“Where were you in 62?” For many of us, remembering 1962 brings back images of high school, girl or boyfriends, cars, Friday nights, and what we were going to do after high school. For me, I remember once my brother-in-law taking me cruising along Highway 1, the Great Highway. We feel that American Graffiti was Mr. Lucas’ attempt to let all those who were not around to know what it was like to be a teenager in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. We think he did a great job!
a common misconception that American Graffiti was filmed in Modesto,
California, where Mr. Lucas grew up. The fact is that most of the
memorable moments in George Lucas' timeless 'coming of age' movie
classic were filmed in Petaluma, California
in 1972. Actress Candy Clark recalls, "It was summer, but it was really
cold"...very typical of summer nights in this Northern California city
that today remains the quintessential American "hometown" with its
historic iron-front and brick buildings, riverfront, and classic
Nearly all of the action in the
film, which has several plot lines interwoven around Mr. Lucas' own
teenage years in 1950's Modesto, takes place at night as teenagers in a
typical American town of the post war era cruise the main drag (street)
in their cars and hot rods. The intrinsic uniqueness of this film is
that what is portrayed as happening in Modesto in 1962 was not unique at
all! Whether you were a teenager in Bountiful, UT; Pontiac, MI;
Somerset, KY; Hammonton, NJ; Petaluma, CA...or Anytown, U.S.A., you
cruised! Back then, at least in California, we called it tooling'.
George Lucas chose Petaluma as the setting for most of the filming
when the city of San Rafael revoked his permit after the first night of
shooting because a local bar owner complained that the late night
schedule was disrupting his business. Mr. Lucas immediately jumped in
his car and drove to film-friendly Petaluma, where he was welcomed with
open arms. Although filming in San Rafael was allowed to continue for a
couple more days, after making necessary logistical arrangements,
director Lucas moved his production to Petaluma and completed filming
most of the movie here.
American Graffiti premiered on
August 1st, 1973 at the Petaluma theater now named McNear's Mystic
Theatre and Music Hall, and at other locations. It won instant critical
acclaim and quickly became a box office smash! Regarded as one of Mr.
Lucas' best and most personal films, it earned four Academy Award
nominations, including Best Picture. Filming took just 28 nights and
came in on budget at what is purported to have been $777,777.77. Between
worldwide box office receipts and video rentals, it is reported to have
grossed more than $170 million (perhaps the most profitable movie ever
filmed) and provided Lucas with the financial resources to produce his
Star Wars and Indiana Jones serials and to establish his Bay Area
special effects studio, Industrial Light and Magic, along with Lucasfilm
Ltd. and LucasArts.
The film's young cast included
many actors and actresses that today are either Hollywood stars or
American Graffiti culture icons: Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison
Ford, Cindy Williams, Mackenzie Phillips, Kathleen Quinlan, Suzanne
Sommers, Paul Le Mat, Candy Clark, and Bo Hopkins.
In 2002, Clark,
who earned a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for her
role in the film, and Hopkins, returned to Petaluma for a re-creation of
the "drag" race episode and to visit other filming locations for a
special "Travel Channel" production (photo above).
this site include George Lucas, Henry Travers, Cynthia Simmons, Terry
Park, John Furrer, Eddie McCullough, Skip White, Michael Baddeley, Toni
Moheng, Paul Haun, Jim Bergstrom, and Rich Poremba. Photography
contributors include Steve Rustad, Ron & Cynthia Simmons, Dana Gustafson, John Maher and Rich