10 Facts About George Lucas

Grant Lamos IV, Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival
Grant Lamos IV, Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival

You don't have to be a Star Wars super fan to know who George Lucas is. The acclaimed filmmaker, who is also famous for creating the story behind the Indiana Jones series, has been one of Hollywood's biggest names for more than 40 years now. In honor of the four-time Oscar nominee's 75th birthday on May 14th, here are some fascinating facts you might not know about George Lucas.

1. George Lucas didn't always want to be a filmmaker.

George Lucas didn't always want to be a filmmaker. In fact, it was only after failing at a handful of other careers that Lucas made his way into show business. According to The Hollywood Reporter, as a teen Lucas dreamed of becoming a professional race car driver until a near-fatal accident while he was in high school derailed those plans. After graduating from high school, Lucas attempted to join the Air Force but was rejected because he had too many speeding tickets.

2. He once worked as a camera operator for the Rolling Stones.

One of Lucas’s earliest film jobs was serving as a camera operator on Gimme Shelter, Albert and David Maysles's critically acclaimed 1970 Rolling Stones film that documented the band’s free 1969 concert at the Altamont Speedway in California, which ended with the death of four concertgoers (including the stabbing death of Meredith Hunter, which was captured on film).

3. His dog was a major influence on his work.

The Alaskan Malamute Lucas owned while writing the first Star Wars film inspired two now-iconic characters: The dog’s name, Indiana, became the name of Harrison Ford’s character in the Indiana Jones series. And the look of Chewbacca, Han Solo’s faithful sidekick in the Star Wars series, was based on Lucas's pup.

“I had an Alaskan Malamute when I was writing the film [Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope],” Lucas once shared. “A very sweet dog, she would always sit next to me when I was writing. And when I'd drive around, she'd sit in the front seat. A Malamute is a very large dog—like a 130 pounds and bigger than a human being and very long-haired.”

4. Star Wars wasn't an easy sell.

While the Star Wars franchise has turned into one of the most successful film series in movie history, the first film was not immediately embraced by potential backers. According to Lucas, his “space opera” was turned down by both United Artists and Universal. And it was only because of the success of his previous film, 1975's American Graffiti, that he got people at 20th Century Fox to believe in him. Really, Lucas couldn't blame them for being skeptical of its commercial appeal. “It was crazy—spaceships, and Wookies, and robots," Lucas said. "It was just unlike anything that had ever been seen before."

5. He based Han Solo partly on Francis Ford Coppola.

Directors Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg present the award for Best Direction during the 79th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre on February 25, 2007 in Hollywood, California
Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg present the Best Director Oscar to Martin Scorsese at the 2007 Academy Awards
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

The reason Han Solo from the Star Wars series is such a lovable character might be because he was loosely based on one of Lucas’s good friends. After spending time with director Francis Ford Coppola on the set of Apocalypse Now, Lucas decided to add some of the Oscar-winning director's characteristics to Han.

6. He won a Razzie.

Although Lucas has been nominated for four Oscars, two Golden Globes, three Emmy Awards, and various other prestigious awards, he has also received five Golden Raspberry (or Razzie) nominations, which celebrate the worst films made in any particular year. Between 1989 and 2003, Lucas earned five Razzie nominations and eventually took home the award for Worst Screenplay in 2003 (for Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones).

7. His favorite Star Wars character is a lot of fans's most hated character.

Though the Star Wars universe is filled with hundreds of memorable characters, Lucas—to the horror of many fans—has long maintained that the much maligned Jar Jar Binks is his favorite character. The goofy Gungan, who is featured in the prequels, is widely considered to be the series's most unlikeable character. Earlier this year, while discussing the 20th anniversary of The Phantom Menace, Lucas stated that the 1999 movie is one of his favorites in the series "and, of course, Jar Jar is my favorite character." (Yes, he was dead-serious.)

8. Lucas was roommates with another famous director.

Many members of Lucas’s group of friends, including Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg, went on to become famous writers and directors in their own right. As did Lucas's college roommate, Grease director Randal Kleiser.

“[George and I] arrived at USC at the same time,” Kleiser told Bustle in 2015. “He had a house in Topanga Canyon and needed a roommate, so I moved in. I had the bottom half of the house and he had the top. We worked on each other's first movies. I was an actor on his very first film, and he shot some of my stuff.” Kleiser also revealed that this led to the late Carrie Fisher, who played Leia Organa in Star Wars, being considered for the role of Sandy in Grease.

9. He stood before Congress to argue against the alteration of classic films.

In 1988, Lucas and Steven Spielberg went to Washington, DC to speak before Congress about the necessity of adopting the Berne Convention, a global agreement that protects an artist's copyright around the world and makes it unlawful for someone to alter it. (Ted Turner's penchant for colorizing classic black-and-white movies was a thorn in the side of many filmmakers at the time.)

“People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians," Lucas said. “[And] if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society.” Of course, Lucas himself would later digitally alter some of his own films, much to the annoyance of Star Wars purists.

10. He plans to give away half his fortune.

Lucas—who is the force behind some of the highest-grossing movies of all time, and sold his Lucasfilm to Disney for $4 billion—has an estimated net worth of approximately $6.1 billion. But philanthropy, particularly when it comes to improving education, has always been a part of Lucas's life. In 2010, he signed the Giving Pledge, which is a promise to give away half his wealth during his lifetime.

"I am dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education," Lucas wrote in a 2010 editorial for The Hollywood Reporter. "It is the key to the survival of the human race. We have to plan for our collective future—and the first step begins with the social, emotional, and intellectual tools we provide to our children. As humans, our greatest tool for survival is our ability to think and to adapt—as educators, storytellers, and communicators our responsibility is to continue to do so."

13 Facts About Amadeus On Its 35th Anniversary

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Though much has been written about the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the most entertaining look at the master composer's life might very well be Amadeus, Milos Forman's film about the artist's life (and rivalries), which was released on September 19, 1984.

Here's a look back at the Oscar-winning biopic that not only brought renewed interest to Mozart's music in the 1980s, but inspired Austrian rocker Falco to write the chart-topping "Rock Me Amadeus." Poor Salieri never stood a chance.

1. Amadeus began life as a Tony Award-winning play.

Russian poet/playwright Alexander Pushkin wrote a short play in 1830 called Mozart and Salieri, and playwright Peter Shaffer—who was already a Tony winner for Equus—took inspiration from that to write his own play. Amadeus played in various theaters in London beginning in 1979, then premiered on Broadway in 1980 with Ian McKellen as Antonio Salieri, Tim Curry as Mozart, and Jane Seymour as Constanze, Mozart's wife. The production won five Tonys, including Best Play and Best Actor for McKellen, who beat out Curry for the award; the two leads had been nominated in the same category.

2. Mark Hamill wanted the lead role, but Milos Forman wouldn't let him audition.

In an attempt to circumvent any typecasting he might get after three blockbuster Star Wars films launched his career, Mark Hamill played the composer on Broadway for nine months in 1983. But when the time came for the movie to be made, Czech director Miloš Forman couldn’t get the space cowboy image out of his head. “Miloš Forman told me, ‘Oh no, you must not play the Mozart because the people not believing the Luke Spacewalker as Mozart,’” Hamill said in a 1986 interview. “He was very upfront about it, and I appreciated that rather than getting my hopes up that it was possible I’d be playing the role.”

3. Kenneth Branagh legitimately thought he had landed the lead role.

A young Kenneth Branagh was an early contender for the part of Mozart. In his autobiography, he wrote that he thought he had the part in the bag until Forman informed him they were casting Americans for the leads. Other actors who auditioned for the Mozart role included Tim Curry and Mel Gibson. Though Mozart was a rock star in his day, actual rock star Mick Jagger was also turned down after his audition.

4. Mozart's frequent collaborator Emanuel Schikaneder was played by another stage Mozart.

Actor Simon Callow originated the role of Mozart at the Royal National Theater production of Amadeus in 1979, and though Forman told him his portrayal was "truly brilliant, fantastic, asshole and genius, funny, tragic, crazy, a baby and a god," the director wasn't prepared to give him the title role in the film. Instead, he cast Callow as Emanuel Schikaneder, the librettist who worked with Mozart on The Magic Flute and played the part of Papageno the bird catcher.

5. The movie was shot without the use of light bulbs or other modern lighting devices.

The Tyl Theatre in Prague was the original theater where Don Giovanni first premiered in October 1787, and the authenticity of the building was a huge boon for the production since it had hardly been updated since it was first built in 1783. “[The Tyl is] where the opera premiered. And he conducted the first performance. And none of the opera house had been touched since he was there," choreographer Twyla Tharp recalled in 2015. "We had fire everywhere. We could have burnt down the opera house. We had live fire in the chandelier. We were lighting people on stage, and these guys were whipping these torches around."

Patrizia von Brandenstein—who became the first woman to win the Oscar for Best Art Direction with this movie—had nightmares about damaging the all-wooden opera house. "I thought, 'God will truly punish me if this place catches on fire,'" she said.

6. Tom Hulce practiced piano for four to five hours a day.

In order to look believable on camera, Hulce spent a month with a piano teacher before filming. Although he knew some basics—he could read music, and had played violin and sung in choirs as a child—he needed to look like a natural. "I spent four weeks, four to five hours a day learning to play,” Hulce told People in 1984. “The first two days were scales and exercises. The next day was a concerto." And for that scene at the masquerade ball when Mozart plays a tune while lying on his back? That was really Hulce.

7. Tom Hulce's laugh is semi-historical, though he had trouble recreating it.

Throughout the movie, Mozart has an infectious cackle—it comes out just as often when he’s giddy as when he’s uncomfortable. Though there are dubious historical reports that the real Mozart had such an obnoxious laugh, Hulce created the giggle after Forman asked him to come up with "something extreme." "I've never been able to make that sound except in front of a camera," Hulce later said. "When we did the looping nine months later, I couldn't find the laugh. I had to raid the producer's private bar and have a shot of whiskey to jar myself into it."

8. Someone really did commission a requiem from Mozart—it just wasn't Salieri.

The script clearly took some artistic liberties, including the plot line of the masked man who comes to Mozart pretending to be his dead father. This was not, as the movie portrays, Salieri. But in 1791, Austrian Count Franz von Walsegg—who had a penchant for commissioning music to pass off as his own at his twice-weekly concerts—approached Mozart and asked for a requiem for his beloved wife, who had died on Valentine’s Day.

According to a famously censored document in which a teacher near Vienna, Anton Herzog, recorded firsthand accounts of von Walsegg’s court, the Count often rewrote these commissioned quartets and other scores in his own hand and didn’t give credit to the original composers. His staff musicians often laughed this off because it seemed to amuse the Count, and because the Count was also an amateur musician in his own right. Mozart’s “Requiem Mass in D minor,” the document alleges, was one such piece. And Mozart really did die later that year, in December, before completing the full mass. Salieri didn’t help him complete it though; Austrian composer and possible Mozart student Franz Süssmayr took that on.

9. The actors felt intense jealousy, too.

Salieri and Mozart were the 18th-century equivalent of frenemies: They were contemporaries in a competitive field, and though they needed each other’s support, they weren’t above petty jealousies and a little backstabbing. Hulce and F. Murray Abraham (who played Salieri) also felt those pressures. ''Tom and Meg [Tilly, the actress originally cast as Constanze] were very close,'' Abraham told The New York Times in 1984. ''They had these secret jokes and were always laughing together. I was pushed out, and I was resentful. I began to have very nasty feelings that were exactly like Salieri's feelings toward Mozart. When that correspondence between a film and real life occurs, it's a director's dream.''

“Occasionally Murray and I would go out and drink this terrible sweet champagne that they have in Prague," added Hulce. "But at other times there was a rivalry between us, and I found myself suspicious of him.''

10. It was shot almost entirely on location in Prague—while under surveillance from the Secret Police.

During filming in 1983, Czechoslovakia was under Communist rule. The production team was often followed around by the secret police, and Forman and the cast spoke about their fears that a Fourth of July prank—the unfurling of the American flag in the concert hall and the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by the large cast and crew—would lead to their arrests for inciting rebellion. Many suspected that their hotel rooms had been bugged during the six months they spent filming the movie.

Forman, who was considered a traitor for becoming an American citizen and not returning to the Soviet-controlled area, had previously had one of his movies banned in the country (then called the Czech Socialist Republic). According to Twyla Tharp, in order to shoot in red territory, Forman had to make certain concessions. "Miloš had to sign an agreement that he would go to his hotel every night for the year that he was there and that his driver would be his best friend from the old days," Tharp told The Hollywood Reporter. "And everybody knew what would happen to his best friend if something untoward politically happened around Miloš, because Miloš was a sort of local hero and he was dangerous to the authorities."

11. A teenage Cynthia Nixon had a small but pivotal role.

At age 17, Nixon played Lorl, the maid employed by Salieri to spy on Mozart. Though she was an experienced child actor at that point, she was also trying to finish her schooling. Thus, she and her parents were cautious of the time she'd need to be abroad for filming. "When I was cast in Amadeus with Miloš Forman, which was shooting in Europe," Nixon said in 2014, "I said, 'I want to be in your film so much, but I have a request: If I don’t shoot for two days in a row, you have to send me home.' They agreed."

12. The distributor made a promotional video depicting Mozart as a modern rock star.

Since the movie wasn't financed by a major studio with lots of promotional dollars behind it, the distributor, Orion Pictures, decided to get creative. And what better way to promote a rock star in the age of MTV than with a music video featuring David Lee Roth and cuts of Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, KISS, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, and Madonna dancing along to Mozart's "Symphony No. 25 in G minor"?

13. The movie was a huge hit.

The film nearly tripled its $18 million budget at the box office, which was particularly impressive considering it opened in a limited 25 theaters and didn’t have a wide release until several months later. The movie also swept the Academy Awards—of its 11 nominations, it won eight, including Best Picture and Best Director. And, just as on Broadway, Salieri won the Best Actor statuette over Mozart, with Abraham beating out Hulce.

Pod Search, a Search Engine for Podcasts, Can Help You Find Your Next Binge-Listen

Milkos/iStock via Getty Images
Milkos/iStock via Getty Images

Having too many options definitely seems like the best problem to have when it comes to picking your next top podcast obsession, but that doesn’t make it any less overwhelming. To streamline the hunt, try Pod Search—a website and mobile app that has all the information you need in order to choose a winner.

As Lifehacker reports, the user-friendly site is organized in several different ways, depending on how you’d like to operate your search. You can browse its list of about 30 categories, which range from “Storytelling” to “Crime & Law,” and each has a set of subcategories so you can get even more specific. If you trust the opinions of the general public, you can choose an already-popular podcast from the “Top Podcasts” tab. Or, if you like to be the first to recommend the next big thing to your friends, you can pick a program from the list of new podcasts.

Pod Search also has a handy tool called MyPodSearch which will pretty much do all the work of choosing the perfect podcast for you. All you have to do is check whichever categories interest you and add any additional keywords you’d like (which is optional), and MyPodSearch will deliver a list of podcasts personalized for your tastes. This is great for people who have wide-ranging interests, a proclivity for indecision, or both.

Each podcast has its own landing page with a description, audio samples, places you can listen, website and social media links for the podcast, and a list of other podcasts from the same producers. You can also create an account and bookmark podcasts for the future—so, hypothetically, you could have MyPodSearch create a personalized list for you, bookmark them all, and then have a binge-listening itinerary that’ll last you until next year.

[h/t Lifehacker]

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