George Lucas is one of the most significant figures of twentieth-century Hollywood, and a pioneer of the modern blockbuster. He is the richest filmmaker in the world with a net worth of $5.4 billion.
He may have not won an Oscar, but the legendary filmmaker created two of the biggest franchise movies of all time, in Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
In this article, we’ll list our favorite George Lucas quotes. Whether you’re a screenwriter, film director or movie mogul, you’ll find plenty of great advice in these words of wisdom from Lucas.
George Lucas on Filmmaking
The secret to film is that it’s an illusion.
There should be a point to movies. Sure, you’re giving people a diversion from the cold world for a bit, but at the same time, you pass on some facts and rules and maybe a little bit of wisdom.
Learning to make films is very easy. Learning what to make films about is very hard.
If you can tune into the fantasy life of an 11-year-old girl, you can make a fortune in this business.
The story being told in ‘Star Wars’ is a classic one. Every few hundred years, the story is retold because we have a tendency to do the same things over and over again. Power corrupts, and when you’re in charge, you start doing things that you think are right, but they’re actually not.
I wanted to make abstract films that are emotional, and I still do.
Star Wars really isn’t a science-fiction film, it’s a fantasy film and a space opera.
I would say 10 percent of the things in Star Wars have come to pass, even though they were completely ridiculous when I made the movie. So no matter what you’re doing, if you just say, ‘Look, let’s just have a good time,’ and think outside the box—’What if big dogs could fly spaceships?
Most of my movies are about the fact that you’re in that little place, it’s the little prison in your brain—the door’s open but you can’t leave. But all you have to do is walk out and say, ‘Hey! I’m gonna do this.’
The script is what you`ve dreamed up – this is what it should be. The film is what you end up with.
Storytelling is about two things; it’s about character and plot.
Although I write screenplays, I don’t think I’m a very good writer.
I’ve always been a follower of silent movies. I see film as a visual medium with a musical accompaniment, and dialogue is a raft that goes on with it.
George Lucas Quotes on Directing
It’s hard work making movies. It’s like being a doctor:you work long hours, very hard hours, and it’s emotional, tense work. If you don’t really love it, then it ain’t worth it.
A director makes 100 decisions an hour. Students ask me how you know how to make the right decision, and I say to them, “If you don’t know how to make the right decision, you’re not a director.
[on the making of Star Wars (1977)] When you’re directing, you have to get up at four thirty [A.M], have breakfast at five, leave the hotel at six, drive an hour to location, start shooting at eight, and finish shooting around six. Then you wrap, go to your office, and set up the next day’s work. You get back to the hotel about eight or nine, hopefully get a bite to eat, then you go to your room and figure out your homework, how you’re going to shoot the next day’s scenes, then you go to sleep. The next morning it starts all over again.
Making a film is like putting out a fire with sieve. There are so many elements, and it gets so complicated.
If the boy and girl walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand in the last scene, it adds 10 million to the box office.
[on Akira Kurosawa] Kurosawa was one of film’s true greats. His ability to transform a vision into a powerful work of art is unparalleled.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much of an influence Walt Disney has had on me.
Lucas on the Film Business and Producing
With film, if you get a million people to see your movie on the first weekend, you’ve made about $5 million. That basically will not end up on the top-10 chart. You have to get 10 million people on the first weekend. And if you don’t do it in two days, you’re basically out of the theaters and into the DVD market. There’s just an ecology there. If you’re a mouse, don’t expect to kill a lion, because it ain’t gonna happen. If you want to have that kind of power, it’s better to be a lion, because the mice are fine – you can have a life and everything – but the lions are the ones out there prowling and scaring the hell out of everybody.
Studio exectuives are generally not the most sophisticated people in the world. And you will find that if you go – I hope you don’t. But you don’t want to be oppressed by people who are not as smart as you are. And I’m dumb.
The object is to try to get the (movie) system to work for you, instead of against you. And the only way you can do it is through success, I’m afraid.
Even though 10 years ago I was involved in all of it, I would never guess that people would sit in front of a video screen all day long watching cats do stupid things.
The movie industry has turned into a bit of a circus. It always has been there. But it’s now gotten to be a circus without any substance behind it. And I get blamed for a lot of that but, at the end, if you go into Star Wars and take the time to actually see what’s going on, there’s a lot more substance there than circus.
It’s like feeding lions, like going to a real circus where somebody’s walking a tightrope—it doesn’t have anything to do with telling story. It just has to do with, ‘Gee let’s see how much blood comes out when he splats.
Once Star Wars was a hit, I had out of defense acquired the sequel rights because they figured it wasn’t going to go anywhere. Nobody thought it was going to make any money, so it was like half of nothing is nothing.
Don’t get hung up on art. You’re an entertainer, and people come along later and decide whether you’re an artist or not. But in the end, you’re just a guy, or a girl, standing on the corner, with your hat in front of you, twiddling on whatever you’re twiddling on. Painting pictures, singing, dancing, doing whatever, and you hope to hell at the end of the day you’ve got enough money put in there to eat.
Artists don’t make money. If you really want to make money you shouldn’t be here. You should be painting. You can do one of those paintings, mostly a white canvas or whatever, and make $50 million. We don’t make $50 million on a movie. [To Redford] I mean you might, but I don’t.
The studio executives all decided that they were Irving Thalberg and they were really in control of everything and they’re the ones that make the movies. Not the director; the director’s just some hired person, like the plumber who comes in and does that work.
You can make those [licensing] deals really easy. So I said, ‘If I get the license I can make a whole bunch of t-shirts and posters and I can send people out to Disneyland and everything and then I can advertise the movie.’ Everybody thought I was really brilliant but I was really just protecting myself.
I took over control of the merchandising not because I thought it was going to make me rich, but because I wanted to control it. I wanted to make a stand for social, safety, and quality reasons. I didn’t want someone using the name “Star Wars” on a piece of junk.
I did the most stupid thing anybody can do in the movie business. Anybody in the movie business knows not to do this because you already know that there’s suckers out there and anybody that invests in a movie is a sucker. I said, ‘I will now take over and finance my own pictures because then they cannot touch me.’ They cannot come in and re-cut it afterward, they can’t make notes on the script, they can’t do anything.
Movies don’t make money, I got news for you. All the money’s in the action figures. If you own the movie, which I came to do, you make a lot of money. But you have to own it. But that means you have to put the money in.
Lucas on Special Effects and Music
The technology keeps moving forward, which makes it easier for the artists to tell their stories and paint the pictures they want.
The sound and music are 50% of the entertainment in a movie.
What happens when you kind of invent a new technology, you get a lot of other people who may or may not be as creative and just sort of exploit the technology. They say, ‘Wow, I don’t have to do anything, it’s so cool.’ A lot of people like to play in it but that’s not the point. The point is that it allows you to do things that you can’t do otherwise.
All art is technology. That’s the one thing that separates us from other animals. You can teach an ape to draw a picture – not a very good one, but a contemporary, a Damien Hirst. But a chimpanzee or an ape on its own cannot come up with an emotion and then use technology – a brush, a stick, anything – to create a picture that transfers that emotion to other people. Only humans can do that.
Don’t forget the basics. Don’t get enamored with new technology, because it’s not new. Just the medium we’re working in is new, but that doesn’t change anything. The art of what we do is exactly the same. It’s beyond technology. It’s the art of movies.
Lucas Filmmaking Inspiration
Everybody has talent, it’s just a matter of moving around until you’ve discovered what it is.
Always remember, your focus determines your reality.
You can’t do it unless you can imagine it.
You have to find something that you love enough to be able to take risks, jump over the hurdles and break through the brick walls that are always going to be placed in front of you. If you don’t have that kind of feeling for what it is you’re doing, you’ll stop at the first giant hurdle.
The secret is not to give up hope. It’s very hard not to because if you’re really doing something worthwhile I think you will be pushed to the brink of hopelessness before you come through the other side.
The secret to the movie business, or any business, is to get a good education in a subject besides film – whether it’s history, psychology, economics, or architecture – so you have something to make a movie about. All the skill in the world isn’t going to help you unless you have something to say.
Recommended George Lucas Books
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George Lucas: A Life (2017)
The Star Wars Archives. 1977–1983, Taschen
The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story (2007)
George Lucas Quotes Final Words
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