September 23, 2019

Bob Iger Says George Lucas Did Not Like 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'

Iger and Lucas
Bob Iger's book is out, and one Redditor already pulled the quotes on Lucas and Star Wars

The Walt Disney Company seemingly owns everything now, but much of that happened during the reign of CEO Bob Iger, whose new book The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company details his time at the top of the Matterhorn. 

Among the most interesting and impactful moments in Iger's rule was the purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012 for 4 billion dollars. With the purchase came some outlines for the extension and completion of the Star Wars saga, penned by George Lucas himself:

"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 Alan Braverman; and one for Alan Horn, who’d just been hired to run our studio. 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."

One wonders if the importance of buying these was in part that nobody would ever read them regardless of what Iger and Disney would eventually do with the all-powerful Star Wars IP. Or if there was ever any genuine intent to use them. 

Either way, many people already knew this part of the story. What comes next was known to far fewer:

"Early on, Kathy brought J.J. 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, 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. 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."

Michael Arndt is the screenwriter behind Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3 who was initially brought in to write the first new Star Wars movie, Episode 7. And if you haven't watched his video about endings as they pertain to screenwriting, it's excellent. In it, he analyzes how Star Wars (1977) had such a perfect ending. 

Finally, Reddit quotes Iger as describing Lucas' reaction to seeing The Force Awakens for the first time:

"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." 

We only have Iger's word to go on here, and he wasn't in some of these exchanges. He's reporting to us, in his book, about interactions mainly between Kathleen Kennedy and George Lucas. So take it with a grain of salt. Let's also keep in mind that Lucas review of The Force Awakens was surely colored by Disney's choice to ignore his outlines. 

“There’s nothing new”

All that said... I agree with Lucas. I agreed with him when I walked out of The Force Awakens in 2015. Sounds like Iger agrees with him too, explaining nothing new was almost exactly what they were going for. 

"In each of the films in the original trilogy, it was important to him [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.” He wasn’t wrong

The danger of "nothing new" is that things can get stale, and audiences can grow disinterested. In the years since all this happened Disney's Star Wars started to falter a bit... maybe in tiny ways, but falter nonetheless. The Han Solo spinoff movie didn't go quite as planned (to put it mildly). The Last Jedi was met with all sorts of backlash. Iger and Kennedy expressed concerns that they needed to slow the release schedule after recognizing that they'd oversaturated the market. 

The Rise of Skywalker has had reshoots, and some reports say Lucas was asked to lend some input and advice in this, the 11th hour.

Disney and Iger bet big when they spent 4 billion on Lucasfilm and the Star Wars IP. But they played it safe when they relaunched the franchise specifically to avoid ruffling fan feathers prequel-style. In the end, they ruffled fan feathers anyway (those are the easiest feathers to ruffle, after all) and in the process, they may have started to sterilize the golden goose. 

Who are we kidding? Disney + is around the corner with new Star Wars shows to boot. They just opened the wing of a theme park! Star Wars isn't going anywhere in more ways than one. But as Yoda himself might say, "that... is why you fail."

 

 

Your Comment

6 Comments

This obsession with Star Wars is frightening. Aside from those original three decent little sci fi flicks, everything that came afterwards was just a gigantic pile of rehashed nonsense or a bloating of idiotic characters which barely qualify as extras (Jango Fett???). I guess one day there will be a whole series on Sarlacc and another one on "ice cream man" (ROFL) - but the sad fact would be, that the goons would probably storm theatres and make those films a hit...

September 24, 2019 at 1:23AM, Edited September 24, 1:23AM

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DingDong
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I agree. I still remember being in the theater at 8-years-old, mesmerized by how special Star Wars felt. I had never seen visuals like that before. Decades later and neither the visuals nor the story feel special anymore. People are searching for meaning in a movie that was never that deep to begin with. CG has done a great job of bringing imaginings to life but it's also removed the magic of movies. It's simply not 1977 anymore.

September 24, 2019 at 1:12PM

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After those original three decent flicks, Star Wars has devolved into billion dollar weak tea. People will continue to shell out coin, trying to recapture some long forgotten feeling, and Disney will surely take in a metric s--- ton of coin over the coming years. But it's still weak tea.

After the first three films - which, if you recall, were innovative versions of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey - I (along with millions of other fans) thought that subsequent films were going to be awesome. And the universe was vast; what stories could be told? Maybe Vader's 'fall from grace'? Could've been epic. Could've been Shakespearean. But no. It makes me sad.

September 25, 2019 at 10:43PM

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The Force Awakens was a fricking remake of A New Hope. It was like eating last night's popcorn: a familiar taste, but worse in every way. They played it safe to cash out Lucas' chips. You're either building something up, or you're selling it off. I stopped watching the Star Wars releases that "advanced" the primary storyline after that film, especially since they completely ruined the Han/Leia love story I grew up with. Others may disagree, but as a die-hard Star Wars fan, I felt totally betrayed.

September 24, 2019 at 1:27AM

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Their problem is that they thought they were really buying credibility and 'easy money'.....Iger didn't mention WHY they didn't use George in anything but vague "we had our own ideas"......for an IP they apparently had faith in.... but not in the guy who created it and wasn't currently popular, being a bit 'on the nose' narratively.

I hate the prequels but George does know why the 'original' original SW movies worked, he should have been useful to Disney for that aspect alone.....and maybe even for simply giving advice on fan backlash as a bonus.

September 24, 2019 at 1:30AM

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The upcoming Knights of the Old Republic films will be better received.

September 24, 2019 at 8:59PM

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Jesse Yules
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