There's a snippet of Star Wars behind-the-scenes footage that I think about a lot. I first encountered it in the documentary The People vs. George Lucas, but I'm sure it's also floating around elsewhere: It's Lucas, walking around on what is supposed to be the day he begins scripting The Phantom Menace. He gathers a yellow legal pad and a box of his favorite pencils, then drops them on a desk and sits down. He sighs and says "All I need now is an idea."
Imagine if you'd seen that before the prequels came out. After years of fandom mythologizing those stories as something Lucas had carefully planned and waited to produce, here he was confronting a blank page. How does that happen?
It happened because Lucas, even when aware of the overall story, was constantly refining and reshaping his saga as he went. In the Disney era, there's a feeling that Lucas' individualistic process is a thing of the past. Now things have to be very carefully controlled via corporate mandate, right? Executives have to know exactly where the story is going years in advance to protect the cross-brand synergy of the Star Wars profit machine. The public impression of the process is helped along by the existence of the Lucasfilm Story Group, a team created to ensure narrative consistency across films, TV, comics, games and more. With all of that in mind, scripting Star Wars now has to feel a little like a paint-by-numbers job, right?
Not according to The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson.
In the days after Vanity Fair's epic preview story on his addition to the saga was released, Johnson fielded several fan questions on Twitter about his plans going forward. Among them was this rather definitive response when asked if some of the Last Jedi story was planned before he was brought on (unfortunately, the account that asked the questions is not available):
Pablo Hidalgo, a Lucasfilm Story Group member who regularly engages with fans on Twitter, added his thoughts on the process.
So it would seem that, even in the age of Disney, there's still a lot of spontaneous creativity going on in the Star Wars world. Hidalgo's point is particularly important, as it reminds us all that Lucas and his collaborators didn't have things all figure out, either. The age of the shared universe has changed the way a lot of blockbusters are made, of course, but there's not substitute for what can happen when you hire the right people and they bang the story out when the time comes. And besides, imagine how crestfallen you'd be if someone hired you and said, "We want you to add your personal stamp to this franchise you love," then when you got to work they handed you a folder and said, "Here's the exact plot, and you cannot deviate from this at all. Also, General Hux and Poe Dameron are in love and you can't change it. Good luck!"
George Lucas sold his saga to Disney with the express wish that a new generation of filmmakers would continue to shape and refine it going forward. So far, Disney is letting that happen, and the story is not yet being dictated by a boardroom.
(Via Star Wars News Net)