If you love nonfiction, chances are you’ve heard of the Bob Iger memoir Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company. Much of the Disney executive’s story focuses on his life both before and after taking over the House of Mouse. Yet, perhaps one of the most interesting details in the Bob Iger memoir is about George Lucas. In the book, Iger talks about how Lucas felt “betrayed” by the direction the Star Wars franchise took when J.J. Abrams brought Episode VII to life in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While this makes for a great headline, what does the Bob Iger memoir actually say about this feeling of betrayal? Let’s dive into the details.
The Bob Iger Memoir and George Lucas
Image by Little Lost Robot via Wikimedia Commons
Iger discusses in detail the thought process behind buying not just Lucasfilm but the three outlines George Lucas wrote for the sequel trilogy. Iger notes that they purchased these quasi-treatments not because they wanted to use them but rather out of a sense of “obligation.” Yet, there existed no contractual obligation for the studio to use these outlines when planning their own take on the final installments of the Skywalker Saga. Later, Lucas met with Abrams, screenwriter Michael Arndt, and his hand-picked successor as the head of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy. During this meeting, Lucas realized the film they planned differed from his blueprint.
Bob Iger writes in his memoir:
“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. 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.”
Lucas himself likened watching Disney take over the Star Wars franchise as seeing an “ex” with a new partner. (He also called Disney “white slavers,” a comment he later apologized for.) Iger speculates that no matter what they did, Lucas would be conflicted by not being in control of a Star Wars story for the first time. Iger notes this “would never have been easy” for Lucas, but said the meeting was “an unnecessarily rocky start.”
So, This Means George Lucas Hates Disney’s Star Wars, Right?
Image by Joi Ito, via Flickr Creative Commons
Any Star Wars movie will face some fan backlash, just like any beloved pop culture property. For The Force Awakens, the criticism around the film matched the disappointment Lucas felt. When he saw the finished film for the first time, Lucas complained that both visually, technologically, and narratively, the film did nothing “new.” Of course, George Lucas himself said that Star Wars sagas are, ideally, “like poetry” and should “rhyme” with what came before. Yet, in his opinion, Episode VII was a cover of an old song rather than a new one inspired by it. Yet, Disney had to make new Star Wars feel like old Star Wars. The prequel renaissance only just began, and Disney wanted to avoid the drama from fans that inspired documentaries like The People vs. George Lucas. (Whoops.) Ironically, the largest amount of Star Wars fan-hate gets directed not Episode VII, but Episode VIII.
Some fans feel that director Rian Johnson, Kennedy, and Iger “destroyed” the character of Luke Skywalker. (They didn’t.) Interestingly, Bob Iger doesn’t reveal Lucas’s feelings about The Last Jedi in the memoir. Yet, we know from The Art of the Last Jedi book, that Rian Johnson actually did use a lot of what Lucas put in his outline. The specific detail that Lucas provided came in the form of Luke as a disaffected mentor who bowed out of Galactic drama. What Lucas felt “betrayed” by was not so much the story of a young woman with force talent embarking on an adventure, but rather how closely the first Disney film evoked A New Hope. Also, as a storyteller with an idea already about where the story should go, Lucas is like every other Star Wars fan angry that Disney didn’t follow their “head-canon.”
The Rise of Skywalker and What’s Next for Star Wars
The original saga will come to a close in December’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Abrams returns to the director’s chair, and the pressure is on. He must tell a compelling original story, while wrapping up six movies’ worth of story as well. Any hard feelings Lucas has with the new trilogy likely comes more from him not writing or directing them than anything else. Lucas said in many interviews that he sold Lucasfilm in order to secure the future of his employees, because he no longer wanted to make films with broad commercial appeal. Reading between the lines, this means he wanted to finish his Star Wars saga. Yet, the Star Wars of it all is what made Lucasfilm worth the $4 billion price Disney paid. Once Episode IX debuts, Disney and Lucasfilm will put the Skywalkers away for some time.
Yet, this doesn’t mean that the influence of George Lucas will be gone from Star Wars. Other than the film, the most hotly anticipated Star Wars offering will be The Mandalorian. The first Star Wars live-action series produced, Lucas’ fingerprints will be all over it. Dave Filoni worked closely with Lucas during the first run of The Clone Wars. Filoni learned how Lucas thought, both about stories and the concepts in Star Wars like the Force. Now, he’s in the position Lucas once held, teaching a generation of padawans to become Jedi themselves.
What do you think about what Bob Iger wrote in his memoir about Lucas’s feelings? Let us know in the comments or shout us out on social media.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.