Episode I: The World Builders


The story. You're about to hear is true. It is a story of friendships that formed half a century ago. And created a global phenomenon. This presentation contains beautiful music and epic sound design. On your headphones and enjoy. Blockbuster starts now. The following is a true story about the making of an empire and to visionary world builders who made it possible. This is blockbuster. Episode one. Fall nineteen seventy one. The Hollywood studio system is in shambles. Filmmakers are struggling with the new popularity of television and changing world and in new generation of creative thinkers is beginning to emerge. It is an incredible shining. How'd you do that an ambitious group of young filmmakers gathered at the Hollywood home of thirty two year old Francis Ford Coppola Coppola, fresh approach to making film has earned the respect of Paramount Pictures, which is about to release his film called the godfather? It's an exciting time for Francis. Tonight. The attention in the room is on someone else. Steve it's just phenomenal sound. Thinks mardi the blow of a projector bounces off a screen to light up Coppola sprawling living room and everyone in it Francis. Martin Scorsese Brian depalma and some other friends everyone's eyes were drawn to the images on the screen in front of him. It's an action packed car. Chase film called dual soon to be an ABC television movie of the week. And it's directed by the youngest person in the room twenty four year old Stephen Spielberg. Francis was amazed all this and ten days. Yeah. Well, no, the thirteen we went over a little bit. This group often debated and critique each other's films. The camera work is amazing. But tonight, it was all praised for Stephen. They actually wanted me to go back and blow up the truck. But I'd tell them I wouldn't do it. Yeah. You don't need to blow up. We all get the truck deserves a slow death at the back of this dark Spanish style living room in the shadows. Leans rail thin young man in a plaid shirt bushy hair and full beard. His name was George Lucas. He hadn't planned to stay long. But just like the others he'd found himself drawn in it was Stevens camera work long. Tracking shots what many filmmakers would shoot as three separate shots. Stephen would combine into one with the moving camera. Do you have a Stanford? Yeah. Yeah. He had to jump out last sec. Wow. You got them to do that. They all felt like rebels Hollywood renegades. They're laid back. Dress code itself was in defiance of the slick monkey suit aesthetic of the declining Hollywood studios looking to make money, I and good movies. Second George in particular was from small town, California Modesto to be exact like many of them. He's grown up on serials films rebroadcast on his local TV channels to fill time Hollywood didn't make stories like that anymore, and he intended to change that. And he saw the same. Take charge attitude in Steve's film. I'll have a hamburger, please, no one. It was a growing tradition for this group to go out for dinner after a screening at Francis house cheeseburger for me tonight. It was mel's drive in a diner down the street from the iconic grens Chinese theater mardi Brian Steve and George all sat in a booth. I'll do the same and extra pickles. All right. I'll have them right out for you, though. None of them knew it yet. All four of them were on the cusp of breakthrough international success so Mari. I hear you'll be working with Roger Corman correct picture about train robbers on the run in the south. We're trying to shoot it all in Arkansas Bacall, and what's next for you? George George and Francis have been developing film called American graffiti. But Georgia's most excited about something else had this idea. It's a hero's journey sitting another world, George often spoke in visionary ideas. He was just twenty six years old, but his film friends admired him he challenge. Them to become better filmmakers themselves on thinking. Joseph Cambell sort of sci-fi venture in outer space, like you'll flash Gordon series, actually, tried to get the right supplies, Gordon. But they wouldn't sell them. So a kids movie that was Brian to palm not necessarily kids movie. Well, yeah, it's an adult kids movie, George had a nickname. He hated the kid because he looked so young for his extravagant ideas. He was sensitive to it one of the reasons he'd grown out his beard to look older. Now, all you get is cops hard drama. What about strange lands and creatures and? Scape from the everyday still sounds sort of like a kids movie. Brian would never really understand this kind of movie that we'd make dozens of successful films in his own career. But Steven understood completely brilliant, George really absolutely their fantasies. Streams very tales a modern fairytale edge of the world romance adventure fund used to being practically everything that's been done. Before has had a great story is a great story. I can see something like the great swashbuckling adventures. But in outer space, it's another world love the idea. George Stephen would always remember the moment, he realized he and George were different from Marty and Brian and Francis they made great and important films. But Stephen and George felt called to something else making movies. March twenty third nineteen thirty three Hollywood an orange sun is setting and there's an electric in the air in front of a newly constructed landmark of Hollywood Boulevard Grameen's Chinese theater. It is a spectacle the outside built to resemble a giant Chinese temple with ornate guardian lions to either side of its majestic entrance up close. The detail is overwhelming and already there's a new tradition of celebrities leaving their handprints in the concrete out front. The Chinese theater will become the most famous movie theater in the world in the forecourt in front of the entrance is ten foot tall paper machine bust an enormous eight. Of that tonight is the world premiere of radio pictures, King Kong, and crowds and 'paparazzi gather as cast arrived and infront they're greeted by Kong himself, a prop from the film. It's a spectacle. Like, no one has ever seen before. Inside is a Grand Palace adorned with rich golden engravings and long red curtains. The Chinese theater is built for the grandeur celebrity of Tinseltown. The first theater to have air conditioning. And tonight, it's hosting the debut of the most anticipated film of all time. King. Call is breathtaking. The stories epic the special effects are breakthroughs. They use clay stop motion animation for the giant apes climb. The Empire State building. And it's the music that steals the show a booming dramatic or textual score. By the great composer, max Steiner that makes Kong terrifying. When the lights go up. There's a thunderous applause. The film is a masterpiece and that music, but where's the orchestra? They're nowhere to be seen. Somehow found a way to fit the whole orchestra onto the dialogue track of the film. A breakthrough Hollywood escapism King Kong will become a spectacle making over two million dollars in the height of the great depression and become an inspiration for decades, particularly for a young Steven Spielberg and a young George Lucas. Summer nineteen Fifty-eight Twentieth Century Fox studios. Composer named Henry man Seaney has hired a talented young jazz pianist to record the theme for a television show called Peter Gunn. His name is Johnny Williams. Something like that. You think Henry perfect beautiful? Johnny is twenty nine years old happily married to a beautiful actress named Barbara Rick. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Hi, sorry to bother. You. Do you know where the studio cafe is? I'm supposed to be meeting. Some the studio lot is bustling. Johnny makes his way through the crap. He never considered show. Business is calling. But every show needed music and he loved to play over the years on the studio lot he developed friendships with other musicians. None more. So than Alfred Hitchcock's grumpy composer yard hermit way. Obeng Johnny the nod. I'm so sorry to keep you. Wait. Henry you work in late Harman will become famous for the shrieking musical horror of psycho, especially the famous shower scene. A similar technique that Johnny would echo years later on a film about a shark terrorising a beach Johnny loved Bernard because he was direct blunt a New Yorker never afraid to tell him what he thought Johnny and Barbara would often have Bernard over for dinner. Oh, God, it would be wonderful to someday right of real symphony. You know, instead of these little TV tunes, look, Johnny. If you want to write a symphony who stopping you, you just gotta go right it. It was simple guidance like that Johnny found most valuable soon he was orchestrating then composing for TV shows, then writing music for little movies that barely had a music budget. Little did he know his soundtracks were already being collected by an up and coming filmmaker named Steven Spielberg who vowed to one day work with this John Williams on a movie of his own. March nineteen seventy four a decade later. John is now forty one happily married for eighteen years, a father to three kids he's made a modest career from scoring TV shows and movies and recently his first collaboration with a young filmmaker named Steven Spielberg called the Sugarland express. John doesn't mind his private life. In fact, he prefers it is baby grand piano was his heart. That phone call for years. You would wish never picked up. Hello. John if only to hold onto his wife for a few more hours. Down to this. Barbara was in Reno for a film called California split overnight. She'd had a cerebral hemorrhage in collapsed in her hotel room. She was found the next morning, but it was too late. Oh, no. Oh god. The news plunges John into shock. John fought back, the tears he tried for the next two years. John would turn to his music and his baby grand piano to cope. April nineteen Seventy-three Universal Studios. George Lucas sits at his desk stroking his beard, even while shooting American graffiti, he's been dreaming up. His fi space adventure. His desk is a mess of scribbled sticky notes, partially written script and foreign language dictionaries. He's been searching the finest planets and characters names the hero. Name is star killer. George star killer. Let's that's too so serving maybe it's a girl came store killer. He settles on Luke Luke star killer. Loop was the hero. Who saved the day? Princess deja. No, Princess, Zara. No layer. Dark father Dorthe father. German for fall vodka. Obi wan kanobi cease repeal. So storm. Jeter. As the story begins to take shape. The last name. He needs is for the furry creature who flies around with Han solo. That was Indiana Georgia's own furry creature. A great huge fluffy Alaskan malamute laying in the corner of Georgia's office Deanna. You want to be a movie star? He names the character after the Russian word for dog. So baca. Which would become too Baca with his story treatment finished and ready to pitch to studios he needed a title? He called it. The Star Wars. I have counting. Gary Kurtz, was a producer working with George unamerican graffiti on a tight budget that film was still months from release. But now Gary was trying to get money to make Georgia's big budget space movie and George needed it. He barely been paid on American graffiti, and he found himself in financial trouble. He'd have to give up on the Star Wars if he couldn't get a deal fast. Please tell me it's good news. A punch to the gut. United Artists had said they loved the treatment. What does that mean? It'll be too expensive. It's a six million dollar idea. I'll make it for half that. It's still too much for I'll be the wanted to chance. We try universal universals looking over. Now, we can try over FOX laddy was Alan Ladd junior a Twentieth Century, Fox executive lights, George laddy had distrust of the studio system and was known for giving directors more freedom, albeit usually less money, George was getting desperate. Go ahead and touch him over. June nineteen Seventy-three just across the lot. From georgia. Universal Studios is an anxious. Steven Spielberg biting his nails after dual and Sugarland express. He's tired of doing small films. He knows he needs a big winner. Dick. Thanks for calling me back. David for lunch. Steve over here there you are. How are you David dick dick Santa can David Brown were producers at universal who worked with Stephen on the Sugarland express? They'd been vetting directors for a thriller film that was based on a novel called jaws and for weeks Stephen had lobbied them to directed. Great to see Steve can we get you drink? We're celebrating dick and David new Stephen was an ambitious filmmaker. But he was just twenty six years old. This was a big project, and they were uneasy about an inexperienced director helming it. But after two veteran directors had fallen through universal had reconsidered. How would you like to make John's? I came ready to sell you on it again. Then it said, it's yours you serious. This is going to be terrific. Thank you. Thank you. I knew you'd be thrilled. Did I say it? He said, you might kiss us. Let me tell you. I'm fighting back the urge. Something I need from you. Oh boy here. It is your martinis gentlemen. Thank you. Of course. I want to shoot this on the water tanks on the lot. The story calls for the ocean. It's gotta look real. It. Can't be silly Stephen pulls out a treatment on the front. It says jaws something he's not supposed to have yet treated. How'd you get that? Now. Steve we've never shot something on the ocean before. Yeah, I'm afraid of that too much to the budgets has to be guys. Gotta look real. Or won't be scary. What's the point? If it's not going to be scary. All right. Steve, really? Look into some options for you. One other things. Yes. What? Now, we need a mechanical shark. No, no. That will be much too expensive. We'll get some train show. You can't train sharks. Not for what we need him to do. Can't train shark. I didn't know you can train show that true. Can't do it. We're going to have to build a shirt, shark, dick and David gives Stephen a shark and a budget of three and a half million dollars. Stephen. We'll get fifty five days to shoot the film. No one would've anticipated. It would take nearly triple that time and triple the money. And threatened Stevens chances to ever direct another film on the next episode of blockbuster. Jon Voight can't do it. We're out to Jeff bridges now. George help Stephen real in his cast Dreyfuss stretches Stephen worries about his career, surviving and uncharted waters. Got some guys on the boat to and the Star Wars meets its maestro. You must be Joni. That's coming up on two of blockbuster. If you enjoyed listening to blockbuster without ads, it's because we structured it that way, we're thrilled to share blockbuster in its purest form instead of ad interrupting the story, but it's also an expensive production. And if you enjoyed hearing it like this, please consider a small donation on our website get blockbuster dot com as our thank you for your donation of ten dollars or more you'll receive a link to the complete series digitally mastered in the highest quality available. So you can be truly immersed in the story. You'll also receive exclusive tracks from the original score by composers Ryan Tabart and Benjamin Botkin, and we'll also put your name in the credits on our website as a friend of the show, and you'll be the first to hear about bonus features interviews and anything else we release in the future. Help us pay the bills that allowed blockbuster to be shared with you. And please consider a small donation at get blockbuster dot com. Blockbuster is written and narrated by Matt Schrader sound design by Peter Bobbitt's. Original score by Ryan Tabart and Benjamin Botkin produced by Elena, Bobby. It's a production of epoch left media. Hey, this is Ray chase voice of George Lucas and blockbuster. Stay tuned for a short conversation about making this episode the first which please take a quick moment to give us a five star review in share the series with a friend and for extras and exclusives. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit get blockbuster dot com. Thanks for listening to blockbuster. This is Ray chase voice of George Lucas and blockbuster match raider creator, and narrator of blockbuster each week will be discussing some of the interesting fines we had in making each episode and today Ray, and I are talking about the movie brats and George Lucas. Yes, how did you sort of tap into the character of George Lucas? Well, one of the first things that that I did was do a little bit of research in and find what he sounded like as a young man, and they're honestly wasn't a whole lot. So I kind of got the cadence his speech patterns down. But what I did tap into. Because it's what this this whole podcast is about was into his emotional world in and sort of showing the the sight of him that we don't see from those press junkets sin and things like that the time where he's not in front of the camera or even in front of a room of of people working on something that he's passionate about but the quieter moments, and you talk about how you. Took on that behavioral and vocal character. Yeah. -solutely I sort of went into that sort of internal round making it as if there wasn't even a microphone there that I was even just muttering some of these lines to myself that I think really shows us gets us a lot closer to the characters that were portraying the head space of of exactly and George himself isn't a boisterous person in the first place. So we he was he was quieter down. Anyway, did you find it more difficult to tap into the younger greener more idealistic version of George Lucas in this first episode? Well, I in him in in real life. He was always hoping that this was going to be a success. And this was going to be the project that really put him on the map and show his artistic sensibilities and share them with the world. And I always try to put that in the character. Even even as things were we're getting towards the later episodes. To show that there was a lot of naievety in him. And really every single setback that he found that he that he doubts himself a little bit a little bit each time. But he keeps his optimism shining through throughout the whole thing. Ray chase voice of George Lucas. Thanks for this chat. Thank you. Matt. Please remember to subscribe and leave us a five star review to get all episodes of blockbuster. Follow blockbuster on social media for extra content and read are behind the scenes blog or visit our store at get blockbuster dot com.

Coming up next