Alan Ladd Jr., the producer who greenlighted George Lucas' Star Wars while at 20th Century Fox in 1977, has died. Deadline reports he was 84.
On social media, Ladd's daughter Amanda Ladd-Jones wrote, "With the heaviest of hearts, we announce that on March 2, 2022, Alan Ladd, Jr. died peacefully at home surrounded by his family," adding, "Words cannot express how deeply he will be missed. His impact on films and filmmaking will live on in his absence."
Ladd not only backed Star Wars when other studios passed on the American Graffiti director's tale of a "galaxy far, far away," but he put his job on the line to defend it while it was being made.
Studio executives were furious at budget overruns on Lucas' "science movie" as Star Wars' production dragged on, amid shooting delays caused by weather and technical problems from the movie's groundbreaking special effects.
In the documentary Empire of Dreams: The Story of Star Wars Trilogy, Ladd recalled being confronted by one executive, and telling him, "'It's the greatest picture ever made.' That ended the conversation. They were afraid to tell me...'You're wrong, we want you out of the building by 5 p.m.'"
He added with a smile, "There were some tense moments."
A former agent, Ladd went on to have a hugely successful career as a producer that also saw him credited with films including Moonstruck, A Fish Called Wanda and Thelma & Louise, among others. In 1996, he won an Oscar for Mel Gibson's epic Braveheart.