George Lucas is best known for creating one of the largest franchises of all time in Star Wars. Together with Steven Spielberg, he also created the Indiana Jones franchise at the same time he founded Industrial Light & Magic on his own, a company that would go on to create visual effects for numerous iconic films.

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While he may be known for such great achievements, Lucas had humble beginnings dating back to his directorial debut, the social science fiction cult classic. THX 1138. This was the film that laid the foundation for everything Lucas would continue to create.

10 The film is based on Lucas’s student short film

Title card of the short film Elctronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB by George Lucas

Hardcore fans of George Lucas’s work probably know that THX 1138 didn’t actually come out of nowhere. In fact, it was based on the director’s student short film. Electronic maze: THX 1138 4EB.

Lucas directed the short film in 1967 while studying at the School of Motion Picture Arts at the University of Southern California. The short won first place in the Dramatic category at the National Student Film Festival. It’s more, Steven Spielberg saw the short at the festival, which was her first contact with Lucas and his work.

9 Lucas named the movie after his phone number

THX 1138 title card

The first thing any viewer will notice is the movie’s strange title, which refers to the main character, but what’s even more interesting is its backstory.

According to Cinema by the Bay, Lucas named the short film and then the feature film using his university’s phone number (849-1138 where “849” corresponds to the letters “THX” on the keyboard). However, screenwriter Walter Murch, who co-wrote the script for the feature film with Lucas, said in the commentary on the THX 1138 DVD that he believed Lucas wanted the characters’ names to match words (“THX” for “sex”, “LUH” for “love” and “SEN” for “sin”).

8 Lucas used recovering drug users as extras

Shaved head crowd at THX 1138

In the movie, almost all the characters had to have their heads completely shaved, either bald or with haircuts. Obviously, not many actors would agree to do this, but Lucas came up with an interesting solution.

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Some actors were filmed in unusual locations while having their heads shaved, which was part of a publicity stunt. The recordings were used in the promotional feature film. Calvo: the making of THX 1138. According to Skywalking: The Life and Movies of George Lucas, the film’s bald, shaved extras were hired at Synanon’s drug rehab center, where recovering drug users were required to shave as part of the program.

Interestingly, Synanon became known as the Church of Synanon in the 1970s and was finally disbanded in 1991 due to criminal activities in it. Synanon was known as one of the most dangerous cults in America.

7 Lucas used a theater group for aerial dialogue in the film

The dialogue above is present throughout the film, but it wasn’t actually written as many viewers might think. In fact, it was improvised by members of a San Francisco-based theater group called The Committee.

Supposedly, the term “Wookiee” even originated when THX 1138 made. In one of the film’s climactic scenes, The Committee’s actor Terry McGovern improvised the phrase, “I think I ran over a Wookiee back there.” McGovern’s friend was named Ralph Wooky, which is where the word came from.

6 Lucas got the original idea from a fellow student at USC

thank you 1138

Another little-known fact about the origin of the film is that the original short was not entirely Lucas’s idea. Rather, the director reworked an idea from his fellow USC students.

According to Skywalking: The Life and Movies of George Lucas, the director liked the concept of making a futuristic movie using the things he already had because he believed that people were already living in the future. The film’s DVD commentary reveals that USC students Matthew Robbins and Walter Murch had a similar idea to Lucas’s. Robbins later developed a treatment, but the two lost interest, while Lucas decided to keep working on it. As mentioned above, Murch co-wrote the script for the feature film with Lucas.

5 Francis Ford Coppola made the movie possible

American Zoetrope Logo

Another filmmaker who saw Lucas’s short film at the festival was Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola formed American Zoetrope with Lucas and later got a deal with Warner Bros. to finance seven movies.

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The first of these films was the main version of THX 1138But, once the image was complete, Warner Bros. hated it and modified it, cutting out more than four minutes.

4 Lucas has a special connection to the car chase scenes in the movie

Car chase scene in THX 1138

Before turning to film, Lucas was actually an aspiring race car driver in his high school years. When Lucas was eighteen, just before graduation, he had a terrible accident while driving his car.

Although Lucas was saved, he was still seriously injured, prompting him to re-evaluate his life choices. As a result, Lucas decided to pursue cinema, but his love for cars is still evident in his work. Weather American graffiti reflects Lucas’s youth, the chase scenes in THX 1138 further highlight your passion for cars and racing.

3 The movie was a flop and didn’t become a cult classic until many years later.

THX-1138 George Lucas Film

Even if THX 1138 Currently considered a cult classic, it actually opened to mixed reviews and underperformed at the box office. That said, the film received a nomination in the Directors’ Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival.

After the success of Lucas’ Star Wars, the film was re-evaluated by critics and audiences alike and has since developed a loyal fan base.

two Lucas referenced the film in his later works

Car with registration of THX 1138 in American Graffiti

Many directors like to reference their previous work in the images they make later in their careers, and Lucas is no different. On American graffiti, a car license plate says “THX 1138”, while Star Wars makes a reference to “prison cell 1138”.

On The Phantom Menace, one of the battle droid’s numbers is also “1138”. Also, the face of the robot that THX 1138 is working on in the film resembles the design of the C-3PO droid in Star Wars.

1 The film received a director’s cut of Lucas in 2004

Robert DuVall in THX 1138 (1971) by George Lucas

As mentioned above, because Warner Bros. was not satisfied with the result, the studio cut four minutes of Lucas’s film. Fortunately, the director managed to get his own director’s cut that was released in 2004.

In 1977, the film was re-released with the footage removed due to the success of Star Wars, but this cut did not get much recognition. Only years later, when Lucas was an acclaimed director with a long career, did he oversee the restoration of the film and a new director’s cut was released.

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