In his new book The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Robert Iger discusses, well, the lessons he’s learned from 15 years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company. He also wrote about the Marvel Cinematic Universe movie he’s most proud of (Black Panther), what Steve Jobs thought of Iron Man 2 (“It sucked”), and George Lucas’ impression of The Force Awakens. Giving up complete creative control of Star Wars couldn’t have been easy for Lucas (me thinks a studio would have sent a few notes about Attack of the Clones), and, as Iger wrote, “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’s ideas), but like the outlines, we would be under no obligation.”
And because — in Yoda speak — under no obligation, they were, Iger “discarded” most of Lucas’ ideas, which, understandably, did not sit well with the filmmaker.
“Early on, [producer Kathleen Kennedy] brought [director] J.J. [Abrams] and [writer] 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,” Iger wrote. “The truth was, Kathy, J.J., [Disney CCO Alan Horn], 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.” He continued:
“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.”
Lucas’ reaction when he saw The Force Awakens for the first time: “There’s nothing new… There weren’t enough visual or technical leaps forward.” (He’s not wrong?) Anyway, if I were George, I’d be pissed, too, if my nine-movie plan to have Boss Nass become King of the Galaxy was discarded. Mesa think what could have been.