While Marvel is “doing sensationally well,” the Star Wars pipeline is getting a closer look, Iger said during a wide-ranging interview tied to the release of his memoir.
“I have said publicly that I think we made and released too many films over a short period of time,” Iger said. “I have not said that they were disappointing in any way. I’ve not said that I’m disappointed in their performance. I just think that there’s something so special about a Star Wars film, and less is more.”
Disney is making the final promotional push for The Rise of Skywalker, the ninth and final installment in the Star Wars franchise originally envisioned by George Lucas that is arriving at Christmastime. The company last week parted ways with Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the latest of several creative disruptions at Lucasfilm in recent years. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, originally slated to direct Solo, left that spinoff amid differences with Lucasfilm in 2017. The version completed by Ron Howard and released in 2018 went on to become the first Star Wars film to lose money.
Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4 billion. It has since made three installments in the main Skywalker franchise, released in 2015, 2017 and this year (a more accelerated pace than the original three-year lulls between installments), as well as spinoffs in 2016 and 2018.
Star Wars, of course, will continue to be a high-priority part of Disney. The Mandalorian, a Jon Favreau-directed series, will debut November 12. The company plans a new wave of feature films drawing on the Lucas-created world.
Iger also addressed several other hot topics in the interview, including the recent comments by Martin Scorsese classifying Marvel movies as “not cinema” but something closer to “theme parks.” When the remarks were read back to him in full, Iger exclaimed, “Ouch!” He then said he admires Scorsese, who is a “phenomenal filmmaker.” Nevertheless, “I would debate him on this subject. Marvel is making movies. That’s what Martin Scorsese makes. … I don’t think he’s ever seen a Marvel film.”
All the same, Iger said, “I’d like to have a glass of wine with him. … He’s a talented man.”
Iger recounted the corporate intrigue and maneuvers as Disney and Comcast waged a bidding war for 21st Century Fox assets in 2017 and 2018. In July 2018, Iger and a small group of Disney executives decided to fly to London to meet with Rupert Murdoch ahead of a planned Fox board meeting in London, at which the board was set to vote on Comcast’s latest offer.
Because they’d been told that Comcast kept track of tail numbers on planes and might be able to identify a Disney plane coming in from Burbank, the Disney crew flew through Belfast on their way to London. “We decided if we flew a Disney corporate plane, it might have tipped Comcast,” Iger said. They also avoided their usual hotel in London, he added. In the end, Disney prevailed with its $71.3 billion offer.
Given all of his dealings with the Murdochs, Iger was asked if he watches HBO’s Succession. He said he’s seen a few episodes. “There are things in it that remind me of a certain family,” he said, “but there’s a lot of fiction as well.”
While Disney has swung several other deals in addition to Fox, Iger said it’s “unlikely” there will be another big M&A transaction anytime soon.