5 little-known facts about George Lucas and Star Wars

HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Filmmaker George Lucas attends the premiere of Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on December 14th, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Filmmaker George Lucas attends the premiere of Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on December 14th, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images) /

George Lucas is known as the mastermind behind Star Wars, possibly the most important film ever made, launching a global franchise of movies, television shows, books, toys, and more.

Though Lucas has retired from making films, his lasting impact in creating a story of a lonely farmboy who gets swept up into a galaxy-wide adventure is still felt all over the world.

Below are five facts about this legendary writer and director.

1. He wanted to be a racecar driver

George Lucas’ life is the perfect demonstration of how the history of the entire world over the past 40-plus years could have been different if not for one life-altering event in one man’s life. Lucas grew up hoping to be a racecar driver when he grew up. We see this reflected in his first major theatrical film, American Graffiti, a story about a group of teenagers enjoying one last night of racing adventures before going off to college. The film takes place in Lucas’ hometown of Modesto, California.

His dream of becoming a racecar driver ended when in 1962, a collision with another driver who broadsided him nearly ended his life. Though filmmaking wasn’t his immediate redirection after recovering, leaving racing behind put him on a trajectory toward discovering his love for film. If not for that crash, Star Wars and its global impact on countless fans over the last 40 years never would have happened.

2. His impact on the film industry

When Lucas was working on Star Wars, he wasn’t viewed as one of the premiere filmmakers of the time. He struggled to get anyone interested in the film, and the actual process of making the film was beset by challenges that nearly ended the film’s production multiple times. Nobody would have expected Lucas to leave any lasting impact on the film industry, even if Star Wars was moderately successful.

But Lucas envisioned a film unlike any other, and the current technology of the time wasn’t going to make his vision a reality. So Lucas created Industrial Light and Magic, a special effects division of Lucasfilm that innovated new technology, such as the computer-controlled camera known as the “Dystraflex” that brought Lucas’s vision to life and changed the way films were made from that point forward. Since 1975, ILM has been responsible for the dazzling special effects in films such as the Back to the Future trilogy, Jurassic Park, the Harry Potter series, and more.

3. George Lucas founded an educational foundation

Lucas has always been a passionate advocate of education, and in 1991, he founded the George Lucas Educational Foundation, which is committed to helping transform K-12 classrooms to give students the opportunities they need to “acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to thrive in their studies, careers, and adult lives.” The foundation is divided into two streams: Lucas Education Research and Edutopia, a website that features daily articles by and for teachers on important educational topics, such as student-centered learning, culturally responsive teaching, and more.

4. His continued influence on the galaxy far, far away

Lucas sold Lucasfilm, and the rights to Star Wars with it, to Disney for $4 billion in 2012, becoming the second-largest Disney shareholder behind the estate of Steve Jobs. Though this was a difficult decision for him, and though he hasn’t always expressed pleasure in Disney’s creative direction of the franchise he created and helmed for nearly 40 years, the Star Wars fandom’s respect for Lucas has only grown in recent years.

Disney has recognized this and brought Lucas in to consult on many of its Star Wars productions. Lucas has even been rumored to be writing episodes of the upcoming Disney+ series focused on Rogue One’s Cassian Andor. Lucas has made it clear that Disney didn’t use his outlines for Episodes VII, VIII, and IX, but we have learned that many of the core elements of his ideas did make it into the films, such as a young girl searching for Luke Skywalker who exiled himself away, and it’s likely much more than that either has made into Disney’s Star Wars productions or will in the future.

5. Creating a modern fairy tale

Star Wars may be a massive sci-fi franchise loved by people all over the world, but Lucas envisioned it as a fairy tale for a new generation of children. Lucas spoke at the 2017 Star Wars Celebration, reiterating his focus on giving children a story that acknowledges that genuine evil exists and that there is hope that evil can be defeated. According to Lucas, Star Wars was always meant to be about “friendships, honestly, trust, doing the right thing, living on the right side and avoiding the Dark Side,” all important elements of a good fairy tale story.

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