Column/Star Wars’ continues to influence moviegoers

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 3, 2007

I can’t believe it’s already been 30 years, but May 25, 2007 was the 30-year anniversary of the theatrical release of &8220;Star Wars,&8221; what I consider to be one of the best movies of all time.

I was 13-years-old when the film, which has grossed nearly $800 million worldwide and remains the highest grossing PG-rated movie ever, came to Tuscaloosa, my boyhood home. I vividly recall standing in a long line to see the epic adventure that featured what I now know is a classic story line of good versus evil intertwined with special effects that, at the time, were mind numbing.

Like many others who saw the film then and now, I became an instant fan. I returned to the theater multiple times after that first showing, even sitting on the front row once with my head leaning on the back of the seat throughout the entire movie. I thought it would make me feel like I was part of the action, and it did.

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In a 1977 interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, the film’s creator, George Lucas said &8220;I’m hoping that if the film accomplishes anything, it takes some 10- year-old kid and turns him on to outer space and the possibilities of romance and adventure.&8221; It certainly did for me.

Lucas, who had previously co-written and directed the coming-of-age film &8220;American Graffiti&8221; in 1973, waived his up front fee as director of Star Wars in exchange for the licensing rights, which, at the time, the movie studio considered worthless. The decision made Lucas hundreds of millions of dollars in merchandising rights with Forbes Magazine estimating Lucas’ net worth in 2006 at $3.5 billion.

I’m sure he made a few pennies off me too, since I had scale model versions of an X-wing fighter and R2D2 that I kept in my room. Today, vintage, mint condition &8220;Star Wars&8221; action figures can fetch thousands of dollars.

Another great thing about &8220;Star Wars&8221; was the music. The score, composed by John Williams, won a Grammy and an Academy Award, one of seven &8220;Star Wars&8221; won in 1977. Today it remains one of the most recognizable movie scores in motion picture history, ranking high on the list with &8220;Jaws&8221; (another Williams’ creation), &8220;Titanic&8221; and &8220;Gone with the Wind.&8221; A disco version of the song &8220;Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” sold 2 million copies, making it the biggest-selling instrumental single of all time and the only one to be awarded platinum status by the Recording Industry Association of America.

I had a chance to see George Lucas in person in 1981 when I was visiting my uncle in California. My uncle, Randy Thom, a two-time Academy Award winner for sound editing and mixing, took my mother and I to the first screening of &8220;Dragonslayer&8221; and Lucas was there.

He looked a lot shorter than what I had imagined. He was wearing a black leather jacket, Ray-Ban Aviators and had perfect hair. The crowd welcomed him like a &8220;rock star,&8221; because he was. He remains a larger than life entity that changed the art of filmmaking forever. My uncle would later work with him on &8220;Star Wars: Episode V &045; The Empire Strikes Back,&8221; and &8220;Star Wars: Episode VI &045; Return of the Jedi and still works for him at Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch, named after Luke Skywalker, the main character in &8220;Star Wars.&8221;

Legend has it that then President of the United States Ronald Reagan requested a tour of Skywalker Ranch but was denied access. Lucas’ company Lucasfilm had recently lost a court battle to have the U.S. government refrain from calling the Strategic Defense Initiative &8220;Star Wars.&8221; I’m sure the ruling had something to do with Reagan being refused entry.

Lucas’ imagination and business acumen continue have an affect on filmmaking today. One of Lucas’ ventures, Industrial Light and Magic, is a motion picture visual effects company that has produced visual effects for more than 200 films including &8220;Indiana Jones,&8221; &8220;Jurassic Park,&8221; &8220;Titanic,&8221; and the &8220;Pirates of the Caribbean&8221; films.

But, to me, none can match the film that taught a generation that good does indeed triumph over evil and that even somebody from the humblest of beginnings can change the world, or, depending on your perspective, the universe.

Dennis Palmer is publisher of The Selma Times-Journal. He can be reached at 410-1712, or by email: .