Iger has recalled the early meetings that Disney held with the creator of the acclaimed sci-fi franchise ahead of the making of The Force Awakens, which hit cinemas in 2015 as the first part of the sequel trilogy.
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In Iger’s new memoir The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, he describes how Lucas felt “upset” and “betrayed” upon learning that Disney intended to “go in another direction” from Lucas’ original ideas for the sequel trilogy.
“Alan Horn [Co-Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Walt Disney Studios] and I read George’s outlines and decided we needed to buy them, though we made clear in the purchase agreement [of Lucasfilm by Disney in 2012] that we would not be contractually obligated to adhere to the plot lines he’d laid out,” Iger writes in the memoir (via Comicbook.com).
“[Lucas] 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.”
Remembering an early meeting he held with Lucas, screenwriter Michael Arndt and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy at Skywalker Ranch, Iger says that “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, [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,” Iger writes.
“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.”
Iger adds that Lucas therefore “felt betrayed” in one of their first meetings about the future of Star Wars. “And while this whole process would never have been easy for him, we’d gotten off to an unnecessarily rocky start.”
Last week, Rian Johnson gave an update on his proposed trilogy of Star Wars spin-off films.