Little-known sci-fi fact: Lucas paid Spielberg $40+ million over 1970s Star Wars bet

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Mar 28, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT (Updated)

We all know Star Wars is one of the biggest hits in history now, but back in the 1970s it was a risky little gamble by George Lucas. So his buddy Steven Spielberg made a bet with him.

You see, Lucas was wrapping up Star Wars: A New Hope at about the same time Spielberg was shooting his massive hit Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Lucas stopped by to check out the shoot, and was so impressed that he got a little anxious that his sci-fi epic might fall flat on its face.

So the two decided to trade some “points” on the respective films’ earnings. The two agreed to give one another 2.5 points from the stake in their films, essentially meaning that whoever did the best would owe the other guy a slice of the pie. Considering Spielberg was a commodity fresh off the box-office juggernaut Jaws, while Lucas was still relatively unproven, it seemed like the odds were in Lucas’ favor at the time. Right?

Well, as we all know now, Star Wars has gone on to earn, like, a gazillion dollars by this point. Yes, Close Encounters was a hit, too, but it pales in comparison to the approximately $775 million Lucas’ little movie generated. So just how much has that little handshake agreement cost Lucas at this point? Yahoo! estimates the number at about $40 million. Not bad, Spielberg. Not bad.

Check out an interview with Spielberg explaining the bet below:

(Via Cinema Blend)