Disney CEO Bob Iger admitted George Lucas felt betrayed with Disney’s direction with Star Wars.
Iger made the comments in his new book, The Ride of a Lifetime: LESSONS LEARNED FROM 15 YEARS AS CEO OF THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY.
As reported by Reddit user Lollifroll in the Star Wars Leaks subreddit, Iger discusses the sale of Star Wars to Disney and Lucas’ role in the films. During the purchase process, Lucas informed Iger and Disney that he had outlines made up for three new movies that would follow the events of Return of the Jedi.
“At some point in the process, George told me that he had completed outlines for three new movies. He agreed to send us three copies of the outlines: one for me; one for Alan Braverman; and one for Alan Horn, who’d just been hired to run our studio. Alan Horn and I read George’s outlines and decided we needed to buy them, though we made clear in the purchase agreement that we would not be contractually obligated to adhere to the plot lines he’d laid out.”
Not only did Iger and Disney purchase the outlines, but they also made it clear that Lucas’ new role with Star Wars would be to act as a creative consultant and that he would not have creative control over the next three films. Iger makes it clear that Disney’s Star Wars team would not be beholden to Lucas’ ideas though.
“He knew that I was going to stand firm on the question of creative control, but it wasn’t an easy thing for him to accept. And so he reluctantly agreed to be available to consult with us at our request. I promised that we would be open to his ideas (this was not a hard promise to make; of course we would be open to George Lucas’s ideas), but like the outlines, we would be under no obligation.”
Iger confirmed that he, Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt were not going to follow Lucas’ outlines.
“Early on, Kathy brought J.J. and Michael Arndt up to Northern California to meet with George at his ranch and talk about their ideas for the film.”
Iger then details that George became upset when they detailed the plot of The Force Awakens. Iger claims George was upset because Disney had decided not to use his outlines rather than the actual plot of The Force Awakens.
“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.”
Then Iger reveals that he, Kennedy, Alan Horn, and J.J. Abrams had already planned out the direction they wanted to take the new Star Wars. That direction was most definitely not George’s.
“The truth was, Kathy, J.J., Alan, and I had discussed the direction in which the saga should go, and we all agreed that it wasn’t what George had outlined. 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.”
Iger admits he should have handled the situation better and that he should have prepared Lucas for the meeting with Abrams and Arndt.
“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. 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.”
He then reveals that Lucas felt betrayed by Disney.
“Now, in the first meeting with him about the future of Star Wars, George felt betrayed, and while this whole process would never have been easy for him, we’d gotten off to an unnecessarily rocky start.”
Not only did George feel betrayed by Disney, but he was unimpressed by their final product in The Force Awakens.
Iger details George’s initial impression after seeing the film:
“Just prior to the global release, Kathy screened The Force Awakens for George. He 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.'”
Iger admits George’s criticisms were on point and that The Force Awakens did not provide anything new to Star Wars fans. However, he criticizes George for not understanding the pressure Disney was under.
“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.”
Iger then reveals The Force Awakens and its lack of imagination was Disney design through and through.
“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.”
Iger then states he believes J.J. Abrams “achieved the near-impossible” with The Force Awakens.
“Looking back with the perspective of several years and a few more Star Wars films, I believe J.J. achieved the near-impossible, creating a perfect bridge between what had been and what was to come.”
George Lucas’ Comments About Disney and Star Wars in 2015
These comments aren’t groundbreaking. Lucas was open about his criticisms of The Force Awakens when the film debuted.
He told Vanity Fair in 2015:
“The issue was ultimately, they looked at the stories and they said, ‘We want to make something for the fans.’ People don’t actually realize it’s actually a soap opera and it’s all about family problems – it’s not about spaceships. So they decided they didn’t want to use those stories, they decided they were going to do their own thing so I decided, ‘Fine.’”
Lucas also called Disney “white slavers” in an interview with Variety back in 2015 after The Force Awakens opened in theaters. Lucas stated, “I sold them to the white slavers that takes these things, and…”
He ultimately described The Force Awakens in a backhanded comment, “I think the fans are going to love it. It’s very much the kind of movie they’ve been looking for.”
In that same interview he discussed that Disney did not want to use his outlines for a sequel Star Wars trilogy.
“They looked at the stories, and they said, ‘We want to make something for the fans. They decided they didn’t want to use those stories, they decided they were going to do their own thing. … 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 anymore, and all I would do is muck everything up. And so I said, ‘OK, I will go my way, and I’ll let them go their way.’”
And as for Lucas’s comments regarding Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi he would make a similar backhanded comment about the film simply describing it as “beautifully made.”
What do you make of Iger’s comments?