George Lucas Lost A $40 Million Bet With Steven Spielberg

Back in 1977, when George Lucas was making Star Wars, Steven Spielberg was making Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Lucas made a bet with Steven Spielberg, which turned out to be a $40 million dollar loss for Star Wars director.

They made the bet on the set of “Close Encounters,” which Lucas visited as a retreat from the stressful “Star Wars” set, where production was not unfolding as the director imagined. Spielberg, on the other hand, banked on “Star Wars” being more lucrative. Of course he was right: “Star Wars” was the highest-grossing movie of 1977, while “Close Encounters” was No. 3. (“Smokey and the Bandit” was No. 2.)

“George came back from ‘Star Wars’ a nervous wreck,” Spielberg said. “He didn’t feel ‘Star Wars’ came up to the vision he initially had. He felt he had just made this little kids’ movie.”

After a few days, Lucas realized something else: Spielberg’s “Close Encounters” was going to be so much more successful than “Star Wars.” So much more that he felt like making a bet with Spielberg.

So, George Lucas thought his Star Wars movie was going to be a failure and was envious of Steven Spielberg’s set.

Spielberg would later say:

“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.’ He 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% of ‘Star Wars’ if you give me 2.5% of ‘Close Encounters.’ So I said, ‘Sure, I’ll gamble with that. Great.’” [BusinessInsider]

Yahoo calculates that Spielberg’s 2.5% of the eventual 1.5 billion dollar feature film earned Spielberg $40 million dollars and George Lucas actually paid to his friend and bookie.

“‘Close Encounters’ was just a meager success story. ‘Star Wars’ was a phenomenon,” Spielberg said a few years ago. “Of course I was the happy beneficiary of a couple of net points from that movie, which I am still seeing money on today.” [Yahoo]

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