How George Lucas Lost His Integrity...and Why it's So Important

"People don’t realize Star Wars is actually a soap opera and it’s all about family problems – it’s not about spaceships." 

Said George Lucas soon after watching Star Wars Episode VII in an interview with Charlie Rose. This was the first time he'd put Star Wars in someone else's hands, and he felt like it had been abused.

“There were two things that have been abused from the original release of Star Wars.

The first was that people thought the success of Star Wars was about special effects and space battles, when there was much more to it than that. So they became obsessed by the latest special-effects tools and no longer cared about the story.

The other thing that got abused—especially in an American capitalist society—is that studios said ‘WOW we can make a lot of money’ and they did it.

The (stories of Star Wars) were my kids…I loved them, I created them, and I sadly sold them to the 'white slavers' who take these things and...”

As he spoke, I could see the pain and regret in Lucas' expression. Here was an artist who created a universally loved piece of work, and now he believed it was being milked for every penny it was worth by the studio system he always resented.

As a kid, I was a huge Star Wars fan. I greatly admired Lucas for his creativity, innovation, and for bringing into the world any young boys fantasy weapon–the lightsaber. 

But as I dug deeper into the truth behind Star Wars I realized…Lucas is deceiving everyone… including himself. [1]


Where is the romance, the adventure, and the fun that used to be in practically every movie made?

Those were the questions on Lucas’ mind as he set out to create the original Star Wars.

Along with his good friend / producer, Gary Kurtz, the two wanted to create a homage to the Flash Gordon adventure serials that they used to watch as kids. However, studios believed their ideas were all too weird and risky, so they refused to finance the film. 

This reinforced Lucas' hatred for the studio system. 

He hated that the non-creative executives he met with had the final say on creative decisions. But, he knew the film needed studio financing, so for the next 2 years he wrote for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, revising his screenplays

Finally, 20th Century Fox accepted Lucas' revisions. However, they had so little faith in the movie, that they infamously allowed Lucas to control the rights to any sequels. 

After filming, it appeared their lack of faith was justified. The first cut of Star Wars was a disaster. [2]

Lucas knew that Star Wars had to be good. He already had the vision of creating a trilogy, so he had to make fans love it enough to convince the studio to finance the next film.

This put enormous pressure on Lucas to focus on every detail when trying to fix the movie in the editing process. Pressure which would lead to the spectacular effects that would save his film and revolutionize the industry. 

Against all odds, The Rogue Filmmaker proved the studios that doubted him wrong and created a fantasy world with iconic characters that were universally adored. [3

Unfortunately, this was the last movie that The Rogue Filmmaker ever made.


With the success of Star Wars, Lucas could see that there was a chance of studios trying to “milk” Star Wars for all it was worth. Being a man of principle, he strongly considered walking away from the series and pursuing other projects.

But he realized that he could leverage sequel rights to control merchandise as well. This would give him enough capital to create his own company and allow him more freedom from the studios by financing future films with the profits from Star Wars.

Lucasfilm was born—and so was George Lucas, The Entrepreneur.

Lucas realized that much of the value of Star Wars was in the mythology. So Lucasfilm’s public relations began building up the myths about Star Wars’ creation – and its creator.

They claimed Lucas had already written 12 Star Wars stories and that the first movie was always intended to be Episode IV of this series.

Theoretically, this would allow Lucasfilm to continue producing Star Wars movies without looking like they were mindlessly creating sequels just for money – they were just telling the “full story.”

Profits were beginning to drive George Lucas’ decisions. [4]


After the massive success of The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas realized that he was making 3 times as much revenue in toy sales than he was for the actual films. Thus, if he could sell more toys, it would mean more projects for Lucasfilm, and even less need for studio financing.

So Lucas began sharing ideas for the third film with Kurtz—who was still his partner— that would help increase merchandise sales. Lucas wanted to add the "Ewoks" and make the film more kid friendly than The Empire Strikes Back.

Kurtz pushed back on these ideas. In Lucas’ mind, however, the profits were necessary to keep his freedom from the studios. The ends justify the means.

Tension between the partners grew.

Eventually, it became so bad that Kurtz flat out refused to be a part of Star Wars anymore.

I could see where things were headed. The toy business began to drive the [Lucasfilm] empire. It's a shame. They make three times as much on toys as they do on films. It's natural to make decisions that protect the toy business but that's not the best thing for making quality films....

The emphasis on the toys, it's like the cart driving the horse. If it wasn't for that the films would be done for their own merits. The creative team wouldn't be looking over their shoulder all the time. [5]

In other words, Gary Kurtz left because the films were being “abused” when George Lucas realized, “WOW we can make a lot of money” off the sale of toys. 

Lucas was becoming studio executive he fought so hard to free himself from.


This all took place behind the scenes. Kurtz didn't speak out about this until over 30 years later. And despite the unnecessary inclusion of the Ewoks, most fans still loved the final episode of the trilogy.

Over the next decade, Lucas went through a very nasty divorce—keeping him out of the directors chair. Still the head of Lucasfilm, he collaborated with Steven Spielberg to create another amazing success with the Indiana Jones trilogy.

With his life back in order in 1994, Lucas was inspired to write and direct his first film since 1977: Star Wars Episode I.

But this time, he would have total control, huge financial support, and new computer-generated imagery (CGI) to help tell his story. 

Lucas loved this new CGI Technology. He loved it so much that every single scene of the prequel trilogy used it.

In some cases he even used it to replace actors! The famous Storm Troopers (or "Clone Troopers") weren't played by actors, just computer-generated images.

These special effects were impressive for the time. But the dialogue, the characters, and the story of the prequel trilogy were stale, flat, and uninteresting—even to the most hard-core fans of Star Wars. [6]

It appeared that Lucas had become, “obsessed by the latest special-effects tools and no longer cared about the story.”

Thus, he abused the two things about Star Wars he condemned others for abusing in his interview with Charlie Rose.

This hypocrisy resulted in him losing his integrity in my eyes. And it made me wonder…how did this happen?


I apologize if this story seemed like one of the many personal attacks by fans on George Lucas. 

The man deserves a lot of credit for the creativity, belief, and persistence he showed on a project that nobody believed in. As well as massive gratitude for the huge charitable donations he has made in his life.

I don't think he's trying to deceive us. I truly believe that he believes in every word he says.

I use Lucas’ story because it shows how someone with purpose, principles, and the willpower to see his goal through to the finish, can tragically go down a path to losing all those things–then be in denial about it.

So let's dissect his story to see how we can avoid his fate.


Imagine how sweet it must've been for Lucas to see his movie that nobody believed in not only be a success, but be a game-changing aspect of cinematic history.

The pride that he must have felt when he saw the crowds come back again, and again, and again, must have been extraordinary.

People loved his work – and for good reason!

But rather than seeing this love as a result of the time, effort, and care he put into it – he believed the idea that he was a creative genius for making Star Wars.

This likely made him feel as if he didn’t need to work as hard when he returned to directing. After all, he was a genius!

You may not experience nearly the amount of hubris when working towards your goals, but you are just as vulnerable to relying on your talent, rather than your work ethic. This is the downside of focusing on self-esteem, rather than self-control. [7]

It is a great feeling to celebrate great results–but don't forget the reason why you achieved them. 


Once he was believing his own hype, we saw Lucas begin to lose his identity as "The Rogue Filmmaker."

He saw that Star Wars was going to become a giant of pop culture, which meant there was a lot of money to be made by either himself or the studios.

Never wanting to allow money to influence his decisions as an artist, Lucas strongly considered not making another Star Wars movie.

However, he recognized the money from Star Wars could give him the freedom he always wanted. So he compromised his principles as The Rogue Filmmaker to become The Entrepreneur because the ends justified the means.

This not only made him care more about the bottom-line, but it also positioned Star Wars in his mind as a "money-maker" for future films. So he justified doing things like focusing on the toys over the story.

This led him to become the thing he hated by prioritizing business decisions over creative decisions.

There are many instances where the ends justify the means for us. But once you start compromising your principles, you begin to lose the willpower to live up to them. Especially if you lose your sense of self awareness along the way.


“I’ve never been that much of a money guy, I’m more of a film guy.”

Despite all of his actions to the contrary, George Lucas never admitted (at least to us) that he was anything other than The Rogue Filmmaker.

He grew up in Northern California during the 60s and claims that has a lot to do with his political beliefs. Before the release of the original Star Wars, he openly spoke out against studios, capitalism, and overusing special effects at the expense of the story. 

And that never changed.

I would like to believe that he isn't just saying this to create a certain public persona. I genuinely believe that he still believes that he is The Rogue Filmmaker, rather than The CEO.

That's why he could justify to himself that he wasn't selling out, he wasn't overdoing it on special effects, and that he really was focusing on writing great stories and creating great films.

Then rather than admitting the truth to himself, and working hard to earn back the title of The Rogue Filmmaker, he chose to criticize the people who made exactly the same decisions as him.

To prevent yourself from going down this path, use self-monitoring tactics to constantly review the evidence, and ensure you are genuinely trying to live up to your principles through your actions, not your words.


The phrase "actions speak louder than words" doesn't give actions enough credit. 

It doesn't take any willpower for someone to talk about their plans, promises, or principles. It takes extraordinary willpower, however, to live up to them.

I hate to pick on George Lucas. He has done more for the happiness of this world than I probably ever will. 

The problem is not that he became a hugely successful entrepreneur, it's that he compromised his principles, denied the truth, and lied to us.

In your life, be sure to judge yourself and those around you by actions, not words.

Because actions truly do not lie.