Lucas' intellectual explorations led to an interest in anthropology, especially the work of American mythologist Joseph Campbell, who studied the common thread linking the myths of disparate cultures. This inspired Lucas to explore archetypal storylines that resonated across the ages and around the world.
Lucas' epic battle with the movie industry began after Warner Bros. forced him to make unwanted changes to an early film, "THX 1138." Later, Universal Pictures insisted on revisions to "American Graffiti" that Lucas felt impinged on his creative freedom. The experience led Lucas to insist on having total control of all his work, just like Charlie Chaplin and Walt Disney in their heyday.
"In order to get my vision out there, I really needed to learn how to manipulate the system because the system is designed to tear you down and destroy everything you are doing," Lucas said in an interview with Charlie Rose.
He shopped his outline for "Star Wars" to several studios before finding a friend in Alan Ladd Jr., an executive at 20th Century Fox. Despite budget and deadline overruns, and pressure from the studio, the movie was a huge success when it was released in 1977. It grossed $798 million in theaters worldwide and caused Fox's stock price at the time to double.
In one of the wisest business moves in Hollywood history, Lucas cut a deal with distributor Fox before the film's release so that he could retain ownership of the sequels and rights for merchandise. He figured in the 1970s that might mean peddling a few T-shirts and posters to fans to help market the movie. Over the decades, merchandising has formed the bedrock of his multi-billion-dollar enterprise, resulting in a bonanza for Lucas from action figures, toys, spinoff books and other products.