George Lucas is beloved by fans, and most known for being the creator of the cult classic movie franchises Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
However, what not many people realize is that it is only due to a miracle that George Lucas experienced, that these monumental films materialized onto our screens and into our hearts. Lucas appears to have always been in the right place at the right time, with all the right people. Even if one of those right places happened to be on the verge of life and death. Incredibly, he has followed a path of destiny that has brought much light into the world.
As a child, Lucas didn’t really stand out from other boys his age. He came from an average family in a small American town and lived a very unremarkable life. While he wasn’t too interested in school, he did enjoy the latest technology of his day – automobiles. Not only did he have a passion for cars, he was obsessed with driving them fast.
Obsession with fast cars
Consequently, during his teens, young Lucas foresaw himself becoming a racing car driver. While his parents were nervous about this, Lucas had a stubbornness about his dreams. A stubbornness that would confront him shortly in the most frightening of ways.
Allegedly, Lucas’s father, a stationery store owner, relented and helped his son purchase an automobile. He gave his son a job in his stationery store, and Lucas faithfully saved money for his first car. At this stage of Lucas’s life, he showed barely any interest in films. Instead, he spent the majority of his time souping up his Autobianchi Bianchina so he could use it for drag races.
However, what one may think to be a stroke of horrendously bad luck, turned out to be the turning point that would redirect Lucas’s entire life. In June of 1962, only a few days before he was due to graduate from high school, Lucas nearly had his life cut drastically short. Tragically, he got himself into a car accident, and doctors had no idea if he would survive it.
While the frightening image of his car wreck, wrapped around a tree, made headlines in his little town of Modesto, Lucas was oblivious and on death’s door
In fact, Lucas was so gravely ill that he spent several months recuperating in hospital. He claims that his only thoughts were that he had miraculously been given another day and that he had to give it worth. Lucas had only one conclusion about his survival: clearly there was a reason he was meant to stay alive.
Having developed a strong sense of purpose in life, his creative energies began to bloom for the first time. Lucas asked his parents if he could attend art school, but they saw no future for him in this direction. But already the seeds were sprouting. Nevertheless, Lucas instead decided to take humanities courses at Modesto Junior College. There is no doubt that the insights he received from studying psychology, philosophy, and anthropology would later become infused in his creative works.
Lucas never lost his love of cars, but his desire to race them was gone. Instead, for the first time, he combined his creative curiosity with his love of racing. Swiftly, he was developing a love of photography, which sprouted from the amazing talent he exhibited in graphic arts. He would take his camera to car races and photograph the racing cars, and this started to gain for him a positive reputation.
Combining passions and philosophy
To further Lucas’s inquisitiveness, that would take him in the direction of cinematic stardom, movie making camera technology was advancing into the average American home. During the 60’s Super 8mm film cameras were becoming a household staple. Consequently, Lucas’s imagination was piqued as he went from taking still photographs to exploring moving photographs.
In a rare 1971 interview with Gene Youngblood, Lucas described how movies themselves never motivated him to become a filmmaker. Instead, he explained that he had a “childish intrigue” about “film that moved.” According to Lucas, this developed into an obsession.
Along with his friend John Plummer, he began seeking to learn everything he could about how other artists had utilized the medium of film. He and Plummer began exploring the underground and avant-garde world of Canyon Cinema, watching films by Jean-Luc Goddard, Bruce Conner, and Francois Truffaut. Consequently, throughout all of Lucas’s career, he has touted avant-garde cinema as his true passion, and what he truly wishes to make.
Hollywood naivety and disappointment
Consequently, he applied to the film school at USC in order to get under the hood and learn the mechanics of his new passion. Lucas would go on to explain how this kept him naïve to the nature of Hollywood that he would spend a lifetime detesting. Hollywood, he discovered, was primarily a profiteering business, where art was an afterthought. Lucas still finds this frustrating to this day.
Upon arriving in Hollywood, Lucas discovered that it was not what you knew, but who you knew. He found it near impossible to get a break due to the giant brick walls of the unions. Nevertheless, his luck with fate enabled Lucas to find a providential route to achieve his dreams. In fact, it was his love of cars that ironically enabled him to crack into the film world.
In his spare time, Lucas would hang out at the famous Carroll Shelby facility, still keen to feed his obsession with racing cars. He made friends with Allen Grant, who would go on to become a famous racing car driver. During his time at Carroll Shelby, a mechanic mentioned to Lucas that he was working on the car of the famous filmmaker Haskell Wexler. Keen to help Lucas further his career, and he offered to introduce them.
The right people in unexpected places
Lucas and Wexler hit it off immediately, and Wexler promised to do whatever he could to advance his aspirations in the film world. This friendship lasted a lifetime, until Wexler’s death in 2015. And while it still felt like a difficult challenge for Lucas, to try to break into the Hollywood clique, he managed to gain a 6-month scholarship with Warners.
This would lead to another moment of “right place, right time” when Lucas would form a deep friendship with Francis Ford Coppola. While Coppola was directing Finians Rainbow he asked Lucas to work closely with him.
Another moment of divine providence in the career of Lucas was meeting his first wife Marcia Griffin, who was an extremely talented editor. She had been working her way through the equally detested and coveted union. They first met when he came to her to be taught editing techniques, and they fell in love. Clearly, all of Lucas’s cards were coming up in his favor!
Destiny kept turning disappointments into miraculous opportunities
After a failed attempt to join the army in 1967, and then a rejection from the Vietnam draft, Lucas could concentrate on his film career. His first film of note, Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB, won him awards at his film school. The theme futuristic, going very much against the grain of mainstream Hollywood. In order to gain widespread distribution, Lucas reluctantly compromised to the businessmen of Hollywood. Consequently, the movie moguls slightly reedited the film to appeal to their assumed market.
Lucas felt jaded by the whole process of dealing with Hollywood profit mongering. However, he was in good company, and times were changing. Many other up and coming filmmakers also desired to create a revolution in Hollywood and bring it up to date. People’s philosophy and attitude had changed during the 60s. It is no wonder that these filmmakers were in tune with where the new generations wanted to go.
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