George Lucas is still apparently not over his “breakup” with Star Wars.
In an interview with Charlie Rose last weekend, the 71-year-old billionaire filmmaker used that word to describe how he felt about being left out of the process in creating the latest installment of the Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens, and likened Disney’s acquisition of the brand to “white slavers” taking his children.
“These are my kids. All the Star Wars movies,” Lucas told Rose of the first six installments of the space adventure franchise. “I love them, I created them, I’m very intimately involved with them.”
“And I sold them to the white slavers that take these things and…” he added before trailing off.
During the interview, Lucas suggested that Soviet Union filmmakers had more freedom than American filmmakers because Hollywood has “to adhere to a very narrow line of commercialism.”
“The other thing that got abused — naturally, in a capitalist society — especially in the American point of view — the studios said, ‘Wow, we can make a lot of money. This is a license to kill.’ And they did it,” the filmmaker lamented. “And of course the only way you can do that is to not take chances. Only do something that’s proven.”
When Disney purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012, the company decided to keep Lucas on as a consultant but had its own ideas for the direction of a new trilogy. That rankled the veteran filmmaker, who created and directed the original 1977 Star Wars, served as executive producer on its sequels, and then returned years later to direct the trilogy of prequels. Lucas said Disney was not “that keen to have me involved” in the series reboot, even though he had apparently been working on a screenplay for another film shortly before he sold the franchise.
“They decided they didn’t want to use those stories,” Lucas told Rose. “They decided they were going to do their own thing. So I decided, ‘Fine.'”
But Lucas said he wasn’t happy with the direction The Force Awakens took.
“They wanted to do a retro movie. I don’t like that,” he said. “Every movie, I worked very hard to make them different, make them completely different with different planets, different spaceships, you know, to make it new… You do end up with this thing, which is, you know, you got to live with it. People are gonna talk about it and all that kind of stuff. It’s like talking about your divorce or something. It’s just awkward, but it’s not painful.”
After Lucas’ “white slavers” comment bounced around the media, the filmmaker quickly issued a lengthy apology:
“I want to clarify my interview on the Charlie Rose Show,” he said in a statement. “It was for the Kennedy Center Honors and conducted prior to the premiere of the film. I misspoke and used a very inappropriate analogy and for that I apologize.”
I have been working with Disney for 40 years and chose them as the custodians of Star Wars because of my great respect for the company and Bob Iger’s leadership. Disney is doing an incredible job of taking care of and expanding the franchise. I rarely go out with statements to clarify my feelings but I feel it is important to make it clear that I am thrilled that Disney has the franchise and is moving it in such exciting directions in film, television and the parks. Most of all I’m blown away with the record breaking blockbuster success of the new movie and am very proud of JJ [Abrams] and Kathy [Kennedy, the film’s producer].
Star Wars: The Force Awakens has grossed more than $650 million domestically in the two weeks since its release, and more than $1.2 billion worldwide. The film is holding its momentum through the holidays and could dethrone Avatar ($1.8 billion) to become the highest-grossing film of all time.
Check out Lucas’ complete interview with Charlie Rose here.