The Force Awakens, the first instalment in the ongoing Star Wars sequel trilogy, was directed, co-produced and co-written by Abrams. Released in 2015, it was the first Star Wars movie made after Disney’s 2012 purchase of LucasFilm.
In December 2015, the month The Force Awakens was released, Lucas likened Disney to “white slavers” in an interview with Charlie Rose (and later apologised for the analogy) and said he didn’t like the movie's “retro” feel.
“It’s probably a complicated thing for him. To decide you’re going to sell this thing that you created, that was your baby, to anyone – that must be more complicated than signing a check and smiling about it,” Abrams added. “But he’s been incredibly gracious. He’s been super-generous.”
Abrams, who went on to direct the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker, said he and Lucas “talked through a ton of different ideas and stories” when working on The Force Awakens.
“And we’ve done nothing but try and adhere to some fundamental aspects of the story,” Abrams said.
“It wasn’t a difficult thing to try and do. And again, he was really gracious. So I’m only grateful.
“Do I wish that [Force Awakens] had been his favourite movie of all time? Yes, I only wanted to do well by him. I would just say that I have nothing but profound respect for the guy and am still truly, even more so now, working on these movies in awe of what he created.”
In his Charlie Rose interview, Lucas, referring to the previous Star Wars films as his “kids”, said: “I sold them to the white slavers that take these things, and...” He didn’t finish his sentence and laughed instead.
Lucas also criticised the approach in The Force Awakens, telling Rose: “They wanted to do a retro movie. I don’t like that. Every movie, I worked very hard to make them different. I make them completely different – different planets, different spaceships to make it new.”
The filmmaker later apologised for his “white slavers” remarks, saying in a statement: “I misspoke and used a very inappropriate analogy and for that I apologise.
“I have been working with Disney for 40 years and chose them as the custodians of Star Wars because of my great respect for the company and [Disney CEO] Bob Iger’s leadership. Disney is doing an incredible job of taking care of and expanding the franchise.
“I rarely go out with statements to clarify my feelings but I feel it is important to make it clear that I am thrilled that Disney has the franchise and is moving it in such exciting directions in film, television and the parks.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the final instalment in the sequel trilogy, will be released on 19 December, 2019 in the UK and 20 December in the US.