George Lucas goes back to film school he shaped

Mon Mar 30, 2009 12:10pm EDT
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By Bernie Woodall

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - When filmmaker George Lucas went the University of Southern California in the 1960s, it was considered "nuts" for him or his fellow film school students to think about a career making movies.

But the times and filmmaking have changed since then and on Sunday the USC School of Cinematic Arts celebrated its 80th birthday by dedicating new 137,000-square-foot facilities that features sound stages, screening rooms and state-of-the-art digital equipment.

"Back then, the industry was closed," Lucas said as he led a tour of the new $175-million complex. "You really had to be related to somebody. There was no hope."

Filmmaking changed, in part, because of a new generation of directors that included Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola.

"The only one at that time who actually made it directly from film school to directing a movie on a studio lot was Francis Ford Coppola, and he was the messiah savior of film students at the time."

Lucas went from the USC film school to a scholarship with Warner Brothers, where he hooked up with UCLA film school graduate Coppola.

"We became friends because we were the only two people on the set who were under 50 years old and who had beards, and who had gone to film school."

By 1973, Lucas made "American Graffiti," which received five Academy Award nominations. In every year since 1973, at least one former student from the USC school has been nominated for an Oscar. Lucas released the first of his "Star Wars" epic movies in 1977.   Continued...

<p>Filmmaker George Lucas speaks to reporters as he arrives for the Ford's Theater Grand Reopening Celebration in Washington February 11, 2009. REUTERS/Molly Riley</p>