A real furor is what George Lucas aroused at the Cannes festival during the master class he offered this afternoon in a packed Debussy theatre. Cheers and almost three minutes of uninterrupted applause to welcome the American director, screenwriter and producer who recently turned 80 -on May 14-, creator of the popular sagas Star Wars and Indiana Jones, who tomorrow will receive the Palme d’Or honorary at the closing gala. “I have returned to Cannes many times, with Indiana Jones or Star Wars, but I like recognition: I don’t make the type of films that win awards,” he said about an award that feels “nostalgic” and before reviewing his career .

The tribute has begun on the screen, where scenes from his most famous films have been projected, from his debut feature THX 1138, with which he was in the competition in 1971, to the famous galactic franchise that elevated Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher passing for American Graffiti and works of which he has been producer such as Inside the Labyrinth or Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, by Paul Schrader. At the end, a very young Lucas is seen telling the camera that the most important thing in his working method is “perseverance.” He also independence, as he has subsequently emphasized.

A persistence and a passion for what he does that has elevated him as one of the most outstanding creators and visionaries in the history of cinema whose Star Wars saga revolutionized the industry not only with an epic story in a galaxy far away, but also with through technical innovations ranging from promotional merchandising to digital cinematography. A creator and a total visionary.

Lucas, who in this 77th edition of the French competition coincides with his colleagues from the New Hollywood generation Francis Ford Coppola and Paul Schrader – whose films in competition have not been well received by specialized critics -, recalled that all of them, in addition to Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg “we were film students and we just wanted to make movies. We weren’t interested in money, that was the big difference. “You didn’t get into the film industry if you didn’t have a sponsor, so none of us really thought we would be able to dedicate ourselves to film,” he said. 

Lucas was an assistant to Coppola, with whom he co-founded the production company American Zoetrope. About THX, the science fiction film that was a financial failure, he recalled that it was chosen for the Filmmakers’ Fortnight, but Warner Bros. did not want to send the filmmaker or his co-writer Walter Murch to France for the premiere. They both raised money and attended the premiere, but they crashed because they didn’t have tickets. Years later the French media asked him why he had not gone to the press conference and Lucas said: “we didn’t know.” 

During the conversation with journalist Didier Allouch, he cited the success of Easy Rider, by Dennis Hopper, as “a wake-up call for studios” regarding what young people in the late sixties longed for. Made for $750,000, American Graffiti, which captures the youthful feel of the time, was put to the test on its first screening before a mesmerized audience. “It was like a rock concert,” Lucas admits. But Universal was not convinced and it took two more test screenings before it hit theaters, where in the first weekend alone it grossed $25 million in the United States.

His next project would be his fantasy space odyssey Star Wars with 20th Century Fox, and after the excellent box office of American Graffiti, Lucas wrote his own contract to obtain the licensing money – something unheard of at the time – and control of the rights to the sequel. He initially wrote a 210-page script and knew there would be more films. The director has confessed that he believes that the phenomenon of the saga has to do with the fact that “he thought of it for 12-year-old children who would question things.” “It has always been a film for children and I was surprised that it was liked by both people aged five and those over 85.” 

And he has rejected some critics’ opinion that his galactic epic stars white men: Most of the characters are aliens! The idea is that you’re supposed to accept people for who they are, whether they’re big and hairy or green or whatever. “All people are equal,” she stressed, adding that Princess Leia “is a woman and she is a hero. You can’t just put pants on a woman and expect her to be a hero. They can wear dresses, they can wear whatever they want. It’s their brains and their ability to think, plan and be logistical. That’s what a hero she is.” Something attributable to the character of the African-American Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu “He was not a scoundrel like Lando. He was one of the best Jedi. The only beings in the galactic universe that were discriminated against were robots,” he clarified. 

It was important for Lucas to make the film in the UK to stay away from the studio. “Someone from the studio was there but gave up telling us what to do,” mentioned the director, who has defined himself as “a stubborn guy and I didn’t want people telling me how to make my films.” A trilogy bathed by John Williams’ unforgettable soundtrack – it was Spielberg who recommended it to me, the music is half of the film – to which he returned with three other episodes “because he wanted to experiment with visual technology” and which were not so well received by critics. 

Despite earning a lot of money from his films, Lucas has warned: “Never invest in films because you will lose your money. The fact that people make money from movies is a myth, especially in Hollywood.” Regarding the decision to sell his company Lucas Films to Disney in 2012 for $4 billion, he made it clear that “I was 69 years old, I had just gotten married and had a small daughter,” although he regrets that “many ideas were lost.” He has been “retired for 10 years, but the industry doesn’t understand the business. The people who work on the ground, the director or the scriptwriter, are the ones who have to decide if something can be done or not.”