George Lucas didn’t hide his feelings about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and now four years later Disney CEO Bob Iger has relived Lucas’ disappointment in his autobiographical memoir The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, released Monday.
Lucas felt there was “nothing new” about the J.J. Abrams directed sequel.
“In each of the films in the original trilogy, it was important to [Lucas] 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 said.
But now we also know how Iger feels about Lucas’ take.
“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.
“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.”
Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4.05 billion. In 2015, The Force Awakens arrived and mostly fared well with critics and fans. However, some found it derivative of the original trilogy.
Iger goes on to talk about how Lucas felt upset and betrayed when he was told that they wouldn’t follow is sequel trilogy plans.
“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 [Walt Disney Company Senior Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary] Alan Braverman; and one for [Co-Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Walt Disney Studios] Alan Horn, who’d just been hired to run our studio,” Iger recounts. “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.”
Iger continues: “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’ ideas), but like the outlines, we would be under no obligation.”
Iger then details meeting with Lucas, screenwriter Michael Arndt and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy at Skywalker Ranch to “talk about their ideas for the film.”
“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 recalls.
“The truth was, Kathy, [The Force Awakens writer-director] J.J. [Abrams], 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 continues. “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.”
Iger then admits, “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.”
What will George make of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the final part of the Skywalker sage, when it is released in December? We look forward to hearing!