15 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About George Lucas

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Vote up the most interesting things you learned about George Lucas.

To many science-fiction enthusiasts around the world, George Lucas is something of a cultural god. In the late 1970s, Lucas put together a little movie he didn't expect to do well, and it became the foundation for the second-highest-grossing motion picture franchise of all time. It's risen and fallen on that list over the years, but whatever spot it holds, it's hard to say that Star Wars hasn't had a significant impact on the world. Lucas was the first of many creators considered "New Hollywood," and his impact on filmmaking has been substantial.

While plenty of people have an encyclopedic knowledge of the worlds Lucas has created, most fans are less familiar with the creator. If you're a fan of Star Wars, American Graffiti, Indiana Jonesor any other worlds he helped create, ask yourself how much you know about the man himself. Most fans know a bit about Skywalker Ranch, but there's always more to learn, and because of this, there's a lot you (probably) don't know about George Lucas. 

This list aims to fill in the gaps as much as possible, so there won't be much about Luke Skywalker, but there's plenty about the man who gave him life. Take a look, and if you learn something new about Lucas, be sure to give it an upvote to see which item reaches the top!

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    84 VOTES

    Lucas Was So Convinced 'Star Wars' Would Flop, He Made A Costly Bet With Steven Spielberg

    Lucas Was So Convinced 'Star Wars' Would Flop, He Made A Costly Bet With Steven Spielberg
    Photo: Yungmuns / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Making Star Wars wasn't easy, and George Lucas didn't have a lot of confidence in the film's success. He was plagued with on-set issues, a limited budget, and all manner of issues that made him think it wasn't going to work. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have been friends for ages, and while Lucas was working on his beloved classic, Spielberg was working on his: Close Encounters of the Third Kind. When Lucas's work was delayed for various issues, he visited his buddy on the set of his movie, and the two filmmakers made a bet.

    Spielberg revealed the nature of the bet in an interview for Turner Classic Movies, saying, "George came back from Star Wars a nervous wreck. He didn't feel Star Wars came up to the vision he initially had. He felt he had just made this little kids' movie." After a few days, Lucas realized his friend's movie was going to be a huge success, and that led to their famous bet:

    He said, "Oh my God, your movie is going to be so much more successful than Star Wars! This is gonna be the biggest hit of all time. I can't believe this set. I can't believe what you're getting, and oh my goodness." He said, "All right, I'll tell you what. I'll trade some points with you. You want to trade some points? I'll give you 2.5% of Star Wars if you give me 2.5% of Close Encounters. So I said, 'Sure, I'll gamble with that. Great.'"

    Needless to say, while Close Encounters was a successful movie, in no way did it outperform Star Wars. Because of that bet, George Lucas has had to pay Steven Spielberg millions over the years. According to Business Insider, the amount of money Lucas likely paid out to Spielberg is $40 million.

    84 votes
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    31 VOTES

    A Near-Fatal Car Wreck Led Lucas To Filmmaking

    A Near-Fatal Car Wreck Led Lucas To Filmmaking
    Photo: American Graffiti / Universal Pictures

    George Lucas didn't want to direct movies when he was a kid - he loved cars and wanted to be a race car driver. This is evident if you've ever watched American Graffiti, but his love of racing extended far beyond featuring classic vehicles in movies. He wanted nothing more than to be a race car driver, and when he was in high school, he got his hands on a yellow Autobianchi Bianchina. Like any good teenager in the late 1950s with a car, he souped it up as much as possible, hoping to make it a good practice car to help him achieve his dreams.

    Lucas may have been a good driver, but he wasn't a great student. One day, a trip to the library to work on a term paper proved fruitless, so he headed home. Right before he made it onto his family's property, a Chevy Impala came from the opposite direction and slammed into the side of his car. He rolled towards a large walnut tree and was thankfully thrown from the car a moment before it hit when his racing belt snapped. The car was destroyed, and Lucas was in bad shape.

    He was unconscious and throwing up blood, so he was taken to the emergency room. Lucas broke several bones and bruised his lungs. He regained consciousness within a few hours and had to undergo some physical therapy to get back into fighting shape. The wreck did more than destroy his car and damage his body; it also put him off racing. It was the snapping of the racing belt that made him wary of pursuing a career as a driver, so he turned his attention elsewhere to the world of photography and, ultimately, film school. Lucas later paid tribute to his old car in American Graffiti by featuring a yellow 1932 Ford Deuce Coupe.

    31 votes
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    29 VOTES

    Lucas Waived His Up-Front Director Fees And Opted To Own The Licensing Rights For ‘Star Wars’

    It's fair to say that Star Wars was something of a gamble in 1977. Science fiction hadn't blossomed into the large-scale genre it is today, and Lucas had a hard time selling his idea to any of the major studios. When he finally sold the concept to 20th Century Fox, he wasn't given enough money or time to achieve his vision. Still, Lucas made it work. When he negotiated his deal with the studio, he offered up something the studio couldn't refuse: He'd do the movie for almost no compensation if he was given all the licensing rights for the franchise.

    At the time, movie franchise toys weren't making anyone super rich, so Fox had no reason to refuse. Lucas signed the contract and laughed all the way to the bank. To be clear, 20th Century Fox made a lot of money off Star Wars, but Lucas made so much more from toy sales, it's almost impossible to comprehend. Of course, the deal Lucas worked out was a bit more detailed and stands as one of the wisest financial decisions that has ever occurred in his trade.

    Lucas was offered the standard director's salary of $500,000 but waived most of it, taking $150,000 instead. He had two stipulations for taking the cut: He would get 100% of the licensing rights for toys and retain the same control over the planned sequels. Fox had no reason to turn this offer down, so the studio agreed to the deal, and Lucas laughed his way all the way to the bank and back a few hundred million times. Fox managed to score $220 million in the movie's first six months, while toy sales topped $100 million after only one year. When Lucas decided to sell the franchise to Disney, he'd already built a massive fortune, and the franchise itself was worth a lot of money.

    By that time, the franchise had made an estimated $3.3 billion in ticket sales, $3 billion in video games, $2 billion in books, $4 billion in movie sales, and $1.5 billion in various licensing deals. In 2012, when Lucas sold the franchise to the House of Mouse, his net worth was already sitting at $3.3 billion, which is more than most movie directors ever dream of making. In 2022, Celebrity Net Worth estimated Lucas's wealth at $10 billion, making him the wealthiest director (by a lot). To compare, Steven Spielberg's net worth is $8 billion, and while that's nothing to sneeze at, it's still $2 billion behind Lucas.

    29 votes
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    26 VOTES

    Lucas's Favorite 'Star Wars' Character Is One That Many Fans Hate

    George Lucas has created a lot of characters over the years, and many of them have become beloved icons that millions of people around the world have grown up with and cherished. These include Indiana Jones, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and dozens more. The list also includes some characters who haven't been as well-received by the fandom, and at the top of that list is none other than everyone's favorite Gungan to hate, Jar Jar Binks.

    While the vast majority of fans don't consider Jar Jar to be a great character, his biggest fan is the man who created him. Lucas spoke at the 20th-anniversary panel for The Phantom Menace at 2019's Star Wars Celebration, where he said the following:

    Thank you for coming to the Celebration. [The Phantom Menace] is one of my favorite movies and of course Jar Jar is my favorite character. Ahmed [Best], you did a fantastic job. It was very, very hard.

    26 votes
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    21 VOTES

    Lucas Appeared Before Congress In 1988 To Argue In Support Of Artistic Integrity

    In 1988, George Lucas spoke to the United States Congress, and his words had an impact. The issue he and many other filmmakers, including Steven Spielberg, were concerned with had to do with the trend of altering films. Before you stop reading and declare that Lucas altered the Star Wars films into oblivion, his concern wasn't changing a filmmaker's own work; he was concerned with other people altering something they had nothing to do with, and it was a prevalent issue.

    At the time, many filmmakers took umbrage with the colorizing process Ted Turner used on a plethora of black-and-white films he aired on his network. While Turner owned the rights to the movies, Lucas and others argued he didn't possess the artistic "moral right" to change them. Ultimately, Congress adopted the Berne Convention in favor of what Lucas was fighting for. It stipulates that the artist "shall have the right to claim authorship of the work and to object to any derogatory action in relation to the said work which would be prejudicial to his honor or reputation."

    Lucas spoke for several minutes, and his words carried a great deal of weight. "People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians," he said. "[And] if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society." Lucas then aimed his words at Turner, saying, "There is nothing to stop American films, records, books, and paintings from being sold to a foreign entity or an egocentric gangster who would change our cultural heritage to suit his personal taste." A year after he and Spielberg spoke in front of Congress, the Berne Convention was adopted.

    21 votes
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    20 VOTES

    Francis Ford Coppola Helped Him Enter The Film Business

    If there are two names that most people don't put together, it's George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. One wrote and directed one of the greatest science-fiction films of all time, and the other directed one of the greatest crime movies ever made... there's not a lot of commonalities there. Despite this, the two go back decades, and after Lucas graduated from the University of Southern California, he and Coppola co-founded the film studio American Zoetrope.

    They met each other after Lucas won first prize at the National Student Film Festival for his short film, Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB (later remade as THX 1138). For winning the competition, Lucas was awarded a student scholarship by Warner Brothers, which afforded the young filmmaker the opportunity of a lifetime. He was given the chance to observe and work on any film in production for the studio at the time, and Lucas chose Coppola's Finian's Rainbow.

    That was in 1968, and Lucas must have made an impression on Coppola because they formed American Zoetrope together the following year. They planned to offer other filmmakers an avenue to create the films they wanted without potential studio interference. Lucas directed a feature-length version of THX 1138 at Zoetrope, but the film did not do well commercially. Soon after, Lucas founded Lucasfilm, Ltd., and directed the much more successful film, American Graffiti, in 1973, which was produced by his pal, Coppola.

    20 votes