Defining Moments: Tucker in the Courtroom
A Dramatic Speech Went Beyond The Film’s Story
“Defining Moments” is a continuing series exploring key scenes or sequences from Lucasfilm’s many productions. It examines storytelling craft, behind-the-scenes insights, and cultural legacies from each selection. Revisit an old favorite or discover something brand new…
Production: Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)
Preston Tucker (Jeff Bridges) has run out of options. After striving to form his own automobile company and manufacture an innovative new car, he’s become a victim of corruption within the highest levels of business and government. Wrongfully accused of stealing funds, he’s forced into a dramatic court case. In the final moments, as the late afternoon sun pours through the windows, Tucker makes his own defense.
“Rags to riches, that’s not just the name of a book, that’s what this country was all about,” Tucker explains to the jury. “We invented the free enterprise system, where anybody, no matter who he was, where he came from, what class he belonged to, if he came up with a better idea about anything, there’s no limit to how far he could go. I grew up a generation too late, I guess, because now the way the system works, the loner, the dreamer, the crackpot who comes up with some crazy idea that everybody laughs at, that later turns out to revolutionize the world, he’s squashed from above before he even gets his head out of the water because the bureaucrats would rather kill a new idea than let it rock the boat.”
Art can parallel life. Lucasfilm’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream was inspired by the true story of Preston Tucker and his quest to build a better car for the American consumer after World War II. Forty years later, director Francis Ford Coppola and executive producer George Lucas found meaning and relevance in Tucker’s dream. His combined vision of independence and innovation fit their own ideas about filmmaking, and was reminiscent of their own efforts to bring their dreams to fruition and improve their craft.
“Tucker is about how you bring dreams into reality which is something that filmmakers do all the time,” George Lucas once explained. This energetic, historical drama portrayed “the difficulties encountered in trying to get new ideas incorporated into the system.” Preston Tucker’s climactic speech might be called a thesis statement for the Lucasfilm legacy.