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George Lucas: A Biography Paperback – 18 Sep 2000
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Among the wave of film directors who brought fresh blood and maverick sensibilities to southern California in the early 1960s--including Francis Ford Coppola, John Milius, Brian DePalma and Martin Scorsese--none could have seemed less likely than George Lucas, the short, painfully shy car nerd from Modesto, California. And yet, in a mere four appearances behind the camera over 20 years, he managed to change Hollywood and fundamentally alter the culture. In this lively and informative biography, John Baxter weaves interviews with Modesto townies and Lucas cronies into a portrait of the man as an artistically gifted loner with a grocer's feeling for budgets--an important director who was also unmanned by directing and a self-effacing man whose notes for Star Wars reveal an ambition to make an American epic on the scale of Kurosawa's samurai stories. Baxter skilfully shades in Lucas's emotionally straitened adolescence, his lack-of-anything-better-to-do enrolment in USC's film school, and his relationship with Coppola, whose operatic manoeuvrings made the small, European-ish American Graffiti possible, even as his flamboyance estranged the two. Baxter also takes Lucas to task--Lucas lied about losing his virginity in the back seat of a car, he argues--but by the end the author has been won over, appreciating Lucas's films less than he admires the basic goodness and integrity of the man who put up money for Kurosawa's Ran and Coppola's Tucker, for no other reason than because he felt that small-town boy's sense of debt to his mentors. --Lyall Bush
From the Back Cover
Despite his frank dislike of directing, George Lucas has made himself one of the most important figures in the history of film-making. His production company, Lucasfilm, is phenomenally successful, and his Industrial Light and Magic is the finest special effects studio in the world.
Yet, for all his achievements, Lucas remains an elusive, almost anonymous figure, shunning the limelight and spending much of his time on his isolated Skywalker Ranch complex in northern California. Now John Baxter, acclaimed biographer of Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick and Woody Allen, sheds new light on the originator of the 'New Hollywood.', tracing his small-town origins in Modesto, California (brilliantly recreated in his first major film as director, American Graffiti) and his subsequent phenomenal success with 'Star Wars', its successors and the tree 'Indana Jones' films. Together, these comprise the most popular group of films ever made.
John Baxter has compiled the most complete portrait to date of a man who has done as much to shape popular culture as anyone alive.
'This book is undoubtedly the best that could be written on the inventor of Luke Skywalker, the Force and trans-global product merchandising.'
NIGEL ANDREWS 'Finacial Times'
'Baxter reveals in his mastery of the anecdotal stuff that shows he has researched his subject as fastidiously as ever.'
'Detailed and informative.'
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One thing stood out above all. His difficulties with school work, especially reading; his inability to relate to others - he was a film director who couldn't communicate with actors, and used to leave notes about what he wanted to say rather than risk speaking to someone (rather like a lion tamer who was afraid to go into the cage and confront the big cats); his obsession with machines (especially cars) that made him produce films about things rather than people, with effects being placed above characterisation; the fact that his marriage broke down because he couldn't see that his wife wanted more than an occasional postcard or a brief chat when they met to discuss the film they were co-producing together (and the fact that he was dumbfounded when she left him, despite having ample warning that she was terribly unhappy and tried repeatedly to say so), and his total obstinacy when dealing with anyone creative (insisting that everyone agreed with him and not tolerating argument or discussion for any reason) all point to an indication that he might well have some form of autism, albeit of as very high-functioning kind. This may be totally wrong, of course, as all sorts of tycoon types exhibit similar behaviour, but seen in the context of his life story it make a lot of sense.
The book is structured conventionally, with a description of his childhood and early life progressing onto his first attempts at film-making at the University of South California's film school (back then little more than a collection of huts and tutors who advised all students that, if they wanted a career in movies, then don't do Film Studies at USC!). His first essay in film-making - the famous THX 1138 4EB - was distinctive enough to later get made into a full cinema feature but, like Star Wars, was often critiscised for favouring machines over men and technical wizardy over plot development - a notable characteristic of many of his films.
The book is admirably even-handed, pointing out his many faults as well as his undoubted talents and determination to get things done; from my point of view, the best part was the chapters dealing with the Star Wars trilogy (as was), though much of it details his rivalry with Spielberg and Coppola (so much so sometimes that I occasionally wondered if the author had forgotten who he was writing about). It's a book that appears to have upset some reviewers, but I thought it was first-class, and I stick to that view. Recommended to all but those who want hagiography, not objective judgement.
What inspired Lucas into film-making? The book journeys to Lucas's childhood in a typical suburban area in North California. The introverted and reserved Lucas developed a fascination with models and cars. The obsession with cars during his teenage years led to the central theme as the debut movie "American Graffiti". How did the cult classic Stars Wars become a phenomenal success? Its legacy continues to live on. The book takes a deep look into the preliminary stages of the epic adventure. It is fascinating area to learn about, as you learn about movie magic. In addition, the book reviews other film projects of Lucas. The Stars Wars aspect fascinated me the most, as I share the experience like many others of watching the movie as a kid.
The book does not just focus on Lucas highly successful career as a film-maker. It paints a picture of Lucas as an individual. The biography is well-researched, with insightful and expert commentary on the movie business dating back to the 70's. The decade witnessed an individual. He contributed to transforming the world of cinema making, but remains uncomfortable in the media limelight. Lucas rarely provides interviews.
The biography is beautifully written and I would recommend to anyone who is an avid fan of Lucas. I have onecriticism reserved about the biography. It is written almost 10 years and film making has undergone significant changes with the introduction of CGI. The biography covers the key aspects. I find these aspects intriguing. It takes no guessing what it is. The Lucas brand is associated with Stars Wars.
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