The Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger reports Rupert Murdoch, once the head of 20th Century Fox before Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of the company earlier this year, was “crazed” when Iger and Disney purchased George Lucas’ Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in 2012. Fox, under Murdoch, distributed Lucas’ six-movie Star Wars saga — 1977’s Star Wars through 2005’s Revenge of the Sith — and held the rights to A New Hope in perpetuity, even after the Disney purchase in 2012; Disney’s buyout of Lucasfilm subsequently brought a former powerhouse Fox franchise under its own roof, incensing Murdoch, who Iger says was “disappointed” Fox never thought to strike such a deal.
Speaking to the New York Times with “shy pride,” Iger said, “Rupert was crazed that we bought Lucas. They were the distributor of all of George’s movies, and he was very disappointed in his people. ‘Why didn’t you think of this?’”
Under Disney, Lucasfilm has produced 2015 franchise revival Star Wars: The Force Awakens — once the third highest-grossing film of all time with a $2.068 billion box office haul — $1.05 billion-grossing blockbuster Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and the $1.33 billion-grossing Force Awakens sequel Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Disney’s most recent Star Wars spinoff, the young Han Solo prequel Solo: A Star Wars Story, pulled in considerably less with $392 million worldwide. Disney will next end the Skywalker Saga with the J.J. Abrams-directed Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in December.
On Star Wars, Iger admitted to the Times Disney “might’ve put a little bit too much in the marketplace too fast.” Iger then said Disney’s storytelling capabilities are “endless because of the talent we have at the company, and the talent we have at the company is better than it’s ever been, in part because of the influx of people from Fox.”
It’s not the first time Iger has touched on a Star Wars slowdown. Last September, just months after Solo was a tepid performer at the box office, Iger told The Hollywood Reporter, “I made the timing decision, and as I look back, I think the mistake that I made — I take the blame — was a little too much, too fast.”
“You can expect some slowdown, but that doesn’t mean we’re not gonna make films,” Iger continued. “J.J. is busy making [Episode] IX. We have creative entities, including [Game of Thrones creators David] Benioff and [D.B.] Weiss, who are developing sagas of their own, which we haven’t been specific about. And we are just at the point where we’re gonna start making decisions about what comes next after J.J.’s. But I think we’re gonna be a little bit more careful about volume and timing. And the buck stops here on that.”
Lucasfilm next releases the Jon Favreau-created The Mandalorian to Disney+ when the streaming service launches November 12. The Rise of Skywalker opens December 20.