George Walton Lucas Jr. (born May 14, 1944) is an American filmmaker and entrepreneur. Lucas is best known as the creator of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, as well as the founder of Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic. He was the chairman and CEO of Lucasfilm, before selling it to The Walt Disney Company in 2012.
Upon graduating from the University of Southern California in 1967, Lucas co-founded American Zoetrope with fellow filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. Lucas wrote and directed THX 1138 (1971), based on his earlier student short Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB, which was a critical success but a financial failure. His next work as a writer-director was the film American Graffiti (1973), inspired by his teen years in early 1960s Modesto, California, and produced through the newly founded Lucasfilm. The film was critically and commercially successful, and received five Academy Award nominations including Best Picture.
Lucas' next film, an epic space opera titled Star Wars (1977), went through a troubled production process; however, it was a surprise hit, becoming the highest-grossing film at the time, as well as a winner of six Academy Awards and a cultural phenomenon. Following the first Star Wars film, Lucas produced and co-wrote the following installments in the trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). Along with Steven Spielberg, Lucas co-created and helped collaborate with the stories for the Indiana Jones films Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Temple of Doom (1984), and The Last Crusade (1989). Lucas also produced and wrote a variety of films through Lucasfilm in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1997, Lucas re-released the original Star Wars trilogy as part of a Special Edition, where he made several alterations to the films; home media releases with further changes were released in 2004 and 2011. He also returned to directing with the Star Wars prequel trilogy, consisting of The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002), and Revenge of the Sith (2005). He later collaborated on the story for the Indiana Jones sequel Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), and served as executive producer for the war film Red Tails (2012).
Lucas is one of the American film industry's most financially successful filmmakers and has been personally nominated for four Academy Awards. Some of his movies are among the 100 highest-grossing movies at the North American box office, adjusted for ticket-price inflation. Lucas is considered a significant figure in the New Hollywood era.
Lucas was born and raised in Modesto, California, the son of Dorothy Ellinore Lucas (née Bomberger) and George Walton Lucas, Sr., who owned a stationery store. He is of German, Swiss-German, English, Scottish, and distant Dutch and French descent. Growing up, Lucas had a passion for cars and motor racing, which later inspired his films 1:42.08 and American Graffiti. Long before Lucas became obsessed with filmmaking, he yearned to be a race-car driver, and he spent most of his high school years racing on the underground circuit at fairgrounds and hanging out at garages. On June 12, 1962, at age eighteen, while driving his souped-up Autobianchi Bianchina, another driver broadsided him, flipping over his car, nearly killing him, causing him to lose interest in racing as a career. He attended Modesto Junior College, where he studied anthropology, sociology, and literature, amongst other subjects. He also began shooting with an 8 mm camera, including filming car races.
At this time, Lucas and his friend John Plummer became interested in Canyon Cinema: screenings of underground, avant-garde 16 mm filmmakers like Jordan Belson, Stan Brakhage, and Bruce Conner. Lucas and Plummer also saw classic European films of the time, including Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless, François Truffaut's Jules et Jim, and Federico Fellini's 8½. "That's when George really started exploring," Plummer said. Through his interest in autocross racing, Lucas met renowned cinematographer Haskell Wexler, another race enthusiast. Wexler, later to work with Lucas on several occasions, was impressed by Lucas' talent. "George had a very good eye, and he thought visually," he recalled.