If you want to get some insight into the private thoughts of Han Solo, you wouldn’t go looking for it in the memoirs of Jabba the Hutt. And yet, recollections from Bob Iger, the current Disney CEO, are suddenly coloring our thoughts about George Lucas’s supposed opinions about the new Star Wars films and specifically The Force Awakens. This is crazy. Why would the viewpoint of a corporate studio guy have any bearing on the state-of-mind of one of the most non-corporate, wildly creative and independent cinematic artists of all time? In other words, the idea that Bob Iger knows what George Lucas thinks is kind of like saying the energy-sucking Mynock parasites are your favorite characters in The Empire Strikes Back.
This week, multiple outlets reported that a passage from the memoir of Bob Iger “reveals” that George Lucas was disappointed with the storylines for the sequel trilogy. “George immediately got upset as they began to describe the plot and it dawned on him that we weren’t using one of the stories he submitted during the negotiations,” Iger writes. “George felt betrayed, and while this whole process would never have been easy for him, we’d gotten off to an unnecessarily rocky start.”
A few things with this. First, it’s fairly common knowledge that when George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney, he gave them his outlines for possible directions for the next three Star Wars episodic films. Lucas has said as much publicly. He’s also, very pubicly made very specific and pointed comments which corroborate what Iger is writing. In other words, Iger’s revelation here is not news. Here’s what George Lucas said on Charlie Rose, in December 2015, right after The Force Awakens came out:
They looked at the stories and they said, we want to make something for the fans. All I wanted to do was to tell a story of what happened; it started here and it went there. It’s all about generations…it’s a family soap opera…they [Disney] decided they didn’t want to use those stories they wanted to do their own thing and I decided fine — they weren’t that keen to have me anyway — but I decided if I get in there I’m just going to cause trouble. They’re not going to do what I want them to do. And I don’t have the control.
Lucas then went on to describe the experience as “break-up” and that the Star Wars films were his “children” and he “sold them to the white slavers who create these things.”
Okay. So, what exactly is more interesting with Bob Iger’s crushingly dull side of this story? That’s right. Nothing. George Lucas described the process of seeing different Star Wars sequels as painful as the end of a long romantic relationship and implied Disney has enslaved his imaginary creations to do their bidding. Iger on the other hand recently said Lucas was “disappointed” and that he felt kind of bad about it. Which person would you rather get drunk with? Iger does not have a bombshell story here, Lucas already had the bombshell story, and he told it in his own words, on television, just four short years ago.
Further, the idea that Bob Iger has some kind of insight into George Lucas is laughable. In every single thing written about George Lucas, it’s very clear that he’s a deeply independent person who has very little time or patience for corporate overlords. The entire creation of Lucasfilm was an attempt to beat the studio system which Lucas viewed as corrupt. So, for Iger to say that Lucas was “disappointed” and “betrayed” is a massive understatement, tantamount to Obi-Wan being annoyed at Anakin for becoming a Sith. Lucas selling out to Disney is a moment when a revolutionary filmmaker actually realized it wasn’t possible to free himself of the studio system. Though the Star Wars prequels were distributed by 20th Century Fox, they were, in fact, funded by George Lucas personally, which technically makes them independent films.
Let that sink in. George Lucas is an independent filmmaker. He has been one for his entire life. In the Dale Pollock-penned biography Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas, it’s clear that even the executives within Lucas’s own company aren’t people he likes to deal with. “He would prefer to never speak to people like me if he could get away with it,” Bob Greber, former Lucasfilm president said, in 1983.
George Lucas has spent his entire career trying to avoid selling out, but, eventually, for reasons that were entirely his own, he decided trying to fight the influence of the huge studios wasn’t worth it. For the most part, he walked away. The guy who was partially responsible for that, the devil in Lucas’s Faustian bargain, was Bob Iger. And that point of view seems hardly worth thinking about. Right?
So, will George Lucas hate The Rise of Skywalker? No. In fact, because J.J. Abrams has reportedly been in touch with Lucas for The Rise of Skywalker, it’s very possible that the final film may come closer to Lucas’s ideas than anyone knows. Lucas has also been publicly supportive of J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, Gareth Edwards, and of course, visited his old buddy Ron Howard on the set of Solo. If he was a little cranky about the direction Disney took Star Wars in 2015, it’s somewhat understandable. Imagine if John Lennon came back as a Force ghost, and Paul McCartney reformed The Beatles, but this time Justin Bieber and Justin Timberlake were in the band. It might not be bad. But, to the ghost of John Lennon, it wouldn’t look like The Beatles.
George Lucas created something bigger than the Beatles, bigger than Jesus, bigger than Elvis, and bigger than any movie ever. He’s entitled to his feelings about it, but, to think that a deal-maker money guy at Disney has any idea what Lucas really feels is crazy. Liking the new Star Wars movies doesn’t mean you have to feel like you’re going against George Lucas. Not at all. The new Star Wars movies are great! But they’re not great because of Disney or Bob Iger. They’re great because the people who have worked on them have cared enough to respect the world Lucas created. George Lucas is an iconoclast badass. Bob Iger is some guy in a suit. I think we can all spot the real Dark Side when we see it.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20th.