George Lucas Reflects on His Cinematic Journey at Cannes

The Star Wars Creator Shares Insights and Anecdotes from His Illustrious Career

George Lucas, the iconic creator of Star Wars, attributed his success to a stubborn resolve to maintain creative control over his films. Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd at the packed Debussy theater in Cannes, Lucas, now 80, was honored with a Palme d’Or for his contributions to cinema during the 77th Cannes Festival.

Addressing a notably younger audience than usual for such events, Lucas expressed nostalgia about returning to Cannes, where he first showcased his debut feature, *THX-1138*, at the Directors’ Fortnight in 1971. Recalling the early days, Lucas shared how he and his collaborator, Walter Murch, had to fund their own trip to the premiere after Warner Bros. refused to cover the costs. They even resorted to sneaking into the screening.

Reflecting on his early career, Lucas emphasized his passion for filmmaking over financial gain. Mentored by Francis Ford Coppola, Lucas assisted in establishing the indie studio American Zoetrope. He detailed the struggles to produce *American Graffiti* on a $750,000 budget and how he fought Universal Artists to release it in theaters. Initially, the studio considered relegating the film to TV, but electrifying test screenings convinced them otherwise. The film’s theatrical release was a massive success, grossing $115 million in the U.S.

Lucas’s deal for *American Graffiti* included backend residuals from the net gross, typically a financial dead end for filmmakers. However, the film’s rapid success turned this into a lucrative arrangement, marking a rare instance of profitability from net gross residuals.

The success of *American Graffiti* caught the attention of Allan Ladd Jr., then head of production at Fox. Ladd’s interest led to the creation of Star Wars. Lucas recounted the pivotal conversation where he pitched a “crazy 1930s-style movie, with dogs driving spaceships,” which Ladd agreed to produce, leading to the birth of the legendary franchise.

Star Wars dominated the discussion, with Lucas elaborating on securing the unprecedented licensing and merchandising rights for the first film. He recalled how the studios lacked licensing departments at the time, making the venture unique. Lucas also obtained control of the sequel rights due to Fox’s financial instability, which led to groundbreaking success.

Lucas defended his Star Wars prequels against criticism, reiterating that the films were always intended for a younger audience. He emphasized that the negative reactions were from fans who had aged since the original trilogy but failed to recognize that Star Wars was designed for children exploring life’s big questions.

He also addressed backlash against characters like Jar Jar Binks, drawing parallels to initial criticisms of C-3PO and the Ewoks, and stood by his decision to digitally enhance the original trilogy to meet his vision. Lucas asserted the importance of filmmakers having the final say in how their movies should be presented, dismissing hopes for a 4K restoration of the original 1977 film by pointing out previous fan dissatisfaction with earlier releases.

Reflecting on the Star Wars sequels produced after selling Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012, Lucas expressed his belief that the new films strayed from the original vision. He felt that critical elements, like the concept of the Force, were misunderstood or overlooked by the new creators. However, he acknowledged that relinquishing control was part of the deal when he sold the company.

Lucas’s conversation at Cannes offered a profound look into his journey, his unwavering dedication to his artistic vision, and his influence on the cinematic world.

Similar Post