Does George Lucas Want to be Citizen Kane?

Critics charge that Lucas’s new studio is a knock-off of Hearst Castle.


George Lucas is building a new 262,000-square-foot studio complex in Marin Couny, outside of San Francisco. One catch: It seems to look exactly like the nearby Casa Grande section of Hearst Castle–the ornate architectural folly that inspired Xanadu in the movie Citizen Kane. See for yourself:


It’s more than an issue of originality (George Lucas has arguably been in a bit of a creative rut for a couple decades now). Lucas apparently has a history of copying architecture, beginning with Skywalker Ranch. Moreover, some claim that the new studio is illegal, running afoul of architectural copyright law. According to the Marin Independent Journal, Lucas’s people are denying the similarity, despite its apparent obviousness:

“The inspiration for Grady came from George’s admiration for the designof the St. Vincent’s School for Boys,” a residential treatment homenear Marinwood, [Lucas spokeswoman Emilie] Nicks said. “George worked to make the design of GradyRanch reminiscent of the school’s architecture while also leveragingwork done by architect Julia Morgan for inspiration.”

Fields responded, “I don’t think so. I just don’t think so,” aftercomparing the sketch of Lucas’ planned building with a photo of theschool. New York architect Thomas Shine said Lucas’ design and Casa Grande “areremarkably similar.”

…Sam Davis, a professor of architecture at the University of Californiaat Berkeley, said whether Lucas cribbed from the Casa Grande shouldn’tbe the issue.”The issue is why would somebody who is going to create a workenvironment in the 21st century copy buildings from a previous timewhen they were unrelated to the work, the culture, the way that peoplelive,” Davis said. “It just seems silly.”

…”Even though people still love him, there is avery passionate love-hate relationship that people have with him,”Phillippe said. “He’s very reclusive. He’s very disconnected from hisfans. There is a mystery about George. He’s just as mysterious asCitizen Kane.”


Impropriety aside, architectural copyright is notoriously hard to enforce. So count that as another similarity between Hearst/Kane and Lucas: Always doing just enough to stay on the right side of the law.

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[Via Unbeige; Hearst Castle image by | El Caganer]

About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.