When The Force Wasn’t So Strong

The original teaser trailer for Star Wars was recently rereleased:

But the groundbreaking film almost never saw theatrical release, “after it had gone considerably over budget ($13 million finally) and driven Lucas to the point of nervous collapse”. More from an excerpt from David Thompson’s new book, The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies:

Universal had given Lucas a two-picture contract, for American Graffiti and something called Star Wars. No matter the success of the first film, the bosses at Universal could not envisage what Star Wars would be, as Lucas struggled to write it and to work out the array of special effects that would be required. The project was hanging in the balance, even if it was about to reshape the art and the business. Universal faltered, but Twentieth Century–Fox said it would take on the venture. It was scared of science fiction and wary of Lucas and his taciturn demeanor, so it agreed only to a development deal, with step payments that exposed Lucas personally to his debts from THX 1138. …

Lucas had been dismayed in his deal with Fox to learn that the studio was closing down its special-effects department. Yet he envisaged countless scenes such as no one had ever seen before. He assigned John Dykstra (an assistant on 2001) to begin experimenting in Van Nuys, but this was only the prelude to a new culture in which photographic methods would be increasingly harnessed to the computer. In 1975, while working on the film, Lucasfilm founded a new operation, Industrial Light and Magic, which would soon move to Marin, north of San Francisco, at what would be called Skywalker Ranch, begun in 1978 at a cost of $100 million.