In May 2011, while working on Disney theme park rides — namely “Star Tours 3D,” the best ride ever — George Lucas took a breakfast with Disney CEO Bob Iger at the Brown Derby and was approached to sell Lucasfilm to the monstrous mouse. At the time, Lucas wasn’t ready to sell. He was worried about losing creative control over his precious galaxy that is so very far, far away. But, told Iger “…when I am, I’d love to talk.”
What the shrewd businessman did next was very impressive. Lucas kicked the creation of “Star Wars” 7, 8, and 9 into high gear by writing treatments for the new trilogy. He also decided to step down as CEO of Lucasfilm, handing over his lightsaber to longtime Spielberg producer Kathleen Kennedy. Kennedy and Lucas then hired “Toy Story” screenwriter Michael Arndt to pen the script for “Episode VII”. And if that wasn’t enough, he approached Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill to reprise their roles in the new movies. He told Bloomberg Businessweek:
We had already signed Mark and Carrie and Harrison—or we were pretty much in final stages of negotiation. So I called them to say, ‘Look, this is what’s going on.’?” He pauses. “Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. I think they want to announce that with some big whoop-de-do, but we were negotiating with them.” Then he adds: “I won’t say whether the negotiations were successful or not.”
THEN, after building a buzz that elevated Wall Street’s excitement about Lucasfilm, George dialed up Iger and told him, “I’m ready to sell my baby!” And 4 billion bucks later, we’ve got “Episode VII” on the way, a bunch of solo films, J.J. Abrams as a director, and more rumors than you shake some tauntaun guts at.
Lucas was so protective of the new films that only Bob Iger, Disney chairman Alan Horn, and Executive VP Kevin Mayer were allowed to see his notes after the deal was signed. But, as reported by Bloomberg Businessweek, Lucas will really have zero say over what happens with “Star Wars” in the end. Lucas said:
I had a group of very, very talented people that had worked for the company for many, many years and really knew how to market Star Wars, how to do the licensing and make the movies,” Lucas explains. “I said, ‘I think it would be wise to keep some of this intact. We need a few people to oversee the property, you know, who are just dedicated to doing that, so we’re sure we get this right.
But, Alan Horn said he told an emotional Lucas:
We needed to have an understanding that if we acquire the company, despite tons of collegial conversations and collaboration, at the end of the day, we have to be the ones who sign off on whatever the plans are.
Yes, George Lucas is good at making a lot of money, but when it comes down to it, “Star Wars” is gone. It’s in the hands of another. In his eyes, his legacy — despite what we may think of he’s done to it on his own — could be tarnished. Before the deal went down, Lucas wanted to remind Iger of one important fact. Iger recalled:
George said to me once that when he dies, it’s going to say ‘Star Wars creator George Lucas’.
Right before he shared with Bloomberg Businessweek, his Halloween costume following the deal, “I was Darth Vader.”
Here’s hoping for the best. For George’s sake.