Thanks to his Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, George Lucas is one of the richest and most powerful persons in Hollywood.

Just how rich is he? The 130 million dollar plus budget for the recent Attack of the Clones came from his own pocket, which makes it probably the most expensive “indie” (movies not made by Hollywood’s major studios such as Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox) movie ever made.

However, how many of the hordes of fans who flocked to see his Star Wars movies have seen his first full-length feature THX-1138? This was an experimental student film Lucas made in 1971 which was padded to full running time. It is about a dystopian society very similar to George Orwell’s 1984? Or how about American Graffiti – his first big hit made shortly before Star Wars – which nostalgically depicts his own late youth growing up in a small Californian town?

Or how about Howard the Duck?

The point is that Lucas has directed only five movies in his a career spanning more than three decades. They are: THX-1138, American Graffiti, Star Wars, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones – and truth be told, only one of them was truly special, namely the seminal 1977 Star Wars.

Despite this, Lucas has enormous clout mostly because he made a bigger fortune out of toys and merchandising than through actual ticket sales. In fact, one can argue that movies that movies such as The Phantom Menace merely exist to sell McDonald’s happy meals, computer games, stationary, etc.

Besides, what else did the two most recent Star Wars films add to the series besides juvenilia and boredom? Hands up those of you who actually managed to stay awake during Attack of the Clones . . .

It is a pity that this biography of the self-made mogul stops shortly before the release of Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. It would have interesting to note what would have been the response of author John Baxter to these two recent additions to the money-spinning series. (I think, however, that one can probably accurately guess what Baxter’s response would be . . .)

Biographies usually range from the “authorized” to the “unauthorized” type.

“Authorized” biographies – that is, biographies that have the approval of the star/celebrity in question – are unnaturally worshipful of the book’s subject. This is obvious: you wouldn’t want anyone to write anything nasty about you, especially when you have control over the process.

“George Lucas is a god and brought happiness to thousands of cinemagoers across the globe,” these books would gush. And if they don’t, then you can always fire the publicist who recommended the hired author and prevent the book from being published at all.

“Authorized” biographies may not be so in name, but in spirit. Authors who decide on a subject for a biography becomes enamored of that personage/celebrity/whatever if they weren’t so in the first place. This is a common trap for biographers I think.

At the other extreme is the “unauthorized” biography. If someone like Albert Goldman or Kitty Kelly wrote it then you can be sure of a hatchet job. The biography will be sprinkled with revelations of the “George Lucas was the ringleader of a Satanist cult” variety.

If John Baxter ever wrote your biography then you’d be spared these sorts of lurid “revelations”, but you’ll have to settle for some gossipy bits (“Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas had a falling out!”) and being a film-critic you won’t exactly be hearing the words “Return of the Jedi rocks!” from Baxter’s mouth.


Next: This book isn't exactly for fan boy types who feel like spamming me right now with a message stating “f&*#k you – George Lucas is a GOD!”

George Lucas: A Biography
by John Baxter
461 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 7.76 x 5.11
HarperCollins Publishers; (September 18, 2000)




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