How do you really feel, George Lucas?
The Star Wars creator took aim at The Walt Disney Company during a recent interview with Charlie Rose. Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney for $4 billion in 2012. The first film to be released after the sale, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, earned over $1 billion worldwide in record time.
Lucas, who directed four of the Star Wars six films released between 1977 and 2005, explained how he decided to walk away from the blockbuster franchise. "I looked at the future, I looked at the fact that I was going to have a baby, I looked at the fact that I was married, and I looked at the fact that I wanted to build a museum, and I looked at the fact that I wanted to make experimental films. So, my life was going on a different track," the filmmaker told Rose on the CBS program. "I noticed the last few movies that I'd made were costing the company a lot of money and I didn't think that was fair to the people that worked there or the company. So, I made a decision to move ahead on the next Star Wars series and we were starting to do that."
"We were working with a writer—it wasn't quite working out—but I was also...you know, I was also stepping away a little bit and turning things over to Kathy Kennedy," he said. At the time, Lucas had been talking about retirement with Disney's Bob Iger, who told him, "'If you really want to sell it, we're very interested.'" According to Lucas, that conversation put the sale in motion. "I had the story treatments outlined and we were working on scripts. So, I sold it, but I knew when I sold it, I said, 'I've tried to make movies where I step away—Empire and Return of the Jedi—and after about a couple weeks I knew I couldn't do that. I had to stand over the shoulder of the director, help him, whisper in his ear constantly, 'No, do this. Do that.' And be there to help guide it," he told Rose. "It was much harder than if I had just directed it myself."
Disney "was a little nervous," Lucas said.
"One of the issues was the first three movies had all kinds of issues. They looked at the stories and they said, 'We want to make something for that fans.' I said, 'All I wanted to do was tell a story of what happened.' You know, it started here and it went there. It's all about generations, and it's about the issues of fathers and sons and grandfathers. It's a family soap opera. I mean, ultimately. We call it a space opera but people don't realize it's actually a soap opera and it's all about family problems. It's not about spaceships," he said. "They decided they didn't want to use those stories. They decided they were going to go do their own thing, so I decided, 'Fine.'"
According to Lucas, Disney wasn't "that keen to have me involved anyway."
"At the same time I said, 'I'm not gonna…If I get in there, I'm just going to cause trouble because they're not going to do what I want them to do and I don't have the control do that anymore, and all it would do is muck everything up.' So I said, 'OK, I will go my way and let them go their way.' And it really does come down to a simple rule of life, which is when you break up with somebody, the first rule is no phone calls," Lucas said. "The second rule, you don't go over to their house and drive by to see what they're doing. The third thing is you don't show up at their coffee shop or their thing like you're going to run it. You just say, 'No! Gone! History! I'm moving forward.' Because every time you do...something like that, you're opening the wound again, and it just makes it harder for you. You have to put it behind you, and it's a very, very hard thing to do. But you have to just cut it all off and say, 'OK, end of all game. I've got to move on.'"
"Everything in your body says, 'Don't. You can't,'" he said of parting with the Star Wars series. "These are my kids. I loved them. I created them. I'm very intimately involved with them."
And yet, Rose noted, "You sold them."
"I sold them to the white slavers that take these things, and..." Lucas said with a laugh.
Asked to share his opinion on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Lucas said, "J.J. Abrams, he's a good director, a good friend." However, he admitted that he would have taken the series in a different direction that Abrams and Disney decided to go. "They wanted to do a retro movie. I don't like that," he told Rose. "Every movie, I worked very hard to make them different. I made them completely different—different planets, different spaceships to make it new."