In August 1977, an unusually jaunty George Lucas gave an interview to Rolling Stone about his surprise summer blockbuster, Star Wars. He was full of ideas for what to do with his newfound wealth; he’d just funded a comic shop that sold original art, and was mulling a store that sold burgers and diabetic ice cream.
How about more Star Wars movies? Eh. He’d let friends like Steven Spielberg direct the next ones, Lucas said. He was only interested in directing the closing chapter in the Skywalker saga, which at the time he imagined would run to about 9 episodes.
“I want to do the last one,” Lucas said, “so I can do one twice as good as everyone else.”
“I want to do the last one,” Lucas said.
When the director of Star Wars Episode IX, Colin Treverrow, was dumped by Lucasfilm Tuesday, I tweeted Lucas’ 1977 quote as if he were throwing his hat in the ring through a timewarp. A surprising number of fans were into the idea.
Even after the controversy over the prequels, a surprising number of fans are into the idea of the Creator returning to save his franchise in its hour of need, fulfilling his 40-year-old prophecy.
Cool your jets, flyboys.
There are some very good reasons why this 72-year-old would not want the job of directing Episode IX — even though there’s one big reason why he should.
1. He’d have to answer to Kathy Kennedy.
Once she was but the learner, now she is the master.
Kathleen Kennedy, whom Lucas appointed president of Lucasfilm before he sold the shop to Disney in 2012, is an old friend from Raiders of the Lost Ark days. But she’s also fully prepared to put her foot down when it comes to directors who stubbornly insist on their vision over hers.
Josh Trank, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and now Colin Trevorrow all found out they’re not the boss of her. Gareth Edwards was allowed to stay on as director of Rogue One, but only because he agreed to largely step aside during months of reshoots and re-editing.
That ain’t George’s style — in fact, when Hollywood execs cut scenes from his early movies, he compared it to having his child’s fingers sliced off.
Neither Lucas nor Kennedy are likely to want to put their friendship in jeopardy with this kind of uncomfortable relationship — as if their little museum competition wasn’t awkward enough. Far better that he remain the “Yoda on my shoulder,” as Kennedy called him after the Disney sale.
2. He doesn’t play well with writers.
On the first two movies he directed, THX 1138 and American Graffiti, George Lucas was desperate that anyone but himself write the script. But the pages he got back from other writers convinced him that he had to do it himself. On Star Wars, Lucas allowed friends to rewrite large chunks of the dialogue, but by the time it came to the prequels, not even his Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi co-writer Lawrence Kasdan could be persuaded to help the creator craft his vision.
Reportedly, Star Wars Episode IX just brought on Jack Thorne, the playwright who brought us Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, to rewrite Colin Trevorrow’s initial script. We don’t see Lucas playing nicely with him, either.
3. He’s mad that Disney dumped his sequel trilogy ideas.
Part of what the Mouse House bought when it paid $4.06 billion for Lucasfilm were Lucas’ script treatments for Episodes VII through IX. We still don’t know what was in those treatments, but Lucas himself glumly revealed his treatments were dumped.
A year later, after the release of The Force Awakens, Lucas told Charlie Rose he’d sold his franchise to “white slavers” — a remark for which he soon apologized. But the rest of his comments are telling:
They weren’t that keen to have me involved anyway — but 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 to do that anymore, and all I would do is muck everything up. And so I said ‘OK, I will go my way, and I’ll let them go their way.’
4. He’s kinda busy right now.
The passion project of Lucas’ retirement years is the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which will house his most impressive collection of paintings. After false starts in San Francisco and Chicago, this billion-dollar building is finally about to break ground near his alma mater, USC, in Los Angeles.
Estimated completion date is 2021, which means Lucas is knee-deep in architectural renderings right about now. The current design has a rather unfortunate look that may need a little tweaking.
Does he still have a directorial itch he wants to scratch? Sure. But that’s really about the kind of “small, personal films” he used to make at USC, and to which he has long threatened to return — because believe it or not, Lucas is an indie director at heart. Rumors from inside Lucasworld suggests he’s finally tinkering with them.
5. He’s done with the fans.
This is the big one. Lucas, a shy and defensive guy at the best of times, was mortified by the response to the prequels. He couldn’t believe fans would move from attacking films they didn’t like to saying the maker of them “raped their childhood“; he decried the effects of the internet echo chamber.
“Why would I make any more [Star Wars movies],” Lucas asked the New York Times in 2012, “when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?”
Besides, Lucas has tried to shake the Star Wars beast twice already. He effectively killed the franchise in 1983 by wrapping everything up so neatly in Return of the Jedi that merchandise sales plummeted soon after; he had moved on to other projects and was fine with that.
In 2005, after Revenge of the Sith wrapped up what he called a six-movie “tragedy of Darth Vader” cycle, Lucas begged fans to move on and insisted that he’d never even had any ideas for Episodes VII through IX. He was only forced to come up with some to fulfill his desire to sell the company to Disney.
And yet …
As a storyteller like Lucas knows, the idea of a redemption arc is profoundly compelling.
A younger generation of fans is already reclaiming the prequels via Reddit memes, proving the internet isn’t such a hostile place after all. If Lucas came back for Episode IX and gave us a movie as widely loved and critically acclaimed as The Force Awakens or Rogue One, he would secure his legacy and wipe over memories of the prequels tearing fandom apart.
The idea of a redemption arc is profoundly compelling
Would he want to bring Jar Jar Binks back as a bit player? Maybe so — but he could also take some pride in filming the satisfyingly tragic end to the Binks narrative that we’ve recently seen in the world of Star Wars novels.
And for a guy who made the prequels revolve around a prophecy of “bringing balance to the Force,” there would no doubt be tremendous satisfaction in fulfilling his own prediction from four decades ago that he would direct the last sequel and make it “twice as good.”
Will Episode IX be the last? As far as Lucasfilm is concerned, it currently is; Kennedy has said the company is considering making each Star Wars film beyond that a standalone in the style of Rogue One or the upcoming Han Solo film.
We could see the continuing adventures of Rey and friends without making it an episode in the Skywalker saga — especially as it looks increasingly likely that she’s no Skywalker. Besides, Lucasfilm is kind of done with that Roman numeral numbering system, as shown by the fact that neither Episode VII nor Episode VIII were marketed with that title.
Han Solo is dead. Leia Organa, the late Carrie Fisher, will get her swan song in The Last Jedi. The only original trilogy hero likely left for Episode IX is Luke Skywalker. And who better to bring his story to completion than the guy who put himself into the character in the first place?
Think of it, the last scenes with Luke S. directed by Lucas. Talk about dropping the mic.