How to make oneself rich, #27: Write and direct a blockbuster movie.

How to make oneself rich, #71: Bet George Lucas that his blockbuster movie will make more cash at the box office than yours.

Steven Spielberg decided to do both. Y'know, just in case. 

Back in the mid-'70s, sci-fi movies weren’t exactly the hottest commodity in Tinseltown. George Lucas—a young filmmaker with a promising yet modest resume—had written a script called The Star Wars. Hollywood bigwigs were not eager to put the project into production. Hearing Lucas had based his story on old-school Flash Gordon space serials, a number of studios straight-up rejected it.

20th Century Fox decided to roll the dice. At first, it seemed like a bad move—production of the film went over budget, met with multiple delays, and near enough drove the writer/director bonkers. He needed help, and traveled to Mobile, Ala., in search of it. His knight in shining armor? Steven Spielberg.

Filming his own sci-fi movie at the time, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Spielberg allowed his pal to spend a couple of days on set. As stated in an interview with TCM, Lucas was:

"… a nervous wreck. He didn’t feel Star Wars came up to the vision he initially had. He felt he had just made this little kids' movie."

It got worse. Lucas was soon stricken with a bloodcurdling epiphany: Close Encounters of the Third Kind was gonna be a much bigger hit than Star Wars. So confident was the man of his own film’s cataclysmal destiny, he offered Spielberg a bet.

In Spielberg’s own words:

"He said, 'Oh my God, your movie is going to be so much more successful than Star Wars! This is gonna be the biggest hit of all time. I can't believe this set. I can't believe what you're getting, and oh my goodness."

The Close Encounters director continues:

"{Lucas said} All right, I'll tell you what. I'll trade some points with you. You want to trade some points? I'll give you 2.5 percent of Star Wars if you give me 2.5 percent of Close Encounters. So I said, 'Sure, I'll gamble with that. Great.' "

Spielberg’s 1977 sci-fi offering did pretty darn well, grossing $303 million at the worldwide box office. Star Wars? It made $460 million in the U.S. alone, and, adjusted for inflation, has generated nearly $1.5 billion

Gambling is a surefire road to poverty and ruin. Except when it’s not.

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