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The Blue & Gray Press | February 22, 2019

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Great Lives Lecture: George Lucas’ unexpected success

Great Lives Lecture: George Lucas’ unexpected success


George Lucas’ need for control not only helped him succeed in making movies, but also facilitated how much he impacted the world of cinematology, The New York Times bestselling biographer told his audience in Dodd Auditorium.  

“Control is going to be an important word for tonight,” Brian Jay Jones said, beginning his lecture.

Mary Washington students and Fredericksburg residents filled Dodd Auditorium on Thursday, March 2, and waited eagerly for Jones to shed light on the life of famous director George Lucas in an installment of the Great Lives lectures.

Jones did not disappoint his eager crowd.

As he energetically showered the crowd with details from Lucas’ childhood to his height of fame, Jones showed the crowd how Lucas’ time in college paved the way for his success.

“What we think of as modern cinema, George Lucas invented,” Jones said.

During Lucas’ studies at the University of Southern California in the late 1960s, he shocked and impressed his professors by doing exactly what they did not want. Professors had two rules for their students to follow; do not use color and do not film more than five miles from the school.

“Lucas broke both those rules,” Jones said and added, “Lucas’ time at USC was when his reality began.”

In 1967 Lucas began his career of cinematology when he met director Francis Coppola, who took Lucas under his wing.

“Francis never gave up on me,” Jones said, quoting Lucas.

With his talent for film editing, Lucas began working on what would be one of his greatest hits: “American Graffiti.”

“Coppola told Lucas he needed to make a film that had warmth in it, something that he related to.” Jones explained.

One thing that Lucas cherished from his childhood was cruising on 10 th Street in his childhood home in Modesto, California.

With that inspiration in his mind, Lucas started one of the most stressful times of his life.

Jones explained how Lucas would hang on the side of cars filming the actors. Sometimes people would find him fast asleep, still hanging off the side of a set car. Lucas would start filming from sunset to sunrise, and repeated this schedule until filming was completed.

“I didn’t know Lucas was so prolific with his writing and control over his movies,” said Stafford native Jim Sizemore. “I found that very interesting.”

This control Lucas exhibited in his making of “American Graffiti” would be seen in his most successful film: “Star Wars.”  

During the creation of “Star Wars” Lucas was behind everything, Jones said. He was the sole director of over 900 workers, film editing and special effects. Lucas was so sure “Star Wars” was going to crash that he contemplated running away to Hawaii so he wouldn’t have to read the bad reviews. What Lucas thought would be a failure of a movie turned out to be a piece of cinematic history.

Audience members of this Great Lives Lecture were surprised at the information they learned during Jones’ speech.

“Well, I knew about ‘Star Wars,’ but what shocked me was all the other movies he made,” Kenneth Bach said. “It’s interesting how Lucas went through a lot of stress not knowing how great he was.”

The Great Lives Lectures are running Tuesdays and Thursdays until April at Mary Washington in Dodd Auditorium. These lectures are open to the public, giving the surrounding community a chance to learn about notable figures in a university setting.

“I think that this is a great opportunity for all generations to come together,” said audience member Barbera Castill. “Young and old, we can all enjoy these lectures.”

“I’m enjoying this series,” said Sizemore, who has been attending the Great Lives Lectures for over seven years.

Many other audience members were impressed with Jones’ lecture on Lucas.

Former Mary Washington faculty member David Hunt enjoys the liveliness that Jones brings to the auditorium. “Brian has a lot of energy,” Hunt said. “In fact, someone once made a comment to “tell that young man to speak slower.’”

“I always enjoy his talks,” Hunt continued. “He did a really fine job tonight.”

Hunt’s wife Jene enjoyed Jones’ “interesting take on Lucas’ personality. He is an enigma.”