Despite Lucas’ phenomenal success and
unquestionable influence in the medium
of film, it’s not difficult to imagine an
alternate universe in which Star Wars
does not exist. Lucas, raised in Modesto,
was an extremely shy child who did not
instantly gravitate toward film the way
his contemporary Steven Spielberg did.
As a teenager, he was passionate about
race cars and imagined a future racing
or designing automobiles, not writing
screenplays about starships or directing
special effects to simulate light speed.
But a life-threatening car accident
shifted his focus from auto designer
to auteur. Applying to college, Lucas
learned of a filmmaking program at
the University of Southern California,
where he attended and excelled. His
1967 short film Electronic Labyrinth:
THX 1138 4EB won first prize in a
national student film competition.
Lucas would expand on the short in
his first feature, THX 1138, a sci-fi story
about an antiseptic future in which sex
is forbidden and sedation is mandatory.
The film mixes the concepts of Huxley’s
Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984 with
a powerful visual style. Local sites like
BART stations, freeway tunnels and the
Marin County Civic Center blend beautifully with sterile white sets and shots of
Robert Duvall’s shaved head.
George Lucas paved the
road to faraway galaxies
with a down-to-earth
car comedy. BY PE TER CROOKS
This December, millions of moviegoers will line up outside multiplexes from Paris to Perth to see the seventh episode
in the Star Wars saga. The Force Awakens will continue the adventures of Leia and Luke, Han and Chewie, Darth Vader
and Boba Fett — mythological heroes and villains from the mind of San Rafael resident George Lucas, characters
who have inspired our cultural consciousness the way Zeus and Medusa figured into yesteryear’s storytelling circles.