Disney CEO Bob Iger Told JJ Abrams Star Wars: The Force Awakens Was a $4 Billion Movie

Variety is teasing a cover feature that will profile Bob Iger, the longtime CEO of Disney credited with the company's massive success in his decade-plus as chair, including the purchase of three huge brands: Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm. The last of those purchases included the storied Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, with plans laid out almost immediately for no less than six all-new Star Wars films directly after the purchase four years ago.

The first of those films would be the seventh episodic film in the "Skywalker Saga," now known as Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The film would launch a new Sequel Trilogy, continuing the stories of Han Solo, Leia Organa, and Luke Skywalker, now thirty years removed from their victory with the Rebel Alliance over the Galactic Empire in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. It also had to introduce the next generation of heroes (and villains), bringing in Daisy Ridley's Rey (the first true female lead in a Star Wars film), John Boyega's Finn, and Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron to face down the threat of Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver. Oh - and the pressure was on director J.J. Abrams to not just revive the franchise, but to make the purchase pay off for Disney.

Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger sat down with J.J. Abrams for a conversation, and they recalled one of their earlier meetings, where the pair talked about Star Wars right when Abrams was ready to sign on.

"I reminded you that it was a $4 billion acquisition," Iger said to Abrams. "Well you said 'this is a four billion dollar movie,'" Abrams recalled. Iger laughed and said, "Exactly, I said this is a $4 billion movie, you may be going off and spending a few hundred million here and there..."

The pressure was on. "Listen kid, this isn't just any movie, it's a big responsibility. That was the father in me, maybe," Iger said, sounding like he's right out of Star Wars. "I was also trying to telegraph to you that because of the size of the acquisition and what this film represented in terms of importance and value creation, you can expect that this is not going to be treated like any old film from Disney."

Well, the bet (and the pressure) paid off. When the second teaser trailer for the film debuted, ending in the now iconic line "Chewie, we're home" uttered by Harrison Ford's Han Solo on the famous spacecraft the Millennium Falcon, Disney's stock valuation raised by $2 billion in twenty-four hours. That's half their purchase price of Lucasfilm earned back by 90 seconds of Star Wars: The Force Awakens footage. The film itself clocked in at $2.068 billion in worldwide gross and set over 30 box office records.

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(Photo: Lucasfilm)

Abrams praised the "terrific collaboration" of working with Iger, and their work has set the stage for future Star Wars success. December 16, 2016 sees the launch of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story from director Gareth Edwards, the first of the new standalone films that will be released in even years, with Star Wars: Episode VIII (not official title) from writer/director Rian Johnson hitting December 15, 2017, continuing the Saga films in odd years. A Han Solo standalone film featuring a younger version of the character played by Alden Ehrenreich and directed by Chris Miller and Phil Lord hits after that, with Episode IX coming from Colin Trevorrow.

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