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Untold Tales of Hollywood #22

I met George Lucas in person and spoke with him just once, while I was working on Conan the Barbarian (he and John Milius were pals, both USC Film School graduates) — but I’ve had many, many associations with him. He’s a very loyal guy who has never forgotten who was there for him in the beginning.

My first encounter with George was when he was looking for artists to do Star Wars posters. The film had just been released. I had seen the mysterious ads placed all over town: “May The Force Be with You” What in the hell was that all about? A mystical religious pic?

After the movie opened, I kept driving by the famous Graumann’s Chinese Theater. The lines were long as the film had begun picking up amazing word of mouth. With each passing day, the lines weren’t getting any shorter — they were getting longer! I was too busy to see the film; I had loads of ad jobs on my plate. Finally, I got a break in my schedule. I had to see what this Star Wars phenomena was all about.

After parking, I strolled up the two or three blocks-long queue, starting at the beginning, hoping to recognize someone who might give me cuts in line.

“Bill!” a familiar voice shouted. It was my pal George, an underground comix distributor, with his very young son Leo. Leo was dressed in costume. I would find out about half an hour later that he was dressed just like Luke Skywalker.

They gave me cuts. George was blown away that this was my first time seeing the film.

“George,” I said, “The movie’s only been out two weeks. How many times have you seen it?”

“Four.”

FOUR! In just two weeks?! Holy cow — this must be one heckuva film!”

“Bill — You have to promise me you’ll sit with us. I wanna see your face at the beginning.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about but, yeah, I’ll be happy to sit with you guys. Huh…see my face…”

We entered the theater, found great seats and waited for the movie to begin.

It began with the famous slanted text crawl — that was different; it reminded me of some of the old sci-fi serials. And then the first spaceship flew into view from overhead.

“Ohmigod,” I said quietly to myself. “This is a-mazing!

Then the second, much BIGGER ship flew over. I nearly jumped out of my seat. I had never seen anything like it. I suddenly knew that I was watching cinema history — movies and special effects had just made a spectacular leap.

I immediately began bringing my mom, brothers and friends everywhere to see this film — just so I could see the look on their faces at the beginning of the film.

Oh…and little Leo, the tot dressed like Luke Skywalker the first time I saw Star Wars? That was Leonardo DeCaprio.

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