- Note: The following is based on the majority of the information publicly given by Lucas between 1978 and 1994 in regards to a sequel trilogy to the original trilogy.
- Hale: "What can you tell us about the new Star Wars films?"
- Kennedy: "Absolutely nothing. [Laughs]"
- Lucas: "Why are you asking questions that you know we can't answer?"
- ―Lynne Hale, Kathleen Kennedy, and George Lucas[src]
The sequel trilogy is the upcoming film trilogy sequel to the original trilogy. Following The Walt Disney Company's October 30, 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm Ltd. from George Lucas, Disney announced Star Wars Episode VII is scheduled for a 2015 release, with Star Wars Episode VIII and Star Wars Episode IX following every 2-3 years.
After the initial success of Star Wars, a sequel was inevitable, but over time, conflicting reports spread as to how many sequels were planned. In 1978, a Time magazine article reported that the newly formed Star Wars Corp. would be producing "Star Wars II, and then, count them, ten other planned sequels."
In 1979, director George Lucas said in an interview on the set of The Empire Strikes Back, "The first script was one of six original stories I had written in the form of two trilogies. After the success of Star Wars, I added another trilogy. So now there are nine stories. The original two trilogies were conceived of as six films of which the first film was number four." Lucas backed this up with a 1980 interview with the L.A. Reader, stating "Star Wars is really three trilogies, nine films... it won't be finished for probably another 20 years."
Based on early statements from Lucasfilm, this set of films would have taken place from approximately 40 years after the events depicted in Return of the Jedi. The series would have been Episodes VII, VIII, and IX.
The sequel trilogy was to feature Luke Skywalker as a Jedi Master in his sixties, passing on the torch to the next generation of Jedi, the dismantlement of the last remnants of the Galactic Empire and the rebuilding of the Galactic Republic. It would also have concerned the re-establishment of the Jedi Order, as foreshadowed by Yoda's line in Return of the Jedi, "Pass on what you have learned." According to a 1983 Time magazine article, its main theme would have been "the necessity for moral choices and the wisdom needed to distinguish right from wrong".
George Lucas mentioned the sequel trilogy in an interview published in Denise Worrell's 1983 book Icons: Intimate Portraits. In the chapter entitled "The Dark Side of George Lucas", Lucas is reported to have only a vague notion of what will happen in the three films of a sequel trilogy. He is quoted as saying "If the first trilogy is social and political and talks about how society evolves, Star Wars is more about personal growth and self realization, and the third deals with moral and philosophical problems. The sequel is about Jedi Knighthood, justice, confrontation, and passing on what you have learned."
|Source: Denise Worrell, ICONS:Intimate Portraits, as quoted on Epinions.com|
But he has only a vague notion of what will happen in the three films of the sequel . . . In the sequel Luke would be a sixty-year-old Jedi knight. Han Solo and Leia would be together…The sequel focuses mainly on Luke, and Lucas says Mark Hamill will have first crack at the part if he is old enough. 'If the first trilogy is social and political and talks about how society evolves,' Lucas says, 'Star Wars is more about personal growth and self realization, and the third deals with moral and philosophical problems. The sequel is about Jedi knighthood, justice, confrontation, and passing on what you have learned.'
One plot point of the sequel trilogy that has been incorrectly reported for years derives from a 1980 interview with George Lucas in Bantha Tracks. Lucas was asked what the third Star Wars trilogy was about and he said that "It deals with the character that survives Star Wars III and his adventures." This quote has led to speculation that a character from the prequel trilogy would be frozen at the end of Episode III, hibernate through the Galactic Civil War & be revived for Episode VII.
However, as Michael Kaminski points out in The Secret History of Star Wars, at the time this quote was made, The Empire Strikes Back was still being referred to as 'Star Wars II'. George Lucas was not actually referring to Episode III of the prequel trilogy, but rather, the third film of the original trilogy, i.e. Return Of The Jedi. It remains unknown who this character was intended to be, but it is unlikely that he/she did, in fact, appear in Return Of The Jedi in any form, given that Lucas had all but completely scrapped plans to make the sequel trilogy by that stage. The character is often referred to as being a villain when being discussed in the false context of it having been a character from the prequel trilogy, although Lucas's actual quote makes no such implication - quite the contrary, it implies that this character is the hero/protagonist of the sequel trilogy.
Gary Kurtz's recollections
Gary Kurtz, the producer of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, recalls that the outline for a sequel trilogy was "very vague", outlining Skywalker's journey to becoming the premiere Jedi Knight in the Obi-Wan Kenobi mold, and his ultimate confrontation with Emperor Palpatine. According to Kurtz, early plans for this trilogy would have included the introduction of Luke's sister (who was not slated to be Princess Leia), and the first appearance of the Emperor, elements that were incorporated into Return of the Jedi once Kurtz and Lucas parted ways after The Empire Strikes Back.
Other reports have revealed that Luke and Leia were not originally going to be related, and that Luke would eventually find his sister sometime in the sequels. Episode VII would have ended with Leia being crowned as queen of the remaining Alderaanians, and originally the Emperor was not to make an appearance until Episode IX.
Gary Kurtz further revealed the original plans for the sequels in 1999 to fans:
Episode VI was not to have a second Death Star, and Han was to be killed off in the final battle against the Empire. Luke was to confront Vader only to go on with life alone.
The third trilogy starting with Episode VII was to deal with Luke's life as a Jedi.
Episode VIII was to deal with Luke's sister (not Leia) coming from another part of the galaxy and Luke was to become a Jedi Master and pass on his training to her.
Episode IX was to feature the appearance of the Emperor and have Luke and his sister confront him on the Imperial Capital Planet of Had Abbadon, possibly bringing about the Return of the Republic and the Jedi Order.
Episodes VII, VIII, and IX would have taken place from approximately 40 ABY to 203 ABY, based on early facts from Lucas. A detailed fan timeline, Star Wars Timeline Gold, has suggested narrowing this further to 59 years after the prequel trilogy and 36 years after the original trilogy though this remains conjectural. Nathan Butler, the timeline's author, suggests that the storyline would have concerned Luke's efforts to save his son from falling to the dark side of the Force.
According to Michael Kaminski's The Secret History of Star Wars, the protagonist of the third trilogy was to have been Luke Skywalker's protege or successor. Just as Obi-Wan Kenobi was to be the protagonist of the Prequel trilogy and Luke Skywalker was the hero of the Original trilogy, Luke's student was to be the hero of the final/third trilogy. This is supported by George Lucas's quotes about one of the themes of the sequel trilogy being "passing on what you have learned".
Given the complete absence of any other possibility, it is most likely that this character was to be the 'Other' that Yoda referred to in The Empire Strikes Back. However, George Lucas has also claimed that Yoda's line was merely a dramatic device employed to heighten the threat to Luke - if the audience thought that the Jedi could not continue without him, the possibility that Luke might die was not as credible.
"I was trying to set up subliminally in the audience's mind that something is going on here, that (Luke) could fail. And if he does fail, 'There is another hope'". - From The Annotated Screenplays
"We don't need Luke to tell this story. We could get somebody else to do it... 'He's not the important one - there is another.' It's a cheap trick, but it works." - From the 2004 DVD commentary
It is important to note that at the time The Empire Strikes Back was made, Leia was not intended to be Luke's sister or the 'Other'. This has been corroborated by both Gary Kurtz and Mark Hamill. By the time Return of the Jedi was being scripted, George Lucas had decided that the story would not continue past Episode VI, and so, had to tie up this loose end. Making Leia both Luke's sister and the Other did so, as well as resolving the love triangle with Han.
Who this 'Other' character was originally intended to be, beyond a plot device, is completely unknown. Although George Lucas has written the line off as a 'cheap trick', it is likely that he was also using it as a convenient set-up for the sequel trilogy.
It is possible that the 'Other' Yoda refers to is Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, who is prophesied as being the Chosen One throughout the Prequel Trilogy.
A Kenner promotion for Return of the Jedi vehicle playsets suggested that there would be 5 trilogies in total, with Kenner there "all of the way." Additionally, the sides of boxes of Return of the Jedi Ertl models, note that Return of the Jedi is the "final chapter in the middle Star War trilogy."
It is said that many of the proposed themes of the sequel trilogy were adapted into Dark Empire.
Mark Hamill has said that George Lucas asked him to play Luke as an Obi-Wan type character who passes on the Excalibur to the next young hope in Episode IX, and that the sequels were to feature new characters with Hamill making a cameo in Episode IX. These sequels were to be made around 2011. In a 2004 interview, Hamill said: "You know, when I first did this, it was four trilogies. 12 movies! And out on the desert, any time between setups...lots of free time. And George was talking about this whole thing. I said, 'Why are you starting with IV, V and VI? It's crazy.' [Imitating Lucas grumble,] 'It's the most commercial section of the movie.' He said the first trilogy's darker, more serious. And the impression I got, he said, 'Um, how'd you like to be in Episode IX?' This is 1976. 'When is that going to be?' '2011.' I defy anyone to add 36 years to their lives and not be stunned. Even an eight year old is like, 'No, I'll never be 47.' So I did the math and figured out how old I'd be. I said, 'Well, what do you want me to do?' He said, 'You'll just be like a cameo. You'll be like Obi-Wan handing the lightsaber down to the next new hope." George Lucas has dismissed this as nothing more than an off-hand comment.
Mark Hamill said at a convention in 1998 that George Lucas talked to him about doing one more movie. However, instead of live action it would be a CGI film, and Lucas only wanted the original cast of Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams to lend their voices for their roles as an aging Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia and Lando Calrissian.
A further trilogy was potentially planned, as George Lucas initially mentioned the series to have a total of twelve films. Although they were at one point at least considered, no information has surfaced regarding further storylines, other than that they were to be from "The Adventures of Luke Skywalker" series, according to the second (a 1978) issue of Bantha Tracks, the Official Star Wars Fan Club Newsletter.
Although no longer widely accepted, it was once commonly believed by fans that Timothy Zahn's novels Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command formed the sequel trilogy to the original films. Revelations and retcons added to the overall plot since the 1999 release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, however, have made Zahn's novels incorrect on numerous details.
For a long time, there were no firm plans to produce these films. Lucasfilm's stance was that the six Star Wars films comprise the entire story Lucas intended to tell, despite mentions to the contrary in the press and official publications over time.
In a 1997 issue of the Star Wars Insider, Lucas said "[The whole story has] six episodes....If I ever went beyond that, it would be something that was made up. I really don't have any notion other than 'Gee, it would be interesting to do Luke Skywalker later on.' It wouldn't be part of the main story, but a sequel to this thing."
In a 1999 interview with Vanity Fair, Lucas denied ever having any plans to make nine Star Wars movies. "When you see it in six parts, you'll understand", Lucas said at the time. "It really ends at part six." When asked about the possibility of someone else taking over the film franchise, Lucas said "Probably not, it's my thing."
An interview from May 2002 has another interesting quote from Lucas where he makes reference to a possible future film: "The challenge for me is telling a six-part story: so in Episode I there are things that I have to get in that refer to Episode VII — no, hang on, we're not there yet. I mean Episode IV."
Cinescape posted the following quote from TheForce.Net that had lots of Star Wars fans raising an eyebrow or two: according to the December 2003 issue of that magazine, Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew said that when he signed his contract to work in Episode III, there was a clause that he would be "required" to work in Episodes VII, VIII and IX. But, after finishing Revenge of the Sith, Lucas restated on several occasions that he had no plans of making another Star Wars film trilogy; however, Lucas has been known to say one thing and do another in the past, so many fans still hope that he may give the reins to a new director, or that he may reconsider and produce another set of films after more time has passed, relying on further leaps in computer technology.
In March 2007, Lucas stated that the idea of a sequel trilogy was "amusing" but didn't seem realistic at the time.
During ShoWest 2008, Lucas gave an interview where he mentioned the difference between "his world", "the licensing world" and the "fans' world":
- Interviewer: "Do you think you'd have other people continue the Star Wars saga past Episode VI or turn some of the other material into films?"
- Lucas: "But there's no story past Episode VI, there's just no story. It's a certain story about Anakin Skywalker and once Anakin Skywalker dies, that's kind of the end of the story. There is no story about Luke Skywalker, I mean apart from the books. "
Another noteworthy exchange between Lucas and an interviewer appeared in the May 2008 edition of Total Film magazine:
- TOTAL FILM: "Are you happy for new Star Wars tales to be told after you're gone?"
- LUCAS: "I've left pretty explicit instructions for there not to be any more features. There will definitely be no Episodes VII-IX. That's because there isn't any story. I mean, I never thought of anything. And now there have been novels about the events after Episode VI, which isn't at all what I would have done with it. The Star Wars story is really the tragedy of Darth Vader. That is the story. Once Vader dies, he doesn't come back to life, the Emperor doesn't get cloned and Luke doesn't get married..."
In May 2008, speaking about the upcoming Star Wars: The Clone Wars (film), Lucas remained his status on the sequel trilogy, maintaining his status that there was no story to tell, and no sequel will be made, stating "I get asked all the time, 'What happens after Return of the Jedi?,' and there really is no answer for that," he said. "The movies were the story of Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker, and when Luke saves the galaxy and redeems his father, that's where that story ends."
In October 2010, a story on IESB.net claimed that a new Star Wars sequel trilogy would debut about two years after the re-release of Return of the Jedi in 3D. IESB's source also reported that the new trilogy would take place somewhere between one hundred and one thousand years after the original trilogy, and would not focus on the Skywalker family. This rumor was quickly debunked by Lucasfilm spokesman Josh Kushins, who said "there are no new Star Wars feature films planned."
The facts above are the only known facts given by Lucas about what he actually had in mind for the rest of the series. It is necessary to include these events, if only to support the fact that there was a Sequel Trilogy planned at one time, despite what Lucas has said since 1995 in rebuttal of what he said from 1978 to 1994. Of this information, only the name of Luke's son, Ben Skywalker, is taken from other sources, from the Expanded Universe.
As of 2005, after finishing his 6th movie of the saga, Lucas said that he has no plans of making another set trilogy, although there is still hope among some fans of passing the project to someone else, while controlling it behind the scenes, or doing the trilogy after some time.
Considering, however, the great success of the movie franchise—more than $4 billion—there is a suggestion that the creators and masterminds of the franchise wouldn't want to stop. This has been confirmed by the Walt Disney Company, which acquired Lucasfilm in a friendly merger. The current plan is to release Episode VII in 2015, with more films following every 2-3 years.
Officially, the sequel trilogy's place can be said to be taken by the Thrawn Trilogy, the Dark Empire comic series, and the other books and comics produced since 1991 which continue the adventures of the heroes of the original trilogy.
Other fan theories
Some fans have come to the erroneous conclusion that the Star Wars novels set after Return of the Jedi, most notably the Thrawn Trilogy or the New Jedi Order series, represent the "real" Episodes VII through IX—either believing that they will be made into films in the future, or believing that they are novelizations of unproduced scripts.
The Walt Disney Company purchased the rights to Star Wars from George Lucas in October of 2012. Disney has confirmed that a new trilogy will be arriving in 2015 and will be directed by J.J. Abrams. The films will have 2-3 year gaps between them alike the previous trilogies. The original trilogy cast will be returning, however the only confirmed returning roles will be Harrison Ford as Han Solo and Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa.
Notes and references
- The Star Wars Timeline Gold, compiled by Star Wars fan and chronology expert, Nathan P. Butler.
- Issue #2 of Bantha Tracks, the Official Star Wars Fan Club Newsletter, 1978. (Subscription required to view.)
- Once Upon A Galaxy: A Journal of The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, pg. 176, by Alan Arnold, 1980. - Interview with Lucas about sequel trilogy.
- Time; March 6, 1978.
- L.A. Reader; March 7, 1980.
- L.A. Herald Examiner; August 21, 1980.
- L.A. Times; September 23, 1980.
- Time; May 19, 1980.
- Time; May 23, 1983.
- Foreword to Splinter of the Mind's Eye, 1994 printing.
- The Secrets of Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire pg. 26, by Mark Cotta Vaz, 1996.
- Star Wars Insider, Issue #35, Winter 1997.
- Vanity Fair; February 1999.
- 1999 Statements by Gary Kurtz about the original outline for nine Star Wars films.
- 2000 Interview with producer Gary Kurtz.
- 2004 Studio Briefing article with comments from Hamill and Lucas on sequel trilogies.
- In an interview with the IMDb, Mark Hamill made comments that Lucas had asked him during the filming of A New Hope if he would be interested in playing an "Obi-Wan-type" character in Episode IX.