New book details George Lucas' involvement in the Star Wars sequels

Disney CEO says Lucas "felt betrayed" his story ideas were "discarded."

Joi Ito

Disney CEO Bob Iger has a new book out this week, and it’s full of surprising morsels of information about George Lucas’ creative involvement in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. According to Iger, throughout the development of 2016’s The Force Awakens, Lucas expressed dismay that his story treatments had been “discarded” and seemed to have assumed his ideas would more directly shape the future of the much-loved franchise.

Redditor Lollifroll shared some of Iger’s juicier observations about his interactions with Lucas in a thread on the Star Wars Leaks subreddit on Monday. According to the excerpts, Iger repeatedly reminded Lucas that Disney had its own vision for The Force Awakens that departed significantly from the creator’s detailed plot outlines for the trilogy. In the thread, Iger mentions several times that Disney was “under no obligation” to “adhere to the plot lines [Lucas] laid out” for the films.

Still, Iger admits this must not have been entirely clear to Lucas as The Force Awakens was coming together, and says he could have done a better job of managing the legendary director’s expectations. “George knew we weren’t contractually bound to anything, but he thought that our buying the story treatments was a tacit promise that we’d follow them, and he was disappointed that his story was being discarded. I’d been so careful since our first conversation not to mislead him in any way, and I didn’t think I had now, but I could have handled it better,” the CEO explains. “I should have prepared him for the meeting with J.J. and Michael and told him about our conversations, that we felt it was better to go in another direction. I could have talked through this with him and possibly avoided angering him by not surprising him. Now, in the first meeting with him about the future of Star Wars, George felt betrayed.”

It wouldn’t be the last time. Iger says when Kennedy showed Lucas The Force Awakens just before the film’s theatrical release, Lucas “didn’t hide his disappointment,” telling her “there’s nothing new” and complaining there “weren’t enough visual or technical leaps forward.”

From Iger’s perspective, that was precisely the point: “[Lucas] wasn’t wrong, but he also wasn’t appreciating the pressure we were under to give ardent fans a film that felt quintessentially Star Wars. We’d intentionally created a world that was visually and tonally connected to the earlier films, to not stray too far from what people loved and expected, and George was criticizing us for the very thing we were trying to do.” In other words, Iger and his collaborators were eager to avoid repeating the mistakes Lucas had made with the Star Wars prequel trilogy, prioritizing state-of-the-art visuals over cohesive narrative and engaging character development.

Lucas didn’t hide his misgivings about his frought relationship with Disney or The Force Awakens in a December 2015 interview with Charlie Rose. In it, he likens his relationship to the new, Disney-owned Star Wars to a divorce, even drawing a cringey comparison between the Mouse House and “white slavers.” (He issued an apology for the statement later that week, calling it “very inappropriate.”

“They wanted to do a retro movie. I don’t like that,” Lucas explained to Rose. “They weren’t that keen to have me involved anyway, but if I get in there, I’m just going to cause trouble, because they’re not going to do what I want them to do. And I don’t have the control to do that any more, and all I would do is muck everything up.”

While Lucas didn’t exactly keep his feelings about The Force Awakens secret, this fresh insight from Iger’s memoir suggests there may have been good reason for him to feel mislead about the extent of his involvement in the sequel trilogy. Sure, several billion dollars isn’t a lousy consolation prize, but it seems Lucas truly believed more of his initial vision would make it to the big screen. (Whether Star Wars fans should lament Lucas’ surrender of creative control is another matter.)

Will Lucas be satisfied with Disney’s conclusion to the Skywalker saga? We’ll find out when The Rise of Skywalker comes to theaters December 20.

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