George Lucas has been a pioneer in the movie industry. When Lucas proposed Star Wars to a number of Hollywood studios he was turned away by all of them. His response to this was to create his own companies to replace the need for Hollywood. Industrial Lights and Magic (ILM) is the most readily recognized of these companies. The clever employees of ILM had to invent most of the techniques that were used to make the low budget Buck Rogers spoof, Star Wars. As we all know, Star Wars went on to be one of the most successful movies of all time (not necessarily financially of course). Among the companies that Lucas controls are Lucas Films, ILM, Skywalker Sound, THX, andLucas Arts. There are others including a company to handle licensing of assets. THX was created by Lucas because of the varying quality of movie theater audio systems. THX created standards and testing methods to ensure that his, and others', movies would be reproduced on the big screen with as close to the original studio recorded sound as was feasible. ILM invented a great deal of methods and tools for special effects. One of the most interesting of these was a piece of computer software called Renderman. Renderman was later sold to Pixar due to the fact that ILM was a special effects company, not a software company. Lucas, once shunned by Hollywood, is now the man everyone in Hollywood would love to be. Even today Lucas avoids Hollywood and its investors. The Star Wars Episode I movie was funded in its entirety by Lucas himself.

George Lucas was born in Modesto, California, in 1944. He spent his youth playing around with hot-rods, before a nasty car accident put paid to that, both from injury and parental pressure. Nonetheless he retained a passion for machines, fast machines. I'll say it now; if you were twelve or eight or maybe fifteen years old during the period 1977-1986 and you were precocious and you liked drawing or playing with computers or something creative, you wanted to be George Lucas, you wanted to work for ILM, and now you have a job and you know you can't be George Lucas and you'll never work for ILM; or maybe you do, and you realise that you don't like it.

In his early 20s he enrolled in the University of Southern California's film school (fellow USC graduates included Robert Zemekis, Irvin Kershner, and Ron Howard). After a shaky start, Lucas and his peers - Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg and so forth - these people went on to dominate Hollywood in the 70s and 80s. They were the movie brats, young directors who shook things up. They were charismatic and their films were extremely popular. They respected Hollywood films and adventure serials of the 1940s and 1950s, they respected John Ford and Jean Luc Godard, and they were not averse to money.

Lucas' shaky start was 'THX-1138', a fascinating piece of dystopian early-70s sci-fi, a film which belongs firmly to the pre-George Lucas era. Blown up in part from his 16mm graduation film, and filmed cheaply in the newly-constructed San Francisco subway, THX 1138 set a number of templates for most of his later films - it had robots, it was fascinated with technology and exotic locations, it had an exciting chase sequence, it was stylish, and it wasn't particularly interested in people, except perhaps as graphic objects.

His next project, 'American Graffiti' in 1972, was a diversion, one that cemented his status as an major talent. A personal mediation on his early life, it was a portrait of a bunch of teenagers bumming around at the end of school over the course of a single night in 1962. Costing less than a million dollars, it made more than fifty million in return - back when that was a lot of money - and sparked off a wave of interest in the post-WW2, pre-Vietnam era. Although along with 'The Sting' and 'The Godfather' it helped start a retro boom which is still with us. Poignant and funny, 'American Graffiti' is interesting to watch with the knowledge of Lucas' subsequent achievements. Never again would a George Lucas film be unaccompanied by a massive marketing budget, toys, books, and the crushing weight of expectation.

After attempting to buy the rights to Flash Gordon, Lucas's next project was a a sci-fi adventure tale he had been working on since the early 70s. Eventually entitled 'Star Wars', and released in 1977, it became the most successful motion picture of all time, not only extremely profitable but a cultural phenomenon as well. As director he was paid $150,000 dollars - but he also received 40 per cent of the film's profits, and he was also given the merchandising rights, in a deal which 20th Century Fox would perpetually regret. Kenner, who came up with a range of small plastic toys of the film's cast, made a mint, and 'Star Wars' toys were best-sellers for almost a decade. The film became one of the great engines which propelled the video boom of the early 1980s. It is impossible to write too much about 'Star Wars'.

Lucas took a back seat from directing after that, spending much of his time producing films, and setting up and running his expanding Lucasfilm empire. By the 90s this included a state-of-the-art special effects studio ('Industrial Light and Magic', or 'ILM'), a set of high-tech recording stages, and a software house which produced games of almost uniformly high quality. THX, a standard for sonic reproduction devised by Lucasfilm, became a sought-after feature of cinemas and home audio-visual equipment. ILM quickly became Hollywood's top effects house, winning or being nominated for the visual effects Oscar for every subsequent year with the exceptions of 1978 (which does not count), 1986, and 1992; often nominated against effects houses staffed by former ILM employees.

As a producer Lucas' subsequent efforts included two further, and equally popular, 'Star Wars' films and the superb 'Indiana Jones' series, along with disappointments such as 'American Graffiti 2' and 'Willow' and 'Labyrinth' and 'Droids' and the whole 'Ewoks' thing. Seeing sense, he revisited the Star Wars universe in the mid 1990s, re-releasing the films with new digital effects to widespread acclaim and much box office. By this time the generation who had adored Luke Skywalker et al as children were older and wiser, and resigned to their childhood fancies; the films were a cultural phenomenon all over again. Lucas rekindled his directorial career with 'prequels' to the original Star Wars films 1999 and 2002 - financed out of Lucasfilm's own pocket, they were the most expensive indie films of all time - about which plenty has been written already. The first film was a major disappointment but became extremely successful on account of the euphoria surrounding its release; it was as if an old, old friend had returned from the grave. The second film was an improvement, but the whole affair was too reminiscent of 'Willow' for comfort. The new films were competent, professional, absolutely empty.

George Lucas has been married, and has three children, who are presumably allowed to play in the big underground chamber at ILM where they keep all the old special effects models. Lucas has a grey beard and is often mistaken for Steven Spielberg, with whom Lucas is often compared, and vice-versa, although Lucas has not directed enough diverse films to truly analyse his directorial talent. There is a sense that, whereas Spielberg was born to be a director, Lucas was born to be a producer, albeit a mild-mannered producer. He wears jeans and has put on a bit of weight.

No doubt there will be longer and more detailed writeups to follow. Lucas, and the world he and Spielberg have wrought, are intimidating subjects. And no-one knows anything about him; no-one.

George Lucas is capable of brilliance as a filmmaker, but in the past two decades has apparently bought his own press and has made some frustratingly questionable decisions that have harmed the quality of his projects.

For instance, in his recent films he has been unwilling to collaborate with a screenwriter who might outshine him; he could afford William Goldman but instead he used Jonathan Hales, who penned some of the Young Indiana Jones TV series episodes. As a result, the recent Star Wars prequels have been saddled with truly awful dialog. Haley Joel Osment tried out for the part of young Anakin; instead Lucas decided looks were more important than any vestige of acting skill and chose Jake Lloyd.

He also has the tendency to try to re-write history in his interviews and director's commentaries when it comes to the original Star Wars trilogy.

To hear him tell it, Harrison Ford was a carpenter he found laboring on a back lot before Star Wars. Star Wars made Ford a star, certainly, but by the time he was cast as Han Solo, Ford had logged speaking parts in six movies (he had been in seven movies before Lucas cast him in American Graffitti). Most any actor would take that as a sign of a career well underway; he was certainly no hammer-wielding rube. Ford was a professional actor who had a rather better-paying backup job than the hordes of other professional actors in Hollywood who wait tables to make rent between acting gigs.

Lucas also portrays Star Wars almost as an indie film, a labor of love and effort by a plucky band of filmmakers who unleashed a Jedi-like surprise attack on the box office. To hear him tell it, nobody had a clue it would do well.

20th Century Fox, Lucas, and other industry folk certainly had an inkling Star Wars was going to be big.

You may recall that Ralph Bakshi's animated fantasy film Wizards was released a bit before Star Wars in 1977. The original title of Bakshi's movie was War Wizards. Lucas felt that the presence of two fantasy films with "War" in their titles would be confusing to the moviegoing public, so he asked Bakshi to change the title of his movie.

In exchange, Lucas offered to open Star Wars a few weeks later than planned, thus giving Wizards a bit more breathing room at the box office (Wizards made a great deal of money its first few weeks, but after Lucas' film opened, theaters started dropping Wizards in favor of Star Wars). Bakshi took him up on the offer; clearly he realized Star Wars was a force to be reckoned with.

While George Lucas is rolling in the dough as a result of his Star Wars films, frequently Lucas is credited as a madman for how he has handled the original films over the years. Regardless, I think the guy is sort of a mad genius. He really is doing something that few artists (or entertainers, whatever you want to call him) have ever done before. George Lucas is constantly revising his masterpiece. He never considers his masterpiece to be complete, thus he feels he must continue altering it to greater improve the final outcome. While yes, I do agree that a good amount of the alterations don't work (some of them really don’t work), it really makes George Lucas a very fascinating and original figure in the world of film.

When I think of George Lucas altering his films, I can't help but think what it would be like if other creative masterminds went back and altered their work like Lucas did....

Orson Welles releases Citizen Kane - Special Edition in which "Rosebud" is replaced with a Razor Scooter to "make the film age better."

Homer releases The Odyssey - Special Edition with an new extended dance scene in Polyphemus the Cyclops’s lair.

Charles Dickens releases Great Expectations – Special Edition. This time Miss Havisham lets out a cheesy scream as she falls into the fire.

J.D Salinger releases A Perfect Day for Bananafish – Special Edition in which he unexplainably adds Holden Caulfield into the story…since he became such a popular character in his next work.

William Shakespeare releases Romeo & Juliet – Special Edition….....Tybalt stabs first!!!

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