Final cut is the privilege all directors want and only a select few can claim: the power to deliver their cut of the film without studio interference. Ron Howard is one director who has such clout, and he’s earned it with Oscar-nominated and winning films like Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind, and crowd-pleasers like Coccoon, Splash and Backdraft.

Willow was actually the first movie on which Howard received final cut, the director revealed at an American Cinematheque screening celebrating his work. He has producer George Lucas to thank for it.

“He was the first one to give me final cut in fact,” Howard said. “That’s how I got it into my contract was that George gave it to me on this movie. Not that he didn’t have a lot of opinions. He did, but he really did encourage me to apply my sensibility and my voice to it.”

Lucas hired Howard to direct Willow, which also utilized Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic visual effects company. Howard returned to Lucasfilm to direct Solo: A Star Wars Story for Kathleen Kennedy, and reflected on Lucasfilm then and now.

“On one hand, it’s very, very different because it’s led by Kathy [Kennedy] who has great reverence but has a different job,” Howard said. “That job is to build on the library, build on the heritage of it. She is very filmmaker centric and so she’s been cautious not to allow a broad schematic to take over. She really wants to feel her way.”

Lucas has not completely abandoned ship, Howard says. Though he respects Kennedy’s decisions, Lucas still chimes in on occasion.

“She talks to George,” Howard said. “George is very cautious about getting involved because he’s separated himself and he’s doing other things that he really cares about. I think he’s either all in or not in, so he’s really committed himself to being a great cheerleader and source of inspiration but not stepping on toes.”

Lucasfilm has expanded beyond its reach under Lucas. There will be a Star Wars TV series on Disney’s upcoming streaming service. Decades ago, Lucas attempted a live-action Star Wars television series that never got made.

“There’s this rich set of possibilities to be explored but I would also say, with Disney’s expanding appetite, not even so much movies but also what they want to try to do with their SVOD growth, Lucasfilm is certainly going to factor into that,” Howard said. “Jon Favreau is already doing one. There’s a lot of thinking as to how do you explore all of these new mediums in ways that remain true to the spirit of these stories but are progressing, which is something that George is entirely supportive of.”

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