Disney CEO Bob Iger’s new book, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, features some enlightening revelations for Star Wars fans. Among other things, the exec covers the early days of the studio’s buyout of Lucasfilm, revealing the difficult process of taking over creative control of the franchise from creator George Lucas.
Iger explains that, once Disney bought Lucasfilm, Lucas offered the Mouse House his own breakdowns for a sequel trilogy. Iger and co. snapped them up, but made it clear in the purchase agreement that they were under no obligation to employ these ideas in their own movies.
“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.”
At a later date, Iger, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Michael Arndt gathered at Skywalker Ranch to pitch Lucas their version of the Sequel Trilogy. However, the filmmaker wasn’t pleased that none of his concepts had made it into their plans.
“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 continues by saying that he believes it’s on him for not making the situation clearer to Lucas beforehand.
“The truth was, Kathy, [The Force Awakens writer-director] J.J. [Abrams], Alan [Horn, Co-Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Walt Disney Studios], 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’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.”
Finally, he concluded by saying that this was far from the way he had hoped to start their partnership with Lucasfilm.
“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.”
Elsewhere in the book, Iger speaks of how Lucas was similarly unimpressed with the final product of The Force Awakens, criticizing it for featuring “nothing new.” It’s unknown what he thought of The Last Jedi, though, which did hue closer to his own Sequel Trilogy ideas – a young Padawan (Kira) being trained by an older Luke Skywalker.
Hopefully he’ll have a more positive reaction to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker then, as Lucas is known to have been consulted on the best way to complete the Skywalker saga, which comes to its conclusion on December 20th.