|Star Wars: Underworld|
|No. of episodes|
approx. 1 hour per episode
- "It sits on the shelf."
- ―George Lucas
Star Wars: Underworld is the working title of a proposed live-action television series. The series' storyline is reportedly set during the 19-year timespan between the films Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope; it has been reported that it will focus on minor characters of the Star Wars galaxy, rather than those seen prominently in the films.
George Lucas first announced the series at 2005's Celebration III. Over the next few years, a variety of writers were hired, over fifty scripts were written and art designers worked on visualizing Lucas' ideas. However, in 2011, Lucas and producer Rick McCallum explained that the series would be put on hold due to budget constraints. The Disney buyout of Lucasfilm in 2012 has cast further doubt on the series' future.
- "It's kind of like Episode IV — it's funny and there's action, but it's [a] lot more talky. It's more of what I would call a soap opera with a bunch of personal dramas in it. It's not really based on action-adventure films from the '30s — it's actually more based on film noir movies from the '40s!"
- ―George Lucas, Total Film magazine, May 2008 issue, p. 138
- "Basically, it is like 'The Godfather'; it’s the Empire slowly building up its power base around the galaxy, what happens in Coruscant, which is the major capital, and it’s [about] a group of underground bosses who live there and control drugs, prostitution..."
- ―Rick McCallum
Star Wars: Underworld is set primarily in the Coruscant Underworld during the time period between 19 BBY and 0 BBY, which is referred to as "the dark times" by Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope. It is during this period that the newly formed Galactic Empire rises to ultimate power throughout the galaxy. Lucas told Celebration III audiences that the show would not focus on any characters from the films, but that some of them could appear. According to Lucas, "A lot of the issues from the films are connected, but you won't necessarily see a lot of the people that are connected". He later described the show as "bare-bones" and "action-heavy", and revealed that the series would show what the citizens of the Star Wars galaxy do for entertainment, including pod racing.
Producer Rick McCallum commented on the plot of the series: "[Lucas] envisions somewhere like 100 hours between Episode III and Episode IV with a lot of characters that we haven't met that have been developed in some of the novels and other things. We are really excited about that. Finally, we could have the opportunity to answer everybody's questions once and for all by the time we finish the series."; "It is going to be much darker, grittier. It's much more character-based"; "Think about bounty hunter, that’s all I can tell you." He also called it "Deadwood in space" and "Empire on steroids", and compared it to The Godfather. Steve Sansweet also described the series as revealing the "greasy, seamy underbelly of Star Wars".
In an interview in the November 2005 edition of the UK magazine Total Film magazine, McCallum was asked "How can Leia claim to remember her mother when Padmé dies in childbirth in Sith?", to which he replied "I think that could only be answered in the television series". According to Dan Wasson, project leader for the Wii version of the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed video game, the TV series may contain elements from the overall Star Wars: The Force Unleashed multimedia project.
Cast and characters
Since the project was announced, multiple actors from the films have voiced their interest in reprising their roles: Ian McDiarmid, Peter Mayhew, Daniel Logan and Jay Laga'aia Additionally, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed actor Sam Witwer has expressed an interest in appearing in the series (possibly as Galen Marek, Vader's secret apprentice), and has hinted that he may be involved in the show. On March 9, 2009, actress Rose Byrne, who appeared in Attack of the Clones, told MTV that casting for the series was underway, and that some of her friends had auditioned for roles. Star Wars Insider 109 on the other hand, claimed that scripts had yet to be written at that point, and would precede any earnest casting efforts.
The series is rumored to feature minor characters that will be from both the films, as well as those from the Expanded Universe—with possible cameos by some of the main characters. Lucas: "The Emperor and Darth Vader are heard about — people talk about them — but you never see them because it doesn't take place where they actually are. There are stormtroopers and all that, but there are no Jedis." Lucas had originally written a scene for Revenge of the Sith involving the Expanded Universe character Quinlan Vos, but the character received only a mention in the final film. Lucas himself later instructed the writers of the Star Wars: Republic comic book series to not kill off the character. This has led some fans to speculate that Vos may play a role in the series. A. C. Crispin proposed a book series dealing with Princess Leia Organa between Episode III and IV, but "Lucasfilm didn't approve the idea of a Leia backstory because they want to keep that era of the SW continuity untouched for the television series they're considering." Karen Traviss was to write a novel involving Boba Fett, but the project was reportedly canceled because of possible conflicts with the TV series.
- "That'll give you all something to think about."
- ―George Lucas, on his announcement of the series' development
—George Lucas, Total Film magazine, May 2008 issue, p. 138
Prior to the release of the original Star Wars film in 1977, rumors began circulating that a TV series would be produced based on the film. Although such a project never came to fruition, George Lucas became involved (to varying degrees) in three live-action Star Wars television productions: The Star Wars Holiday Special, Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. While the holiday special was a critical failure, both Ewok films won Emmy awards and had a positive critical reaction. In each case, the networks saw the productions as backdoor pilots for possible television series, though Lucas wasn't interested. In 1992, Lucas produced the television series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, during which he developed a love of making television.
In late 2004, rumors again began to circulate of a live-action Star Wars series in development. Lucas officially announced his plans for a live-action Star Wars television series at 2005's Celebration III, saying "We probably won't start that until sometime next year". He also spoke of plans for a new animated television series set during the Clone Wars, which he expected to be produced first. Also at the event, series producer Rick McCallum elaborated; "He [George] envisions somewhere like 100 hours between Episode III and Episode IV". However, at 2007's Celebration Europe, McCallum claimed that the plan was to produce "up to 400 episodes". He also revealed that "I’ve had three conceptual artists working on it now for about seven months". The original plan was that the first season would be written, then filmed, before soliciting the first season, working on the following seasons once it had a home.
Lucas and McCallum interviewed over 200 prospective "writers of real significance" from all over the world—including England, the United States, Paris, Prague, Budapest, and Australia. McCallum remarked, "It’s about who’s talented, who's got the strength to challenge George and also, much more importantly, what’s the dynamics of the five or six people. If they can let go of their ego and work toward a specific goal. Sometimes you think 'I'm sick of writing alone.' Everyone has their ebb and flow. We’re trying to get everyone in their peak." Writers from Battlestar Galactica, Heroes, and Lost, as well as those from the Star Wars books and comics, were considered as part of the final interview process in late 2007. In the end, six writers were hired, including Louise Fox, Tony McNamara, Fiona Seres and Ronald D. Moore, who were expected to start work in November 2007. Former Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies was asked to write for the show, but turned it down due to his desire to do his own projects in a different style to both franchises; however, he did claim to be jealous of whoever ended up being hired.
After the writers were hired, story outlines took shape over the next three months. A writing conference was scheduled for late 2007, and sessions had began by August 2008. The writers worked closely with the art department (including concept artist Erik Tiemens), which had been working to design sets, environments, vehicles and aliens since 2007. As of September 2010, 50 hours worth of episodes plus a "movie-of-the-week" had been written. George Lucas discussed this when he appeared on a May 2011 episode of G4's Attack of the Show to discuss contemporary Star Wars topics. During the interview, he claimed that the scripts "looked like the Star Wars features". In a January 2012 interview with IGN, McCallum revealed the working title to be Star Wars: Underworld. Although he denied this the next day, he later told Entertainment Weekly that it was indeed the working title.
Reportedly the style of the series will similar to Lucas' The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV series. Lucas hopes to use the show as a template for how he will do his "more personal films" that he hopes to create. Like on that earlier series, McCallum and Lucas hope to give each episode the look of a feature film, with feature-level production values and visual effects on a television budget. In 2005, Lucas stated his intentions to shoot the series using consumer-level cameras, which McCallum said would be high-definition cameras. In late 2009, Lucas and McCallum invited filmmaker Phillip Bloom to Skywalker Ranch to advise on using different types of cameras for pick-up photography on Red Tails, and for the live-action series. Lucas has stated that, in producing the show, "we will do what would typically cost $20 million, for $1 million." According to IESB, McCallum has said that each episode will have a budget of 2-4 million dollars.
Principal photography will take place all around the world, with a base likely in Sydney. McCallum expected production to begin in 2008, for a 2009 release. Shooting was scheduled to begin in 2009 in Australia, however as of March 2009 there was only some preliminary casting survey taking place. A Lucasfilm representative claimed that official casting would begin once the scripts were complete and that the series would not go into production until 2010. McCallum expects the first season to consist of thirteen-to-sixteen episodes, shot over a one-to-two-year time period. In a June 2011 Interview, McCallum stated that the show would most likely be filmed in the Czech Republic, a location used multiple times by LucasFilm for various productions. Reportedly, Jim Marquand, son of Return of the Jedi director Richard Marquand, was hired as one of the directors. At 2007s Star Wars Reunion II, Rick McCallum told the audience that each episode of the series would have its own original score, and that he hoped John Williams would return as composer.
At a 2010 screening of The Empire Strikes Back in Chicago, Illinois, Lucas announced that the series was "on hold" due to budget concerns. Lucas and McCallum later elaborated that the scripts were prohibitively expensive for television, and that the show was put on hold in order to wait on technology to develop to the point that costs could be kept relatively low. On October 30, 2012, The Walt Disney Company announced an agreement to acquire Lucasfilm. The deal included the rights to the Star Wars franchise for which Lucas will act as creative consultant to a sequel trilogy, which is set to debut in 2015. In a conference call following the press release, Disney stated its interest in the potential of a Star Wars television series, but did not go into details. Soon after, it was announced that Rick McCallum had retired from Lucasfilm.
In January 2013, ABC president Paul Lee told Entertainment Weekly that the live-action Star Wars series was being reevaluated for production. That August, Lee again visited the topic of a Star Wars live-action series; "We've started conversations. I'd love to go there. I'm a particular fan of Lucasfilm. It's an amazing world."
Release and marketing
- "It sits on the shelf. We have 50 hours. We are trying to figure out a different way of making movies. We are looking for a different technology that we can use, that will make it economically feasible to shoot the show. Right now, it looks like the Star Wars features. But we have to figure out how to make it at about a tenth of the cost of the features, because its television. We are working toward that, and we continue to work towards that. We will get there at some point. It's just a very difficult process. Obviously, when we do figure this problem out, it will dramatically effect features, because feature films are costing between $250 to $350 million. When we figure this out, they will be able to make a feature film for $50 million."
- ―George Lucas
In a 2006 interview, Lucasfilm's Steve Sansweet said that he expected that the series would be released "toward the end of the decade". He gave the time period until release to be "about 3 years." A teaser image for the series was shown at Toy Fair 2007, advertising the next three years of Star Wars: the 30th anniversary of the saga and the release of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed in 2007 (which was pushed back to 2008), the new Clone Wars TV series in 2008, and the live-action series in 2009. Rick McCallum expected the series to be released simultaneously worldwide and to be broadcast on cable. Both Disney and News Corp were rumored to have shown interest in acquiring broadcast rights for the show, with the former offering ABC and ABC Family and the latter offering FOX and FX. Additionally, Lucas voiced his interest in distributing the series via the internet—specifically StarWars.com.
Comments from Lucasfilm employees (such as Sue Rostoni and Jim Ward) hinted that tie-ins such as spin-off books and video games were planned. The video game Star Wars 1313 was originally conceived as a direct tie-in to Underworld. After the series was postponed in 2010 due to budget restraints, 1313 was altered to be its own distinct project. However, at George Lucas' request, the final game will reportedly still take inspiration from elements of Underworld. At Celebration III, Lucas told audiences that if this series (along with Star Wars: The Clone Wars) was successful, more series could follow. At Celebration Europe, McCallum explained that "One of the ideas is that we’ll have multiple series going on in about two or three years' time." McCallum said he hoped that after the series' second or third year, a character could have his/her own spin-off series, and by the fourth or fifth year, the production staff could have at least five separate series running. Lucas described the series as "one show that will split into four shows, focusing on different characters."
Notes and references
- Star Wars live-action TV series on Wikipedia