Everything is proceeding exactly as George Lucas has foreseen. Sure, the creator of Star Wars isn’t part of the writing process of the film which will conclude its epic saga, but that’s the point. Nearly everything about the way Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — and all future Star Wars projects — will be tackled is pretty much what exactly Lucas said he wanted back in the eighties. Since the infamous Star Wars special editions of 1997 and the prequel era of 1999-2005, George Lucas got a bad rap. The zeitgeist decided he was a massive control freak who eventually just gave up and sold out to Disney, but real history tells a different story.
Here’s what George Lucas said about the future of Star Wars back in the day, how we all forgot about it, and why pretty much everything happening now is according to his grand design.
Darth Vader’s Revelation to Luke Is a Crucial George Lucas Control Moment
The history of how The Empire Strikes Back was written is crucially important to understanding where the franchise is today. Back then, George Lucas originally farmed-out the screenplay to excellent fantasy novelist Leigh Brackett, but, when she tragically died, Lucas took over the screenwriting process himself along with help for Lawerence Kasdan.
All serious Star Wars historians agree that this is the moment when George Lucas either invented the concept that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father — or decided that he would include the reveal in Empire Strikes Back and not a later film. You can find evidence of this in the book Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays; published by Del Rey and Lucasfilm in 1997 and written by journalist Laurent Bouzereau. On page 182 of that book, one scene from a very early draft of Empire reveals Luke Skywalker’s father like this:
In the first draft, during his training, Luke calls Obi-Wan Kenobi; Ben appears and explains what has happened to him since he was struck by Vader. He is now in a different part of the universe. Ben says he’s brought someone else with him and Luke’s father appears (obviously in this draft, Vader is not Luke’s father.) He is described as a tall, fine-looking mine and is referred to as Skywalker.
In the same book, George Lucas says: “I didn’t discuss the notion of Vader being Luke’s father with Leigh Brackett. At that point I wasn’t sure if I was going to include it in that script or reveal it in the third episode. I was going back and forth…” On page 218 of that book, Lucas says outright “I contemplated for a while whether or not I was going to reveal that Vader was Luke’s father in the second film.” So, even if Brackett had lived and completed her take on the Empire script, we all could have seen a world in which the big Vader real didn’t happen until Return of the Jedi.
More recently, in a flurry of de-bunking Tweets, Lucasfilm author Phil Szostak, doubled-down on the erroneous and pervasive idea that “Darth Vader” translates to “Dark Father” in Dutch, which, would “prove” Lucas planned on making Vader someone’s father all along. Szostak points out this simply isn’t true and, can’t be the case because according to him: “Darth Vader is not Luke Skywalker’s father until the April 1, 1978, second draft of The Empire Strikes Back.”
Why does any of this matter? George Lucas made sure Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father after becoming more actively involved in the writing process of the second film. But, prior to that, he was seriously considering taking a back seat to all of this.
George Lucas Selling Star Wars to Disney in 2012 Has a Precedent in a 1980 Interview
So, in retrospect, the death of Leigh Brackett seems like a flash-point where George Lucas makes sure the vision of Empire is something he’s controlling a little more specifically. But, prior to that, there is evidence that he really, really considered letting all of Star Wars be controlled by another company, specifically, 20th Century Fox. In the 1980 book, Once Upon a Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes Back, writer Alan Arnold gets this revelation out of Lucas on page 183.
“At first, I was contemplating selling the whole thing to Fox to do whatever they wanted with it. I’ll just take my percentage and go home and never think about Star Wars again. But the truth of it is I got captivated by the thing. It’s in me now.”
Ironically, as of 2019, 20th Century Fox has now famously merged with Disney; the studio George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to in 2012. Essentially, with the creation of the new Star Wars films beginning with 2015’s The Force Awakens George Lucas has made good on a threat he was kicking around since 1977 and the debut of the first film.
George Lucas Never Really Wanted to Direct a Lot of Star Wars Movies
Although George Lucas wrote and directed all three Star Wars prequels— The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, relative to the vast majority of other Star Wars movies, the sole writer and director is rarely Georg Lucas. When The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters in December there will be 11 live-action Star Wars movies, and only 36 percent of those films will be written and directed by George Lucas. On could say this is a recent development since between 2015 and the end of 2019 five new Star Wars films have been made and Lucas hasn’t written or directed any of them. And, its tempting to think of this as a side-effect of Lucas giving up after he sold Star Wars to Disney, but it’s really not. This was his plan all along.
Two of three films in the classic trilogy were not directed by George Lucas. Let that sink in. And the reason why is clearly because George Lucas didn’t enjoy directing these films. Here’s what Lucas says about handing directorial duties over to Irvin Kerscher. From Once Upon a Galaxy, pages 176, 180, and 183. (Condescended for clarity):
“Generally, I enjoy not directing. It’s a great relief and a lot of pressure off of me…I’m half businessman and half filmmaker right now…on [Star Wars] I tried to be in complete control and it almost killed me. I was too difficult and I was miserable because I agonized over things not turning out my way. I had to sept back.”
And, starting with Empire, Lucas did step back. The reason why we all forgot this is because George Lucas relinquishing control of Star Wars doesn’t seem like a natural progression over time. If 1980 through 1983 make it seem like he’s stepping back and letting others take control, then 1996 through 2005 feels like he’s going back on his earlier inclinations to pass the Star Wars creative love around a little bit more. As a result, one could argue that the prequels are the purest expression of George Lucas’s artistic ideas, simply because he made fewer compromises. But, in terms of his journey toward letting go of Star Wars again, the net result of the prequels leads to something prophetic he said in the eighties.
George Lucas Predicted the Modern Version of Star Wars, With One Huge Caveat
George Lucas’s longterm goal was to make-sure Lucasfilm was a sufficient business that made things other than just Star Wars movies. And, to a small degree, he achieved that goal in the Eighties with the Indiana Jones movies and to a lesser extent with standalone movies like Willow and Tucker. In 2012, Lucasfilm released the WWII historical drama Red Tails based on the famous Tuskegee Airmen. Though this diversified movie line-up isn’t as big as what George Lucas had wanted in the eighties, it looks like Lucasfilm will make movies other than just Star Wars going into the 2020s.
In August 2019, Deadline revealed Lucasfilm is looking to adapt Tomi Adeyemi’s YA fantasy novel Children of Blood and Bone, proving the studio is trying to do films that aren’t only Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies. And now, despite a slow-down in the release of new Star Wars films after 2019, there are new Star Wars movies after Rise of Skywalker. 2022 will mark the debut of the first Benioff and Weiss Star Wars films, and Rian Johnson’s trilogy is still 100 percent happening, too.
But, the biggest Star Wars expansion is perhaps the dawn of a new era of Star Wars TV. The Mandalorian and the untitled Cassian Andor shows have been confirmed by Disney and Lucasfilm, while a new series about Obi-Wan Kenobi seems to be in the works, too. In other words, Star Wars seems to be something that is happening on the Lucasfilm assembly line, with countless different writers and directors taking a crack at various aspects of the famous fictional galaxy. In Once Upon a Galaxy, Lucas saw this coming. Speaking about his future plans for Lucasfilm, he said, (on page 179)
“I don’t want to spend the rest of my life making Star Wars pictures, but I do want to get them set-up properly without having to get completely involved in all of them. They’ve got to be self-generating to support the facility.”
In essence, 39 years later, this is exactly what is happening. The only difference is, Lucasfilm isn’t an independently operating studio. In 2012, Lucas sold his creations and Lucasfilm is currently owned and funded by Disney. So, George Lucas’s longterm rebellion against Hollywood worked, but there was a price. The king of the rebels ended-up setting-up his own studio permanently, but, like Lando Calrissian, he had to make a deal with the Empire to make it happen.
Either way, the persistence of Lucas’s vision for his own creations has to make you wonder if he isn’t a legit Jedi master. Or maybe a Sith.
The Rise of Skywalker is out in theaters on December 20, 2019. Both Once Upon a Galaxy and Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays are out of print, but you can find excellent behind-the-scenes information on the classic trilogy in books like J.W. Rinzler’s The Making of The Empire Strikes Back.