An encounter with George Lucas

Rendez-vous with... George Lucas © Jean-Louis Hupé / FDC

George Lucas, the director of the cult film Star Wars, was invited by the Festival de Cannes to discuss his career in front of hundreds of fans. He was welcomed with an ovation that lasted several minutes. For around an hour and a half, the American filmmaker went over his career, from his beginnings in the industry to the recognition earned by the Star Wars series. A few choice excerpts.

On the Honorary Palme d’or that will be given to him during the Closing Ceremony

I’m very happy to be here, even though I’m also struck by a feeling of nostalgia, as I’ve often come to Cannes, particularly for Indiana Jones and Star Wars. I obviously have a lot of fans, but I’ve never made award-winning films. That’s why receiving this Palme d’or is a great honour.

On his desire to make films

It was when I went to study film at the University of Southern California that my desire to make movies was born. I was a sort of hero there as I had made an animated short. I never wanted to make traditional films. Our profs kept saying that most of us would never end up directing movies. Luckily, the people that had built Hollywood were starting to retire and the studios were starting to recruit young people. That’s where I met Francis Ford Coppola. He was shooting and he gave me some things to do because I told him that I was getting bored. That’s how I started in cinema. What’s always interested me was not making money but making films!

On the signs of success for Star Wars

One day, an executive at Fox saw American Graffiti and he loved the film. He told me that I could ask for what I wanted and I’d get it. So I told him the story of Star Wars, with dogs that pilot space ships. He was steadfast in his belief in the film! Once I had finished, I showed it to the studios and they hated it. They finally agreed to release it in thirty theatres. But people were starting to line up to see it and the enthusiasm for the film was spreading. Fox finally extended the release to a thousand theatres and the film was a big box office hit!

On the theme written by John Williams for the film

It was Steven Spielberg who advised me to work with him. I wanted classical music, with a theme for each character, a bit like Peter and the Wolf. We recorded in London, at Abbey Road, with a full orchestra. If the films were so successful, it’s because we took care of all the smallest details, and especially the sound, which, for me, accounts for 50% of a film. It’s the secret ingredient that made the series a success.

On his vision of the profession of filmmaker

I’m a perfectionist. After the first three Star Wars movies, I returned to my films with digital technology to arrange or finish what hadn’t been finished. A filmmaker should always have the right to do what he has imagined. It’s a concept that comes to us from Michaelangelo! He wanted everything to be perfect. The big secret is that you have to persevere. I fought for each of my films. I was even ready to finance them myself, because making movies is my passion.