George Lucas is the first to admit that he didn’t think Star Wars was going anywhere.
During Stephen Colbert’s interview with George Lucas during a panel at the Tribeca Film Festival Friday afternoon, Lucas admitted that the whole process of getting Star Wars made was somewhat discouraging.
George Lucas said of the experience, “I showed it to all of my friends early on, but it was mostly [filled with] stock footage of old war movies, and all kinds of stuff.”
He added, “They saw it and [said] ‘Poor George.’ ‘What were you thinking?'”
However, not all of George Lucas’ friends were down on his dream. In fact, it was his good friend Steven Spielberg that did have faith in the film and encouraged George Lucas to continue with his efforts.
Lucas said that his other friends’ pity also then fell on Spielberg.
George Lucas said of that pivotal moment, “Steven had jumped up, and said, ‘This is going to be the biggest movie of all time.’ Everybody in the room looked up at Steven and [said], ‘Poor Steven.'”
Though George Lucas had a slow and grudging start to making Star Wars: Episode IV-A New Hope come to life, it did go on to make a smashing debut on that fateful day in May of 1977.
While George Lucas was preparing to go to Hawaii, as he said he always did during his movie debuts, he received an encouraging phone call from Alan Ladd Jr., the then president of 20th Century Fox.
Ladd told him, “It’s a fantastic hit! Every single paper! There are lines around the block. You can’t believe this!”
But, George Lucas, likely still feeling the sting of the early criticism, was reserved in his excitement.
He said, “Laddie, calm down. It’s a science fiction film. Science fiction films get a good old group of sci-fi fans. They’ll go to anything the first week. Wait for a couple weeks, and you’ll see what it’s really gonna do.”
George Lucas was finally convinced when he received another call from Alan Ladd, Jr. This time, he knew that Star Wars was more than a passing hit with a few sci-fi fans.
George Lucas said, “I got a call from Laddie after the first weekend. It was really like in the middle of the week. He called and said, ‘George, turn on the news.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Turn on CBS. Turn on the news. Walter Cronkite.’ You gotta see it.'”
He continued, “So I said, ‘What is it now?’ I turned on the news, and they had this huge story on the sensation of Star Wars, and lines around the block. Everybody was going berserk about it.”
He added, “That was the first time I understood that it was a big hit.”
And the rest is history. What a great story from George Lucas and an inspiration to not give up on those dreams!
Do you remember the first time you watched a Star Wars movie?