Tucker: The Man and His Dream celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2023. A Lucasfilm co-production with American Zoetrope, it adapts the true story of entrepreneur Preston Tucker, who struggled to introduce a groundbreaking new automobile to the American public in the 1940s. The film’s director, Francis Ford Coppola, and executive producer, George Lucas, were a pair of innovative rebels themselves, and Tucker’s story was one after their own heart.
The real-life Preston Tucker was a charismatic and innovative entrepreneur. In 1948, the Michigan native envisioned a new sedan – the Tucker Torpedo – with prescient features like disc brakes, a fuel-injected rear engine, and enhanced safety features. Though the public seemed eager for more, the company’s life was short-lived, as the independent Tucker fell prey to the competing giants of the American automobile industry.
“One thing that is evident in the ‘80s is that creativity is the most important economic resource that a nation can have,” said Coppola at the time. “Tucker’s story reflects the hope and dreams of America during the ‘40s after the Second World War when the sky was the limit and we all thought we were going to live in a world abundant with technological innovation. What happens in this movie probably goes on every month of the year in this country. Tucker brought together a group of very talented individuals who fought for the right for his company to exist.”
Shot on location in the San Francisco Bay Area, Tucker’s cast included Jeff Bridges in the leading role, as well Martin Landau, Joan Allen, Mako, and Christian Slater. The equally-skilled production team included cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, production designer Dean Tavoularis, and costume designer Milena Canonero. Less than 50 Tucker automobiles had been made four decades earlier, but the Lucasfilm team managed to recruit nearly half of them for use during the shoot.
Inspired in part by industrial films of the 1940s (forerunners of today’s documentaries), Tucker is exuberantly told, evoking its namesake’s own dogged energy and perseverance. It’s both subversive and aspirational, and as we’ve previously explored, Tucker’s self-defense in the dramatic courtroom scene acts as a sort of thesis statement for a company like Lucasfilm. “Tucker is about how you bring dreams into reality,” George Lucas would say, “which is something that filmmakers do all the time.”
“The dreamer has the ability to continue dreaming even after a dream has been deferred, delayed or impeded,” Lucas continued. “Certain dreamers have the ability not to be stopped from dreaming no matter what. Although Tucker was prevented from building his cars, nobody could take away his dream.”