George Lucas On How He Built His $4 Billion ‘Star Wars’ Empire
‘If you own the movie, which I came to do, you make a lot of money. But you have to own it, and that means you have to put the money in, so you have to take the risk.
I was talking to Ladd Jr. on the first Star Wars. I had 50 percent of the net profits because my company was going out and making the movie, and I said, “I know what I’m doing for my 50 percent. I put my heart and soul in this, my whole career is at stake, I have to actually go out and make the movie… What are you doing for your 50 percent?” He said, “Well, I provide the money.” I said, “You don’t provide the money! You go to a bank with a letter of credit and they supply the money, so you’re not doing anything! And you get 50 percent of the movie!”
So, I came back for The Empire Strikes Back and, instead of them giving me the boilerplate contract, I gave them the boilerplate contract. I went to my lawyer and I said, “You’re going to do a distribution contract from scratch.” He said, “Do you know how hard that is? That’s really a lot of work! It’s 180 pages!” And I said, “Look: How many chances are you ever gonna get to write a distribution agreement for a studio? Nobody’s ever done it, and nobody’s ever gonna do it again.” I went to Laddy and I said, “Here’s the deal. I’m going to finance the film this time.” And he said, “Well, wait a minute… you’re getting 100 percent of the profits!” And I said, “Yeah. I’m financing it! Remember that 50 percent you had? Well, I’m doing that now. You don’t get that 50 percent, and I get my own 50 percent, so I get 100 percent.”’