A new rumor claims that Leslye Headland’s The Acolyte project is reportedly only filming a pilot or a sizzle reel and not an actual full series for Disney+.

The Acolyte logo as shown during Disney Investor Day Presentation 2020

This rumor comes from Nikita and Sleeper Cell producer Kamran Pasha and an anonymous source of his codenamed Sparrow. He relayed his sources’ information to Midnight’s Edge’s Andre Einherjar on YouTube after his scoop about Damon Lindelof’s Star Wars project not going forward was seemingly confirmed as Lindelof exited a rumored Star Wars film.

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Pasha relayed, “The major thing that [my source] said, is that the big thing that is happening is, as some of you may know, there’s a lot of controversy around this television series that Leslye Headland has announced called The Acolyte. And I have been opining for over a year that that is unlikely to ever hit the screens on Disney+. That’s just been my opinion because I didn’t think there was a market for it and I just didn’t see the energy around it.”

“But in the last several weeks the Sparrow source has been telling me directly that the official narrative that is in the new that people are going with that this is a fully filmed episodic series, that there’s eight, ten episodes whatever it is, they’ve been funded for that and they’re all filming and it’s all a real TV show that that’s not exactly an accurate representation of what’s happening,” he said.

(L-R): Amandla Stenberg, Lee Jung-jae and Director Leslye Headland on the set of Lucasfilm’s THE ACOLYTE, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Pasha continued, “Sparrow has confirmed in the past that there is a small budget for filming something. They have claimed to me … that there is something filming under The Acolyte, but it is not a full series. It is what we would call a presentation or sizzle reel, where they’re putting together scenes from individual episodes of written scripts that they have to essentially create as a marketing tool to go inside of Disney to tell Mr. Iger and others, ‘Look, this is what the show is going to look like when we go. Can you please give us the rest of the money?'”

“And that’s a very common thing to do in Hollywood. If you go in the trades, you’ll see recently several shows were greenlit off of presentations. It’s just a concept that Hollywood has. Sometimes a studio doesn’t give you the whole money to — here’s 10 episodes or even here’s $10 million for a pilot. They’re like, ‘Here’s a million bucks go show us what some of this is going to look like before we take the risk of further investment. That is what Sparrow is claiming with this that there are some production entities involved in that and some money flowing.”

Robert A. Iger, Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board, at The Walt Disney Company’s Investor Day 2020.

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To this point, one need look no further than HBO’s cancelled Game of Thrones prequel series that was scrapped after WarnerMedia allotted $30 million to film a pilot.

Former WarnerMedia Chairman Bob Greenblatt explained, “They had spent over $30 million on a Game of Thrones prequel pilot that was in production when I got there. And when I saw a cut of it in a few months after I arrived, I said to Casey, ‘This just doesn’t work, and I don’t think it delivers on the promise of the original series.’ And he didn’t disagree, which actually was a relief.”

Greenblatt added, “We unfortunately decided to pull the plug on it. There was enormous pressure to get it right and I don’t think that would have worked.”

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 6 “The Iron Throne” (2019), HBO

Pasha went on, “A couple of weeks ago they had claimed to me, ‘Well, the numbers aren’t quite adding up and they don’t really have a lot of money, but for PR purposes Ms. Headland continues to represent this is a full show. And it’s sort of the fake it ’til you make it philosophy much like Mr. Lindelof was doing. ‘We have a full move. We have a full movie.’ In the hopes of getting a green light.

He added, “Well, that illusion just ended and so Sparrow’s been saying, ‘Well that’s also the illusion of The Acolyte. There’s no full series there. They’re trying to force Disney to give them a full series and they’re hoping through PR and filming some of these scenes they’re gonna get that.'”

(L-R): Grogu and Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) with stone crabs in Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN, season three, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

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Pasha then points to Karen McCarthy’s lawsuit against Lucasfilm as a piece of evidence backing up his source.

McCarthy is suing Lucasfilm for Breach of Contract, Breach of the Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing, Promissory Estoppel, and Failure to Pay Wages at Termination, claiming she was hired as an Executive Producer on The Acolyte only to find out two weeks later that Lucasfilm wanted out of the deal they made. Upon requesting to be paid for her work, the suit claims, “Lucasfilm denied that they even had an agreement.”

The complaint further asserts that “Lucasfilm offered to pay McCarthy $5,000 for a single day’s work.”

The Armorer (Emily Swallow) in Lucasfilm’s THE MANDALORIAN, season three, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Pasha explains why this lawsuit is evidence of his source’s claims, “How could a TV series that Ms. Headland has claimed she has eight episodes, ten episodes, whatever she claims she has. If that’s the case we know that Lucasfilm, Disney shows easily, easily $10 million an episode. So we’re looking at $80 million, $100 million maybe more has been budgeted for this series that she has publicly told the world is filming right now as a series.”

“So if you have $80 million, $100 million, $120 million budget, you can’t give this woman $500,000 to go away? A producer who you hired and then fired within a few days without explanation,” Pasha questioned. “If you have the money that’s an easy write-off. And you don’t get into this kind of humiliating public dispute, which is very embarrassing. Makes other creatives go, ‘Should I go work with Lucasfilm? Are they going to lie to me?’ You don’t want that reputation.”

“So the only reason you would offer $5,000 if you had a $100 million budget is that you don’t have $100 million budget. Objectively that is the only reason that you would do that to someone of this caliber. So you don’t have the money. So that certainly should raise the hackles of people as to whether this production really has the scale of what is being claimed,” he asserted.

Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine in as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker via Disney+

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The Walt Disney Company and Lucasfilm announced back in November 2022 via a press release sent to Bounding Into Comics that the series had begun production in the United Kingdom. It would star Amandla Stenberg, Lee Jung-jae, Manny Jacinto, Dafne Keen, Jodie Turner-Smith, Rebecca Henderson, Charlie Barnett, Dean-Charles Chapman, and Carrie-Anne Moss.

Headland would direct the pilot episode and would executive produce alongside Kathleen Kennedy, Simon Emanuel, Jeff F. King, and Jason Micallef. Rayne Roberts and Damian Anderson were also attached as producers.

An official description for the series stated, “The Acolyte is a mystery-thriller that will take viewers into a galaxy of shadowy secrets and emerging dark-side powers in the final days of the High Republic era. A former Padawan reunites with her Jedi Master to investigate a series of crimes, but the forces they confront are more sinister than they ever anticipated.”

No release date for the series was announced at the time.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – APRIL 19: Leslye Headland and Rebecca Henderson attend the Russian Doll Season 2 Premiere at The Bowery Hotel on April 19, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Netflix)

What do you make of this rumor?

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