A sweeping, perceptive biography of the influential director.
Jones (Jim Henson: The Biography, 2013, etc.) sets the stage for this impressive biography with a short prologue set in 1976. Lucas was in the Tunisian desert starting his 84-day shoot of Star Wars. The weather was terrible, and sand got into everything. The machines, including R2-D2, wouldn’t work, and the studio was stingy with funds (at that point, Lucas pledged to always control the money). About a year before the release date, Lucas was “certain” the movie “was going to be terrible.” Jones’ extensively researched, unauthorized biography—he wasn’t able to interview key people, including Lucas—lays out in luscious detail the path Lucas took to become one of film’s most successful directors. Born in Modesto, California, in 1944, he grew up in the 1950s and loved comic books, TV serials, and building things. A mediocre, bored student in high school, he managed to get into the University of Southern California. When he discovered their film school, he “fell madly in love with [film], ate it and slept with it 24 hours a day.” He also met Francis Ford Coppola, who helped him get his student film, THX 1138, made into a movie. He also helped him make the popular American Graffiti, which provided Lucas with much-needed money. He could now focus on his “Flash Gordon thing,” Star Wars. Jones wisely eschews unnecessary plot summaries to focus on where the ideas for Lucas’ films came from and how he wrote them and how he dealt with studios and contract negotiations, funding, casting, filming, and marketing. This in-depth portrait of the “modest and audacious” Lucas, a “brilliant” and “enigmatic” technological wizard, and those who were crucial to his success—his editor wife, Marcia, Stephen Spielberg, Haskell Wexler, Garry Kurtz, John Milius, John Dykstra, Harrison Ford—is never less than fascinating.
Masterful and engaging: just what Lucas’ fans and buffs, who love the nitty-gritty of filmmaking, have been waiting for.