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."

10 Facts About DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story For Its 15th Anniversary

Vince Vaughn stars in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004).
Vince Vaughn stars in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004).
Twentieth Century Fox

June 18, 2004 saw the release of two wildly different films in American cinemas: Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal and a goofy, cameo-filled, wrench-chucking sports comedy called DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story. Guess which one came out on top at the box office? The sleeper hit both saluted and skewered the sports movie genre. It also gave Chuck Norris the chance to enjoy a free helicopter ride.

1. Dodgeball's creator was inspired by the book Fast Food Nation.

DodgeBall writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber considered DodgeBall an homage to some of his favorite flicks, including Revenge of the Nerds (1984), Rocky (1976), and Bull Durham (1988). Another source of inspiration was Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, the nonfiction bestseller about the modern obsession with greasy, ready-made cuisine. Published in 2001, Fast Food Nation sold more than 1.4 million copies within five years. It also left plenty of fingerprints on Thurber’s script.

"I really took a cue from that—there's an absolute love/fear relationship thing in our culture," Thurber told Film Freak Central in 2014. "We're so weight conscious, so image conscious, so youth-oriented—and wrapped up with all that psychosis are these ad images of it being so cool and all-American and sexy to eat McDonald's and drink pop and all that. It pulls people in all sorts of different directions, so I wanted [Ben Stiller’s character] White Goodman to be sitting there with a doughnut and the car battery attached to his nipples … That situation with food, with sports, with so much of our culture. [It’s] already almost too surreal to satirize."

2. The movie's actors went through some rigorous training.

To ready themselves for the movie, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and the rest of the actors ran indoor dodgeball drills at what many of them have since described as a “boot camp.” According to Stiller, this basically consisted of “us at a gym a few times a week playing dodgeball.” While that may not sound too intense, the physicality of these sessions took its toll on the performers. “It’s a game for the young,” Stiller said. “It’s one thing when you’re eight, but when you’re 38, it gets really exhausting. After three or four minutes, you’re fried.” Practicing at his side was Stiller’s wife, Christine Taylor, who plays Kate Veatch of the Average Joe’s squad in DodgeBall.

3. Ben Stiller took Christine Taylor down with a dodgeball ... twice.

As a general rule, it’s never a good idea to hit one’s spouse in the face with a rubber ball while playing any sport, but that’s exactly what Stiller did to Christine Taylor—twice. Blow number one came during the boot camp; the second strike occurred while filming the epic Globo Gym/Average Joe’s showdown. The latter ball was intended to strike Vaughn, who reflexively flinched to get out of the way. In any event, Stiller admits that those two incidents put a temporary damper on the couple’s marital harmony “for like a week, because there’s no way to not get upset with somebody after you’ve done that. It just sent us both back to eighth grade." (Though the couple announced that they were divorcing in 2017, the split has never been made official, and the couple is still regularly seen together—sparking rumors of a reconciliation.)

4. Stiller borrowed much of his character's personality from 1995's Heavyweights.

The fact that Stiller borrowed some of White Goodman’s traits from Tony Perkis, the fanatical fat camp owner he played in 1995’s Heavyweights, won’t surprise anyone who has seen both films. DodgeBall’s White Goodman (as played by Stiller) is a bombastic, egomaniacal fitness guru with some inherited wealth and major insecurities. The same description also applies to Perkis. A lighthearted family comedy, Heavyweights didn’t fare well at the box office, grossing a meager $17.6 million. As such, when Stiller copied a few of Perkis’s mannerisms in DodgeBall, he figured that no one would notice.

"I always thought, ‘Well, nobody ever saw Heavyweights, so I can do this,” Stiller recalled. “But a lot of people saw Heavyweights … Apparently, it shows on the Disney Channel a lot or something.” Regarding the two characters, Stiller has said that Perkis is “definitely a first or second cousin” to Goodman.

5. Justin Long suffered a minor concussion on the set.

Justin Long, who plays Justin in the film, took some hard knocks while making this movie. For starters, a prop wrench made with hard rubber left a nasty cut on his eyebrow when Rip Torn, as Patches O’Houlihan, threw it at his face in one scene. Then, while filming another section of DodgeBall’s training montage, the actor was pelted with enough high-speed balls to render him "slightly concussed."

"They didn’t want me to drive home at the end of the day because I was a little off," Long told Today in 2017. “So next time you’re watching that and laughing, know that you’re laughing at my pain.” Still, the experience wasn’t all bad. According to New York Magazine, Long can often be seen riding a scooter adorned with the words “Average Joe’s,” a gift from Stiller.

6. Hank Azaria and Rip Torn didn't even try to synchronize their Patches O'Houlihan voices.

Early in the film, we get to watch an instructional video about dodgeball (and social Darwinism) hosted by a young Patches O’Houlihan, who is played by Hank Azaria. For the remainder of the film, however, it’s Rip Torn who portrays the seven-time ADAA all-star. You may have noticed that the two actors use very different accents in their respective scenes: Azaria, who joined the cast at Stiller’s invitation, called his performance “essentially a bad Clark Gable impression.” At the time, Torn’s sequences hadn’t been shot yet, leading someone in the crew to pipe up and say “You know, it’d be funny if Rip tries to emulate that voice!” “I was like, ‘Yeah, good luck walking up to Rip Torn and suggesting that he change his vocal quality in any way. Let me know how that goes for you,’” Azaria replied.

7. The Average Joe's team colors are an homage to Hoosiers.

Thurber, a fan of David Anspaugh’s Oscar-nominated Hoosiers (1986), tipped his hat to the Hickory Huskers’ red and yellow uniforms by giving the Average Joe’s squad—led by Vince Vaughn’s Pete LaFleur—an almost identical color scheme. 

8. Chuck Norris was reluctant to make a cameo.

The action star’s only scene was shot in Long Beach, California. Geographically speaking, this was problematic for Norris. “I was in L.A. when they asked me to do the cameo,” Norris told Empire Magazine. “I said no at first because it was a three-hour drive to Long Beach.” Hearing this, Stiller called Norris and begged him to reconsider. “He goes, ‘Chuck, please, you’ve got to do this for me!’” Norris recalled, “My wife said he should send a helicopter for me and that's what happened. I didn't read the screenplay, just did my bit where I stick my thumb up.”

After post-production on DodgeBall wrapped and Norris got around to seeing the finished product, he found himself enjoying most of it. However, there was one little moment in the final credits that really caught him off-guard. “In the end, when Ben’s a big fatty and watching TV, the last line of the whole movie is, 'F***ing Chuck Norris!' My mouth fell open ... I said, 'Holy mackerel!' That was a shock, Ben didn't tell me about that!"

9. One villain was originally supposed to be a robot.

By far the most mysterious player in the Purple Cobras lineup is Fran Stalinovskovichdavidovitchsky, an Eastern European all-star whom Goodman calls “The deadliest woman on earth with a dodgeball.” What’s the secret to her success? Well, in an early version of the screenplay, it’s revealed that Fran is actually a robot in disguise. Thurber ended up dropping the gag, which he considered too ridiculous—even by DodgeBall’s standards. However, when Missi Pyle was cast as Fran, the big twist hadn’t yet been cut.

“Initially, in the first script I read, she was a robot, like a sexy-bodied robot” Pyle explained. The original plan was to slowly pan the camera up over a partly-exposed Robo-Fran—with her metallic face and fake breasts on full display—at some point in the climax.

10. Alan Tudyk weighed in on a fan theory about Steve the Pirate.

In 2012, Redditor Maized made the case Steve the Pirate, Alan Tudyk’s swashbuckling oddball, is actually an “ex-Navy sailor who suffers from PTSD.” As evidence, Maized cited Steve’s tattoos, which bear a striking resemblance to those frequently worn by U.S. Naval recruits. In theory, the Average Joe’s patron uses his pirate persona to cope with his condition.

During a 2016 interview with Screen Crush, Tudyk was asked to offer his thoughts on the theory. With a chuckle, Tudyk replied that it “doesn’t seem like it’s impossible.” Emphasizing that he didn’t wish to “insult Navy sailors who have PTSD,” the actor said he’d consider taking the Redditor’s idea into account if a DodgeBall sequel is ever made.

Game of Thrones Director Said He Wanted to 'Kill Everyone' During the Battle of Winterfell

Iain Glen and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones.
Iain Glen and Emilia Clarke in Game of Thrones.
Helen Sloan, HBO

Now that Game of Thrones is over, it’s time to talk about the nitty-gritty of the episodes, particularly “The Long Night.” While the Battle of Winterfell may have been nerve-wracking to watch, there ended up being surprisingly fewer deaths than fans expected, considering the living were fighting the entire army of the dead.

Miguel Sapochnik, who directed the episode, was no beginner with battle scenes before taking on “The Long Night,” as he was also responsible season 6's iconic “The Battle of the Bastards” as well as the memorable season 5 episode “Hardhome.” While his list of Game of Thrones accomplishments is long, it turns out that Sapochnik's choices haven't always been in line with what showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss want.

According to IndieWire, Sapochnik’s aesthetic choices, such as the decision to shoot shoot Cersei and Tommen shadowed by prison-like bars to represent Tommen’s imprisonment in season 5, were not favored by the showrunners. “[Benioff and Weiss] said [it was] ‘so self-conscious and we hate it basically,'” Sapochnik revealed at the time. Because of disagreements like this, the pair “visually policed” the director.

There was a difference of opinion between the director and the creators again for “The Long Night,” Sapochnik revealed on IndieWire's Filmmaker's Toolkit podcast. “I wanted to kill everyone,” the director said, as reported by Esquire. “I wanted to kill Jorah in the horse charge at the beginning. I wanted it to be ruthless, so in the first 10 minutes you could say all bets are off, anyone could die. But David and Dan didn’t want to. There was a lot of back-and-forth on that."

Ultimately, Sapochnik gave in to Benioff and Weiss’s plan for the episode, and the Battle of Winterfell had far fewer casualties than most of the series's other battle scenes.

[h/t Esquire]

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