George Lucas biography
Famed director, writer and producer George Lucas was born George Walton Lucas Jr. on May 14, 1944, in Modesto, California. Lucas's parents sold retail office supplies and owned a walnut ranch in California. His experiences growing up in the sleepy suburb of Modesto and his early passion for cars and motor racing would eventually serve as inspiration for his Oscar-nominated low-budget phenomenon, American Graffiti (1973).
Before young Lucas became obsessed with the movie camera, he wanted to be a race car driver, but a near fatal accident in his souped-up Fiat just days before his high school graduation quickly changed his mind. Instead, he attended community college and developed a passion for cinematography and camera tricks. Following the advice of a friend, he transferred to the University of Southern California filmmaking school. There, he produced a short futuristic Sci-Fi film called THX-1138:4EB, and garnered a comfortable spot under the wing of Francis Ford Coppola, who took an active interest in unleashing new filmmaking talent. Coppola convinced Warner Brothers to make a feature length version of the film, and although a few critics recognized some philosophical depth behind all the technical wizardry, THX-1138 (re-titled) flopped terribly in its 1971 release.
Although intimidated by the failure of his first film, Lucas went back to work on his next project, American Graffiti. Released in 1973, the film featured such burgeoning young talents as Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, and Harrison Ford, and was recognized as a stunning portrait of listless American youth in 1962 depicting, in Lucas's own words, "a warm, secure, uninvolved life." The film, made for only $780,000, grossed $50 million in the box office. It was nominated in five categories at that year's Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Director for Lucas, and is still considered one of the most successful low budget features ever made.
Making 'Star Wars'
Now that Lucas had won back the confidence of his supporters, he set out to make a children's Saturday morning serial that would be part fairy tale, part Flash Gordon, and complete fantasy and adventure set in the imaginary frontier of outer space. The project eventually evolved into a full-length feature entitled, Star Wars. In its 1977 release, Star Wars blew audiences away with its awe-inspiring special affects, fantastical landscapes, captivating characters (the erroneous pairing of two bumbling droids providing, ironically, the most heart and comic relief), and the familiar resonance of popular myth and fairy tale.
Made for $11 million, the film grossed over $513 million worldwide during its original release. Lucas continued the story of the Jedi Knights and the Dark Side in The Empire Strike Back (1980) and The Return of the Jedi (1983). In the meantime, he set up a state-of-the-art special effects company, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), as well as a sound studio, Skywalker Sound, and began to execute more and more control over the finished product of his films. He eventually built his own moviemaking "empire" outside of the controlling influence of Hollywood in the hills of Marin Country, California.
Overlapping with his work on Star Wars, Lucas developed on a new adventure series featuring tough, but humorous archaeologist named Indiana Jones. He cast Star Wars antihero Harrison Ford in the title role, and Steven Spielberg signed on director for Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark (1981). Instead of deep space, Lucas mined the past for this action-packed tale. Indiana Jones battles the Nazis over an ancient artifact in this big box office hit.
Lucas helped create the stories and worked as a producer on the two sequels soon followed. Harrison starred with Kate Capshaw in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984). In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), audiences got to meet Jones's father played by Sean Connery. After the third Indiana Jones film, however, Lucas prepared to return to the film franchise that made him world famous—Star Wars.
'Star Wars' Prequels
Finally technology was catching up with Lucas's creative vision for his famous science fiction saga. He had seen ILM's capabilities when it was commissioned to bring the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park (1993) to horrifying life. The progressions in technology convinced Lucas that it was time to go back to Star Wars.
Lucas embarked on the development of three new prequels—beginning with the menacing Darth Vader as an innocent, but forceful, young boy. The first in the series, Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace, was released in spring of 1999 to high expectations and unprecedented hype and fanfare. The response to the film was mixed. Some critics and Star Wars fans found the characters childish and racially stereotyped. Others complained that the story lacking in dramatic depth. No one, however, could argue about the magical quality of Lucas's technologically masterful creations.
Defending his latest creation, Lucas argued that The Phantom Menace was a children's movie—as all the Star Wars movies were meant to be before their cult like magnetism took hold of the American public. Star Wars: Episode II premiered on May 12, 2002, at the Tribeca Film Festival. The third and final episode, Revenge of the Sith, debuted in May 2005.
Life After 'Star Wars'
In 2008, Lucas released the latest installment of his Indiana Jones series. He served as one of its writers and as a producer while Steven Spielberg once again acted as director.
Harrison Ford returned as the famed adventuring archaeologist in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and was joined by Cate Blanchett and Shia LaBeouf on this new challenge. The film proved one of the summer's biggest hits.
Lucas served as the producer of a different type of action film in early 2012. Working for years, he was able to help bring the story of the famed African American pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen to the big screen in Red Tails. This World War II drama starred Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrace Howard, Nate Parker and David Oyelowo.
Red Tails may prove to be one of Lucas's final epics, excluding a possible new Indiana Jones film. He announced that he was retiring from big blockbusters to explore smaller, more personal stories on the screen around this time. To that end, Lucas decided to sell his company, Lucasfilm, to the Walt Disney Company in October 2012. He received about 40 million shares of Disney stock as part of the deal. In return, Disney got the rights to the very lucrative Star Wars franchise.
In addition to being a filmmaker, Lucas has been dedicated to helping improve education. He created the George Lucas Educational Foundation in the early 1990s. His organization encourages the use of project-based and team-based learning among other education reforms. Lucas serves as the foundation's chairman and its mission is deeply personal to him. He spent many years as a single father to his adopted daughter Amanda after his divorce in film editor Marcia Griffin in 1983. After their split, Lucas also adopted two more children: Katie and Jet.
In January 2013, Lucas announced his engagement to Mellody Hobson, the president of Ariel Investments. The couple had been dating for five years prior to their engagement.