How George Lucas Overcame Rejection and Made ‘Star Wars’ One of the Best Movie Franchises in History

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Over the past 40 years, Star Wars has become one of the top three most successful movie franchises in history and has been sewn into the very fabric of our popular culture. The first film in the franchise, entitled Star Wars, was released on May 25, 1977. In 1981, the film was subtitled Episode IV: A New Hope. Directed by George Lucas, the original trilogy generated a prequel trilogy and sequel trilogy. Star Wars quickly attained global notoriety, having been nominated for 29 Academy Awards, of which they won seven. The films were also awarded three Special Achievement Awards.

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Although the Star Wars franchise brought much success to Lucasfilm, early development of the original motion picture for Lucas proved difficult. Lucas wrote a short space fantasy film summary, but was frustrated that his story was too difficult to understand. After finishing the film American Graffiti, he began writing a 13-page treatment called “The Star Wars” and expanded the treatment into a rough draft screenplay. Lucas’ screenplay was rejected by multiple Hollywood film studios, but he did not give up. In 1973, 20th Century Fox took a chance on Lucas’ out-of-the-box film idea and completed a deal to write and direct the film.

In 2012, The Walt Disney Company bought Lucasfilm for $4.06 billion and earned the distribution rights to all subsequent Star Wars films, beginning with the release of The Force Awakens in 2015. To date, the Star Wars saga has produced nine live-action films with more in the works. The series has spawned an extensive media franchise including books, television series, video games and comic books, resulting in significant development of the series’ fictional universe.

Pictured below is part of the third draft of the 1975 manuscript of Star Wars: A New Hope. You may notice that the scene in the manuscript was changed in the final version of the film.

Part of the third draft of the 1975 manuscript of “Star Wars: A New Hope” from the Mercury One historical collection. Photo courtesy of Mercury One.

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