Date of Birth: May 14, 1944
Race car driving's loss was cinema's gain after George Lucas gave up an early passion for competitive car racing following a serious crash.
The course he took to get where he is now saw him attending film school at the University of Southern California where he turned out several prize-winning short films, including THX-1138: 4EB/Electronic Labyrinth. He later shot a longer version of that film for his first feature, while the title was shortened to THX 1138.
While his first feature was a cold and technical look at the future, his next was a warm and breezy look at the past -- American Graffiti. That look back at West Coast teens coming of age in the early '60s was made on an impossibly tight budget and went on to reap huge profits as critics and audiences alike fell in love with it.
It was American Graffiti that allowed Lucas the clout he needed to launch his vision out into space with the first of the Star Wars series. Three years of preparation went into that first film. But that was nothing compared to the 16 years fans have had to wait for the next Star Wars movies to hit the screen since Return of the Jedi landed in theaters in 1983.
"It's basically my movie that I've been working on for 20 years," Lucas says about Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace. And although he professes to being not that keen on technology, preferring to think of himself as a storyteller, he still had to invent the necessary technology to tell his tales.
"When I started the first Star Wars," he says, "I had absolutely no idea what we were going to do. Everybody said what we were doing was impossible, and I just blindly went ahead and did it anyway. This time, even though I pushing Industrial Light and Magic into frontiers where they've never gone before, I knew after working with them for 20 years that they could get it done."
Like his award-winning special effects people at Industrial Light and Magic, Lucas is also known for being able to get the job done, as millions of Star Wars fans will attest to.
"You're always faced with certain limitations," Lucas says, "but it's how well you work in those limitations that defines a really talented filmmaker from someone who's just average. Because everybody has problems, Everybody has limitations. Only some of us learn how to manipulate through those in a more efficient manner than other people. And that's really the secret."
In 2012 Walt Disney purchased Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in stocks and cash. In a press release, Lucas said, "It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers," adding that he “thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime."
Filmography (Director):Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)