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  • Writer's pictureBig Rick Stuart

How Francis Ford Coppola Saved American Graffiti From TV Movie Mediocrity

more at the executives at Universal Pictures, which had funded "American Graffiti," this then-innovative type of cinematic storytelling was more confusing and worrying than exhilarating.

Yes, for all the ways "American Graffiti" looks and feels like an indie film, it was actually a studio movie that only felt "indie" due to its small budget. Universal initially granted Lucas $600,000, which would amount to a few million today, but upped that amount by $175,000 after Lucas' good friend Francis Ford Coppola signed on as a producer on the heels of his blockbuster success with "The Godfather." While it would go on earn positive test screening responses, that wasn't enough to convince studio heads that Lucas' film was anything more than a misfire unworthy of a theatrical release. In fact, as "American Graffiti" co-writer Willard Huyck recalled while being interviewed for a documentary about the making of the movie, Universal gave serious thought to re-editing it as a TV film instead:

"When the movie was finished, and Universal was very worried about it in every regard, you know, what they were going to do with it, there was talk of putting it on television, and they just didn't know what to do." fell to Coppola to use his newly-gained clout at the time to save "American Graffiti" from being re-cut for TV. 

Coppola said he convinced the unnamed studio executive to change their mind:

"I remember telling the guy, I said, 'Listen, if Universal doesn't want the picture, you know I'll buy the picture today for what you have in it.' And I remember telling him, I said, 'You should get on your knees and thank this young man for what he's done for your career.'"

American Graffiti - Making Of

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