Here's an expanded online-only list of the events that shaped the saga, from George Lucas' birth to the May 19 opening of ''Revenge of the Sith''

By Jeff Labrecque
May 13, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT
STAR WARS: Lucasrfilm/20th Century Fox/The Kobal Collection

Image credit: STAR WARS: Lucasrfilm/20th Century Fox/The Kobal Collection

5/14/44 George Lucas is born in Modesto, Calif. 1949 Joseph Campbell publishes The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which will heavily influence Lucas’ work. 10/6/60 Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress opens in America. The story is about two men who escort a princess and a general across enemy lines. Sound familiar? Fall 1964 Lucas enrolls at USC’s film school. 8/66 Lucas graduates from USC’s film school. 1971 Lucasfilm is established. 3/11/71 Lucas releases his first full-length feature film, THX 1138, a box office dud. 2/72 Lucas begins writing the treatment for what will become Star Wars. Summer 1973 Universal passes on Lucas’ idea for Star Wars; Lucas subsequently takes it to 20th Century Fox. 8/1/73 Lucas’ nostalgic American Graffiti, costarring Harrison Ford, becomes one of the year’s biggest hits. 8/20/73 Suddenly a hot commodity, Lucas renegotiates his deal with Fox for Star Wars and forgoes a six-figure raise in exchange for merchandising and sequel rights. 7/75 Lucas creates Industrial Light & Magic to supervise his films’ special effects. 3/15/76 Lucas adds the opening ”A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away?” to a fourth and final Star Wars script. 3/22/76 Lucas and crew begin shooting Star Wars (starring Mark Hamill, pictured) in Tunisia. 1/77 Hamill is in a car accident resulting in injuries that require significant facial plastic surgery. 3/5/77 John Williams begins recording the Star Wars soundtrack. 5/25/77 Star Wars premieres and goes on to gross $1.5 million in its opening weekend. Six months later it surpasses Steven Spielberg’s Jaws as the all-time domestic box office champ. Christmas 1977 Caught unprepared by the Star Wars phenomenon, Lucas’ toy-making partner Kenner sells 600,000 empty IOU action-figure boxes during the holidays. In 1978, Kenner sells 42,322,500 action figures. 4/3/78 Nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Star Wars wins for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Music, and Best Sound. 9/78 Lucas buys Bulltail Ranch in Marin County, Calif.; it eventually becomes Skywalker Ranch. 11/17/78 CBS broadcasts The Star Wars Holiday Special. Aired only once, the special includes scenes (like Bea Arthur dancing with an alien) that convince Lucas to take his name off it. 11/18/78 Carrie Fisher hosts Saturday Night Live.

Image credit: RETURN OF THE JEDI: The Kobal Collection

3/5/79 Shooting begins on The Empire Strikes Back, with Lucas as executive producer and Irvin Kershner as director. 5/21/80 The Empire Strikes Back grosses $6.4 million in its opening weekend. 3/9/81 NPR begins a 13-part radio dramatization of Star Wars, featuring Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels (C-3P0). 4/81 Fox re-releases Star Wars in theaters with the subtitle Episode IV: A New Hope. 6/9/81 Mark Hamill debuts on Broadway in The Elephant Man. 1982 Parker Brothers releases the first Star Wars videogame, ”The Empire Strikes Back,” for Atari and Intellivision. 1/11/82 Revenge of the Jedi begins shooting, with director Richard Marquand. Shortly before its release, after some posters and publicity materials have already been created, Lucas changes the title to Return of the Jedi (pictured). June 82 THX Sound System is developed by ILM. 1/83 Steven Spielberg’s E.T. surpasses Star Wars as the all-time biggest box office hit…for now. 3/23/83 President Ronald Reagan, in a speech to the nation, proposes a strategic defense initiative, later dubbed ”Star Wars,” as a defense against Soviet missiles. In November 1985, Lucas unsuccessfully takes lobbying groups to court to stop them from using the term to refer to SDI in their commercial spots. 5/25/83 Return of the Jedi sets single and opening day box office records (on a Wednesday, no less). 11/25/84 ABC airs a prime-time special called Ewok Adventures. 9/7/85 ABC premieres two Saturday morning cartoons: Droids and Ewoks. 11/24/86 ABC airs another prime-time special, Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. 1/9/87 Disneyland opens “Star Tours,” a Star Wars-themed ride. 5/24/87 Ten years after Star Wars‘ release, Lucas announces plans for a second trilogy — and hints at the possibility of a third. 6/91 Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire, the first of a literary trilogy picking up from the end of Return of the Jedi, hits shelves and quickly becomes a best-seller. Followed by Dark Force Rising (6/92) and The Last Command (5/93). 3/30/92 Steven Spielberg presents Lucas with the Thalberg Award during the Oscar ceremony. 9/93 Fox releases Star Wars Trilogy: The Definitive Collection on laserdisc. 11/93 LucasArts releases ”Rebel Assault,” a CD-ROM game that sells 400,000 discs in its first three months. 9/95 Star Wars Trilogy is released on VHS. 10/96 Rhino Records re-releases 1980’s ”Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas,” which includes ”What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)” and ”R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” the latter sung by Jon Bon Jovi. 1/31/97 Star Wars Special Edition earns $35.9 million in its opening weekend in theaters, still the biggest January opening in box office history. Two weeks later, it beats E.T. as the all-time domestic box office champ. 2/97 Lucas launches the official Star Wars homepage. 2/21/97 Empire Special Edition takes in $22 million in its first weekend. 3/14/97 Jedi Special Edition earns $16.3 million in its first weekend.

Image credit: THE PHANTOM MENACE: Lucasfilm/The Kobal Collection/Keith Hamshere

6/26/97 Lucas steps behind the camera for the first time since Star Wars as Episode I begins shooting. 8/97 Star Wars Special Edition is released on VHS. 10/31/97 ”Star Wars: The Magic of Myth” exhibit opens at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. 10/31/97 Lucas plateaus at No. 4 on Entertainment Weekly’s Power List, a position he will hold for two more years. 9/9/98 Lucas announces the first chapter of his new trilogy will be called Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace. 11/17/98 Meet Joe Black, The Siege, and The Waterboy get a boost at theaters as the trailer for Phantom Menace premieres. 4/7/99 Six weeks before Phantom Menace opens, lines begin to form for tickets. 4/30/99 Lucasfilm sponsors the first Star Wars Celebration, drawing more than 30,000 fans to a convention in Denver. 5/3/99 On the first day of Phantom Menace toy sales, Toys “R” Us sells 1.25 million units of Phantom product nationally, including 50,000 Lego sets alone. 5/19/99 Phantom Menace (starring Ewan McGregor, above left, and Liam Neeson) makes $28.5 million in its first day in theaters and reaches the $100 million mark in a record five days. 6/18/99 Phantom Menace becomes the first major full-length feature to screen digitally. 5/12/00 Lucas announces Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. 6/26/00 Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones begins production. 8/5/00 Sir Alec Guinness dies of liver cancer. 5/12/02 Director Kevin Smith hosts the Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards on the Sci-Fi Channel. 5/16/02 Attack of the Clones premieres and goes on to make $80 million in its first weekend. In November, Clones opens on 58 IMAX screens across North America. 6/30/03 Lucas begins shooting Episode III — Revenge of the Sith. 9/21/04 Star Wars Trilogy released on DVD; includes special documentary ”Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy.” 3/17/05 At ShoWest in Las Vegas, Lucas announces plans to re-release all six Star Wars films in 3-D, starting in 2007. 4/23/05 Appearing at Celebration III, a fan gathering in Indianapolis, Lucas announces plans for a Star Wars live-action TV series, with filming expected to begin in the middle of 2006. 5/12/05 George Lucas appears as himself on the Fox series The O.C. 5/19/05 The final chapter opens in theaters.