When I was making ‘Star Wars,’ I wasn’t restrained by any kind of science. I simply said, ‘I’m going to create a world that’s fun and interesting, makes sense, and seems to have a reality to it.’
– George Lucas
George Lucas is, perhaps, one of the best known directors in American film. He stands beside directors like Spielberg, Tarantino, and Peter Jackson, known for creating some of the most iconic films in history. Indiana Jones and Star Wars have undoubtedly shaped popular culture and have changed the landscape of film, TV, comics, and books. His stories have inspired science fiction writers and influenced generations, captured the imaginations of millions of people. I bet you didn’t know that he originally wanted to be a race car driver. Thank goodness he changed his mind!
So who is the man behind Star Wars, exactly? Well, many people know him as the founder of Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic. He was born May 14, 1944 (just ten days after what’s now known as Star Wars Day!). He went to University of Southern California, where he met Steven Spielberg when they were both students there. He was born and raised in Modesto, California. Growing up, he had a passion for cars and motor racing, which we can see translated into Anakin’s love of pod-racing in Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Funnily enough, he tried joining the USAF but was turned down because of his poor driving! He was later drafted for military service in Vietnam, but was also excused because of his diabetes.
I’ve mentioned his dream to be a race car driver. That dream was abruptly ended in 1962, on June 12, when he crashed his Autobianchi Bianchina in a car accident. His car was hit from behind when he tried to make a left turn into his driveway. It rolled, and the racing harness he’d installed was completely snapped. Lucas was flung from the car. Had the harness not snapped (and Lucas said it really shouldn’t have), he would have probably died that day, crushed when the car smashed into a walnut tree. The emergency personnel had trouble finding a pulse and, at first, thought him dead.
During his recovery, Lucas’ dreams changed somewhere along the line. He went to college after graduating high school, and it was there that he first developed his passion for cinematography and camera tricks.
We all know him for his innovations in storytelling and science fiction, but beyond his directorial work, George Lucas is one of the most significant contemporary contributers to modern movie technology. He’s responsible for the invention of the computer-assisted camera crane, and most of his space-fighting effects in Star Wars were adopted by other visual effects production units, including those who worked on Battlestar Galatica and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He’s the one responsible for the development of the earliest 3D computer animation, and the development for the modern sound systems found in most movie theaters.
A special effect is a tool, a means of telling a story. A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing. – George Lucas
Lucas considers himself a “Trekkie”, and cited Star Trek as his inspiration for working with sci-fi. He’s a member of the United Methodist Church, though he claims he doesn’t believe in a specific religion. In his spare time, he enjoys playing Star Wars video games with his children, and has been known to read the franchise’s comic books. He plans to give half his fortune to charity as part of The Giving Pledge led by Bill Gates Buffett to encourage America’s Richest to help the less fortunate, and is listed as one of American Film’s most financially successful independent directors/producers, with an estimated net worth of $3.9 billion.
So that’s it, the man behind Star Wars. He’s a pretty cool guy, if you ask me, and I can’t wait to see where the man’s brain takes us in the next few years. We owe a lot to George Lucas.
Happy Star Wars Day! May the 4th be with you!