It's a dangerous game, working in Hollywood. You're often called on to judge projects by little more than a pitch, and sometimes you might miss the boat on a far-out flick that turns out to be a hit. Back in the 1970s, William Friedkin made one of those tough calls and turned down Star Wars—mostly because he didn't think George Lucas could make it work.
Friedkin, who cut his teeth producing hits like The Exorcist and The French Connection, told The Daily Record that Lucas tried to get him to sign on when Star Wars was ramping up. But after seeing the pitch—and knowing that most folks had already passed—he didn't think it would ever make it.
Needless to say, he was wrong:
"I had an opportunity to produce Star Wars. Francis [Ford Coppola] gave us the script at the time when no studio wanted to make it. [Peter] Bogdanovich and I looked at it and scratched our heads. I asked Francis if he was going to direct and he said George Lucas was. George had only made American Graffiti and I didn't think he could bring it off. Well, I was wrong. I guess I made a little mistake. But I did not know where the audience was going. Star Wars changed the business."
Instead of Star Wars, Friedkin went on to make the thriller Sorcerer, which flopped royally.
It's interesting to look back now and wonder what could've been, and it's hard to blame Friedkin for not having too much faith in Lucas. He didn't have much name recognition at the time, but his idea just turned out to be the one in a million that captured lightning in a bottle.
(Via The Daily Record)