The biggest mystery coming out of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker isn’t how Palpatine returns from the dead or the true identity of Rey’s parents. Instead, it’s the absence of Star Wars creator George Lucas, who did not attend the Hollywood premiere of a film that Disney and Lucasfilm have billed to be the end of Lucas’ generations-spanning “Skywalker Saga.”
On Monday, Lucasfilm held the premiere for The Rise of Skywalker, directed by J.J. Abrams, at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood. In addition to the cast of The Rise of Skywalker, franchise alums like Harrison Ford and Ahmed Best (who played Jar-Jar in the prequel trilogy) made appearances on the blue carpet.
Lucas forever changed popular culture when Star Wars debuted in 1977. Although Lucas sold his ownership of Star Wars to Disney in 2012, he’s been kept within orbit of the new films and shows, often acting as consultant including even with The Rise of Skywalker. And yes, Lucas has attended previous film premieres and media events, including attending the 2019 opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s theme parks.
But Star Wars isn’t George Lucas’ thing anymore. It hasn’t been in years. In 2015, in the lead-up to The Force Awakens, Lucas got real to Charlie Rose in an interview that revealed his raw feelings towards the sale of Star Wars, referring to it as a “break-up.” He called Disney “white slavers,” a widely criticized and clumsy articulation of his lingering anti-capitalist sensibilities. It’s a revealing interview that continues to feel relevant in regards to Lucas’ fractured relationship with his creation.
“It comes down to a simple rule of life. When you break up with somebody, the first rule is no phone calls,” Lucas said to Rose. “The second rule, you don’t go over their house and see what they’re doing. You just say, no, gone, history. I’m moving forward.”
He added, “Every time you do something like that, you’re opening the wound again. You have to put it behind you. and it’s a very, very hard thing to do.”
More recently, in Disney CEO Bob Iger’s new memoir The Ride of a Lifetime, the executive wrote that Lucas “felt betrayed” and that the transition from Lucas to Disney got off “to an unnecessarily rocky start.”
Wrote The Hollywood Reporter:
“Following a private screening, Iger recalls, Lucas ‘didn’t hide his disappointment. “There’s nothing new,” he said. In each of the films in the original trilogy, it was important to him to present new worlds, new stories, new characters, and new technologies. In this one, he said, “There weren’t enough visual or technical leaps forward.” He 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.”
Added Iger, “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.”
Unfortunately, there is no clear answer why Lucas did not attend the premiere of The Rise of Skywalker. We can only assume he was invited and declined; whether Lucas was actually invited is also up for speculation. What we can say is that Lucas is pretty much done with Star Wars and has peacefully moved on. He’s allowed himself to let the past die. In a weird way, that makes Lucas the ultimate Jedi Master among us all.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrives in theaters on Friday.