“Everyone has talent, it’s just a matter of moving around until you’ve discovered what it is.”
George Lucas is one of the most innovative storytellers and technologists in the history of cinema. With a career spanning film, TV, special effects, games, and philanthropy, Lucas’s blueprint for success is something anyone can learn from. Here are 26 inspiring facts about George Lucas.
George Lucas Facts
Life may have turned out differently for Lucas: he originally had his sights set on the United States military. However, in 1967, after graduating with a BFA in film, Lucas was rejected from the US Air Force for having too many speeding tickets. He was also rejected by the Army for having diabetes.
25. Speed Dreaming
Lucas’s first love wasn’t filmmaking—it was race car driving. Up until his high school years, Lucas planned on becoming a race-car driver. He was a regular on the underground racing circuit and spent a lot of time hanging out in garages. In fact, some of his earliest 8mm films were of car races. Guess we know why he got all those speeding ticket.
24. Left for Dead
In high school, Lucas was in a major, near-fatal car accident that left him hospitalized with several broken ribs and two collapsed lungs.
23. Before Ruling the Galaxy
Prior to launching Lucasfilm, Lucas joined partners with powerhouse director Francis Ford Coppola to launch a private film studio, Zoetrope Studios. The name was later changed to American Zoetrope. American Zoetrope-produced films have won 15 Academy Awards and racked up an impressive 68 nominations.
22. From California to Coruscant
In 1973, four years before the release of Star Wars, Lucas wrote and directed the commercially and critically acclaimed American Graffiti. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture.
21. Flash Failure
The original concept for Star Wars may have been spurred on by Flash Gordon, a TV series that saw the hero Flash battling cosmic villains. Though the series lasted for one year on television, it had a profound impact on Lucas, who tried to obtain the rights to turn it into a film. Lucky for us, he failed.
20. Legendary Beginnings
While attending USC, Lucas was awarded a student scholarship at Warner Brothers, where he observed director Francis Ford Coppola making the film Finian’s Rainbow. He would then go on to assist Coppola in making The Rain People.
19. Like a Rolling Stone
Lucas got a delicious first taste of what it’s like to “make it” in Hollywood when he was selected as a camera operator for the Rolling Stones concert film, Gimme Shelter.
18. Give Up, a Jedi Does Not
Star Wars was turned down by every major studio except 20th Century Fox. Studio executive Alan Ladd Jr. was impressed with American Graffiti and decided to give Lucas’s space epic a shot. The success of Star Wars returned 20th Century Fox to prominence and launched one of the most well-known entertainment franchises. But you knew that already.
17. Presidential Honor
In 2013, United States President Barack Obama awarded Lucas the National Medal of the Arts.
16. Not All Stars are Bright
Despite critical success with Star Wars and American Graffiti, Lucas has come under critical fire for writing and directing the Star Wars prequels The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. The Golden Raspberry Award, also known as the Razzies, is a Hollywood event the celebrates the worst movies of each year. For his work on the prequels, Lucas earned a handful of Razzie nominations and won one (Worst Screenplay, Attack of the Clones).
Attack of the Clones
15. A Fine Collector
Lucas is a big fan of American illustrator and painter Norman Rockwell. 57 of Rockwell’s paintings and drawings, donated from both Lucas and Steven Spielberg, were displayed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum from 2010 to 2011.
14. A Life of Solitude and Fun
Lucas’s creative epicenter is Skywalker Ranch. Located in Nicosia, California, the Ranch land extends for 3,000 acres. The Ranch, which is not accessible to the public, is home to Skywalker Sound, a research center, a fire station, and the George Lucas Educational Foundation. Lucas also maintains an office at The Ranch.
13. Love and Hate
Lucas has confessed that his favorite Star Wars character is one who everyone loves to hate: Jar Jar Binks.
12. You’ve Got a Friend in Me
Lucas is partly responsible for providing Pixar the technology it used to begin its domination of the CGI animation industry. In 1985, the Computer Division of Lucasfilm created the Pixar Image Computer. In 1986, Lucas sold the Computer Division of Lucasfilm, which became the beginnings of Pixar.
11. A Real Visionary
Lucas founded Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) in 1975 to create the special effects for Star Wars. ILM has been the special effects house for many blockbusters, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Return of the Jedi, Cocoon, Labyrinth, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Jumanji, Titanic, and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
10. Looking for Direction
Lucas did not direct all the Star Wars movies. He only directed the first entry into the franchise, A New Hope, and the prequels. The only other major theatrical release Lucas directed was American Graffiti. But behind the scenes is where Lucas flourished. He has 140 writing credits that span movies, television, and games, as well as multiple credits as a producer and director.
9. Stepping Away
Lucas stated that the primary reason why he was no longer interested in making Star Wars movies is because of the criticism directors face. Lucas told Vanity Fair, “You go to make a movie and all you do is get criticized.” He continued, “And it’s not much fun. You can’t experiment.”
8. Everything Must Go
Lucas is part of the Giving Pledge, an organization that commits the world’s wealthiest people to donate half of their fortunes to charity. Lucas signed the Giving Pledge in 2010, emphasizing that he plans to donate his wealth to improving education. Forbes currently estimates Lucas’s net worth to be in the ballpark of $5.3 billion.
7. Teaching the Future
Lucas has a philanthropic interest in American K-12 education. In 1991, Lucas founded the George Lucas Educational Foundation, which contains the brand Edutopia, a website dedicated to teacher leadership and storytelling.
6. A Living Legacy
Lucas donated $1 million dollars to help build the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in D.C. The University of Southern California (USC), Lucas’s alma matter, also received $175 million in 2006 to help its expansion of the film school. Then, in April of 2016, Lucas donated between $500,000 to $1 million dollars to the Obama Foundation.
5. Indiana Dog
The name “Indiana Jones” was inspired by Lucas’s then-wife’s dog, Indiana, who was an Alaskan malamute. Lucas also modeled the character Chewbacca after Indiana.
4. Taking Its Toll
Lucas was diagnosed with hypertension and exhaustion during the filming of Star Wars.
3. We Are Family
Lucas has three adopted children: Amanda, Katie, and Jett. Lucas raised his children after his divorce with his previous spouse, Marcia Griffin, in 1983. In 2013, Lucas and his current wife Mellody Hobson, welcomed daughter Everest Hobson Lucas into the world.
2. Leaving the Galaxy Behind
2012 marked a new life for Lucas; he sold Lucasfilm to Disney for an estimated $4 billion dollars. This gave Disney control of the Star Wars franchise and Lucas 40 million shares from Disney.
1. A Disturbance in the Sale
Three years after selling Lucasfilm to Disney, Lucas expressed some regret about how Disney was handling the property he had built. In an interview with Charlie Rose, Lucas called the Walt Disney Company “white slavers” and criticized The Force Awakens for being too “retro.” Lucas later apologized for his remarks and publicly commended Disney for taking good care of the Star Wars franchise. Clearly, Lucas still has an attachment to the world he helped create.