How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise

How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise

Chris Taylor

Language: English

Pages: 512

ISBN: 0465049893

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In 1973, a young filmmaker named George Lucas scribbled some notes for a far-fetched space-fantasy epic. Some forty years and $37 billion later, Star Wars–related products outnumber human beings, a growing stormtrooper army spans the globe, and “Jediism” has become a religion in its own right. Lucas’s creation has grown into far more than a cinematic classic; it is, quite simply, one of the most lucrative, influential, and interactive franchises of all time. Yet incredibly, until now the complete history of Star Wars—its influences and impact, the controversies it has spawned, its financial growth and long-term prospects—has never been told.

In How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, veteran journalist Chris Taylor traces the series from the difficult birth of the original film through its sequels, the franchise’s death and rebirth, the prequels, and the preparations for a new trilogy. Providing portraits of the friends, writers, artists, producers, and marketers who labored behind the scenes to turn Lucas’s idea into a legend, Taylor also jousts with modern-day Jedi, tinkers with droid builders, and gets inside Boba Fett’s helmet, all to find out how Star Wars has attracted and inspired so many fans for so long.

Since the first film’s release in 1977, Taylor shows, Star Wars has conquered our culture with a sense of lightness and exuberance, while remaining serious enough to influence politics in far-flung countries and spread a spirituality that appeals to religious groups and atheists alike. Controversial digital upgrades and poorly received prequels have actually made the franchise stronger than ever. Now, with a savvy new set of bosses holding the reins and Episode VII on the horizon, it looks like Star Wars is just getting started.

An energetic, fast-moving account of this creative and commercial phenomenon, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe explains how a young filmmaker’s fragile dream beat out a surprising number of rivals to gain a diehard, multigenerational fan base—and why it will be galvanizing our imaginations and minting money for generations to come.

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movie had so much finality to it that there was nowhere left for kids to go. Darth Vader and the Emperor were definitively dead—what stories could you act out without the bad guys? (An avid action figure director at the age of ten, I remember getting around this problem for a while by claiming the Emperor had been cloned—but got bored and packed my Star Wars figures away in the attic by the age of twelve.) Desperate to keep Star Wars alive, Kenner designer Mark Boudreaux led a team effort to

a vengeance, and they were in Lucas’s face. It was something he’d brought on himself. He had numbered the original trilogy IV, V, and VI. Demand for I, II, and III became a steady drumbeat. The fans were getting older, they were watching the originals on VHS, and they were impatient. Pretty much everything Lucas had produced in the late ’80s and early ’90s, barring Indiana Jones, was a flop. But Star Wars was the nearest he had to a sure thing. It was, Lucas came to realize, his destiny. “Part

between Christmas and my next Lucasfilm event. You can’t have a paunch at all, because that’s where it shows, in the middle. The wires start bulging.” But it’s worth it, he says, for that “momentary magical interaction.” The other group of droid enthusiasts is even more self-effacing and tenacious than Bartlett and his fellow masked character makers in the 501st. Like Lucas, they prefer life behind the scenes. For this reason, as well as for their choice of character (and the fact that they’re

told me he remembers watching the original movie on VHS with his dad, who loved Flash Gordon–style serial adventures, but let out a giant sigh after Han Solo made his boast about doing the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. Both knew what was wrong with that statement: a parsec is distance, not time. “Dad,” protested Nick, “it’s just a movie.” “Yes,” said Sagan, “but they can afford to get the science right.” So much for the space fantasy approach to inspiring the Einsteins of the future.

accident, the most important turning point in Lucas’s entire creative history, led him to rethink his approach to school; he discovered the study of humanity and became fascinated by photography. Only then, belatedly, did he fall into film, take the key classes and meet the key people who would set him off down the path to the stars. None of these other obsessions ever left Lucas entirely, however. They all informed his most well-known work. So as tempting as it is to detour around Lucas’s turns

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