What does it take for a middle-class, self made moviemaker to become a billionaire and rank #107 in the Forbes list 400? Talent – of course; lots of luck to be in the right place at the right time – probably; insight or vision to tell what people want to read, or see, or listen to – yeah, that too. But among all, I think, is this rare ability to be totally in tune with your generation, even with the children of your generation, to believe, to sense, or to be certain of that what you want to see -or read, or listen to- is basically the same as you yourself want.
In 1977, George Lucas wanted to see stuff like Star Wars. Science fiction was “B” – b-movies, b-literature, b-everything. It was considered low-quality and underground at least until 1968 when Stanley Kubrick showed that, like replicants, science-fiction could be either a benefit or a hazard, that it could be frivolous but that it could also had a place in art and culture. But in spite of the undeliable excellence of 2001: A Space Odyssey, when George Lucas, then in his early 30s, started looking for a studio to fund what would later be the most commercially sucessful saga in movie history, science fiction films were still quite on the “B” side of the Hollywood executive’s table. The same executives who were scared to fund Star Wars. Lucas got 8 million dollars from Fox, that were later increased to 11 million. The first movie, Star Wars IV, A New Hope, grossed 700 million dollars in the theaters worldwide.
The Fox ejecutives felt Lucas’ salary was too high for a project that no one really believed in. He was offered to lower it in $500,000 in return for the ownership of whatever merchandising came from the project. Lucas accepted. Was it talent, was it luck, was it vision, was it being in tune with everyone on earth – except evidently those Hollywood executives?
In 1996, Lucas was already worth $2 billion. In 2012 his sold his Lucasfilm to Disney for $4,1 billion in stock and cash and he retired from filmmaking. He is now focused on philantropy and on his Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.