“Long long ago, in a Galaxy far far away…”
so went the legend and hundreds of millions of cine-goers who read those lines in a cinema were treated to an experience of a life time. Actually, Star Wars and its medley of colorful characters have now become part and parcels of the imagination of generations of movie lovers. Individuals such as Princess Lia Oriana, Luke Sky Walker, Obi Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, the Jedi Nights and the Imperial Strom Troopers are now weaved into the very fabric of reality as we know it. And all of this came about, because of the inspiring vision, as well as the gumption and determination of a man who did not know how to accept “No’ as an answer.
As of now, even though the creator of the whole Star Wars franchise will not be cashing in, at least as far as the success of his last film The Last Jedi, is concerned but in spite of that, the force is still pretty strong as far as his bank account is concerned. That is, he is worth all of 5.5 billion dollars, after his deal to sell the LucasFilms to Disney went though, way back in 2012.
o Lucas and the lucrative Star Wars franchise
As a matter of fact, Lucas’ vast fortune effectively makes him just about the richest Hollywood celebrity in the world today. And if we were to compare figures, then his equally well known colleague (as well as sometime collaborator) Steven Spielberg, who is widely acknowledged to be the most popular director around, thanks to his roster of over 30 movies of all kinds, is worth around $3.6 billion, despite his really impressive resume.
While Lucas has been responsible for many movies, but the Star Wars franchise is primarily responsible for most of his vast wealth. In fact, when “A New Hope” hit the theaters way back in May 1977, it went on to break just about each and every box office record of that period. However, the people who were financing it certainly did not think that it would turn out to be this way at all.
o Initial financing issues
The film cost its producer that is the 20th Century Fox studios around $11 million to make. And they actually wanted to shut down production once it became clear that it would go well above the original budget of around $8.25m. In fact, they were pretty sure that the movie would not do well at all and George went ahead and took advantage of the studio’s already low expectations by putting his own salary on the line. He traded most of his payroll in return for its sequel as well as merchandising rights.
In this respect, unlike the movie moguls who controlled the purse strings, he had absolute belief in his product. That is, the creation of the right mix of fantasy, science fiction and adventure, that would enable the average movie goer to be able to forget the real world and become at one, with the magic. Here, he succeeded, even beyond his wildest dreams.
When he first dreamt about the concept, he knew it would be a hard sell to the men who controlled the budgets, and even though it was rough going at first, but they eventually acquiesced to his idea, and he got the go ahead to begin production.
However, in order to understand his bull headed tenacity we should take a look at his early life.
o His early life
George Walton Lucas, Jr. was born on 14 May 1944 in Modesto, California. And as a young boy, Lucas took very active interest in sports cars. In fact, it was his greatest dream in life to become a driver of a racing car, and towards this goal, he spent his teenage working as a drag racer, working in vehicles he had personally modified. Glimpses of this phase in life can be seen in Star Wards: A Phantom Menace, when young Anakin basically does what Lucas himself used to do when he was a kid. However, he had a terrible accident and he barely survived. This made him rethink his whole attitude towards life and he subsequently turned to film making. “American Graffiti,” effectively launched his career in the world of Hollywood movie making and after the success of this film, he went on to develop the Star Wars franchise, and the rest as that old hackneyed cliché goes “is history”.
Even though it was difficult for him to find any backers for the movie, he prevailed upon 20th Century Fox to finance it. Even offering to reduce his salary from half a million dollars (a princely sum 41 years back) up to $150,000 as long as he retained the merchandising and sequel rights of the move. For the studio big wigs’, it looked like ‘found’ money since they thought it would barely break even, at most.
However, within a year of its release, the move had made $100 million in toys alone! While ticket sales for the first 6 months were more than double that amount. The world’s insatiable demand for the ‘power of the force’ had barely begun. And as the years passed, the hundreds of millions turned into billions and the franchise is still earning massive amounts, to this day.
The story of Lucas and LucasFilms are interwoven together, not least because they showcase the fact that one man, if he has the vision and the determination to buck the odds can actually work magic. This is something Lucas believed, in all his life, and also made just about every Star Wars fan believe the same.
“They were in the wrong place at the wrong time, naturally they became Heroes”
Senator Leia Organa: Princess of planet Alderaan (Star Wars Episode III: A New Hope)
by Bobby J Davidson
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