How Raiders Of The Lost Ark Gave Us The Best Star Wars Movie

The more you learn about Hollywood history, the more you come to realize success in the film industry is often a matter of luck, being in the right place at the right time, and knowing the right people. It's not that hard work and skill don't matter (they do), but anyone who acts like they made it big in the movies based solely on talent and their go-getter attitude is only kidding themselves.

One need look no further than Lawrence Kasdan's career to see how much chance determines who floats or sinks in Tinseltown. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the Oscar-nominated writer-director of "The Big Chill" and, er, "Dreamcatcher" recalled it took him seven years to sell "two spec scripts" he had written while finding his footing in the 1970s. The first one, "The Bodyguard," wouldn't make its way to the big screen until 1992, with Kasdan electing to produce the film rather than direct it. The second one, "Continental Divide," was picked up by Steven Spielberg while he was still in post-production on 1977's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." It would go on to become the first movie produced by Spielberg's then newly-formed Amblin Entertainment in 1981.

The day they met, Kasdan said Spielberg told him, "'I'm going to do a movie with George Lucas and I want you to meet him. Are you okay with that?' I said, 'Yes, I'm very okay with that.'" It turned out Lucas wanted him to take his story for a film called "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and turn it into a full-fledged script. Six months later, Kasdan turned his screenplay over to Lucas, only to find out the latter had a second project he wanted Kasdan to write. No, not "Howard the Duck," some comparatively obscure '80s space movie.

'I'm having trouble with the sequel to Star Wars'

Despite, or rather because of the colossal success of his 1977 film "Star Wars: A New Hope," George Lucas had a tricky time writing the sequel, "The Empire Strikes Back." He turned to sci-fi author and scribe Leigh Brackett ("The Big Sleep," "The Long Goodbye") to work on the script, but she died from cancer not long after finishing her initial draft in 1978. Lucas would continue to work on the project by himself before bringing Lawrence Kasdan on board as co-writer. Mind you, though, the latter's involvement was contingent on Lucas approving his script for "Raiders of the Lost Ark" first, as Kasdan told EW.

"And when I finished ['Raiders'], I took it to George and before he read it, he said, 'I'm having trouble with the sequel to 'Star Wars.' Will you help me with that?' And I said, 'Well, don't you want to read the ['Raiders'] script first?' And he said, 'I'm going to read it tonight. If I don't like it, I'm calling you up tomorrow, I'm taking back this offer.' I thought that was perfectly fair, but he did like it. And so I found myself unexpectedly writing first 'Raiders' and then 'Empire' in quick succession. And I was in heaven."

"Raiders" and "Empire" are now widely considered by movie buffs to be two of the finest blockbusters ever made, with "Empire" often ranked as the best of all the "Star Wars" films. Kasdan obviously played a huge role in that, yet he might've never gotten the chance to prove himself had the stars not aligned in his favor in the 1970s. In a town like Hollywood, even having talent enough to write two all-time classics won't get you very far without a spot of luck.