10 Surprising Facts About George Lucas

Grant Lamos IV, Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival
Grant Lamos IV, Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival

You don't have to be a Star Wars super fan to know who George Lucas is. The acclaimed filmmaker, who is also famous for creating the story behind the Indiana Jones series, has been one of Hollywood's biggest names for more than 40 years now. But here are some fascinating facts you might not know about George Lucas.

1. George Lucas didn't always want to be a filmmaker.

George Lucas didn't always want to be a filmmaker. In fact, it was only after failing at a handful of other careers that Lucas made his way into show business. According to The Hollywood Reporter, as a teen Lucas dreamed of becoming a professional race car driver until a near-fatal accident while he was in high school derailed those plans. After graduating from high school, Lucas attempted to join the Air Force but was rejected because he had too many speeding tickets.

2. George Lucas once worked as a camera operator for the Rolling Stones.

One of Lucas’s earliest film jobs was serving as a camera operator on Gimme Shelter, Albert and David Maysles's critically acclaimed 1970 Rolling Stones film that documented the band’s free 1969 concert at the Altamont Speedway in California, which ended with the death of four concertgoers (including the stabbing death of Meredith Hunter, which was captured on film).

3. George Lucas's dog was a major influence on his work.

The Alaskan Malamute Lucas owned while writing the first Star Wars film inspired two now-iconic characters: The dog’s name, Indiana, became the name of Harrison Ford’s character in the Indiana Jones series. And the look of Chewbacca, Han Solo’s faithful sidekick in the Star Wars series, was based on Lucas's pup.

“I had an Alaskan Malamute when I was writing the film [Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope],” Lucas once shared. “A very sweet dog, she would always sit next to me when I was writing. And when I'd drive around, she'd sit in the front seat. A Malamute is a very large dog—like a 130 pounds and bigger than a human being and very long-haired.”

4. Star Wars wasn't an easy sell for George Lucas.

While the Star Wars franchise has turned into one of the most successful film series in movie history, the first film was not immediately embraced by potential backers. According to Lucas, his “space opera” was turned down by both United Artists and Universal. And it was only because of the success of his previous film, 1975's American Graffiti, that he got people at 20th Century Fox to believe in him. Really, Lucas couldn't blame them for being skeptical of its commercial appeal. “It was crazy—spaceships, and Wookies, and robots," Lucas said. "It was just unlike anything that had ever been seen before."

5. George Lucas based Han Solo partly on Francis Ford Coppola.

Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg present the Best Director Oscar to Martin Scorsese at the 2007 Academy AwardsKevin Winter, Getty Images

The reason Han Solo from the Star Wars series is such a lovable character might be because he was loosely based on one of Lucas’s good friends. After spending time with director Francis Ford Coppola on the set of Apocalypse Now, Lucas decided to add some of the Oscar-winning director's characteristics to Han.

6. George Lucas won a Razzie.

Although Lucas has been nominated for four Oscars, two Golden Globes, three Emmy Awards, and various other prestigious awards, he has also received five Golden Raspberry (or Razzie) nominations, which celebrate the worst films made in any particular year. Between 1989 and 2003, Lucas earned five Razzie nominations and eventually took home the award for Worst Screenplay in 2003 (for Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones).

7. George Lucas's favorite Star Wars character is ... Jar Jar Binks. (Yes, really.)

Though the Star Wars universe is filled with hundreds of memorable characters, Lucas—to the horror of many fans—has long maintained that the much maligned Jar Jar Binks is his favorite character. The goofy Gungan, who is featured in the prequels, is widely considered to be the series's most unlikeable character. Earlier this year, while discussing the 20th anniversary of The Phantom Menace, Lucas stated that the 1999 movie is one of his favorites in the series "and, of course, Jar Jar is my favorite character." (Yes, he was dead-serious.)

8. George Lucas was roommates with another famous director.

Many members of Lucas’s group of friends, including Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg, went on to become famous writers and directors in their own right. As did Lucas's college roommate, Grease director Randal Kleiser.

“[George and I] arrived at USC at the same time,” Kleiser told Bustle in 2015. “He had a house in Topanga Canyon and needed a roommate, so I moved in. I had the bottom half of the house and he had the top. We worked on each other's first movies. I was an actor on his very first film, and he shot some of my stuff.” Kleiser also revealed that this led to the late Carrie Fisher, who played Leia Organa in Star Wars, being considered for the role of Sandy in Grease.

9. George Lucas stood before Congress to argue against the alteration of classic films.

In 1988, Lucas and Steven Spielberg went to Washington, DC to speak before Congress about the necessity of adopting the Berne Convention, a global agreement that protects an artist's copyright around the world and makes it unlawful for someone to alter it. (Ted Turner's penchant for colorizing classic black-and-white movies was a thorn in the side of many filmmakers at the time.)

“People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians," Lucas said. “[And] if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society.” Of course, Lucas himself would later digitally alter some of his own films, much to the annoyance of Star Wars purists.

10. George Lucas plans to give away half his fortune.

Lucas—who is the force behind some of the highest-grossing movies of all time, and sold his Lucasfilm to Disney for $4 billion—has an estimated net worth of approximately $6.1 billion. But philanthropy, particularly when it comes to improving education, has always been a part of Lucas's life. In 2010, he signed the Giving Pledge, which is a promise to give away half his wealth during his lifetime.

"I am dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education," Lucas wrote in a 2010 editorial for The Hollywood Reporter. "It is the key to the survival of the human race. We have to plan for our collective future—and the first step begins with the social, emotional, and intellectual tools we provide to our children. As humans, our greatest tool for survival is our ability to think and to adapt—as educators, storytellers, and communicators our responsibility is to continue to do so."

Celebrate Season 2 of The Mandalorian With These 10 Products

LEGO/Amazon
LEGO/Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

The second season of The Mandalorian is here, and that means a tidal wave of new merchandise is already on store shelves for eager fans to devour. And, of course, when we're talking about Mandalorian merch, we're really talking about anything with Baby Yoda's face printed onto it. And there's plenty of that available for the series' sophomore season on Disney+, whether you want to invest hours in a new LEGO set or just want to kick back and have a drink out of a Baby Yoda-shaped tiki mug. Check out some of our favorite products below.

1. Star Wars: The Mandalorian Polaroid Camera; $140

Polaroid/Amazon

Polaroid cameras are as classic as Star Wars itself, so this collaboration feels natural. The instant camera has The Mandalorian logo etched onto it, and the unique i-Type film prints photos with little Baby Yoda illustrations decorating the borders.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Amazon 3rd Generation Echo Dot The Child Stand; $25

Otterbox/Amazon

Amazon Echo Dots have become so popular, it seems most homes have a couple lying around. With this Baby Yoda stand, you can make sure you'll always know which one is yours. The iconically elongated ears will brighten up any Star Wars fan’s room and get them ready for the new season of the show.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Star Wars: The Mandalorian Marshmallow Cereal; $11

General Mills/Amazon

It feels like cereal hasn’t changed too much over the past couple of years, which is why this Mandalorian cereal is a real treat. It's not just that Baby Yoda's grinning on the box; the cereal itself also has marshmallow pieces shaped like the character.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Baby Yoda Socks; $11

Disney

Even your feet can join in on the Mandalorian hype with this set of Baby Yoda socks from Disney.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Stanley Mandalorian Insulated Mugs; $30-$35

Stanley/Amazon

The famous thermos mug brand, Stanley, has teamed up with Disney to create three exclusive bottles featuring imagery from The Mandalorian. The models include a vacuum bottle with The Mandalorian logo, a trigger-action mug showcasing The Child, and an insulated tumbler with Mando's helmet on it. And since these are from Stanley, you know your drinks will be kept at just the right temperature for up to 24 hours.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Mandalorian-Themed Monopoly; $30

Hasbro

The world of intergalactic bounty hunting makes a seamless transition into Hasbro’s classic game of property management and armchair capitalism in this special edition of Monopoly. Here, staples like Park Place and Baltic Avenue are replaced by the Armorer’s Workshop and a Jawa Camp, with boot and thimble tokens making way for Mando, Baby Yoda, and Moff Gideon pieces.

Buy it: Amazon

7. LEGO Razor Crest Ship; $130

LEGO/Amazon

Mando’s bulky star cruiser is one of the most memorable additions to the Star Wars ship library since the Disney acquisition. This 1023-piece LEGO set allows you to recreate the vessel brick by brick. The Razor Crest set even opens up to reveal a cargo hold, cockpit, and an escape pod—which are all the perfect size to fit the minifigures of Mando, Greef Karga, and Baby Yoda that come along with it.

Buy it: Amazon

8. 10-Inch Chrome Mandalorian Funko Pop!; $40

Funko/Amazon

If any duo deserved an extra-large Funko Pop!, it’s this one. Here, the Mandalorian, real name Din Djarin, is decked out in a special chrome helmet variant meant to resemble his fancy beskar armor. In his clutches is Baby Yoda, and the pair strikes a pose that's perfect for displaying on a desk or bookshelf.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baby Yoda Tiki Mug; $27

Geeki Tiki/Toynk

This tiki mug is firmly in the “at this point, why not?” category of Baby Yoda merchandise. At 16 ounces, it’s an adorable vessel for your favorite island drink, ensuring that even your beverages are on brand while you binge the latest season of The Mandalorian.

Buy it: Toynk

10. Baby Yoda 39-Inch Area Rug; $50

Robe Factory LLC/Amazon

For floors that have a distinct lack of Baby Yoda, this 39-inch area rug sports a vivid illustration of everyone’s favorite pint-sized Force wielder sitting in his adorable floating bassinet. Made of 100 percent polyester, this rug would be right at home in your bathroom, kitchen, or bedroom.

Buy it: Toynk

Related: 11 Great Gifts for Star Wars Fans

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10 Surprising Facts About Wham!’s 'Last Christmas'

Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Over the course of his illustrious career, George Michael gave the world many gifts. One that keeps on giving is “Last Christmas,” the 1984 holiday classic by Wham!, Michael's pop duo with Andrew Ridgeley. “Last Christmas” is such a uniquely beloved song that it inspired a 2019 film of the same name. That’s just one interesting part of the “Last Christmas” story. Read on for 10 fascinating facts about this seasonal synth-pop favorite.

1. George Michael wrote "Last Christmas" in his childhood bedroom.

“Last Christmas” was born one day in 1984 when George Michael and Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley were visiting Michael’s parents. While they were sitting around watching TV, Michael suddenly dashed upstairs to his childhood bedroom and composed the modern Xmas classic in about an hour. “George had performed musical alchemy, distilling the essence of Christmas into music,” Ridgeley said. “Adding a lyric which told the tale of betrayed love was a masterstroke and, as he did so often, he touched hearts."

2. “Last Christmas” isn’t really a Christmas song.

There’s nothing in “Last Christmas” about Santa, reindeer, trees, snow, or anything we typically associate with the holiday. Rather, the song is about a failed romance that just happens to have begun on December 25, when Michael gave someone his heart, and ended on December 26, when this ungrateful person “gave it away.”

3. George Michael wrote and produced the song—but that’s not all.

Dave Hogan/Getty Images

By the time Wham! recorded “Last Christmas” in August (yes, August) 1984, Michael had taken full control of the group. In addition to writing and producing the song, Michael insisted on playing the Roland Juno-60 synth in the studio. “George wasn’t a musician,” engineer Chris Porter said. “It was a laborious process, because he was literally playing the keyboards with two or three fingers.” Michael even jangled those sweet sleigh bells himself.

4. “Last Christmas” didn’t reach #1 on the UK charts.

As the movie Love Actually reminds us, scoring a Christmas #1 in the UK is a really big deal. Unfortunately, “Last Christmas” didn’t give Wham! that honor. It stalled at #2, and to this day it has the distinction of being the highest-selling UK single of all time to not reach #1.

5. George Michael sang on the song that kept “Last Christmas” at #2.

“Last Christmas” was bested on the UK charts by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” an all-star charity single benefiting Ethiopian famine relief. Michael sang on “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” and was so committed to the cause that he donated his profits from “Last Christmas” to helping the African nation.

6. George Michael was sued for plagiarism over “Last Christmas.”

In the mid-1980s, the publishing company Dick James Music sued George Michael on behalf of the writers of “Can’t Smile Without You,” a schmaltzy love song recorded by The Carpenters and Barry Manilow, among others. According to Chris Porter, the recording engineer on “Last Christmas,” the suit was dismissed after a musicologist presented 60-plus songs that have a similar chord progression and melody.

7. "Last Christmas" has been covered by a lot of other artists.

Michael Putland/Getty Images

Jimmy Eat World, Hilary Duff, Good Charlotte, Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen, Gwen Stefani, and Taylor Swift are just a few of the artists who’ve covered “Last Christmas” over the years. The strangest rendition may be the 2006 dance version by the Swedish CGI character Crazy Frog, which reached #16 on the UK charts.

8. Some people make a concerted effort to avoid hearing “Last Christmas.”

While millions of people delight in hearing “Last Christmas” every year, an internet game called Whamageddon encourages players to avoid the song from December 1 to 24. The rules are simple: Once you hear the original Wham! version of “Last Christmas” (remixes and covers don’t count), you’re out. You then admit defeat on social media with the hashtag #Whamageddon and wait for your friends to suffer the same fate. Note: The rules prohibit you from “deliberately sending your friends to Whamhalla.”

9. “Last Christmas” finally charted in America following George Michael’s death in 2016.

Back in 1984, “Last Christmas” wasn’t released as a commercial single in the United States, and therefore it wasn’t eligible for the Billboard Hot 100 chart. However, Billboard changed its rules in 1998, and in the wake of George Michael’s unexpected death on Christmas Day 2016, the song finally made its Hot 100 debut. In December 2018, it reentered the charts and peaked at #25.

10. George Michael was involved in 2019's Last Christmas movie.

November 2019 saw the release of Paul Feig's Last Christmas, a romantic comedy inspired by the song starring Game of Thrones's Emilia Clarke. Producer David Livingstone came up with the idea while George Michael was still alive, and when he pitched the pop star on the project, he was given the greenlight—with one condition: Michael stipulated that actress and author Emma Thompson write the movie. Thompson co-authored the story and the screenplay, and she even wound up playing a supporting role.