George Lucas on 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens': 'They weren't keen to have me involved'
George Lucas has compared his retirement from Star Wars to a break-up — a mutual one, maybe, but it nonetheless comes with hard feelings.
Before handing over Lucasfilm and the future of his galactic saga to The Walt Disney Co. for $4 billion in 2012, Lucas came up with story treatments for a new trilogy. Those materials, to put it bluntly, were discarded.
“They decided they didn’t want to use those stories, they decided they were gonna go do their own thing,” Lucas says in a new interview with CBS This Morning. “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.’”
Lucas, who was brutalized by critics and some fans over the prequel trilogy, suggested he was going to tell a story about the grandchildren of figures from the original trilogy. (We still don’t know the full names of some characters from The Force Awakens, so that may still happen, just in a different way from Lucas planned.)
“The issue was, ultimately, they looked at the stories and they said, ‘We want to make something for the fans,'” he told CBS. “So, I said, all I want to do is tell a story of what happened – it started here and went there. It’s all about generations, and issues of fathers and sons and grandfathers. It’s a family soap opera.”
Then he brought up the break-up analogy to explain why he’s not involved in The Force Awakens at all. “When you break up with somebody, the first rule is no phone calls. The second rule, you don’t go over to their house and drive by to see what they’re doing,” Lucas said. “The third one is you don’t show up at their coffee shop and say, ‘You are going to burn it…’ You just say ‘Nope, gone, history, I’m moving forward.'”
CREDIT WHERE DUE
Although the team behind The Force Awakens acknowledges they’re taking the story in a different direction from what Lucas intended, they maintain affection for his original creations and the man himself. The dispute almost sounds like new parents, rejecting advice being offered by the now-grandparents, which is its own kind of timeless tale.
Director J.J. Abrams says he hopes The Force Awakens honors what Lucas originated decades ago, and adds that he had nothing to do with the decision not to move forward with Lucas’s story treatments. “Before I showed up, it was already something that Disney had decided they wanted to go a different way with,” Abrams said in an interview with EW (conducted before the CBS interview). “But the spirit of what he wrote, both in those pages and prior, is everything that this movie is built upon.”
Kathleen Kennedy, the powerhouse producer of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, and The Sixth Sense, who has known Lucas since the Indiana Jones days, joined Lucasfilm as his successor in summer 2012 as the company began devising plans for new Star Wars films – and Lucas began devising plans to step back.
Before he went, Kennedy had her own questions for Lucas – all about how to recapture the magic of the original trilogy. “I can’t say that the first thing I asked him had to do with business. The first question, or questions, were much more personal,” she tells EW. “I’d never really asked George where all this came from, and was trying to understand where he was in his life when he came up with the idea.”
It’s well known that Lucas was inspired by old sci-fi serials, like Flash Gordon, and the mythological psychology of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, but he’d also been clashing with his father, George Sr., who’d spent his life building an office supply business in the Bay area that he hoped his son would run. But young George was preoccupied with racing cars and making movies in Hollywood. He defied his father, refused to join him and rule the office supply galaxy.
“I had a lot of interesting conversations that had more to do with how this evolved for him,” Kennedy said. “At one point, I did say, ‘Well, is any of this written down? Can I find this?’— other than the vast number of books that have been written, and many of them written very well, making-of and that sort of thing — and he said to me, ‘No, it’s all in my head.’”
With Lucas retiring, Kennedy needed to assemble a team that could not only inherit the empire he built, but follow that same formula that fused classic sci-fi, pop psychology, and personal conflicts and triumphs.
Some fans question why there was no “Based on” credit for Lucas in the poster for The Force Awakens.
Abrams does, too.
“I don’t know why it isn’t on the poster, but it’s a valid point. I’m sure that that will be a credit in the film,” the director says. “We are standing on the shoulders of Episodes I through VI.”
The entire CBS interview with Lucas will air in December.
For more Star Wars news, follow me @Breznican