Hollywood Journalist Exposes BTS Chaos at Lucasfilm in Bombshell New Book

in Disney, Movies & TV

The Mandalorian in The Book of Boba Fett

Credit: Lucasfilm

Maureen Ryan, an entertainment journalist best known for her work with Vanity Fair, recently released her tell-all exposé titled Burn it Down, in which she had a particularly cutting criticism of Lucasfilm. And if her observations are accurate, Ryan’s surprising accusations against the company and, in particular, the working environment at Star Wars points to trouble ahead for the galaxy far, far away.

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
Credit: Lucasfilm

Followers of Lucasfilm have been quick to point out problems with Disney’s handling of the Star Wars IP ever since the House of Mouse purchased it from George Lucas in 2012 for a whopping $4.05 billion. And according to Ryan, things aren’t looking too good behind the scenes.

Star Wars has a reputation for being one of the most debated-over franchises in history. From fans disagreeing about the Disney-pioneered Sequel Trilogy to its treatment of legacy characters in newer Disney+ projects, it seems like George Lucas’ once-revolutionary universe is now turning into a battleground of clashing ideas, opinions, and agendas. 

Daisy Ridley as Rey Skywalker in 'Star Wars: Episode IX -- The Rise of Skywalker' (2019)
Credit: Lucasfilm

Kathleen Kennedy, the current president of Lucasfilm, has been a target of much of these criticisms. Still, the truth is, all major Hollywood studio heads have faced their fair share of scrutiny in recent years—with many of these tensions cultivating in the current WGA strike. Streaming, though advantageous for both studio execs and audiences, opens a whole new realm for writers and with it, a whole lot of problems.

Chicken Run poster, as Disney shocks fans with film festival releases
Credit: Disney

For one, IP now dominates major studios. Sequels, spinoffs, and reboots based on established franchises like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, How to Train Your Dragon, and the Marvel cinematic universe are taking over both the box office and the streaming game. These movies and TV shows are greenlit because they’re familiar to audiences or involve characters with strong brand recognition—not necessarily because they boast a compelling creative vision.

Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) Darth Maul (Ray Park) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) in the Duel of the Fates in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Credit: Lucasfilm

And Star Wars has not gone unaffected by this shift in media. In Burn it Down, Ryan details internal turmoil at Lucasfilm due to the company’s shift to IP-driven stories, which only hurts writers long-term. Lucasfilm, in particular, has tended to view its Disney+ TV shows as long-form movies, hiring people with filmmaking experience to helm them. But higher-ups fail to realize that the big and small screens are entirely different beasts, leading to frequent complaints of pacing problems and “filler” episodes in the recent batch of Star Wars TV shows.

This was particularly evident in the Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries, which was originally penned as a movie trilogy before being adapted to a Disney+ show to help expand the platform’s streaming catalog. However, Andor, on the other hand, has seemed to thrive, with creator Tony Gilroy and its leading actor Diego Luna praising the show’s long-form approach to storytelling.

Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) in 'Star Wars: Andor' (2022). Credit: Lucasfilm
Credit: Lucasfilm

Ryan also described a lack of professionalism behind the scenes at Lucasfilm, citing an anonymous source who was recruited to work on a project expanding Lucasfilm’s existing IP, presumably a Disney+ series. The source, called “Emma” in the book, found the job to be deeply frustrating, explaining that she’d been brought in to work for “Derek,” described as “a well-connected man who, in her opinion, didn’t know what he was doing.”

During her time working on this unknown Star Wars project, Derek “reliably generated chaos, subpar scripts, and other problems,” and Emma found herself confused by the initial job description, which claimed she’d have some creative influence—only for her to have virtually none.

Temuera Morrison as Boba Fett in 'The Book of Boba Fett'
Credit: Lucasfilm

“Subpar scripts” have certainly been an issue for the company in recent years, with many bashing Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Book of Boba Fett, the Sequel Trilogy, and even 2018’s Solo for having generic, messy plot lines that either dragged on for too long, contradicted previously-established lore, failed to build up its characters, or simply didn’t make much sense at all.

There’s also the issue of Lucasfilm executives, which the same “Emma” source claimed created a culture of micromanagement, with executives holding the real power in their productions—not creators. Emma recalled one particularly shocking incident in which she overheard executives recalls executives saying, “‘Well, I’m the showrunner,'” adding, “That’s how they see themselves.”

Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Credit: Lucasfilm

Diversity and inclusion continue to be an issue at Lucasfilm, with most, if not all, of its creative endeavors, being helmed by white men, despite Kathleen Kennedy’s efforts to include more women and people of color. Ryan cited Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkin’s Rogue Squadron movie, which remains in production limbo amid overlapping reports that the project was secretly scrapped altogether. It was one of the only Star Wars projects that was going to be directed by a woman.

Ryan’s mysterious source “Emma” source also recalled being told Lucasfilm didn’t particularly care about going over budget, hinting at the company’s overconfidence in its writers despite mixed box office results. She said of her experience, “It doesn’t matter how many mistakes are made or how incompetent some people are. Our budget doubled, and I’m sure it went up after I left. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Rey and Kylo Ren Lightsaber duel Star Wars
Credit: Lucasfilm

Sadly, this shocking new insight into the inner workings of Lucasfilm doesn’t come as much of a surprise, considering other Hollywood studios have long faced similar accusations for years.

Still, it’s important to note that Ryan’s memoir was written before the Obi-Wan miniseries was released, directed by Deborah Chow—a woman of color. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, a Pakistani-Canadian journalist, was also tapped to direct the upcoming Rey solo movie, which was announced at April’s Star Wars Celebration. Leslye Headland, the showrunner of Disney+’s The Acolyte, is also an openly queer woman who’s been outspoken about making her series a safe space for underrepresented communities.

Deborah Chow director
Credit: Lucasdfilm

All in all, these are signs of improvement, but it seems like Lucasfilm still has a lot of work to do when it comes to addressing these issues. If not, the consequences could be disastrous for the company and for the future of Star Wars as a whole.

What do you think of this recent criticism of Lucasfilm’s company culture? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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