Hollywood Flashback: From 'THX 1138' to 'Sith,' George Lucas Is No Cannes Stranger

Star Wars at Cannes - Getty - H 2018
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

The 'Star Wars' creator has a history with the French festival dating back to 1971.

George Lucas hasn’t exactly been Jeanne Moreau when it comes to Cannes. He hasn’t served on juries or won awards the way the late French actress did, but the Star Wars creator does have a history with the fest stretching back to 1971.

A major break for the then-27-year-old filmmaker came when his sci-fi film THX 1138 was given a spot in the Directors’ Fortnight by the section’s founder, Pierre-Henri Deleau. When Lucas tells the story, he stresses his poverty and how he and screenwriter Walter Murch didn’t even get tickets to the screening and “snuck in and sat on stairs in the back of the theater.”

The screening was such a success that the fest organizers put together a news conference so that Lucas could discuss his film. Unfortunately, they didn’t tell him about it, and Lucas didn’t attend. “I was barely able to get into my own picture, let alone get to a press conference,” he later recalled. “For a number of years, the French thought I was a real snob.”

Of the half-dozen times he’s been in Cannes, his biggest splash came in 2005 when Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith opened the 58th edition. The Hollywood Reporter was thrilled with the film and said it “ends the six-movie series on such a high note that one feels like yelling out, ‘Rewind!’”

THR also was impressed with the ceremony that coincided with the premiere, at which Lucas, then 51, was presented with the Trophy of the Festival on the Queen Mary 2. The Cunard Cruise Line’s year-old flagship had made a special stop at Cannes during a Mediterranean cruise.

“It dwarfed the yachts,” recalls THR film editor Gregg Kilday, who covered the event. “The press was more interested in checking out the ship than they were in the awards ceremony.” As for Sith, it grossed $849 million worldwide.

Now the franchise returns to the Croisette with Solo: A Star Wars Story, which premieres May 15.

A version of this story appears in The Hollywood Reporter's May 9 daily issue from the Cannes Film Festival.