Happy Birthday George Lucas: Relive the Film Icon’s Legendary Moments

by Suzanne Halliburton
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George Lucas and his 77th birthday is putting us in a sentimental Friday kind of mood. Anyone up for a Skywalker party? Should we check in with Indiana Jones?

First, for this George Lucas fiesta, watch this and remember your heart beating loudly in your ears and all those goose bumps the magical first time you saw this beginning, preferably in a dark theater with an ice-cold Coke and a tub of buttered popcorn. To this day, we still want R2D2 to come live in our house. This is a Friday must.

George Lucas Became a Legend With ‘Star Wars’

George Lucas first introduced himself to America with American Graffiti, an ode to hot rods and his teenage years spent in Modesto, Calif. The movie gave us Ron Howard as a teenaged actor. It gave us Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, and Suzanne Somers. Cindy Williams was in it, too. The movie was an unexpected late summer hit in 1973.

Lucas went back to work on his first foray into fantasy film. He wanted to make a movie about Flash Gordon. But when he couldn’t nail down the rights to the comic book super hero, he opted to create his own galaxy of heroes and anti heroes and the droids who accompanied them.

He created Star Wars, putting together a movie his ninth grade self would watch on a loop.

“The reason I’m making Star Wars is that I want to give young people some sort of faraway exotic environment for their imaginations to run around in,” George Lucas said, according to Biography.com. “I have a strong feeling about interesting kids in space exploration. I want them to want it. (And) I want them to get beyond the basic stupidities of the moment and think about colonizing Venus and Mars.

“And the only way it’s going to happen is to have some dumb kid fantasize about it — to get his ray gun, jump in his ship and run off with this wookie into outer space. It’s our only hope in a way.”

Light Sabers Ready? Be on the Look Out for Darth Vader

Light sabers ready? And let’s add Chewbacca to our George Lucas party guest list.

Lucas shopped around his Star Wars idea to various studios. Fox, which got behind American Graffiti, was the only major studio not to tell George Lucas no. He retreated to rework the characters. Luke Skywalker went to fresh-faced hero from graying general. Get this, Han Solo originally looked like a frog. Thank goodness Lucas tapped Harrison Ford.

By 1975, Luke Skywalker became the Luke we loved. And, cue the foreboding music, a heavy-breathing Darth Vader entered the script.

The movie premiered in summer, 1977. And Stars Wars, in a word, was fantastic. The budget was $11 million. It grossed $513 million that year. Let’s quantify that in modern blockbuster terms. In 2021, that equates to $2.25 billion. Just wow.

George Lucas continued his Star Wars trilogy with the much darker Empire Strikes Back, (1980) followed by Return of the Jedi. By the end of the third movie, Luke Skywalker, with help from a tribe of Ewoks, defeated the Galactic Empire. Darth Vader came back to the good side of the force as he died, telling Luke his sister Leia was right. And then we see Anakin Skywalker (formerly Vader), with Obi Wan and Yoda up in the sky, smiling down at Luke. Let’s flip on the lights, but not before we wipe away some tears. Plus, Yoda gets to come home with us. Every home needs Yoda, at least one Wookie and a droid to keep Alexa on the up and up.

Fans Love Indiana Jones, Too

It’s hard to fathom so much creativity packed into one imagination. But George Lucas came up with Indiana Jones plots at about the same time he was putting together Star Wars.

In 1977, as Star Wars was coming together, Lucas invited Steven Spielberg to direct his new Raiders of the Lost Ark project. Indiana Jones would the hero. He was an academic and an archeologist who traveled the world looking for elusive, maybe mythical prizes. Harrison Ford, also known as Han Solo to millions, morphed into the perfect Indiana Jones.

While Star Wars took place a long, long time ago, the Indiana Jones series unfolded over the somewhat recent past. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones was searching for the Ark of the Covenant and the Ten Commandments. In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Jones was looking for artifacts called the Shankara Stones. And in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), it was all about the search for the Holy Grail.

Remember this iconic scene?

Somewhere, we can hear Indiana Jones scream “Jock, start the engines.” It’s time for the George Lucas party. And because of Lucas, the force, always, is with us. Plus, we’ll always have Princess Leia buns, Jabba the Hutt, C-3PO, Boba Fett and Lando Calrissian.

Let’s turn into teenage Jedi Knights again and remember all the feels the first time you watched this final scene.

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