The largest bet I ever made was for a poker game that I eventually forfeited in order to not continue to play poker for more hours on end. Even so, I wouldn’t have profited millions of dollars from the victory. That is just one of many ways I am nothing like Steven Spielberg.
George Lucas, fresh off of the delightful throwback dramedy American Graffiti, went into the wildly imaginative Star Wars with confidence, but spent some of his time doubting his creation. He visited his old buddy Steven Spielberg while he was directing Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and then the greatest bet in the world came into being. Sayeth Spielberg:
George came back from Star Wars a nervous wreck. He didn’t feel Star Wars came up to the vision he initially had. He felt he had just made this little kids’ movie. He came to Mobile, Alabama where I was shooting Close Encounters on this humongous set and hung out with me for a couple of days. He said, ‘Oh my God, your movie is going to be so much more successful than Star Wars. This is gonna be the biggest hit of all time.’ He said, ‘You want to trade some points? I’ll give you two and a half per cent of Star Wars if you give me two and a half per cent of Close Encounters.’ I said, ‘Sure, I’ll gamble with that, great.’
And because Star Wars ended up becoming the most successful film ever — and by saying that, I’m saying, “Fuck Avatar‘s high ticket prices” — Spielberg has made millions without having to do anything but agree. Granted, Close Encounters‘ $300 million box office was nothing to sneeze at as far as Lucas’ earnings were concerned. But come on. By 1978’s end, Spielberg took in $12.5 million of the film’s $500 million worldwide earnings. And guess, what? The film has continued to make money over the years, and Spielberg has profited from all of it.
So the next time your friend asks you for $200 to buy a video camera and another $2 million to film this badass alien-in-a-bus idea that I came up with, don’t be so fucking anal about your finances.