George Lucas JJ Abrams Kathleen Kennedy Star Wars

After Star Wars creator George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012, he stayed on as a “creative consultant” for the new movie trilogy but ended up being upset when the company chose not to use his ideas in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He’s spoken about how his vision for the sequels differed from what was ultimately produced and how, along with having Luke Skywalker train a new Jedi in Episode VIIhe wanted to shift the focus to the “microbiotic world” and explore creatures called the Whills before having Luke train Leia in Episode IX. But Disney clearly had a different plan in mind.

Disney CEO Bob Iger has published a new book about his time leading the company, and in it, he discusses how, even though Disney bought some of Lucas’s early ideas for the new trilogy, the creator of Star Wars was ultimately edged out of The Force Awakens.

Iger’s new book, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned From 15 Years as CEO of The Walt Disney Company, is out now, and someone on Reddit snagged some relevant quotes from the section in which he talks about acquiring Lucasfilm and relaunching the Star Wars franchise with The Force Awakens. Iger says that Disney purchased some of Lucas’s early outlines for the three new movies while making it clear that they would not be contractually obligated to use those ideas, but it seems like something may have gotten lost in translation along the way:

Early on, Kathy [Kennedy] brought J.J. [Abrams] and Michael Arndt up to Northern California to meet with George at his ranch and 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.

The truth was, Kathy, J.J., Alan [Horn, Disney’s film chief], 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.

I can see how Lucas might be a little miffed. But after reading about his plans to dive into the Whills and bring midichlorians back into the conversation, I feel like we ended up with a more visceral, entertaining trilogy than we may have gotten otherwise. But if Lucas’s reaction to The Force Awakens is any indication, it doesn’t seem as if delivering pure entertainment was a priority for him. Iger continued:

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.” 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. 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.

Around the time of the movie’s release, Lucas spoke with Vanity Fair and explained his side of the story in his own words:

“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.’

They weren’t that keen to have me involved anyway. But at the same time, I said 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. All I would do is muck everything up. So I said, ‘Okay, I will go my way, and I’ll let them go their way.'”

Same story, different perspective. And like the rest of Star Wars fandom, I’m incredibly curious to see if the Disney overlords ever allow for a true warts-and-all, behind-the-scenes book about the making of these movies to be published, because even though I’m not exactly jumping up and down to watch a full movie detailing the history and activity of microbial Whills,  I’m certainly interested enough to read a detailed account of Lucas’s outlines.

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