IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR away—well, America in the 1970s—pessimism reigned. The nightmare of the Vietnam War, the disgrace of the Watergate scandal, and the economic disaster of the energy crisis had turned the idealistic high of the 1960s into the hangover of the Me Decade. American movies reflected this zeitgeist with such downbeat films as Cabaret, The Conversation, and Chinatown. On screen and off, it seemed the bad guys had won. George Lucas’s first feature, the dystopian THX 1138, was no exception. When the film bombed at the box office in 1971, Lucas’s wife, Marcia, suggested that he shift gears. Why not make a film that would make audiences laugh and cry? Why not make a movie with heart? The suggestion inspired Lucas’s American Graffiti, a…

1 min.
behind the scenes

20 min.
a shooting star

EARLY 1977 WAS NOT A good time for George Lucas. Star Wars, the 32-year-old director’s troubled science fiction film, seemed destined to fail. After laboring over the script for years and enduring a grueling four-month shoot that brought him to the brink of a nervous breakdown, Lucas decided to show a rough cut of the film to his friends—including directors Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg, and Time magazine’s film critic, Jay Cocks. Held that February at Lucas’s home in San Anselmo, California, the screening was—to put it mildly—a disaster. “When the film ended, people were aghast,” said its producer, Gary Kurtz. The reaction was so bad that Lucas’s wife, Marcia—the film’s editor—burst into tears. “It’s awful,” she sobbed. It got worse. “We all got into these cars to go…

10 min.
an american auteur

IN THE YEARS SINCE GEORGE Lucas had left Modesto, its teenage car culture had gradually died out (a casualty of the economic growth that had commercialized its once-quaint streets), but the director felt that his misspent youth had the makings of a great film—one that might even make people laugh and cry. “I’m gonna show you how easy it is,” he told Marcia. “I’ll make a film that emotionally involves the audience.” He called it American Graffiti. The idea proved a hard sell in Hollywood—until THX 1138 was shown at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in May 1971. Unable to afford a hotel and lacking festival tickets, Lucas and Marcia had to stay in a campground and sneak into the screening of the film. The trip paid off when Lucas met with…

11 min.
star wars is born

THE STORY OF LUKE Skywalker—a humble farm boy who rescues Princess Leia from the clutches of Darth Vader and saves the heroic Rebel Alliance by blowing up the evil Empire’s Death Star—has become something of a modern myth and an astronomically profitable franchise. But after United Artists and David Picker rejected Star Wars, the only Hollywood executive to take an interest in the film was Alan Ladd Jr., 20th Century Fox’s vice president for creative affairs, who met with Lucas just before the release of American Graffiti. Even Ladd was on the fence about Star Wars, but he was impressed by Lucas himself—especially after viewing American Graffiti. “It absolutely bowled me over,” said Ladd, who offered Lucas $15,000 to develop the movie then called The Star Wars, $150,000 to write and…

14 min.
the “impossible” dream

LOCATED IN THE CENTER OF Africa’s north coast, Tunisia was chosen to stand in for Tatooine, Luke Skywalker’s humble desert home. The filming conditions seemed ideal—the country hadn’t seen rain for seven years. That changed as soon as Star Wars started shooting in March of 1976. “We went at the wrong time,” said Gil Taylor, the film’s director of photography. “Instead of getting hard sun, we got terrible weather … we had rain for four days.” That was only the start of the troubles. As Lucas shot his first scene (Luke and his uncle Owen purchasing C-3PO and R2-D2), the electronic droid that was R2-D2 didn’t work well. Meanwhile Anthony Daniels, the live actor who played C-3PO, struggled inside his unwieldy costume. “I felt like I was being stabbed with a…