Recently, we told you about a conference that Star Wars concept artist Iain McCaig spoke at. There’s been a bit of confusion regarding what he said, so we’d like to clear that up with more information from E.R. Cina, who gave us this information based on his memory. We also contacted McCaig himself for a comment on the whole story, so read on for his take on this as well.
Again we want to remind you that this event happened almost a month ago. The source who described all this has no malicious intentions and everything he described is based on his memory. Of course there will be some inaccuracies but the topics that were discussed are absolutely legit and not made up. The event took place in a lecture hall at Massey University Wellington. You will see below that there were not many people present and there were no cameras or other outlets attending the conference.
We did the previous piece mainly because of Iain’s excitement about the Han Solo script, and the interesting comments he made on the unused Anakin’s Force ghost in The Force Awakens and Rey’s backstory in Episode VIII. Unfortunately some of the other comments were picked up by the fans and caused a huge stir.
Before we get into the story, I should first take a moment to note that Iain McCaig is no longer working at Lucasfilm. However, he is still in contact with Marvel Studios and Disney, as he worked on both Guardians Of The Galaxy and The Jungle Book, which were released before and after The Force Awakens respectively. As such, he may not be legally-bound to make certain statements, but he may work with Lucasfilm on later projects. We sent an e-mail out to McCaig for clarification on his role in the presentation shortly after we released the recent piece. His reply is as follows:
Thanks for the email, and I appreciate all the kind comments.
Alas, the report has many inaccuracies–not through any malicious reporting, I’m sure, but errors accumulated in the retelling.
I’m afraid I must decline any further comment–the Star Wars movies are like the best Christmas presents ever, and it would spoil it for so many if we were to give away too much beforehand.
All the very best,
So while there may be mistakes in the initial report – and possibly in the clarifications presented below – this itself is a real lead, and Iain McCaig absolutely talked about these topics at the presentation. Mistakes inevitably happen when it comes to this kind of reporting, particularly when there aren’t recordings to use for frame of reference (more on that below). What’s wrong and what’s right about the report, he doesn’t seem to be at liberty to say – so it’s likely that there are important elements that he discussed that may still be being discussed.
— Mahuki (@Mahuki_TePapa) June 4, 2016
A big question about this event is why nobody recorded it. Slashfilm could corroborate that McCaig did speak at the event, but coverage on the event itself had been next to nonexistent. Make no mistake – while we might not know about every single word that came out of his mouth, he did speak there about what he knew. The following is what our source told us about the absence of recorded material:
Regarding footage – no sorry, not to my knowledge – hence my intial mention of a lack of secondary source. I dont recall seeing any phones/cameras out, and it was a small lecture hall at Massey University so there was no proshot taking place – I was so transfixed on hearing these revelations I didn’t think to record them, likewise for others in the hall I believe.
There may have been a ban on the use of recording devices at the event, but I don’t think that’s too likely. I think the short of this is that people weren’t expecting a lot of information about the pre-production of Star Wars, given that he is also known for his concept art for many other productions. Not every Star Wars-related presentation is going to get the kind of coverage that a Celebration or SDCC panel would.
Recently, our previous article caught a bit of flak for asserting that George Lucas turned in an entire script while Michael Arndt was coming up with a draft. Lucas, of course, did not complete a full script, but we were just reiterating what we had directly been told. So when we asked about this discrepancy, our source was quick to clear things up before getting into the details on casting:
The statement I gave you is as accurate as I can manage… its likely McCaig was being hyperbolic with the word ‘script’ – really meaning ‘treatment’. From ‘How Star Wars Conquered The Universe’ it seems Lucas was quite vague with his VII VIII IX treatments… But McCaig’s words suggested this development was after TFA pre-production began.
In terms of the race matter, McCaig’s words referenced that he loves using non-Caucasian foreign races in his ideas, but that he encountered resistance from TPTB. Whether this was simply for Rey (whom he envisioned as Asian) or for the rest of the main trio I cannot be 100% certain… All he mentioned was that he liked conceptualizing characters as non-caucasion but encountered resistance in doing so. He never mentioned a rule or a ban, as neither does my statement, simply that these concepts were resisted, or accepted with reluctance.
J. J. Abrams was hugely insistent on bringing a multicultural cast into the film (which seems to have paid off based on the movie’s excellent international returns), so it wouldn’t be too surprising to hear that Disney might have been insistent on having a more monochrome cast as far as the three lead characters goes. That’s not to say that Disney was explicitly against the idea, however – of the five finalists for the role of Finn, three were white and two weren’t. If Rey is indeed a Skywalker, then it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine why Disney would push for a white female lead.
There was also clarification on the Anakin/Vader concept art (which was not based on the Lucas treatment) and the story idea associated with it.
The story was told as a rough plot outline, but it involved Luke being guided through further Jedi training and the creation of a new Order by the force ghost of Anakin. However, the ghost is still conflicted by the dark side, and can slip back into being Darth Vader. This was accompanied by concept pieces of a half-human, half Vader face with the Vader side slowly growing over the course of the ‘film’ to overtake Anakin entirely. Because of the ghost’s inner dark side conflict, Luke is simultaneously corrupted in his mission to re-establish the Jedi whilst also attempting to save Anakin from the dark side, ergo himself.
George Lucas has gone on to say that only Jedi can become Force Spirits, which is why the Sith were obsessed with eternal life in the physical world. Anakin’s flux to and from the Dark Side comes across as contradictory to the canon. As this was an idea that came into the fray during the brainstorming phase, and that it conflicts with existing continuity, it’s extremely likely that this concept has been completely discarded and that it will have no impact on the story of the Sequel Trilogy going forward.
But more importantly, our source cleared up what most people have been asking about – the so-called “Prequel Ban”. The main issue with this is the use of the harsh word “ban”, but that’s what we’ve been given. The official stance is that Lucasfilm did not put a complete embargo on including content related to the Prequel Trilogy in The Force Awakens; however, our source says that McCaig felt that he was pressured not to go down that route.
In terms of the prequel-ban issue, I can’t really offer much else… He mentioned this ‘ban’ in regards to a) his and others’ attempts to use prequel ideas/IP in designs and b) any script ideas that involved prequel actors or IP (including the [the Anakin/Vader concept]).
This may not have been Lucasfilm’s offical policy, however… McCaig may have been referring to what he personally perceived from the work environment, and extended this to an assumption about official policy, though he seemed to feel quite strongly that a ‘ban’ was in place.
My memory is not vivid enough to offer what can be considered a cohesive quote, but he did indeed say that Disney/Lucasfilm had placed a ban on any prequel-related work. I’m afraid I cannot offer anything further as this was the entirety of his statement.
While there are references to the Prequel Trilogy in The Force Awakens (such as “Balance of the Force” quote, the allusion of a clone army, or the nigh-inaudible Palpatine quote from Revenge Of The Sith that was heard during the “Forceback” sequence), they are so few and far between that it’s not hard to consider that Disney wanted to distance this specific film from the Prequel Trilogy. Had George Lucas directed Episode VII (like he’d considered doing before selling Lucasfilm), there’s no question that his story would have had a greater number of allusions to the Prequel Trilogy than the few blink-and-you’ll-miss-them allusions (the total of which you can count on one hand) present in The Force Awakens. There’s no apprehensiveness to including content related to the Prequel Trilogy anywhere else, but perhaps Disney was more concerned with uniting the fanbase for their first movie in a new trilogy than they were to bring in content from the more contentious trilogy of Star Wars movies.
Again keep in mind that this is how Iain McCaig felt about this. This is not an official LFL stance or anything, and I am sure they don’t have something like this as a rule.
If I had to bet I would say that the next two films will be more free with existing prequel connections. I think the anthology films will do even more service to the prequels. I doubt it was something in writing but more so a creative decision from the execs
So there you have it. Some people accused our report of being fake and made up, so I hope all this clears things up. While there are some inaccuracies the overall story is absolutely legit. We’ll be sure to let you know if we hear anything else on this matter. Special thanks again to E. R. Cina for providing this clarification and trying to be as accurate as he can in addition to our initial story, and to Iain McCaig for responding quickly and succinctly.