It’s no secret that Star Wars made George Lucas a very wealthy man.

Inspired by the serial adventures of Flash Gordon (along with Akira Kurosawa’s 1958 film, The Hidden Fortress), Lucas began writing the script after wrapping American Graffiti in 1973.

United Artists and Universal Pictures famously rejected it, providing 20th Century Fox’s Alan Ladd Jr. the opportunity to snap up rights to finance and distribute the ambitious project. Despite a multitude of production mishaps—several of them involving financial setbacks—the movie was released theatrically in the United States on May 25th, 1977.

But exactly how much moolah was spent making Star Wars? And who received the largest slices of the preposterously profitable pie?

David Pirie’s 1981 book Anatomy of the Movies examined the film’s $11 million budget (a decent chunk of change in 1977 money), offering some interesting tidbits of information.

For starters, salaries and wages fees totaled $2,100,000, with Lucas receiving only $100,000 up front due to the “share of profits” deal previously arranged with Fox. The script earned $50,000 in payment, while special effects (along with models of spaceships and robots) cost the studio $3,900,000.

While the film would eventually rake in a staggering $775,000,000, Star Wars had already netted $510,000,000 in worldwide box-office receipts as of 1980, with $147,500,000 taking the form of studio executive-delighting profit.

How was this split up? Well, for starters, 60% ($88,500,000) went straight into Fox’s pockets. The remaining 40% was distributed among the film’s producers, with “George Lucas, Gary Kurtz etc” earning a total of $59,000,000. Bear in mind, this is what was accrued directly from the MOVIE -- merchandise provided a totally separate (and abundant) source of cash flow.

Despite his well-documented loathing of the film, Alec Guinness haggled out a deal worth 2 1/4% of profits, lavishing his bank account with an additional $3,318,750. Mark and Hamill and Carrie Fisher, meanwhile, earned one quarter of 1%, amounting to $368,750 each. Harrison Ford fared better with his 2/3 of 1% royalty agreement, worth $1,000,000.


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