The influence of Steven Spielberg on Star Wars

Steven Spielberg is undoubtedly one of the most popular and talented filmmakers there is. They invented the word blockbuster because of his movie Jaws – and Star Wars claimed that title a short time later. Literally, people queued up around the block to see the 1975 movie. to see a shark eat a man or three.

Spielberg went on to create wonderful movies, including science-fiction gold like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and Minority Report. That's not forgetting his other works such as the Oscar-winning Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park, and Empire of the Sun.

But do you know what Steven Spielberg's impact on the world of Star Wars is? What influence has he had on the franchise?

There are many connections with George Lucas – including a great friendship. Four further connections are some movies that feature a certain whip-wielding character called Indiana Jones.

You see, Spielberg directed those movies, but they were largely George Lucas productions – Lucas wrote and produced them to satisfy his desire to capture the magic of the movies that had inspired him as a child.

Spielberg once said “With Star Wars, George put the butter back into the popcorn” – which is possibly the greatest compliment one director has ever given another.

So the connection between Spielberg and Lucas is very real and very close. They've made movies together so surely they must have had the occasional chat with each other about the movies they've made.

Of course, they have and this has led to Spielberg having some influence over the direction in which George Lucas took the Star Wars movies – after all, if one of your greatest friends is a fan of your work and ideas and is actually one of the world's greatest directors in his own right, you'd totally take some of his suggestions and ideas on board.

So let's look at some of the actual influences that Steven Spielberg has had on the Star Wars universe.

A New Hope, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and a certain bet

Let's start with an indirect one. After making THX 1138 and the acclaimed American Graffiti, Lucas had made a name for himself in Hollywood and was working on the production of Star Wars. At a similar time, Spielberg was producing what became Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

George was a bit nervous about how Star Wars was going to turn out and, during a set visit to Spielberg's movie, expressed such concerns. Steven promptly backed his friend, so much so that he suggested they swap royalty points on each other's movies by way of a bet that each other's film would do better. Fearing a flop with his own movie, Lucas agreed.

While Close Encounters of the Third Kind did pretty well at the box office, Spielberg actually cleaned up on Star Wars – and it's now the stuff of legend that he's actually made over 46 million dollars to date from the original movie and he didn't even have to lift a finger to do it. Has an easier 46 million bucks ever been made?

Da na. Daar na. Da naa!

Let's go back to Jaws, the first movie we mentioned. Other than the shark (“Bruce” was his name) eating Captain Quint, one of the most famous parts of that movie was the music. The classic two-note motif was the work of a composer called John Williams.

It was Spielberg that suggested and introduced Williams to Lucas to score the music of Stars Wars. Given Williams' subsequent score has become one of the most famous, if not the most famous movie scores of all time, Spielberg's influence on Star Wars was massive enough for this alone.

The Phantom Menace

A really simple one is the reference Lucas put into The Phantom Menace. In a key scene that features the Senate debate, at some point, if you look closely, you can see a few characters that look like the lovable alien from Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
Indeed, one of the little guys was called “Grebleips” – which keen eyes may recognize as being Spielberg's name written in reverse.
anakin darth eyes revenge of the sith
Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Revenge of the Sith

Not many people sit through the credits of movies these days (except if it's a Marvel movie) but, if you did during Revenge of the Sith, you may have noticed Steven Spielberg was given a production credit as Assistant Director.

Rumors have suggested for years that Lucas wanted Spielberg to direct Return of the Jedi, but it couldn't be sorted out due to Lucas' issue with the Directors Guild of America.

Lucas eventually found a way to get Spielberg on board, though. He asked his buddy for some help with the lightsaber duel between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar and with Yoda's swashbuckling with the Emperor during the planning and development of the scenes.

This work was considered of sufficient worth for Spielberg to deserve the production credit.

The Clone Wars 

Back to Jaws again, but we'll leave it to Bryan Young to report on this one:

“Jaws is no less important to those who create Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The first time I realized there was a hardcore Jaws fan on the crew of The Clone Wars was watching the thirteenth episode of the third season. “Monster” served as our introduction to the now-iconic villain Savage Opress. The homage from Jaws was subtle and CG supervisor Joel Aron later told me that he thought I might have been the only person who noticed it. But in Jaws (and in a few other Spielberg pictures) there is a lovely shot of a night sky, a quiet moment, and a falling star streaks across the frame. The moment is repeated in loving memory in “Monster” and it brought a smile across the face of the film nerd inside of me.”

The J.J. Abrams factor

J.J. Abrams was anointed as the chosen one to direct The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker. While Kathleen Kennedy and George Lucas would have made that choice, there's an awesome Spielberg link here.

J.J. met Spielberg when he was a film student and they eventually become professional colleagues. J.J. went on to direct Super 8, which was an homage to the classic Spielberg movies such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Jaws (if you're wondering about the Jaws aspect, think of the slow reveal of the alien which was similar to the reveal of Bruce). Spielberg produced Super 8 for J.J.

Without the support and encouragement that Spielberg has given to J.J. over the years, which led to J.J. becoming a very good film director, it would be very unlikely that he would have found himself sitting in the director's chair for The Force Awakens.

It's almost certain that Spielberg was consulted on J.J.'s appointment as well as Kathleen Kennedy, who produced (or assistant produced) many of Spielberg's movies, including Raiders of the Lost Ark – and we already mentioned who wrote those Indiana Jones movies.

And that’s just the stuff we know about. One can only imagine the conversations Lucas and Spielberg have had over the years, the wise words swapped, and the constructive feedback shared.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.