The Long, Winding, and Shapeshifting Trail to Episodes VII, VIII & IX

The long conjectured third Star Wars trilogy has kept fans guessing for decades, and may even have a few numerologists working on their mysteries. George Lucas’ shifting feelings about future Star Wars trilogies have consistently clouded the picture. Given the difficulties associated with the birth of Star Wars in 1977, it’s no wonder that Lucas’s ideas kaleidoscoped. When trying to get such a big undertaking up and running and out the door, visions of the future are understandably hazy. But, as of October 30, 2012, Episodes VII, VIII and IX have been announced as real and soon to be tangible — but they’ve existed as gossamer spirits for nearly 40 years.

On December 29, 1975, in conversation with Alan Dean Foster per the novelization of Star Wars, Lucas mentioned the prequel trilogy along with what would become Episodes V and VI: “I want to have Luke kiss the Princess in the second book. In the third book, I want the story just about the soap opera of the Skywalker family, which ends with the destruction of the Empire. Then someday I want to do the back story of Kenobi as a young man – a story of the Jedi and how the Emperor eventually takes over and turns the whole thing from a Republic into an Empire, and tricks all the Jedi and kills them. The whole battle where Luke’s father gets killed. That would be impossible to do, but it’s great to dream about.”
As Lucas came to terms with Twentieth Century-Fox during the making of Star Wars, he secured the legal rights to his sequels, though they remained undefined at the time. On location for the first phase of principal photography in Tunisia in March 1976, Lucas began a long tradition of talking with close collaborators, voicing his ideas for these other episodes and trilogies, much as Walt Disney would do of his projects.

“You know, when I first did this, it was four trilogies,” Mark Hamill recalled in 2004, speaking of their conversation in 1976. “Twelve movies! Out on the desert, any time between setups… lots of free time. And George was talking about this whole thing… ‘Um, how’d you like to be in Episode IX?’ ‘When is that going to be?’ ‘2011.’ […] 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.’”

In 1978, a Time magazine article reported that the Star Wars Corporation (a subsidiary Lucas had formed for Star Wars) would be producing “Star Wars II [Empire], and then, count them, 10 other planned sequels.” At that time Lucas consistently mentioned 12 films and even created a barebones outline to that effect. 

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