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Lucas spent the rest of 1971 and early 1972 trying to raise financing for the American Graffiti script. During this time, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Columbia Pictures all turned down the opportunity to co-finance and distribute the film. Lucas, Huyck and Katz rewrote the second draft together, which, in addition to Modesto, was also set in Mill Valley and Los Angeles. Lucas also intended to end American Graffiti showing a title card detailing the fate of the characters, including the death of Milner and the disappearance of Toad in Vietnam. Huyck and Katz found the ending depressing and were incredulous that Lucas planned to include only the male characters. Lucas argued that mentioning the girls meant adding another title card, which he felt would prolong the ending. Because of this, Pauline Kael later accused Lucas of chauvinism. Lucas and producer Gary Kurtz took the script to American International Pictures, who expressed interest, but ultimately believed American Graffiti was not violent or sexual enough for the studio's standards. Lucas and Kurtz eventually found favor at Universal Pictures, who allowed Lucas total artistic control and the right of final cut privilege on the condition that he make American Graffiti on a strict, low budget. This forced Lucas to drop the opening scene, in which the Blonde Angel, Curt's image of the perfect woman, drives through an empty drive-in cinema in her Ford Thunderbird, her transparency revealing she does not exist. Universal initially projected a $600,000 budget, but added an additional $175,000 once producer Francis Ford Coppola signed on. This would allow the studio to advertise American Graffiti as "from the Man who Gave you The Godfather (1972)". However, Lucas was forced to concede final cut privilege. The proposition also gave Universal first look deals on Lucas's next two planned projects, Star Wars (1977) and Radioland Murders (1994). As he continued to work on the script, Lucas encountered difficulties on the Steve and Laurie storyline. Lucas, Katz and Huyck worked on the third draft together, specifically on the scenes featuring Steve and Laurie. Production proceeded with virtually no input or interference from Universal. American Graffiti was a low-budget film, and executive Ned Tanen had only modest expectations of its commercial success. However, Universal did object to the film's title, not knowing what "American Graffiti" meant; Lucas was dismayed when some executives assumed he was making an Italian movie about feet. The studio therefore submitted a long list of over 60 alternative titles, with their favorite being Another Slow Night in Modesto and Coppola's Rock Around the Block. They pushed hard to get Lucas to adopt any of the titles, but he was displeased with all the alternatives and persuaded Tanen to keep American Graffiti.

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