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George Lucas was born George Walton Lucas, Jr. in Modesto, California in 1944. As a teen he loved car racing, but a bad accident just before high school graduation ended that dream, and he went to community college and got interested in film. He transferred to the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, where he became good friends with future filmmakers like John Milius and Stephen Spielberg. As a grad student he directed a short film, Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB, which he later expanded into his first feature film, THX 1138. He won a scholarship that let him work on the set of Finian's Rainbow, which was being directed by Francis Ford Coppola. They became friends, and in 1969 they co-founded American Zoetrope, which produced Coppola's The Rain People, and Lucas' THX 1138, but the movies were not commercially successful. Coppola was hired to direct The Godfather in 1972, and Lucas then started Lucasfim, and he wrote and directed American Graffiti, based on his teen years in Modesto, and Coppola was the producer. The movie was a huge success, both critically and at the box office. Lucas next wanted to direct a re-make of Flash Gordon, but couldn't get the rights, and instead wrote Star Wars, an homage to 1930s serials. But the studio hated the idea, and they reluctantly agreed to finance the movie because of the huge success of American Graffiti, and because Lucas agreed to no director salary, in exchange for 40% of the profits and all merchandising rights (the studio thought there would be no profits!). To make the special effects, Lucas started a separate company ILM (Industrial Light & Magic), and another company Sprocket Systems (later Skywalker Sound) to do the editing and mixing. Of course Star Wars was an immense success, and we all know that Lucas made two hugely successful sequels, and later made the hugely successful Indiana Jones series with old friend Steven Spielberg. But Lucas became so busy with his various projects, and his Skywalker Ranch that he stopped directing movies after Star Wars, only coming out of retirement to direct the three "prequel" Star Wars movies from 1999 to 2005. While Lucas has certainly had a remarkable career, I can't help but feel sad that the world lost such a wonderful director when he had such great success with Star Wars, and I especially wonder what might have happened had THX 1138 and The Rain People been successes for American Zoetrope, and if Lucas and Coppola had remained working together over the next few decades. As of 2021, Lucas is still alive at the age of 77, and married to Mellody Hobson.
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