“After THX 1138 , I wanted to do Flash Gordon and tried to buy the rights to it from King Features, but they wanted a lot of money for it, more than I could afford then,” stated American filmmaker George Lucas who came up with a creative solution. “I realized that I could make up a character as easily as Alex Raymond, who took his character from Edgar Rice Burroughs. It’s your basic superhero in outer space. I realized that what I really wanted to do was a contemporary action fantasy.” The native of Modesto, California was revisiting a childhood fascination. “As a kid, I read a lot of science fiction. But instead of reading technical, hard-science writers like Isaac Asimov, I was interested in Harry Harrison and a fantastic, surreal approach to the genre.” Lucas also incorporated other elements into his story. “There is a lot taken from Westerns, mythology and samurai movies. It’s all those things that are great put together.” Composing a 15-page treatment, the director approached United Artists which turned the project down so he turned to Universal. “Part of my deal to make American Graffiti  was that I had to sign over my life to them for seven years. That’s the way they worked over there. They owned me. They had first refusal on any idea I had. I showed it to them and they said no. I took it to Laddie [Alan Ladd Jr.] at Fox and he said he would take a chance. I was only asking $10,000 to write the screenplay.” Reflecting on his reasoning for accepting the project, Ladd Jr. said, “George had many permutations on the picture. He once thought of having an all-Japanese cast. He described the kind of picture he wanted it to be, like Captain Blood . But it was always clear to me what he was going to do, and I never doubted that he would do it.”
“It took me three years to write the screenplay,” revealed George Lucas who decided to divide the sprawling epic in half, thereby, laying down the foundations for three separate trilogies. “I wrote four versions, meaning four completely different plots before finding the one that satisfied me.” Detailing the evolution of the tale, the moviemaker remarked, “The first one talked about a princess and an old general. The second version followed a father, his son, and his daughter; the daughter was the heroine of the film. Now the daughter has become Luke, Mark Hamill’s character. There was also the story of two brothers where I transformed one of them into a sister. The older brother was imprisoned, and the young sister had to rescue him and bring him back to their dad.” Not all was lost during rewriting sessions. “I had some good ideas in the first versions but no solid storyline which is a challenge for me because I hate ‘plots.’ The difficulty was managing to find an overarching theme.” There were other writing challenges. “In films, you generally have a given culture, a given time period, [and] some social factors to which the film’s story refers. I had nothing [to go on].” Lucas wanted to maintain a sense of believability. “It all has to show impeccable logic and unflawed realism, even if it deals with a different galaxy and an era 3,000 years in the past or future.” Another issue was the cinematic representation of the imaginary worlds. “You have to be able to breathe the air on the author’s planet – to be able to smell it.” The title of the full script was The Adventures of Luke Skywalker as Taken from the Journal of the Whills: Saga One: The Star Wars.
“We always saw the first film as an introduction to the environment of the characters,” stated producer Gary Kurtz (The Dark Crystal) about the project which was renamed Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977). “We were in a stop-and-go situation. We were supposed to start shooting in March 1976, but we didn’t get the final go-ahead until New Year’s Day. It’s amazing that we got it together. We had a 13 week shooting schedule and we were three weeks over – only three weeks. The pressures on George were enormous. He’d only done small pictures before, all on location. Here we were using every stage at one studio, Elstree, and a large stage at another studio Shepperton. We kept waiting for matte plates from Los Angeles but they never showed up. It turned out to be a lucky thing in the end; we never tried it again.” The production involved shooting in Tunisia and on 45 sets spread over 11 sound stages in England. “Tunisia, that was for the countryside, [the natural rock formations] on the planet Tatooine,” stated George Lucas. “I liked the absurd houses in Djerba for the house of Luke Skywalker’s uncle, they’re totally futuristic. England, that was because it was closer to Tunisia than here [the USA] and because of the devaluation of the pound, which was to our advantage.” Working with a foreign crew was problematic for Lucas. “All film crews are a matter of chemistry. George isn’t a particularly social person,” observed Kurtz. “It takes him a while to know somebody, to get intimate enough to share his problems with them.” The filmmaker did not leave his American colleagues entirely behind. “At the end, I had some friends come to England to do some last minute rewriting when we were just about to shoot because I wasn’t happy with the dialogue.”
“Although it cost a lot of money it’s still a low-budget picture,” observed George Lucas. “It’s on the same intensity level as a Roger Corman movie only a hundred times bigger.” When constructing the special effects a revered classic could not be ignored. “Technically, you always compare things against 2001 ,” admitted the director. “But there was no way, given the time and money we’ve had, that [Stanley] Kubrick could do any better. He was striving for perfection and had a shot ration 30 times what we had. When you spend that kind of time and money you can get things perfect. We were trying to make a cheap, children’s movie for $8 million. We didn’t go in and say that we were going to make the perfect science fiction film, but, ‘We are going to make the most spectacular thing you’ve ever seen!’” As to how the space battle sequences were constructed, Gary Kurtz remarked, “Before the storyboards were done, we recorded on videotape any war movie involving aircraft that came up on television so we had this massive library of parts of old movies – The Dam Busters , Tora! Tora! Tora! , The Battle of Britain , Jet Pilot , The Bridges at Toko-Ri , 633 Squadron  and about 45 other movies. We went through them all and picked out scenes to transfer to film to use as guidelines in the battle. We cut them all together into a battle sequence to get an idea of the movement. It was a very bizarre-looking film, all black and white, a dirty 16mm dupe. There would be a shot of the pilot saying something, then you’d cut back to a long shot of the plane, explosions, [and] crashes. It gave a reasonably accurate idea of what the battle sequence would look like, the feeling of it.”
John Dykstra, who had previously collaborated with Douglas Trumbull on The Andromeda Strain  and Silent Running , was placed in charge of George Lucas’ newly-formed special effects company Industrial Light & Magic; he had to oversee the construction of a computer-run system required to make the 350 special effect shots. “Directors and special effects directors always disagree incredibly because he conceptualizes one thing but I know what is capable of being produced,” explained Dykstra. “The major problem we encountered on this show was being able to apply what George started out with conceptually. From the day we met, we talked about World War II dogfight footage which involves lots of action, continuous motion, moving camera, streak, loops and rolls, and all of the things aerial photography allows you to do in live action. This has been difficult to do in special effects with multiple ships, planet backgrounds and stars, because of the problems of angular displacement, matching shots, and depth of field.” The $2.5 million cost of creating the revolutionary visual effects caused the budget for the picture to spiral to $11 million. “The problem with special effects was that we spent a year experimenting with new cameras and various apparatus, and it’s like the film became a test for them,” said Lucas. “We made real technical discoveries on the matter. For example, the computerized camera that stores movements and actions in memory; makes it so that you can take the film shot in this camera, load it into another one and re-film [the scene] in a different set, on a different background, panning and zooming. This allows infinite variations and the harmonization of multiple foregrounds and backgrounds.” A teaching assistant in the sound department of the film school at USC was hired by George Lucas who instructed him to make everything sound real. “I’d call up somebody and say, ‘I hear you have a trained bear that makes a funny sound,’” said Ben Burtt (Star Trek) who constructed a library of thousands of sounds that were cross-indexed. “I’d watch the Army blow up planes with missiles [and] go out on an aircraft carrier with my tape recorder.”
“There was no modern mythology to give kids a sense of values, to give them a strong mythological fantasy life,” lamented George Lucas. “Westerns were the last of that genre for Americans. Nothing was being done for young people that had real psychological underpinnings and was aimed at intelligent beings.” Contemplating the genre of the tale where a farm boy (Mark Hamill) becomes involved in a mission to rescue a captured princess (Carrie Fisher) from a space fortress, the moviemaker stated, “I suppose it’s space fantasy but we don’t explain anything. We take all the hardware for granted. The story really is an action adventure, a fantasy hero’s journey. It’s aimed primarily at teenagers, the same audience as American Graffiti.” Actor Mark Hamill (Corvette Summer) went to a dual audition. “Brian De Palma was casting for Carrie . I assumed that the quiet chap sitting beside him was his assistant,” stated Hamill, who was given some pages of the script by George Lucas and told to come back to a videotape audition, where he subsequently met his future renegade smuggler co-star. “That was the first time I met Harrison [Ford]. I remember thinking that he must be the Flash Gordon character and I must be one of the sidekicks.” Ford (Presumed Innocent) had returned to carpentry after American Graffiti; however, Fred Roos who consulted on the casting had not forgotten him. “I urged Harrison as Han Solo from the first get-go but even though he’d worked with him, George didn’t know him very well.”
At first Carrie Fisher (When Harry Met Sally) was baffled by the decision to cast her as Princess Leia Organa. “I always felt I had the most arch dialogue to say. In my first scene I had to say to Peter Cushing [Dracula], ‘Oh, Governor Tarkin, I thought I recognized your foul stench when I came aboard.’ What I really wanted to say, in effect, was ‘Oh, my God I came on board and there was this smell, and of course it turns out to be you.’ That would’ve been closer to my personality. But George took me aside and said, ‘This is all very real and very serious.’ Right. I’d have done anything I was told because I thought they’d figure out soon enough that they hadn’t hired someone attractive enough, and they’d fire me. When they hired me, they told me to lose ten pounds. At my height that’s like asking me to lose a leg. So I kept thinking I’d show up on the stage and they’d say, ‘Okay, tubby, we’re going to go with a thinner person who’s, you know, more sparkly than you.’” Fisher understands why Lucas chose her for the role. “George wanted and hired strong personalities. He said that was his way to go. Between the three of us that was a lot of personality in one spaceship, in one galaxy. Harrison used to say, ‘You can type this stuff but you can’t say it.’ All the navigational stuff, I had to say, ‘I have placed information vital to the survival of the rebellion in the memory system of this R2-D2 so that my father will know how to retrieve it.’ I mean, c’mon. But I have an abruptness to my demeanor, and I suppose it fit. I always feel that George put me on whatever map I’m located on, so he can ask me to do pretty much what he wants, but don’t tell him that.” Each of the principle actors was given a percentage of the film’s profits. “I remember George saying, ‘This is the most expensive low-budget film ever made,’” recalled Mark Hamill. “That was the spirit, and something I’ll never forget. Everything on the first one had a breeziness and a freedom that we never had again. Sometimes a director’s first films are the most exciting in their lives because after that the pressures increase exponentially. George looked harried. He was already under great pressure.” Performing along with Hamill, Ford, Fisher, and Cushing are Alec Guinness (Great Expectations), Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker (Mona Lisa), Peter Mayhew (Terror) and David Prowse (A Clockwork Orange). The memorable characters of the droids C-3PO and R2-D2 were not easily brought to the big screen. “The truth is that the robots didn’t work at all,” confessed George Lucas. “3PO works very painfully – and during the whole shooting of the picture I couldn’t get R2 to go more than three feet without running into something. So you’ll notice in the film that he moves very little. The second unit came back here to ILM and rebuilt the robot and we took him out to Death Valley and actually got some shots of him going more than three feet.”
Following the recommendation of Steven Spielberg (War Horse), George Lucas approached a particular musical composer about scoring a 19th century classical sound for Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. “Everything visual was going to be unfamiliar, therefore, what should be familiar was the emotional connection that the film had through the ear to the viscera,” stated John Williams (Jaws). “I have to credit George with the idea of making the music, as the composer would say, solidly tonal and clearly melodic, acoustic rather than electronic.” Williams told Lucas, “‘Why don’t’ you let me write our own classical music and develop themes of our own so we won’t be violating great works of art from the past. I can take my theme and do it slowly, quickly, up a third, down a fourth, bend it around, attenuate it, and so forth.’ It’s very challenging when someone says to a composer, ‘Do a score like Wagner.’”
“I worked on the film right up until it opened. In fact, I was mixing sound on foreign versions of the film the day it opened here [the USA],” confessed George Lucas whose trials and tribulations did not go unnoticed by Carrie Fisher. “George was lying on the couch, and he’d been up for something like 36 hours,” remembered Fisher. “They were threatening to take the film out of his hands, cut the negative, and go right to the theatres. And he looked up at me and said, ‘I don’t ever want to do this again.’” Lucas and his wife went to a restaurant across the street from Grauman’s Chinese Theater. “It was like a mob scene. One lane of traffic was blocked off. There were police. There were limousines in front of the theatre. There were lines, eight or nine people wide, going both ways and around the block. I said, ‘My God, what’s going on here? It must be a premier or something.’ I looked up at the marquee and it was Star Wars.”
The space opera grossed $775 million worldwide and won Oscars for Best Original Score, Best Editing, Best Art & Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound and a Special Achievement Award for Special Effects; it also contended for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (Alex Guinness). At the BAFTAs, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope won the Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music and Best Sound while receiving nominations for Best Costume Design, Best Film, Best Editing, and Best Production Design & Art Direction; the Golden Globes honoured it with Best Original Score and nominations for Best Picture – Drama and Best Supporting Actor (Alec Guinness). George Lucas competed for a Directors Guild of America Award as well as for Best Original Screenplay – Comedy at the Writers Guild of America Awards. The editing team of Richard Chew (The Conversation), Paul Hirsch (Source Code), and Marcia Lucas (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) were acknowledged by the American Cinema Editors with an Eddie Award nomination. “Star Wars has always struck a chord with people. There are issues of loyalty, of friendship, of good and evil,” observed Lucas whose cinematic accomplishment was among the first 25 films to be inducted into the National Film Registry in 1989.
In 1978, the infamous The Star Wars Holiday Special was aired for the first and only time on CBS. The 97-minute program features Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) visiting the Wookiee home world of Kashyyyk while being pursued by Imperialist forces. Making cameo appearances in the variety show-style program are Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker). Universally panned by critics, George Lucas had a limited involvement in the TV production which introduces the bounty hunter Boba Fett in a 10-minute animated sequence. “That’s one of those things that happened and I just have to live with it,” admitted Lucas. “The Holiday Special does not represent my vision of Star Wars.”
“The focus of my life, the thing I care about, was and is making movies, writing and shooting and editing films,” said George Lucas. “And what sustains you through a time of poverty, which was the first ten years, also sustains you in a time of wealth. You’re so busy being creative that you don’t have time to do a lot of stupid things. There’s never been a period when money was a major focus for me.” As a result of his three-picture deal with Universal, when he signed to do America Graffiti, the studio pushed Lucas to embark upon his first sequel More American Graffiti (1979). To helm the picture, the filmmaker turned to writer-director B.W.L. Norton. “George had seen Cisco Pike  and liked it,” explained Norton. “He’d also read some of my other scripts. Cisco has developed a cult following, but at the time it put me out of directing for eight years, and so I wrote. When he started work on More American Graffiti, George wanted someone about his own age – I’m just a year older than he is – and somebody with a California background to write the script and I’m a Californian. We talked, and I asked him what the chances were of my directing. He said that, if he liked the script, I could direct it.”
More American Graffiti takes place two years after the high school graduation, and the narrative moves back and forth between various New Year Eves: Ron Howard (The Wild Country) and Cindy Williams (The Killing Kind) are expecting their first child, Paul Le Mat (Melvin and Howard) races cars, Charlie Martin Smith (Never Cry Wolf) heads off to fight in Vietnam, and Candy Clark (At Close Range) lives with a guitarist. Accompanying the songs by the likes of Simon and Garfunkel, and Bob Dylan is the voice of radio disc jockey voice Wolfman Jack. “I thought the fragmented technique would be a good way to tell a story about the 60s,” stated George Lucas who utilized the same approach with the original. “Some of the stories, George had already worked out in detail, others needed fixing,” explained B.W.L. Norton. “But he knew that Ron Howard and Cindy Williams were going to be caught up in campus demonstrations and so on. I was impressed by the insights he had into the characters, and the back stories he could give the actors about the characters.” Occasionally, the screen divides into six windows, displaying the stories simultaneously, or an event from different angles or multiples of a single image. “Multiple stories are very risky,” remarked Norton. “They worked well in American Graffiti because there was unity of time and place. But in More American Graffiti we were asking a lot of the audience because things were happening at different times, as well as in different places. But there are still scenes I’m very proud of and stylistic things I like a lot. And George was very generous and courteous. He came and watched but he let me direct.” Costing $3 million to make, the sequel grossed $15 million domestically. “My whole idea of style for More American Graffiti was ultimately unsuccessful, I guess,” said Lucas. “Bill’s a more conservative kind of storyteller, and I think I forced him to do things that in his heart he wasn’t comfortable with.”
“Each time you have a project and the audience sees it and believes it, you’re preparing them to expect even more,” reflected George Lucas on the difficulties of continuing the Star Wars saga. “So the next time out they’re more sophisticated, and you’ve got to be more sophisticated in what you do. They’ll spot bad stuff, old-fashioned process shots and rear projection, in a minute.” The second installment gave the moviemaker the opportunity to delve deeper into his imagination. “It took so much effort just to get up to speed in order to make the first film and create this great world that I didn’t have the time to have any fun, to run around in it.” Banking on the success of the original picture, Lucas decided to finance the sequel himself. “The thing Fox did not expect was that I would pay for it and that shifted everything,” stated the native of Modesto, California who negotiated a more lucrative deal with the Hollywood studio. “I came in and said, ‘All you’re going to do is distribute.’” With the distribution agreement in place, producer Gary Kurtz started to make the necessary production arrangements. “The first thing I did was arrange for studio space in England,” remarked Kurtz who also had a personnel issue to address. “From the first film, we knew the people that we wanted back and we were able to get almost all of them.”
A matter that needed attention was the reassembly of the disbanded special effects team. “Right after Star Wars came out there was a period where George didn’t know what to do,” said model maker Steve Gawley (Jarhead) who, like the rest of the Industrial Light & Magic employees, was not kept on the payroll after June 1977. “He owned the equipment but in the meantime, he didn’t need it, as far as I understand. And so the same group of folks got back together and rented the equipment, and made a television miniseries for Universal called [Battlestar] Galactica.” Lucas who had clashed previously with former ILM head John Dykstra over Star Wars, chose Brian Johnson (The Medusa Touch) to lead the rebuilt special effects company. “George was setting up and had an idea for a facility in California to do the model effects, because he had the basic motion-control equipment needed for model work now, which we didn’t have in England,” said Johnson. “But at the same time the floor effects were going to be done in England, the main unit work, so I would be the person to coordinate the two.”
Refraining from the director’s chair, Lucas hired filmmaker Irvin Kershner (The Return of a Man Called Horse) to helm Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980). “He took me into a workroom, and on the walls were the plans for the Skywalker Ranch,” recalled Kershner who met with George Lucas at his home in San Anselmo. “He said, ‘This is why we’re making the second one…If it works, we’ll not only build it, we’ll make more Star Wars! If it doesn’t work, it’s over!’” Questioned about his reasoning, Lucas replied, “When I visited the set in Norway and saw all the problems and the misery that Kershner was going through, wow, can you imagine being at the Arctic Circle at 40 below zero? It’s hard enough just to walk through it, let alone direct actors, [and] move the equipment. It was easy to let go of directing.” The creator of the saga was still very much involved with the production. “I provided the story and the technical advice, like, does a robot do this or that? They shipped me the dailies and I looked at them.”
To make sure there was a visual continuity between the two pictures, George Lucas hired Art Director – Visual Effects Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger) and Design Consultant and Conceptual Artist Ralph McQuarrie (Cocoon). “We were working on instructions from George,” said McQuarrie. “It was all pretty mysterious at times. We didn’t know exactly what was going to be used or how.” Johnston found himself in the same position as his colleague. “The process was to lay out random shots and pick out some that would conceivably work. George would work on the script at home while I would be working on the boards. During the meetings, he would pick out shots that he felt looked promising and write them in. It was a very unusual evolution.” Initially, Lucas turned to Leigh Brackett (Rio Bravo) to write the screenplay. “I was a big fan of the old John Wayne Westerns and Howard Hawk’s movies. She knew science fiction and she said, ‘Okay, fine.’” A three day story conference was arranged between the filmmaker and screenwriter. “The basic premise is that Luke is drawn into his training due to a problem that develops during the first act,” Lucas is quoted as saying in the transcript. “The final act is his revenge on Darth Vader’s forces. That’s the surface story. But we know that the whole thing from the beginning is a huge trap.” Brackett’s draft was a disappointment. “It’s the hardest thing in writing to be able to develop individual characters that aren’t a reflection of the mind that created them. My thoughts during the story conference weren’t fully formed and I felt her script went off in a completely different direction.”
“George called to talk to her about it, but she was in the hospital,” said Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill) who took over from the cancer stricken Leigh Brackett as the screenwriter. “The way George works is that he never tells you what he likes, just what he doesn’t. If you’re sensitive about your ego, this can be tough. He’ll come to a new scene or a new stretch of dialogue I’ve written and just flip through it. I’ll be dying with each movement of his eyeballs, eager for praise. No way. His silence was my only reward.” Kasdan added, “A great deal of emotional basis for the film takes place in the first fifth. There are three or four important scenes where the characters are all together. You have to establish the dynamics of the romance and the drama that follows. In fact, you’re not going to have many opportunities later in the film to bring the people together again and have them talk.” New characters were introduced such as the gambler Lando Calrissian who operates the Cloud City mining colony. “I wanted to bring in someone from Han’s past,” stated George Lucas who sought “to round out Han Solo’s character a little bit.” A mentor had to be introduced so that Luke Skywalker could continue his Jedi training. “One of the challenges I had was to replace Obi-Wan Kenobi…I wanted to transfer his performance into Yoda.” The development of the iconic villain of the saga as well as the classic cinematic role played by Clint Eastwood (Pale Rider) influenced the creation of a nefarious figure. “When I was writing the early scripts for Star Wars, I wanted to develop an essentially evil character who was frightening. Darth Vader started as a kind of intergalactic bounty hunter in a space suit and evolved into a more grotesque knight… The Boba Fett character is really an early version of Darth Vader. He is also very much like The Man With No Name from the Sergio Leone Westerns.” A major plot point was the introduction of the individual who commands Darth Vader as Lucas observed, “When you get rid of the Emperor, the whole thing is over.” As for the major revelation that occurs near the end of the picture, the filmmaker stated, “The issue of Luke’s father I kept pretty quiet for a long, long time. I didn’t tell anyone, not even Kersh. I just couldn’t risk it getting out.”
“It was a question of breaking down the script,” revealed Gary Kurtz, “and going over it with George and Kersh, discussing what things were too hard to do, what things might take too long, what things could be changed to make them better. That’s always part of the process with a technical film.” Dennis Muren (War of the Worlds) who served as the Effects Director of Photography came up with a solution for shooting the battle sequences, featuring the Imperial walkers. “I just thought we should do at least that chunk of the film with stop-motion,” said Muren, “which was a tried-and-true technique that we could schedule and we could get done – and if it looked a little funky, it’s okay because they’re machines anyway. The time saved would allow us to focus on all the highly technological stuff in the other scenes.” Progress was made in the design of the droids. “On Empire we improved the size of the robot, and we managed to make things work a bit better,” stated George Lucas. “We still had problems but at least R2 could go down a road and his head would turn.” Warren Franklin (Reindeer Games), a member of the Optical Lineup crew, remarked, “The biggest challenges we faced were the snow scenes on the ice planet Hoth. The traditional blue screen techniques and the new ones we developed for Star Wars were all done against black space, which was very forgiving in terms of matte lines around spaceships and generally making things look real. It was as if George came up with the most difficult thing to do – absolutely – outside of water, which he always avoided, thankfully.” A significant difficulty for the production was the depiction of Yoda as a believable personality. “We rejected the monkey and the marionette idea,” stated Kurtz. “We then decided on the hand-puppet idea, and I met with Jim Henson very early on, showed him pictures and the concept.” Henson was intrigued by the project and suggested his best Muppeteer Frank Oz. “Frank came in as soon as we started building the puppet,” said Lucas, “and he helped to technically evolve the puppet in a way he would really be able to act with it.”
Costing $18 million to make, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams (Batman), Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz (Death at a Funeral), and Alec Guinness. The sequel would gross $538 million worldwide and win Oscars for Best Sound and a Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects, while contending for Best Art Direction & Set Decoration and Best Original Score; it won the Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music and received nominations for Best Production Design & Art Direction and Best Sound at the BAFTAs. The Golden Globes nominated the science fiction adventure tale for Best Original Score, and Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett were honoured with a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay – Comedy by the Writers Guild of America. Not all was well for George Lucas who had to pay financial penalties imposed upon him by the Writers Guild of America and the Directors Guild of America, which resulted in him leaving both guilds in 1981. “They said Lucasfilm was a personal credit, not a corporate credit,” explained Lucas. “My name is not George Lucasfilm any more than William Fox’s name is 20th Century-Fox. On that technicality they sued me $250,000. You can pollute half the Great Lakes and not get fined that much. When the DGA threatened to fine Kershner $25,000 [for having his directorial credit appearing at the end of the film], we paid his fine. I considered it extortion.” In 2010, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back was inducted into the National Film Registry.
While construction commenced on the Skywalker Ranch which would serve as the headquarters for Lucasfilm Ltd and its various divisions, George Lucas took time to help a cinematic idol. Akira Kurosawa was having trouble obtaining the necessary funding to make Kagemusha (1980) even though his previous effort Dersu Uzala had won the Oscar for best Foreign Picture in 1975. “I went to Laddie [Alan Ladd, Jr.] at Fox, and using the power I had because of the success of Star Wars, I got them to put up half the money for Kurosawa to finish the film. I asked Francis [Ford Coppola] to join me.” Lucas has a strong sense of community in regards to his fellow filmmakers. “There is a whole group of us who have a strong wish to help others. Either young directors who haven’t yet had a shot at it or older directors who’ve been passed by but who still have creative ideas.”
For his next project, George Lucas collaborated with moviemaker Steven Spielberg to bring to the big screen a story that came to him while studying anthropology at Modesto Junior College.
Continue to part three.
Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada.