George Lucas

A Life


By Brian Jay Jones

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The essential biography of the influential and beloved filmmaker George Lucas.

On May 25, 1977, a problem-plagued, budget-straining independent science-fiction film opened in a mere thirty-two American movie theaters. Conceived, written, and directed by a little-known filmmaker named George Lucas, the movie originally called The Star Wars quickly drew blocks-long lines, bursting box-office records and ushering in a new way for movies to be made, marketed, and merchandised. It is now one of the most adored-and successful-movie franchises of all time.

Now, the author of the bestselling biography Jim Henson delivers a long-awaited, revelatory look into the life and times of the man who created Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Indiana Jones.

If Star Wars wasn’t game-changing enough, Lucas went on to create another blockbuster series with Indiana Jones, and he completely transformed the world of special effects and the way movies sound. His innovation and ambition forged Pixar and Lucasfilm, Industrial Light & Magic, and THX sound.

Lucas’s colleagues and competitors offer tantalizing glimpses into his life. His entire career has been stimulated by innovators including Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola, actors such as Harrison Ford, and the very technologies that enabled the creation of his films-and allowed him to keep tinkering with them long after their original releases. Like his unforgettable characters and stories, his influence is unmatched.






Scrawny Little Devil


The victorious underdog—and the more brilliant and unappreciated the better—was a narrative George Lucas would always love. Lucas liked to think there was a triumphant dark horse involved with his ancestors somewhere along their journey, "some criminal or somebody who got thrown out of England or France," he told an interviewer. But it's no secret that Lucas enjoys being enigmatic; it's practically in his blood. "My family came from nowhere," he once explained. "Nobody knows where we originally came from."1

As a fourth-generation northern Californian, Lucas could already trace his ancestry back further than most Americans, with the roots of his family tree burrowing down deep into the soil of Modesto, California, after winding through Arkansas and Illinois and Virginia nearly a century before the American Revolution. But "that's it," Lucas insisted, going no further. Whether he came from a line of colonial farmers or cobblers or brick masons didn't matter, and looking back wasn't his way. "I'm always sort of living for tomorrow, for better or for worse," he said. "It's just a personality quirk."2 There was one thing, however, of which he was certain. "It's great not to have been born a prince," Lucas once noted. "I appreciate that. I truly believe in this country, that you can do anything if you apply yourself."3

Apply yourself. It was the kind of admonition that George Lucas Sr.—Lucas's small-town Methodist father—could have made. And, waving a finger stridently in his only son's face, probably had.

George Lucas Sr., as his son later described him, "was a very old-fashioned kind of guy… kind of a classic small-town businessman who you'd see in a movie."4 As the owner of Modesto's most successful stationery store—and president of the local Retail Merchants Bureau, no less—George Lucas Sr. was smart, conservative, a pillar of the Modesto community. And he had been working hard—applying himself—practically all his life.

George Walton Lucas Sr. was born in 1913 in Laton, California—then as now little more than a dot on the map just south of Fresno—the only son among the bevy of daughters of Walton and Maud Lucas. Walton, an oil field worker, was also a diabetic, and in 1928, when George Sr. was fifteen, Walton died of complications from the disease—a condition that would leapfrog one generation on its way through to Walton's famous grandson. Within a year of Walton's passing, Maud had moved George Sr. and his older sister Eileen twice, first to nearby Fresno, and then more than ninety miles up the San Joaquin Valley to Modesto, where George Sr. would live the rest of his life.

Founded in 1870 among the wheat fields lining the Tuolumne River, Modesto was established as one of the final stops on the Central Pacific Railroad as it wound its way northward from Los Angeles toward the capital at Sacramento. The town forefathers, in fact, had deferentially insisted on naming the new settlement Ralston, after William Ralston, the director of the Central Pacific. Ralston, however, declined to have the town named for him, a touch of humility that allegedly inspired the town's new designation: Modesto, the Spanish word for modesty.

Despite its name, the little town of Modesto had big ambitions, reflecting California's can-do attitude as well as its tendency toward immediate gratification. By the time it was formally established in 1884, there were twenty-five buildings on the site, most of them housing businesses whose owners—sensing the ample opportunity that came with living near the railroad—had simply picked up their homes and office buildings and relocated to Modesto from nearby Paradise City or Tuolumne City.

Modesto took its time to become a metropolis—it wouldn't hit 100,000 residents until the 1980s—but as the town grew, it took its civic pride seriously, and by the early 1900s was boasting of its residents' well-manicured lawns and colorful rosebushes, as well as its commitment to education and culture. In 1912 its proud residents erected an enormous arch to welcome visitors as they bounced down Ninth Street in their automobiles—a new and exotic invention that no one was quite sure was going to catch on—and passed under the city's motto in blazing incandescent lights: WATER, WEALTH, CONTENTMENT, HEALTH.5 It was a motto as straightforward as its residents.

By the time George Lucas Sr. arrived in Modesto with his mother and sister in 1929, its population had grown to just slightly under fourteen thousand, sprawled out across a well-organized series of flat grids typical of western towns. As the United States began its slump into the Great Depression, George Sr. split his time between classes at Modesto High School and a job as an apprentice to a mechanic in a typewriter repair shop, already plying a trade at the age of sixteen. In the 1930 census, both Maud and Eileen listed their occupation as "none," making George the lone and much-needed source of support for his sister and widowed mother.6 Earning a living, then, was a responsibility George Sr. took seriously. There would be no frittering away his time, no goofing off, no daydreaming. George Sr. decided he'd study law and become a lawyer, and applied himself in high school to getting good grades. And yet, at Modesto High School, the serious young man—stiff-backed, with a head of dark, wavy hair and a rail-thin body made for buttoned-up suits—fell in love at first sight with a girl in his history class and immediately informed his mother that he was going to marry her—even if he didn't actually know her name yet.7

After a bit of prying, George Sr. learned he'd been smitten by Dorothy Bomberger, a young woman who belonged to one of Modesto's oldest and most prominent families. That their famous son could later declare himself a fourth-generation Californian was due entirely to his pedigree as a Bomberger, a family whose roots in America predated the Declaration of Independence. For generations the Bombergers had been quietly making the investments in real estate that would give their family both wealth and reputation. By the 1900s, various branches of Bombergers owned and managed property across the San Joaquin Valley—and Dorothy's father, Paul, had additional interests in seed companies and car dealerships—making them one of the valley's best-known and most prosperous families. The comings and goings of Bombergers would be a regular topic on the society pages of the Modesto Bee and News-Herald.

Dorothy was a dark-eyed and dark-haired beauty, wispy and somewhat fragile, but a good catch—and she and George Sr. were a good-looking, popular, and utterly devoted couple. In their senior year, they were co-starring in the class play, a three-act comedy called Nothing but the Truth,8 and George would serve as class president with Dorothy as his vice president. After graduation, they briefly attended Modesto Business College together, where George joined the Delta Sigma fraternity, while Dorothy continued to be active with the Phi Gamma Girls' Club.9 Soon, George took a job with Lee Brothers, one of Modesto's newer but smaller stationery stores, serving customers out of a cramped shop on Tenth Street. To his surprise, he found he actually liked the stationery business. "It was pure dumb luck," he said later. "I wasn't even sure what 'stationery' meant."10 His plans for studying law were abandoned.11

On August 3, 1933, George Sr. and Dorothy were married at the local Methodist Episcopal Church. Given the Bomberger connection, it was hailed as a "wedding of widespread interest" by the local newspaper, which dutifully reported on the planning and mailing of invitations to the ceremony.12 George was twenty, Dorothy eighteen—and the young couple set off on their way with the nation officially in the midst of the Depression. But while Dorothy was educated and well connected, George, with his stiff back up and conservative Methodist hackles raised, refused to permit his wife to work. Working—applying oneself—and supporting a family were a man's obligation. George would work, then, while Dorothy would stay home and look after the children George was certain were all but inevitable.

Shortly after the wedding the Lucases moved to Fresno, where George had landed a job with H. S. Crocker Co., Inc., one of California's largest stationery stores. The job paid $75 per week, a respectable sum at a time when a new refrigerator could be had for a hundred dollars.13 But Dorothy missed her family—so in early 1934, after only five months in Fresno, back they went to Modesto, where George found work at Modesto's chief stationery outfit, the L. M. Morris Company.14

L. M. Morris, initially established by a group of brothers in 1904, was one of the oldest stationery stores in the region. LeRoy Morris had bought the business from his brothers in 1918, renamed it the L. M. Morris Company, and made the store a cornerstone of downtown Modesto, where it would remain at its same I Street address for nearly sixty years. By the time George Sr. began his employment there in 1934, the company was proudly celebrating its thirtieth anniversary.15

Morris specialized in office furniture, typewriters, and adding machines, but over the years it had begun to diversify, adding motion picture cameras and projectors, children's books and toys, and a gift department its owner boasted was "full of the latest novelties." As usual, George Sr. applied himself with gusto—"I liked the kind of customer I got to serve," he explained later—and quickly distinguished himself among Morris's twelve employees.16 Sure enough, when LeRoy Morris placed a gigantic ad in the Modesto Bee in late 1934, there, just below Morris's own photo, was a picture of George Sr., staring back at readers with just a hint of a smile.17

George was more than just hardworking; he was ambitious and savvy, and he knew how to read people. And it didn't hurt that he and LeRoy Morris hit it off immediately, both perhaps knowing that they needed each other. While the fifty-year-old Morris had two grown married daughters, he had no son, no successor to whom he could pass on the business.18 Meanwhile, George Sr.—who had lost Walton Lucas to diabetes less than a decade earlier—had no father, no paternal figure, no family legacy to inherit. Each filled a role for the other. It was a subtle, complex mentor-apprentice relationship, exactly the kind that George Sr.'s own son would covet—and explore on the movie screen—decades later.

Things were going well enough that only a little more than a year into his employment with Morris, George Sr. somewhat brazenly mentioned to his employer that he hoped to have a store of his own, "or at least part of one," by the time he was twenty-five.19 In 1937—when George Sr. was twenty-four—Morris offered his industrious protégé 10 percent of the business, with an eye toward an eventual full partnership. George protested that he had no money to invest in the firm, but Morris wouldn't hear of it. "You'll sign a note you owe me so much," Morris told the young man. "This business is no good if it won't pay out."20 With an official share in the company, George Sr. began working six days a week, determined to vindicate Morris's professional and paternal devotion.

While George Sr. was concentrating on business at L. M. Morris, Dorothy was attending to their home life with an equal dedication. In late 1934 she gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Ann, followed two years later by a second daughter they christened Katherine, but whom everyone would always call Katy or Kate. With his family growing and business succeeding, George bought a lot at 530 Ramona Avenue out on the edge of Modesto and, using $5,000 borrowed from Dorothy's parents, built a respectable single-story stuccoed house he was certain he and Dorothy would fill with more children.

But two pregnancies in three years had taken a toll on Dorothy's health. Delicate from the start, and likely suffering from pancreatitis, Dorothy found each pregnancy harder than the last, compelling her to take long periods of bed rest—and after Kate's birth, doctors advised her to stop having children.21 Yet she and George would continue to try to conceive over the next eight years, suffering through at least two miscarriages.

Finally, in late 1943, Dorothy became pregnant again, this time with a baby she carried to term. At 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 14, 1944—a pleasant, clear Mother's Day morning—Dorothy gave birth to a son. Perhaps recognizing that with Dorothy's frail health, this might be his only chance for a namesake, George abandoned the name Jeffrey, which had earlier been considered for the newborn, in favor of a name much more appropriate for an heir apparent: George Walton Lucas Jr. The baby was very small—only five pounds, fourteen ounces—but healthy, squirming so much when the attending doctor put the infant on Dorothy's stomach that she nearly dropped him. "Don't let him fall off," she warned. "This is the only son I've got!"22

Like his parents, George Jr. had dark hair and dark eyes, as well as another distinguishing feature that ran through the Lucas line: ears that had a tendency to stick out. George Jr.'s, in fact, were more prominent than most, and one was even a bit floppy—a defect that George Sr. was quick to remedy by taping it up. George Sr. would eventually proclaim it "a good ear,"23 but George Jr.'s ears, which leaned upward and stuck out, would always be one of his defining features. "[He] was a scrawny little guy with big ears," recalled sister Kate warmly.24

Scrawny. It was one of the many diminutive adjectives Lucas would hear for decades. As a toddler "[he] was quite small," said his mother. "Really a peanut then."25 At age six, Lucas weighed thirty-five pounds; by high school he would reach his full height of five-foot-six and barely tip the scales at a hundred pounds. "A scrawny little devil," said George Sr.26

Lucas's youngest sister, Wendy, would be born three years later, the last child Dorothy would have. Perhaps predictably, the two pregnancies had severely taxed her strength, and for most of George Jr.'s childhood, Dorothy would spend much of her time in and out of hospitals or confined to bed. "Her health kind of went downhill," remembered Kate. The care of the children was left largely to an outgoing housekeeper named Mildred Shelley, whom everyone called Till. Till could be strict and quick with the back of her hand, but she was also loud and funny, telling stories in a southern drawl, and the Lucas children adored her. Because of Till, said Kate, "we were never without a mother figure."27 But it was George, she thought, who had a special place in Till's heart. "He was the only boy in the family, so he was sort of the apple of everybody's eye," said Kate.28 For his part, Lucas would always speak fondly of the lively Till. "I have very warm feelings about that time," he said—a positively glowing remembrance from the famously tight-lipped Lucas.29

In 1949, when George Jr. was five years old, LeRoy Morris—making good on his promise of a decade earlier—sold George Lucas Sr. the L. M. Morris Company. Morris and Lucas announced their transaction on January 26 in the pages of the Modesto Bee, after which Morris retired—and unexpectedly died seven days later.30 "He was one of God's gentlemen," George Sr. said of his partner, surrogate father, and benefactor. "He prepared me to little by little take over his business.31 Now George Sr. planned to do the same for his own son. If all went as intended, George Jr. would work hard—apply himself—join the company, and, little by little, take over the family business. It was an ambitious goal—and it would also prove to be a major point of contention between father and son.

For George Lucas Jr., growing up in Modesto as the son of the town's most prosperous stationer was never a bad life. But Lucas would always remain ambivalent, and slightly conflicted, about his childhood. "I had my share of traumas and problems," he said later, "but at the same time I enjoyed it quite a bit."32 At times his father irritated him; each summer George Sr. would force his son to shave his head down to a tight crew cut, a ritual Lucas hated. "My father was strict," Lucas noted later, though even that memory became somewhat muddled. "I mean, he wasn't overly strict," Lucas added. "I mean, he was reasonable. And he was fair. My father was extremely fair."33 Fair or not, when it came down to it, Lucas remembered being "very angry" with his father for most of his childhood.

While Lucas's most devoted boyhood companion was probably his younger sister, Wendy, he did have a stable group of friends, including best friend John Plummer, whom Lucas met when he was four and would remain a lifelong friend, and the slightly older George Frankenstein. The three of them would regularly play together at Lucas's house on Ramona Avenue, where even Plummer and Frankenstein gave George Sr. a wide berth. "My memory is, you never crossed him," said Frankenstein of Lucas's father. "I mean, if you ever did something to tick him off… he was like a one-strike kind of person."34 As John Plummer put it, "Every time Mr. Lucas came around, you just kind of hid."35

Still, there were advantages to hanging out with the son of a stationer: George Jr. could get the latest toys and gadgets right off the shelves of his father's store. "He had all the goodies," said Frankenstein, "and he was very willing to share."36 George was particularly proud of sharing a gigantic three-engine Lionel train, which, he admitted, "took up most of my bedroom," winding through elaborate miniature sets George had made using army men, toy cars, and weeds and small plants pulled from the yard.37 At one point he even managed to lay his hands on concrete from a local lumberyard, which he and his friends poured into handmade molds to form small buildings for the train to whiz past. Later he would build small dioramas—which he always called "environments"—that he would display in a wooden case with a glass top and side. "I was always interested in building things," said Lucas, "so I had a little shed out back where I had a lot of tools, and I would build chess sets and dollhouses and cars—lots and lots of race cars that we would push around and run down hills and things."38

One of his most memorable projects—built with the help of the always willing Plummer—was an elaborately constructed kid-sized roller coaster that used a winding coil of phone cable to pull a cart up to the top of a steep incline—at which point the cart would be released to go clattering down another series of ramps to the ground. "How we didn't kill people, I don't know," confessed Plummer.39 "It was probably only four feet tall, but we did it. It was fun, it was a great event; all the neighborhood kids came over. And we kind of got known for doing stuff like that. George was creative. He wasn't a leader, but he was much more imaginative.… He always came up with a lot of the ideas."40

"When I was very young, I loved make-believe," said Lucas. "But it was the kind of make-believe that used all the technological toys I could come by, like model airplanes and cars. I suppose that an extension of that interest led to what later occupied my mind, the Star Wars stories."41 Still, "there wasn't much as a kid that inspired me in what I did as an adult."42 Or so he would always claim.

Unlike a later friend and collaborator, Steven Spielberg, who made magical childhoods a centerpiece of many of his films, Lucas never had a romantic or idealized view of childhood. "I was very much aware that growing up wasn't pleasant, it was just… frightening," Lucas said later. "I remember that I was unhappy a lot of the time. Not really unhappy—I enjoyed my childhood. But I guess all kids, from their point of view, feel depressed and intimidated. Although I had a great time, my strongest impression was that I was always on the lookout for the evil monster that lurked around the corner."43

Sometimes the monsters were the other kids on his own block, who bullied and intimidated the small George Jr., holding him down while taking his shoes off his feet and throwing them into the lawn sprinklers. George wouldn't even fight back, leaving his sister Wendy to chase away the aggressors and retrieve his wet shoes.44

It makes sense, then, that throughout much of his life, the diminutive Lucas would seek out big brother figures to serve as mentors and protectors. One of the first was the fiancé of George's oldest sister, Ann; Lucas was absolutely devoted to him. "That's one of the ways of learning," Lucas acknowledged later. "You attach yourself to somebody older and wiser than you, learn everything they have to teach, and move on to your own accomplishments." When the young man was killed in Korea, Lucas was devastated. It was little wonder Lucas always looked back on his childhood with slightly jumbled emotions. It was a "normal, tough, repressed childhood filled with fear and trepidation all over the place," said Lucas. "But generally I enjoyed it. It was good."45

He was equally ambivalent about Modesto. For years, a slight embarrassment would tinge the way he talked about his hometown. While he would eventually come to embrace his status as a son of Modesto with pride—and his film American Graffiti would practically make it a destination—Lucas was, for the first several decades of his life, always slightly self-conscious about his Modesto roots. When asked where he was from, Lucas would respond with an ambiguous and unhelpful "California." If pressed, he would admit to coming from "northern California," or sometimes the slightly more specific "south of San Francisco," before finally muttering, "Modesto."46 Still, he knew his hometown had its charms. "Modesto was really Norman Rockwell, Boys' Life magazine… raking leaves on Saturday afternoons and having bonfires," Lucas put it later. "Just very classic Americana."47

And for a boy growing up in the 1950s, that Americana also involved regular attendance at Sunday school—an obligation Lucas quickly grew to loathe. "When I got to be old enough—twelve or thirteen—I rebelled against it," he said.48 In fact, even as a child, Lucas already had a complicated relationship with God; at six—an age when most children see God as simply a benevolent bearded man in the sky—Lucas had a "very profound" mystical experience that would shape the way he looked at spirituality in his life and work. "It centered around God," he recalled. He found himself wondering "'What is God?' But more than that, 'What is reality? What is this?' It's as if you reach a point and suddenly you say, 'Wait a second—What is the world? What are we? What am I? How do I function in this, and what's going on here?'"49 They were questions Lucas would struggle with, explore, and, with the creation of the Force in Star Wars, attempt to answer in his films.

"I have strong feelings about God and the nature of life, but I'm not devoted to one particular faith," Lucas said later.50 While Lucas was raised a Methodist, he was more intrigued by the services at Till's German Lutheran church, where worshippers still wore broad hats and bonnets and spoke in sharply accented, reverential tones. Lucas was fascinated by the formality of their rituals, which were much like an elaborate, well-scripted play in which everyone knew their roles. "The ceremony provides something essential for people," Lucas acknowledged.51 He would always remain "curious, academically, about organized religion," and his views on God and religion would continue to evolve over time.52 He would eventually describe his religion as a melding of Methodist and Buddhist. ("It's Marin County," he said in 2002, noting the area's famously left-leaning ways. "We're all Buddhists up here.")53 For now, however, he would remain a devoted, albeit frustrated, Methodist. George Lucas Sr. would have it no other way.

As bad as Sunday school could be, for Lucas it had nothing on the regular classroom. He remembered being terrified his first day of classes at John Muir Elementary School—"a feeling of total panic," he called it—and things would never get much better: "I was never very good in school, so I was never very enthusiastic about it."54 In the beginning, he seemed to show promise. "He did well. He was bright," noted Dorothy Elliot, his second-grade teacher. "[But] George was… quiet as a little mouse. He never spoke unless you spoke to him first."55 To Lucas, however, there just wasn't much in school worth talking about. "One of the big problems I had, more than anything else, was that I always wanted to learn something other than what was being taught," he said. "I was bored."56 While he enjoyed his art classes and diligently performed in the third-grade play—where he received last billing—Lucas hated math, his spelling was terrible, and writing would always be a painfully slow process. Even in high school, he had to rely on his sister Wendy, three years younger, to read through his assignments, looking for errors.

Lucas may have struggled with spelling and writing, but he enjoyed reading, a pursuit likely encouraged by his mother, who spent long stretches recuperating with a book in and out of hospital beds. His mother had often read him Grimm's fairy tales as a toddler; but when he was left on his own, Lucas's tastes ran toward adventure stories like Kidnapped, Treasure Island, and Swiss Family Robinson. He also amassed an enormous collection of Landmark books, a series of histories and biographies written for younger readers. "I was addicted to [them]," said Lucas. "I used to love to read those books. It started me on a lifelong love of history.… As a kid I spent a lot of time trying to relate the past to the present."57

Still, Lucas would admit later, "I wasn't that much of a reader."58 And yet, that wasn't entirely true either. Besides the Landmark books, there was something else Lucas collected and read ravenously: comic books. "I was never ashamed that I read a lot of comic books," he said.59 Lucas discovered comics at a moment when they were selling in the millions in nearly every genre imaginable, from romance and western, to crime and horror, to superheroes and science fiction. John Plummer, whose father had a connection with the operator of the local newsstand, would bring home armloads of comics every week, their front covers missing and filed as unsold. "George used to sit out on my front porch all the time just reading them," Plummer remembered.60 Even long after Plummer had been called inside for dinner, George would stay on the porch by himself, hunched over his pile of comics, reading intently.

Eventually, George and his sister Wendy would pool their allowances to buy comics of their own, ten for a dollar, and soon had a collection large enough that their father built a shed in the backyard with a space devoted solely to them. George and Wendy would throw quilts on the ground inside the shed and sit for hours, poring over comic books.61 It was no wonder Lucas was attracted to comics; given his struggles with spelling and writing, his learning style was clearly more visual than verbal. Comics were "storytelling through pictures,"62


  • Praise for George Lucas

    One of the Best Books of 2016 - Kirkus

    A San Francisco Chronicle and The Globe and Mail Holiday Gift Guide Pick

    One of Bustle's "Best Nonfiction Books of December"

    One of Amazon's Best Books of December

    "George Lucas is a terrific book! Brian Jay Jones has pulled off the rare trick of a writing a biography that appeals to both hard-core fans and casual readers. It is filled with fascinating details, backed up by deep and dogged research, woven into a breezy, fast-paced story that effortlessly pulls the reader into Lucas's world. Future film buffs and historians will look back on George Lucas as a landmark achievement."—Debby Applegate, Winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher
  • "Like the famous opening shot of the very first Star Wars, George Lucas: A Life is sweeping, humbling, and instantly transports you into the world of the mad dreamer. Fellow nerds unite! Finally, we get a book that examines the history of a titan who really changed our lives. Beautifully obsessive and relishes every detail. Just like us."—Brad Meltzer
  • "A sweeping, perceptive biography. This in-depth never less than fascinating. Masterful and engaging: just what Lucas' fans and buffs, who love the nitty-gritty of filmmaking, have been waiting for."—Kirkus (starred review)
  • "Maestro biographer Jones tackles another brilliant entertainer. The world knows George Lucas as the filmmaker who brought us Star Wars, one of the most iconic Hollywood franchises in history, but as Jones' in-depth, fascinating, and even gripping exploration reveals, Lucas is much more than a gifted storyteller....Jones digs deep to limn the highs and lows of Lucas' career and life, capturing his drive and innovation in crisp, sparkling prose. Masterful and essential for film and pop culture enthusiasts."—Booklist (starred review)
  • "The collective double take over Star Was never gets old.... Jones, who comes to Lucas from a celebrated life of Jim Henson, tells a more straightforward story in definitive detail."—Tom Shone, New York Times
  • "Exhaustively chronicles the life and movies of George Lucas, arguably America's most successful filmmaker. [T]ells in granular detail how his films were produced: from initial concept and scriptwriting, to casting and location selections, to the filming and, most importantly for Lucas's process, the editing. [P]roves Lucas's singular legacy is well deserved."—Publishers Weekly
  • "Engaging... Jones captures the bone-crushing work, the frustrations with film studio overlords and the near failures that resulted in ground-breaking films like American Graffiti and Star Wars."—Jane Ciabattari, BBC
  • "The most compelling part of Brian Jay Jones' very readable book covers the years in which this kid went from a provincial, and nearly rural, childhood to studying illustration and going to film school at the University of Southern California.... [Jones'] narrative of the ordeal [of making Star Wars] and triumph makes wonderful reading.... Jones is a good storyteller... he proves that an American billionaire can be an odd, brilliant but quite ordinary fellow."—David Thomson, San Francisco Chronicle
  • "Lucas changed not only the way movies are made but even the way they are shown...Jones mines the literature on Lucas's life and work to produce an admirably comprehensive view."—Charles Matthews, Washington Post
  • "A fast-paced portrait of the reclusive and visionary George Lucas. His rise from unknown, budget-stretched writer to film industry legend is all here. And it's told through anecdotes and insights that build out the man behind the creation. The perspectives from colleagues, competitors, mentors and friends are at times brutally honest.... It's the one biography for casual and die-hard fans alike."—G. Clay Whittaker, Rolling Stone
  • "Just in time for the theatrical release of the new Star Wars movie... Brian Jay Jones masterfully unveils the very private man behind the blockbuster film empire he created."—Parade
  • This book offers quite a lot of interesting trivia and insight into the quiet, enigmatic genius who hated working in the very studio system that led to his biggest hits....Many of the on-set stories and pieces of trivia have been told before, but are fun to revisit, and in that way, A Life makes a nice complement to Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher's new memoir The Princess Diarist....Jones goes 'deep inside the baseball' when it comes to filmmaking techniques and industry minutiae-though movie nerds will eat those parts up....A solid read about a fiercely independent, unforgettable American filmmaking icon."—Brian Truitt, USA Today
  • "Lucas was in need of a biography's re-appreciation (or reckoning), and Jones-whose previous subject was Jim Henson-was a good candidate for the job....GEORGE LUCAS serves as a reminder for the staggering amount Lucas contributed to culture."—Ryan Vlastelica, A.V. Club
  • "Jones' ebullient bio shows that the Force has always been with filmmaker Lucas. Packed with fun insider info, [George Lucas] is a whiz-bang tribute to a genius."—People
  • "A lot of fun in Jones' retelling of Lucas' early years... Film geeks will rejoice at the detailed explanation of how Star Wars was made. And there's great insight into the way the film industry works -- and how Lucas and company changed it.... Lucas emerges as a likable and largely admirable person."—Rick Moser, Chicago Tribune
  • "Jones's narrative is undeniably spellbinding and will be especially compelling to film nerds....deeply researched and striking."—Ethan Gilsdorf, Boston Globe
  • "Just in time for Rogue One,check out this sweeping biography."—Variety

On Sale
Nov 21, 2017
Page Count
560 pages
Back Bay Books

Brian Jay Jones

About the Author

Brian Jay Jones is the author of the New York Times bestseller Jim Henson: The Biography. He worked for nearly two decades as a public policy analyst and speechwriter, and has a degree in English literature from the University of New Mexico. He lives in Maryland with his wife.

Learn more about this author