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The Lucas Wars: five little-known stories about the genesis of Star Wars

This is the unexpected success of recent months in the comics department.

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The Lucas Wars: five little-known stories about the genesis of Star Wars

This is the unexpected success of recent months in the comics department. The Lucas Wars (Deman Éditions) is a graphic novel recounting the youth of Georges Lucas. The album also explores the complex genesis of the first episode of Star Wars, released in theaters in 1977. It has just won two important prizes in quick succession: the Franceinfo prize for current affairs and reporting comics, as well as the BD Fnac France Inter price. Renaud Roche, the designer, and Laurent Hopman, the screenwriter, by diving back into the process of creating Star Wars, were able to free themselves from the official version and find a host of forgotten details in the archives.

In 1967, while a film student at the University of Southern California, Georges Lucas directed his first short film. Already, it is science fiction that inspires him. The title, THX 1138 4-EB, is somewhat nebulous. The scenario is just as much. “In a futuristic society where humanity lives underground, a man tries to escape the grip of a totalitarian regime. » The film is visually spectacular and the special effects are stunning. So much so that the young director won first prize at a national student film festival. Thanks to this iconoclastic work, Lucas will meet important people for the rest of his career. Steven Spielberg, first, with whom he would collaborate on Indiana Jones years later. But also Francis Ford Coppola, who adapted THX 1138 4-EB into a feature film in 1970. Despite the commercial failure, Lucas' career was well and truly launched.

The final scenario of Star Wars is the result of numerous rewrites. The first version dates from the early 1970s and struggled to convince Hollywood studios. “Luke Skywalker, an old general, wants to save a princess from the clutches of the Empire, a galactic dictatorship. He will be helped by a group of rebellious young boys and by two deserters from the Empire who bicker all the time. » Poorly written, teenage delirium, too expensive special effects... The project, which draws a lot of inspiration from Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress, is unanimously opposed. In August 1973, only Fox, weakly convinced by the story but convinced that Lucas was talented, signed a relatively uninviting letter of agreement. The screenplay would only find its final form two years later, in August 1975. Georges Lucas was helped in writing by his wife at the time, the editor Marcia Griffin, who has since been erased from official history. .

Casting for Star Wars is extremely laborious. Lucas embarks on a three-week marathon, where he meets thousands of candidates. Relying on his first impression, he ousts candidates in seconds. Harrison Ford, who played in American Graffiti, is recruited to respond to the actors who are being cast. The director thinks he would make a good Han Solo but refuses to rehire actors with whom he has already worked. According to him, this would be “too disturbing for the public”. Christopher Walken was once considered for the role of the big-hearted smuggler. But Lucas must face the facts: by playing the character of Han Solo during castings, Harrison Ford shows that he has the character in his skin.

In 1977, a few weeks before the release of Star Wars, a torrent of bad news fell on Lucas. He first learns that the film will only be shown in 32 cinemas across the country. Exhibitors “say that there is no audience for science fiction” and that they prefer “to bet on The Exorcist 2”, which is scheduled in 720 theaters the same week. Worse, the members of the Fox Board of Directors were invited to the test screening of a quasi-final version, where only a few special effects were still missing. Sixteen executives of the powerful Hollywood studio give their opinion in a questionnaire. Three of them liked the film. Three others thought it would barely cover its budget. Eight hated it. And the last two… fell asleep. What happens next will prove them wrong. The success of Star Wars was total from the first day of its theatrical release.

In 1977, for Star Wars, George Lucas managed to negotiate one of the most advantageous contracts for a director in the history of Hollywood cinema in terms of merchandising. He obtained 50% of the rights, and total control over the production and marketing of derivative products. Where did he get this intuition that he had to focus on figurines and other posters? Straight from his father's shop. The latter ran a stationery store in a small town in California. He had created a corner where he sold toys for customers who came with their children. One thing led to another and he realized that it was on this range of products that he made the best margin.

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