If someone asked you to name a George Lucas or Steven Spielberg movie, chances are you could. Lucas brought the global runaway success of Star Wars to our screens in the late 70s, spawning an entertainment mega-franchise in the form of the Star Wars universe. Spielberg has carved out one of the most successful directorial careers in the industry.
Bringing audiences classic movies like Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and Jurassic Park (1993), Spielberg also teamed up with Lucasfilm and Lucas — who is also a close friend — to launch the Indiana Jones franchise with Harrison Ford, starring as the titular hero in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
The two directors have always shared a close bond, they have even been credited with saving The Walt Disney Company back in the 80s. Reviving the company from struggling times with theme park attractions like Star Tours, and award-winning movies such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) — which Spielberg executive produced through his Amblin Entertainment production company, with Frank Marshall and the current Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy.
The Walt Disney Company bought Lucasfilm in 2012 and went onto launch the Star Wars sequel trilogy beginning with Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015), which takes place many years after the original movies, as the franchise deals with the legacy of Anakin Skywalker’s Darth Vader and the ruins of the Galactic Empire. Disney also produced the hit Disney+ show, The Mandalorian, further expanding Lucas’ Star Wars universe.
Back in the day, though, Lucas and Spielberg shared a very heartwarming and hilarious tradition that came after Lucas’s Star Wars beat Jaws at the box office.
A tradition begins…
When Star Wars took the world by storm, not only did it establish a huge fan base, it usurped the current leading movie at the box office, Spielberg’s Jaws. In a comical turn of events, Spielberg took out a full-page advertisement in the popular entertainment magazine, Variety, to share his congratulations for the Star Wars director.
The message comments on Lucas’s “forces” of imagination “that made “Star Wars” so worthy of the throne”, before signing off as “Your pal”.
Following Spielberg’s advertisement in Variety, years later Lucas would continue the tradition by issuing artwork to celebrate the Jaws director’s newest blockbuster hit, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Lucas used famous Star Wars characters like Chewbacca, Princess Leia, C-3PO, and surprisingly, Darth Vader to showcase the fan-favorite alien being held up on the shoulders of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker.
The official Star Wars Twitter account shared the image in a 13th anniversary Tweet.
30 years ago today, Variety magazine posted an ad from George Lucas to pal Steven Spielberg.
The Variety ad celebrated E.T.‘s move to first place in domestic film rentals, taking the spot from Star Wars. Lucas’s ad went on to add how “E.T.’s adventure on earth and his gift of intergalactic friendship continue to touch us all”, before signing off with the iconic Star Wars phrase, “May the Force always be with you.”
The tradition continued into the 90s as Lucas brought another director into the Variety advertisement celebration. Adding to his thread on the topic, Twitter user Psy (@sai_ganesh) shared Lucas’s congratulatory message for James Cameron’s Titanic (1997).
Georg [sic: George] Lucas dragged James Cameron into this tradition in 1998, congratulating him when Titanic beat Star Wars to become the biggest film of all time. (not how C3PO blames R2-D2 for this).
Georg Lucas dragged James Cameron into this tradition in 1998, congratulating him when Titanic beat Star Wars to become the biggest film of all time. (note how C3P0 blames R2-D2 for this). (5/n) pic.twitter.com/UK2pVAk2w8
— Psy (@sai_ganesh) July 25, 2019
The hilarious image shows a huge ensemble of Star Wars movie characters like Boba Fett, Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, atop a sinking Titanic. A simple message at the bottom reads — “Jim, Congratulations! George”.
Titanic‘s powerhouse turn at the box-office sank Lucas’ Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition, overtaking the popular space-opera as the best-selling movie of all time. The special edition of Lucas’ ground-breaking movies saw the original trilogy come back to the theaters in a special reissue, with the aim to renew the movies in the minds of its audience and pave the way for what would be Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999). The first movie in the prequel trilogy brought new characters like Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) and Darth Maul (Ray Park) into the Star Wars franchise, while also expanding on the origins of fan-favorite Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor).
The reissue continued to build on Star Wars’ success as well as that of its stars, namely Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo) and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa).
The tradition takes on new life…
While it was Steven Spielberg that set the tone for celebrating another director’s movie success, the tradition has continued to grow, moving easily into the digital age. Again, Twitter user Psy (@sai_ganesh) highlighted James Cameron’s message to the Marvel record-breaker, Avengers: Endgame (2019) after it overtook Avatar (2009).
Great to see James Cameron congratulating Marvel Studios after Avengers Endgame replaced Avatar as the highest grossing movie of all time. This is in continuation of a great tradition..
Great to see James Cameron congratulating Marvel Studios after Avengers Endgame replaced Avatar as the highest grossing movie of all time. This is in continuation of a great tradition.. (1/n) pic.twitter.com/vOgeQbWXrZ
— Psy (@sai_ganesh) July 25, 2019
Cameron used the famous Na’vi saying “Oel Ngati Kameie” to celebrate Marvel and Kevin Feige’s success. The saying, which means “I See You” in the native Na’vi language plays a huge role in Cameron’s Avatar movie, so its use here is nothing but heartwarming.
It would be less than a year later that Avatar — which stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver — would regain its highest-grossing crown after the movie’s re-release in China. And in the essence of repaying the love, the Russo Brothers Anthony and Joe, shared their own Thanos-themed congratulatory message.
Passing the gauntlet back to you…
It’s always positive to see directors showing this level of companionship and faith in each other’s work. In a time where the entertainment industry seems to be running at a level of serious competition — with streaming services launching original media at an intense speed, and the race back to theaters gaining steam in some markets — the humbling nature of this celebratory tradition showcases that at the end of it all, it’s the movie that matters most.
It is the movie, and the movie-going experience, that exceeds everything else.
Do you like how these directors celebrated each other’s success?