Debunked: No. George Lucas Does Not Blame Kathleen Kennedy For Ruining 'Star Wars' Sequel Trilogy

Image credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

The current head of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, has become a polarizing figure among Star Wars fans. She may also be for others at Disney. As reported previously by Culture Slate, there have been constant rumors, mostly unfounded, about her imminent departure.

The current spin on this is that George Lucas himself wants to come back to Lucasfilm. He purportedly blames Kennedy for both the decline in movie sales and disarray behind the scenes. There are no direct quotes from reliable sources confirming any of this. Both Lucas and Kennedy have some of the most storied and interconnected careers in Hollywood. Their history of collaboration also makes this kind of statement unlikely.

Origin Stories

Kennedy got her break in the business as an assistant writer, first to John Milius, and then to Steven Spielberg. In previous interviews, both Spielberg and Kennedy humorously agreed she was a terrible typist. Spielberg kept her on as his assistant because she had such great ideas.

She and Frank Marshall joined Spielberg to co-found Amblin Entertainment in the early 1980s. Amblin Entertainment went on to be one of the most successful film-production houses to date. They produced mega-hits such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Gremlins, and The Goonies. Amblin Entertainment achieved critical acclaim with titles such as The Color Purple. They also created some of the most iconic franchises in cinematic history, including Back to the Future and Indiana Jones. More on that last one in a bit.

Marshall and Kennedy married in 1987. In 1992, Kennedy and her husband left Amblin Entertainment to co-found their own production house. The Kennedy/Marshall Company began life with a deal with DreamWorks, also co-founded by Spielberg. Kennedy continued her business relationship with Spielberg in other ways. She was a producer on what would become a new franchise, Jurassic Park. She also served as executive producer on Schindler's List.

Kennedy carved out her career during an era when women were rarely seen or welcome in Hollywood executive suites as leaders. She received a Crystal Award from the Women in Film in 1995. This award is bestowed upon women who have not only endured and thrived in Hollywood but have helped expand the role of women within the entertainment industry. She was awarded a Grimmy for her efforts in promoting young talent via her work with the National Student Film. She received many more accolades over the years, including eight Academy Awards Nominations to date.

Star Wars fans are no strangers to George Lucas's storied career. His directorial debut film was THX 1138 (1971). It flopped at the box office during its initial release. The film has grown in cult and critical status over the ensuing decades, with many noting its significance to our current era.

Lucas started his own film company in 1971, incorporating it as Lucasfilm Ltd, on Sept 12, 1977. The Star Wars franchise is not the only epic series to come from Lucasfilm. The company also produced the first three Indiana Jones films. These early films were written by Lucas and directed by Steven Spielberg. Kathleen Kennedy was aligned as an associate and later associate producer for all three. Her work for Indiana Jones went beyond producer duties. She even appeared in the opening scenes of Temple of Doom as one of the dancers. Anything goes, indeed. Indiana Jones marked the start of a collaboration between Lucas and Kennedy for the next 40 years.

The Disney Era

As the 2010s began, Lucas was contemplating his retirement. In 2012, Lucas named Kennedy as his co-chair at Lucasfilm. Lucas personally chose Kennedy to take over after the $4 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney in 2012 because of their shared history. In the original press release, Lucas stated, "…for me Kathy was the obvious choice, she is a trusted friend and one of the most respected producers and executives in the industry." Because of this exciting new role, Kennedy stepped down as co-head of The Kennedy/Marshall Company, leaving it to her husband, Marshall, to continue its upcoming productions.

The initial contract for Kennedy at Disney was to end in 2018. It was extended to 2021. During the Disney era, Lucasfilm released several new Star Wars movies. Three of the films carried the Skywalker saga to its end. Stand-alone movies set in the same universe were also released. Though the acting and action were superb, the storylines themselves felt incomplete to many fans and critics. They were, for the most part, considered a disappointment in content.

Even with all of this criticism heaped on the movies, all three core Skywalker saga films still garnered well over $1 billion at the box office worldwide. The profit story was not the same for the two live-action stand-alone films. Only Rogue One was considered a success while the movie Solo barely broke even.

Lucas was concerned, like everyone else, about this potential downward trend of his beloved franchise. He likely holds Kennedy responsible. He also knows that Kennedy holds herself responsible and accountable too. After all, she is an executive leader with 40 plus years of experience. Every success and failure of Lucasfilm rests on her shoulders.

Many point to some of the last-minute production and directorial changes on several movies as signs of an internal power struggle or worse. However, that can happen for several reasons. None of which are because an executive leader is histrionic as has been implied. Kennedy's contract has the option of renewal in 2021. She may be asked to stay on to fix the issues within Lucasfilm or she may choose, at that time, to step down and pursue her own passion projects. She has certainly earned that right.

To imply that Lucas wants her out shows how little the rumor mill understands and respects their four-decade collaboration and friendship. Lucas trusts Kennedy as a competent Hollywood leader. Instead, he will very likely give her the support she needs to right the Lucasfilm ship.  

 

Comments