5. George Lucas paid a fine and resigned from the Directors Guild to avoid putting traditional opening credits as the beginning of the Empire Strikes Back.
Star Wars broke a lot of rules when it first came out in 1977 and changed Hollywood and movies forever. Sci-fi films weren’t very big at the time and were as considered cornball B-movies at best by most studio execs. Merchandising theatrical releases was an almost unheard of concept. Special effects at the time weren’t considered to be very special.
And movies didn’t just start. They had opening credits were all the cast and crew were displayed on screen in rapid succession for the audience to ignore. This was always the case because the Directors Guild demanded it.
George Lucas didn’t want a slow crawl of credits to turn the beginning of Star Wars into molasses so he omitted them for the now famous opening of the Star Wars logo followed by the yellow scrawl of text. A move clearly in violation of the Directors Guild’s demand for opening credits, but since nobody at the time thought Star Wars was going to amount to anything spectacular nobody cared.
Fast forward to the hugely anticipated sequel of The Empire Strikes Back and lines were being drawn. The Directors Guild wanted to make sure Lucas would play by the rules this time and include a traditional opening or pay fines equaling $250,000. Especially one that properly credited director Irvin Kershner. However, Lucas would have none of that and again broke with establishment to do things his own way as he’s been prone to do over his career.
Lucas not only upped and paid the $250,000 fine but he withdrew/quit the guild in protest along with the Writer’s Guild and the Motion Picture Association of America. That makes the opening of Empire one of the most expensive beginnings for a movie ever but it’s hard to argue with Lucas’s decision. Can you imagine all the names of the cast and crew popping up on screen over the Star Destroyers and Hoth? It would totally take you out of the film and create that small sense of disconnect that ruins the film’s scale of immersion.
It’s also worth noting that Lucas’s then controversial decision has become commonplace in films today. Many directors have chosen to abandon opening credits since and Lucas is often credited for the common practice a a majority of a movie’s credits appearing at the end of the film.
Did you know? According to Directors Guild agreements, non members are unable to work for major studios who are signatories to the Guild’s agreements. Besides George Lucas, director Robert Rodriguez is also not a member.