Following the announcement that Disney had purchased Lucasfilm, and intended to make a new batch of Star Wars movies, one question immediately came to the forefront of the discussion: what role would creator George Lucas play in the series going forward? In the original acquisition announcement, it was asserted that Lucas would serve as a “creative consultant” on future Star Wars movies (but not direct) with Amblin Entertainment co-founder, Kathleen Kennedy taking the role of Lucasfilm president (and unofficial franchise overseer).
As a result, when it was revealed that Star Trek series director J.J. Abrams was making the jump to a galaxy far, far way, fans began to wonder exactly how much influence Lucas would actually have as a “creative consultant.” Now, thanks to a brief interview with the Star Wars creator, we have a somewhat clearer idea. So, how involved will Lucas be in the development of Star Wars: Episode 7? Probably not very involved.
Access Hollywood caught up with the “retired” filmmaker after he accepted two Daytime Emmy awards for Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Outstanding Special Class Animated Program and Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program (David Tennant as droid Huyang). Despite a now-standard shy interview demeanor, Lucas politely answers questions about Star Wars: The Clone Wars and even jokes about the lack of awards he’s won over the years – in spite of his mega-box office success. However, when asked about the upcoming saga of Disney-backed Star Wars films, the director offered a surprising response – asserting that he has yet to discuss Star Wars: Episode 7 with Abrams.
Check out the interview with George Lucas below:
While Lucas offers a well-mannered excuse for the lack of communication (specifically, that Abrams has been busy promoting Star Trek Into Darkness), he goes on to assert that he’ll make himself available, when the Episode 7 filmmaker has “got some questions.”
Here’s the full quote:
“I have not spoken to J.J. He’s been busy with Star Trek, and I’m sure that he’ll let me know when he’s got some questions. So, you know, that’s all going well. Kathy tells me it’s working out great.”
While brief, the quote confirm prior reports that Lucas would not be regularly involved in the production – painting the picture that Lucas is not even in the core Episode 7 loop. No doubt, Abrams has been keeping busy with Star Trek interviews and promotion but he has been preparing his Star Wars: Episode 7 production – meaning that the gears are turning on this project and considering the script is already complete, it’s interesting to hear that the director has yet to sit down for further conversations with the franchise creator. Lucas’ comment about (Kathy) Kennedy “telling” him pre-production is going “great,” definitely implies that the Lucasfilm founder is an outsider on this one – on stand-by for questions from Abrams and receiving his updates from producers.
Plenty of fans expected that, despite his “creative consultant” role, the heavy-handed approach Lucas has taken with his prior Star Wars films (writing/directing the prequels and retooling the original trilogy ad nauseam), would mean that his position could be more hands-on than the title implies. It was easy enough to imagine that screenwriter Michael Arndt was hired to write a script based on early Lucas ideas and that J.J. Abrams was brought-on to bring that original vision to the big screen (especially since he implied that certain Star Wars: Episode 7 elements were “pre-arranged” before his recruitment). After all, it’s possible that Abrams hasn’t needed to sit down with Lucas – because Lucas could have already sat down with Arndt on numerous occasions.
However, it now sounds as if both the screenwriter and director have been given significantly more creative freedom – even if the story they intend to tell is based on ideas and characters that Lucas thought-up long ago (it could also be based on an existing Expanded Universe story or an entirely new direction). For Lucas, a major point of restructuring Lucasfilm and handing the property over to Disney was to ensure the long term viability of his fan-favorite characters and universe. So, it’s more likely that Lucas has used the deal as an opportunity to let go and really is just a consultant this time – an outside resource that J.J. Abrams will turn to when determining how to link Episode 7 to the first six entries (in terms of tone and bridging story material) or even in deciding how previously established characters might act in certain situations.
That should come as a relief to fans who feel that, despite creating one of the richest science fiction universes in movie history, Lucas was blinded by his vision and ultimately sullied the integrity of his Star Wars brand. The love/hate relationship is well-documented in the terrific 2010 film, The People vs. George Lucas (streaming free on Netflix) – with one of the biggest complaints being that the writer/director/producer refused to hand-off control of the Star Wars universe to other filmmakers.
Still, certain fans remain skeptical that J.J. Abrams was the right man for the job. However, hopefully, the director can present the best of both worlds: a fresh set of franchise eyes aided by Lucas’ immense knowledge of the universe to deliver a worthy Star Wars sequel – capable of pleasing longtime fans as well as a whole new generation of Jedi and Sith-lovers.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on Star Wars as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.
Star Wars: Episode 7 is set for release in 2015.