Bob Iger’s new memoir “The Ride of a Lifetime” (now available on Amazon) was just released yesterday and in it, the CEO chronicles the significant influence he had on The Walt Disney Company over the past 15 years. But what he also reveals in the book are some bumps along his path, including details about the company’s decision to move forward with the Star Wars trilogy in a much different direction from what George Lucas had originally set forth–which Iger says left the Star Wars creator feeling “upset” and “betrayed.”
The Walt Disney Company first acquired Lucasfilm back in 2012 in a massive deal worth over $2.2 billion. As part of the major purchase, the company took complete ownership of the “Star Wars” franchise, including the creative abilities to take the film series in any direction they saw fit–and the first step the company took upon acquisition was completely altering the direction of the series. Specifically, by not picking up from where Lucas had left off.
“At some point in the process, George told me that he had completed outlines for three new movies. He agreed to send us three copies of the outlines: one for me; one for [Walt Disney Company Senior Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary] Alan Braverman; and one for [Co-Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Walt Disney Studios] Alan Horn, who’d just been hired to run our studio,” Iger recounts. “Alan Horn and I read George’s outlines and decided we needed to buy them, though we made clear in the purchase agreement that we would not be contractually obligated to adhere to the plotlines he’d laid out.”
Iger continues: “He knew that I was going to stand firm on the question of creative control, but it wasn’t an easy thing for him to accept. And so 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’ ideas), but like the outlines, we would be under no obligation.”
In the book, Iger then discusses one specific meeting between himself, George Lucas, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, and screenwriter Michael Arndt to discuss the next 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 recalls in the book.
“The truth was, Kathy, [The Force Awakens writer-director] J.J. [Abrams], Alan, 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,” Iger continues. “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.”
Iger continues: “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.”
What are your thoughts on Bob Iger and the rest of the Lucasfilm team not moving forward with George Lucas’ plans for the “Star Wars” series? Let us know in the comments!