Disney CEO: Star Wars creator George Lucas 'felt betrayed' by sequel approach

Bob Iger's memoir reveals how Lucas really felt about the first in the franchise's sequel trilogy.

Jennifer Bisset Former Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
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Jennifer Bisset
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Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Media Preview At The Disneyland Resort

George Lucas (left) and Bob Iger at the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Media Preview at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California.

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George Lucas hasn't exactly hidden his feelings about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first in the franchise's sequel trilogy. In 2015, when the movie came out, he very carefully said, "I think the fans are going to love it." That was the same year he'd said Disney's handling of his films, which he referred to as "kids," made him feel like he'd "sold them to the white slavers."

Now, four years later, Disney CEO Bob Iger is reliving Lucas' disappointment all over again. Lucas "didn't hide his disappointment" over The Force Awakens, Iger said in his autobiographical memoir Iger's The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, released Monday.

Lucas felt there was "nothing new" about the sequel directed by J.J. Abrams. 

"In each of the films in the original trilogy, it was important to [Lucas] to present new worlds, new stories, new characters, and new technologies. In this one, he said, 'There weren't enough visual or technical leaps forward,'" Iger said.

But now we also know how Iger feels about Lucas' take.

"He wasn't wrong, but he also wasn't appreciating the pressure we were under to give ardent fans a film that felt quintessentially Star Wars.

"We'd intentionally created a world that was visually and tonally connected to the earlier films, to not stray too far from what people loved and expected, and George was criticizing us for the very thing we were trying to do."

Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4.05 billion. In 2015, The Force Awakens arrived and mostly fared well with critics and fans. However, some found it derivative of the original trilogy, and Lucas apparently had his own issues with it. 

"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 wrote. "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. 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."

Added Iger: "George felt betrayed, and while this whole process would never have been easy for him, we'd gotten off to an unnecessarily rocky start."

The next big Star Wars release will be The Mandalorian series, arriving on Disney Plus Nov. 12. Then we get The Rise of Skywalker, the final movie in the sequel trilogy, arriving Dec. 20.

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Originally published Sept. 23. 
Update, Sept. 24, 1:13 p.m. PT: Adds more quotes from the memoir.