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George Lucas gets AFI lifetime achievement award. The ''Star Wars'' director, who turned down the honor a decade ago, joins the ranks of Welles and Hitchcock

By Gary Susman
Updated June 10, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT
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The American Film Institute’s lifetime achievement award is one of Hollywood’s most prestigious prizes, one previously given out to such luminaries as Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock, so it’s no wonder that George Lucas, when offered the award a decade ago, felt he hadn’t yet earned it. Talking to the Associated Press, Lucas recalled telling the AFI, ”’You know, I’m too young. Look, I’m not ready yet.’ Then they came back again, and I said, ‘Look, wait until I’m over 60. Then I’ll do it.’ As soon as I turned 60, they called me.”

Even now, having finally completed his six-film Star Wars series, the 61-year-old filmmaker is not sure he deserves the prize. After all, Lucas has directed only two non-Star Wars movies (THX 1138 and American Graffiti). ”If you think about getting their award for a body of work but you think of Star Wars as one movie, then I’ve only done three movies, and the only achievement is I actually finished Star Wars,” he told AP.

Lucas accepted the award Thursday night at a black-tie Hollywood banquet that turned out to be more like a roast, as the stars of his films ribbed him in testimonials. ”Hi. I am Mrs. Han Solo and I am an alcoholic because George Lucas ruined by life,” Carrie Fisher said, according to Reuters. ”George Lucas is a sadist, but like any other young girl in a metal suit chained to a metal [creature], I keep coming back for more.” Fisher and Mark Hamill kidded Lucas for his mastery of merchandising that had turned both actors into shampoo bottles and Pez dispensers. Past AFI recipient Harrison Ford complained that he hadn’t been the first choice for Han Solo or Indiana Jones, and that he’d had to endure snakes, bugs, and rats on the three Indy movies that Lucas produced. Referring to the fourth installment, currently in development, Ford said, ”I do love Indiana Jones, and if you guys can dream up more ways to torture me, I’ll be there for Indiana Jones 4.”

Even William Shatner, emissary from a non-Lucas space saga, paid tribute, serenading the filmmaker with a version of ”My Way,” accompanied by a chorus line of Imperial Stormtroopers. Lucas even poked fun at himself during his acceptance speech. One of those he thanked was colleague Francis Ford Coppola, who he said coached him as a screenwriter. ”He took me from not being able to write a word in terms of writing screenplays to being the king of wooden dialogue.” Cable viewers will get to see highlights of the banquet when USA airs the ceremony on June 20.

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