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Zanuck: ‘George Lucas is the Thomas Edison of our time’

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You don’t hear too many Hollywood titans gushing about their peers and rivals, but when I sat down for lunch recently with ‘Alice in Wonderland’ producer Richard D. Zanuck, the subject turned to George Lucas. I mentioned that Lucas is not the easiest person to talk to sometimes and that he has a reputation for liking ideas more than people.

Zanuck quickly defended Lucas. ‘Well, if so, thank goodness for all of us that that’s how his brain works. Look at the impact he’s had and the work he’s done. He’s like Walt Disney.’

Zanuck said he first met Lucas at an advance screening of ‘The Sugarland Express,’ which was Steven Spielberg’s first feature film. Zanuck was the producer of the movie and his two memories of the screening were the fact that Goldie Hawn showed up in a silly disguise (so fans wouldn’t recognize her) and that Spielberg introduced Zanuck to a painfully shy friend of his named George.

Through the years, Zanuck, whose family name is steeped in Hollywood history, has come to view Lucas as a signature figure in American film history. The fact that Lucas took his massive profits from ‘Star Wars’ and used it in the name of industry innovation made a deep impression on Zanuck, the producer of ‘Jaws,’ ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Road to Perdition.’

‘He’s the only person with the exception of Sam Goldwyn who literally put his own money in; Sam financed and owned 100% of all those great pictures he made, and no one else has ever done that, not like he did. George put it back into ILM and Skywalker Ranch and THX sound. He put it into the greatest equipment, all of it up-to-date… He’s the only one who ever gave back to the industry in terms of the technology investment. And I guess James Cameron, now, but that’s on a different scale. He’s really been an innovator like nobody else. He’s the Thomas Edison of our time.’

-- Geoff Boucher

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PHOTO: George Lucas at the World Business Forum in New York on Oct. 6, 2009. (Craig Ruttle/Bloomberg) Bottom, Lucas in 2006 (LucasFilm Ltd)


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