George Lucas is best known for creating the Star Wars franchise, having directed the very first film from the saga, Star Wars: A New Hope, but he decided to stay away from the director’s chair for the next entries of the Original Trilogy – why? The Star Wars universe is in constant expansion, and in 1999 Lucas went back to it as director with Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and directed the following films in the prequel trilogy.
Star Wars is currently preparing for the last installment in the sequel trilogy, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which will mark the end of the Skywalker saga. Lucas has stayed away from the Sequel Trilogy, which has been mostly better received than the prequels. The original films, especially Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, are regarded as the best in the saga, and given the success of the first film, it seems odd that Lucas decided to not direct the sequels.
The Empire Strikes Back was directed by Irvin Kershner, and Return of the Jedi had Richard Marquand as director. Lucas decided not to go back to a galaxy, far, far away as director because he wanted to focus on his other production roles, as well as on his special effects company Industrial Light & Magic and financing the film. Given the success of A New Hope, Lucas financed the sequel himself through loans and the first film’s earnings, as he wanted to become independent from the Hollywood film industry. Once he had full control of his own universe, he started looking for a director, and approached his former professor, Irvin Kershner. Kershner initially refused, but was eventually convinced.
Kershner didn’t come back for Return of the Jedi, as he spent almost three years working on The Empire Strikes Back, and Lucas once again chose other commitments over directing another Star Wars film. After approaching many directors (including David Lynch and David Cronenberg), Lucas found his director in Richard Marquand. Lucas remained as executive producer, writer, editor, music producer, and co-director (second unit work) in both films, while being a constant on-set presence for Return of the Jedi in particular. Many fans blame the quality of the prequel trilogy on Lucas serving as director, and are glad he decided to step aside for what turned out to be two of the best entries in the saga.
Lucas last work as director was Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, having mostly stuck to writing and producing ever since. Lucas is set to produce Indiana Jones 5, scheduled for a 2021 release, the only big title among his projects during his semi-retirement from blockbuster films. Star Wars fans might chose not to imagine what The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi would have been like had Lucas directed them (especially after what happened with the prequel films), but in the end, they were possible thanks to him, and he was still heavily involved in them.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019