10 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. In honor of the four-time Oscar nominee's 75th birthday on May 14th, 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. He 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. His 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.

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. He based Han Solo partly on Francis Ford Coppola.

Directors Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg present the award for Best Direction during the 79th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre on February 25, 2007 in Hollywood, California
Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg present the Best Director Oscar to Martin Scorsese at the 2007 Academy Awards
Kevin 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. He 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. His favorite Star Wars character is a lot of fans's most hated character.

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. 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. He 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. He 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."

Rewind Time With This Blockbuster-Themed Party Game

Amazon/Big Potato Games
Amazon/Big Potato Games

With only one Blockbuster location left in the world, the good old days of wandering video rental store aisles and getting chewed out for late fees are definitely a thing of the past—but like so many relics from the '90s, the pull of nostalgia has ensured that Blockbuster (or at least the brand) won't disappear for good. Now the video store is back in the form of a party game from Big Potato Games that is designed to test the movie knowledge of you and up to 11 friends.

Marketing itself as “a movie game for anyone who has ever seen a movie,” the Blockbuster party game consists of two parts. In part one, players from each team compete head-to-head to name as many movies as they can that fit under specific categories (e.g., movies with Tom Cruise, famous trilogies, movies with planes). In the second half, two teams face off against each other to test their skills at a game of movie-related charades. The catch? Players can only describe movies in one of three randomly chosen ways: acting out scenes, rattling off a famous quote, or describing the films with one word.

The real selling point of the whole package is that Big Potato fit all the game cards and buzzer into a box that is virtually identical to the old-school Blockbuster VHS rental cases, right down to its distinct color scheme and shape. All it's missing is the membership card. 

The Blockbuster board game costs $26 on Amazon and $20 at Target. That’s a fair price for getting the chance to rewind time.

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8 Festive Facts About Hallmark Channel Christmas Movies

The holiday season means gifts, lavish meals, stocking stuffers, and what appear to be literally hundreds of holiday-themed movies running in perpetuity on the Hallmark Channel, which has come to replace footage of a crackling fireplace as the background noise of choice for cozy evenings indoors. Last year, roughly 70 million people watched Hallmark's holiday scheduling block. If you’re curious how the network manages to assemble films like Check Inn to Christmas, Christmas at Graceland: Home for the Holidays, and Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen with such efficiency—a total of 40 new films will debut this season on the Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, and Hallmark Movies Now—keep reading.

1. The Hallmark Channel Christmas movie tradition started with ABC.

The idea of unspooling a continuous run of holiday films started in the 1990s, when ABC offshoot network ABC Family started a "25 Days of Christmas" programming promotion that would go on to feature the likes of Joey Lawrence and Mario Lopez. The Hallmark Channel, which launched in 2001, didn’t fully embrace the concept until 2011, when ABC Family moved away from the concept in an effort to appeal to teen viewers.

2. Most Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are shot in Canada.

To maximize their $2 million budget, most Hallmark Channel holiday features are shot in Canada, where tax breaks can stretch the dollar. Wintry Vancouver is a popular destination, though films have also been shot in Montreal and Toronto. One film, 2018's Christmas at the Palace, was shot in Romania to take advantage of the country's castles.

3. Each Hallmark Channel Christmas movie only takes a couple of weeks to film.

If you’re wondering why a holiday movie on basic cable can regularly attract—and keep—a list of talent ranging from Candace Cameron Bure to Lacey Chabert, the answer is partly scheduling. Most Hallmark holiday movies take just two to three weeks to shoot, meaning actors don’t have to commit months out of the year to a project. Actors like Rachael Leigh Cook, who stars in this year's A Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas, have also complimented the channel on giving them opportunities to be with their families while on location: Cook said that the production schedule allowed her time to FaceTime with family back home.

4. Hallmark Channel Christmas movies use a variety of tricks to create snow.

Even more pervasive than Dean Cain in the Hallmark Channel Christmas line-up is snow. Because some of the films shoot in the summer, it’s not always possible to achieve that powder naturally. Producers use a variety of tricks to simulate snowfall, including snow blankets that mimic the real thing when laid out; foam; commercial replica snow; crushed limestone; and ice shavings. Actors might also get covered with soapy bubbles for close-ups. The typical budget for snow per movie is around $50,000.

5. There’s a psychological reason why Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are so addictive.

Like a drug, Hallmark Channel Christmas movies provide a neurological reward. Speaking with CNBC in 2019, Pamela Rutledge, behavioral scientist, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, and a faculty member in the Media Psychology department at Fielding Graduate University, explained that the formulaic plots and predictability of the films is rewarding, especially when viewers are trying to unwind from the stress of the holiday season. “The lack of reality at all levels, from plot to production, signals that the movies are meant to be escapism entertainment,” Rutledge said. “The genre is well-defined, and our expectations follow. This enables us to suspend disbelief.”

6. Hallmark Channel Christmas movie fans now have their own convention.

Call it the Comic-Con of holiday cheer. This year, fans of Hallmark Channel’s Christmas programming got to attend ChristmasCon, a celebration of all things Hallmark in Edison, New Jersey. Throngs of people gathered to attend panels with movie actors and writers, scoop up merchandise, and vie for prizes during an ugly sweater competition. The first wave of $50 admission tickets sold out instantly. Hallmark Channel USA was the official sponsor.

7. Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are helping keep cable afloat.

Actors Brooke D'Orsay and Marc Blucas are pictured in a publicity still from the 2017 Hallmark Channel original movie 'Miss Christmas'
Brooke D'Orsay and Marc Blucas in Miss Christmas (2017).
Hallmark Channel

In an era of cord-cutting and streaming apps, more and more people are turning away from cable television, preferring to queue up programming when they want it. But viewers of Hallmark Channel’s holiday offerings often tune in as the movie is airing. In 2016, 4 million viewers watched the line-up “live.” One reason might be the communal nature of the films. People tend to watch holiday-oriented programming in groups, tuning in as they air. The result? For the fourth quarter of 2018, the Hallmark Channel was the most-watched cable network among women 18 to 49 and 25 to 54, even outpacing broadcast network programming on Saturday nights.

8. You can get paid to watch Hallmark Channel Christmas movies.

If you think you have the constitution to make it through 24 Hallmark Channel holiday films in 12 days, you might want to consider applying for the Hallmark Movie Dream Job contest, which is sponsored by Internet Service Partners and will pay $1000 to the winning entrant who seems most capable of binging the two dozen films and making wry comments about them on social media. You can enter though December 6 here.

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