The ‘Net is still reeling from this week’s unanticipated announcement that Disney is acquiring Lucasfilm from Star Wars creator George Lucas for the sweet sum of $4 billion. Explicit details about a new trilogy (which Lucas will serve as a ‘creative consultant’ on, but neither write nor direct) are being kept firmly under-wraps right now, so a healthy chunk of the general discussion right now is centered around weighing the pros and cons of the Mouse House gaining control over Lucas’ sci-fi cash cow.
Luke Skywalker himself (a.k.a. Mark Hamill) has opened up about what little he does know for certain, with respect to the future of the property. Meanwhile, Lucas has announced his intention to donate his aforementioned $4 billion payment to charities that focus on improving education.
“Oh my gosh, what a shock that was! I had no idea that George was going to sell to Disney until I read it online like everybody else. He did tell us last summer about wanting to go on and do [Episodes] VII, VIII, and IX, and that [newly appointed Lucasfilm president] Kathleen Kennedy would be doing them… Yeah, last August, he asked Carrie and I to have lunch with him and we did. I thought he was going to talk about either his retirement or the Star Wars TV series that I’ve heard about… So when he said, “We decided we’re going to do Episodes VII, VIII, and IX,” I was just gobsmacked. “What? Are you nuts?!” [Laughs]”
The live-action show Hamill referenced is set during the years between the prequel and ‘original’ Star Wars trilogies; however, its future remains up in the air for the time being, despite reportedly having some 50 hours of script work finished and ready for production. Similarly, although Lucas previously authored treatments for a 12-part film saga, there are reports that Disney is instead opting for brand-new story material as the basis for a third trilogy (and beyond).
“I can see both sides of it. Because in a way, there was a beginning, a middle, and an end and we all lived happily ever after and that’s the way it should be — and it’s great that people have fond memories, if they do have fond memories. But on the other hand, there’s this ravenous desire on the part of the true believers to have more and more and more material. It’s one of those things: people either just don’t care for it or are passionate about it. I guess that defines what cult movies are all about…”
Hamill, for his part, doesn’t seem to anticipate that he’ll be involved with the new installments in any significant capacity – and, like everyone else, has somewhat mixed feelings about Disney’s acquisition of the SW property. On the one hand, the studio has achieved commercial and artistic success in taking a hands-off approach to Pixar and Marvel’s creative process, while supporting unconventional visions from storytellers such as Gore Verbinski (the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, Lone Ranger) and James Bobin (The Muppets).
On the other hand, the Mouse House is considered the epitome of the modern-day profit margin-driven studio system; ultimately, whoever writes and directs the new Star Wars trilogy has to bide by its mandate (with respect to what the ‘appropriate approach’ is). It’s kind of a metaphorical two-headed monster, in that regard.
Changing topics now: since Lucas has complete ownership of Lucasfilm, the $4.05 billion deal with Disney (which should be finalized by the year’s end), he also has final say on where the money goes. THR is reporting that the bulk of the proceeds will go to Lucas’ philanthropic efforts – be it in order to create a new foundation for the improvement of the U.S. education system or towards one of the organizations he has donated to in recent years. Those include the Film Foundation, Stand Up To Cancer, Make-A-Wish, and Edutopia (which he is the chairman for).
Here is an official statement from Lucas, on the matter:
“For 41 years, the majority of my time and money has been put into the company [Lucasfilm]. As I start a new chapter in my life, it is gratifying that I have the opportunity to devote more time and resources to philanthropy.”
More on the future of the Star Wars franchise as the story develops.