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Disney Rejected George Lucas’s Star Wars Script 40 Years Before Buying His Company For $4 Billion

by : Hannah Smith on :
Disney Rejected George Lucas' Star Wars Script 40 Years Before Buying His Company For $4 BillionAlamy

It’s been almost a decade since Disney bought the rights to Star Wars in a blockbuster $4 billion deal, but the company wasn’t always so keen on the galaxy far far away…

In fact, despite partnering up by selling Lucasfilm to the Hollywood titans, George Lucas’s relationship with Disney has been anything but plain sailing, with the creator having revealed that his initial pitch for the first Star Wars movie was flat-out rejected by the studio’s execs back in the 1970s.

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It’s hard to imagine looking back that the first Star Wars movie was seen as anything other than a surefire hit, but the potential of the Skywalker, Solo, Leia and co. wasn’t immediately obvious to Hollywood’s tastemakers. Lucas’s self-penned script for the film that would become A New Hope was passed around a number of studios, and rejected by several before eventually being picked up by 20th Century Fox.

George Lucas (Alamy)Alamy

The rest is history, and the instant success of the film left the studios that passed on Lucas’s vision ruing their mistake, including Disney, which, according to Vanity Fair, in an ironic twist was among those to have decided that Star Wars wasn’t for them.

More than 35 years later, that fateful decision became one of the most costly mistakes in Hollywood history, when Disney sealed the deal to acquire Lucasfilm – and the rights to Star Wars along with it – for a whopping $4.08 billion.

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The continued popularity of the franchise thanks to the success of the most recent sequel trilogy and ongoing spin-off projects like The Mandalorian means that Disney has already made back the money it spent acquiring Star Wars in box office returns, but the real winner is still Lucas himself, who according to reports earlier this year has already been paid some $10 billion by Disney through share dividends.

George Lucas (Alamy)Alamy

Things could have been very different, with Lucas having initially been encouraged to sell the rights to Star Wars sequels and merchandise in return for an increased directors fee from Fox prior to the release of the first movie. He declined, convinced Fox to let him keep the rights, and ended up sitting on one of cinema’s biggest ever golden eggs.

But while Lucas’s shrewd decisions over the past four decades have made him incredibly wealthy, he’s not always been happy with the way Disney has treated both him and his creation.

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In a conversation with Charlie Rose following the release of The Force Awakens in 2015, Lucas revealed that he had plenty of ideas for how he wanted the sequel trilogy to pan out, but failed to see eye to eye with the studio’s vision for the franchise.

‘They weren’t that keen to have me involved,’ he said, referring to the original films as his ‘kids’, and criticised Disney for playing it safe.

George Lucas (Alamy)Alamy

‘They wanted to do a retro movie. I don’t like that. Every movie I work very hard to make them completely different, with different planets, with different spaceships, make it new,’ he said.

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Ultimately, Disney rejected a set of treatment scripts written by Lucas, with then-Disney CEO Bob Iger acknowledging a few years later that the series’ creator was left ‘betrayed’ by the studio, per Insider.

‘He was disappointed that his story was discarded,’ Iger wrote, and despite the billions banked by Lucas thanks to the popularity of the recent films, it’s easy to see why.

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Hannah Smith

Hannah is a London-based journalist covering news and features for UNILAD. She's especially interested in social and political activism.

Topics: Film and TV, Disney, Film, Lucasfilm, Now, Star Wars

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Vanity Fair
  1. Vanity Fair

    How Star Wars Began: As an Indie Film No Studio Wanted to Make