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Star Wars: Steven Spielberg earned ‘millions’ after a ‘gamble’ with George Lucas

Star Wars: The Bad Batch trailer released by Disney+

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In 1977 Star Wars was nothing more than an independent movie from the mind of a new director, Lucas. The creator of the legendary franchise had put everything on the line to create his science-fiction epic, but he wasn’t sure if it was going to be successful. Thankfully, he had a friend to fall back on – Spielberg.

At the time Spielberg was still an up-and-coming director but had recently seen some enormous success with his 1975 movie Jaws.

The epic monster movie won Spielberg three Academy Awards: Best Film Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Sound.  

While working on his next movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Lucas visited Spielberg on set to talk Star Wars just as he had finished shooting. 

Fox, the company behind Star Wars at the time, were convinced the movie was going to be a big hit. Lucas was famously quoted telling a Fox executive: “Oh, no. It won’t make more than $15 million.”

Spielberg revealed how anxious Lucas was when they met up on the set of Close Encounters.

Spielberg said: “George came back from Star Wars a nervous wreck.

“He didn’t feel Star Wars came up to the vision he initially had. He felt he had just made this little kids movie.

“He came to Mobile, Alabama where I was shooting Close Encounters on this humongous set and hung out with me for a couple of days. He said: ‘Oh my God, your movie is going to be so much more successful than Star Wars. This is gonna be the biggest hit of all time.'”

Spielberg had some faith in his friend’s writing and directing skills, so decided to put his money where his mouth was.

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Spielberg recalled: “[Lucas] said: ‘You want to trade some points? I’ll give you two and a half percent of Star Wars if you give me two and a half per cent of Close Encounters.’

“I said: ‘Sure, I’ll gamble with that, great.'”

Of course, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was a big success, earning a staggering $300 million at the box office.

But that was nothing compared to Star Wars’ box office numbers.

By the end of 1978, Star Wars earned a phenomenal $500 million on an $11 million budget, earning Spielberg a whopping $12.5 million for doing nothing.

Spielberg concluded his story: “Close Encounters made so much money and rescued Columbia from bankruptcy.

“It was the most money I ever made, but it was a meagre success story. Star Wars was a phenomenon and I was the happy beneficiary of a couple of points from that movie which I am still seeing money on today.”

Of course, Spielberg and Lucas’ journey together didn’t end there.

The directorial duo went on to create the Indiana Jones franchise five years later.

Spielberg and Lucas worked together on the four films thus far, grossing more than $1 billion at the box office.

The films also introduced Star Wars actor Harrison Ford as the titular character, right off the back of playing the legendary Han Solo.

The Star Wars films are available on Disney Plus now.

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