Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have maintained a close friendship as well as a creative partnership for several years now. Two leading figures of the Movie Brats, both Spielberg and Lucas created iconic cinematic masterpieces which inspired younger generations of aspiring filmmakers to start their own directorial journeys.
Unlike many of the members of the Movie Brats, Spielberg had started engaging in filmmaking from a very early age and did not wait for film school. Lucas, on the other hand, was introduced to the works of many pioneers of cinema – ranging from French New Wave visionaries such as Jean-Luc Godard to the Italian master Federico Fellini – in college.
The two met each other for the first time in 1967 at a film festival where Lucas had been invited to present his short film THX-1138: 4EB (Electronic Labyrinth). It was that student film festival at UCLA that marked the beginning of a remarkable friendship between the two, even though they only became proper friends later on.
“I realised that there was an entire generation coming out of NYU, USC and UCLA. THX-1138, made me jealous to the marrow of my bones,” Spielberg once said while looking back at that first encounter. “I was eighteen years old and had directed fifteen short films by that time, and this little movie was better than all of my movies combined.”
It was only when Francis Ford Coppola organised a screening of Spielberg’s Duel that George Lucas realised he wanted to get to know his contemporary a little better. While there was a lot of rivalry and jealousy about their individual artistic achievements, both Spielberg and Lucas respected each other’s undeniable abilities to create cinematic art.
Spielberg was also the one who introduced Lucas to John Williams, the legendary composer who would later become a crucial collaborator for many of their own projects. Although Spielberg was a little envious of what Lucas had managed to do in his seminal masterpiece American Graffiti, the two soon started consulting each other on creative matters.
In fact, it was Spielberg who convinced Lucas that Star Wars was going to have a massive cultural impact and was probably going to achieve unprecedented commercial success. Unfortunately, the people around them were not convinced by the early footage they saw or the ideas put forward by Lucas while pitching his film.
“I showed it to all of my friends early on, but it was mostly filled with stock footage of old war movies and all kinds of stuff,” Lucas explained. “They saw it and said, ‘Poor George. What were you thinking?’ Steven [Spielberg] had jumped up, and said, ‘This is going to be the biggest movie of all time.’ Everybody in the room looked up at Steven and said, ‘Poor Steven.'”
The two combined their creative energies on projects like Indiana Jones which became an integral part of American popular culture. “The person I enjoy working for more than anybody is George Lucas. He’s the best boss I ever had, because he is the most talented boss I ever had,” Spielberg once declared while confirming that George Lucas was the best partner he ever had.