Star Wars: Underworld

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  • #396

    The name of the long-delayed Star Wars live-action TV series has been revealed by Rick McCallum: Star Wars: Underworld (thanks to Blastr for the reveal).

    What we know about it from various sources…

    • Takes place in the 20-year gap between Episodes III and IV
    • Does not focus on or even visit Luke Skywalker
    • Boba Fett figures prominently
    • 50 hour-long scripts completed already
    • Russell T. Davies was personally invited by Lucas to write for the show but declined to take part
    • Episodes will cost in the neighborhood of $5,000,000 each to produce
    • Lucasfilm is waiting for certain technologies to come down in price to start production
    • The show will be shot in Australia
    • Lucasfilm is considering alternate delivery systems (i.e. not broadcast or cable) for distribution, but apparently isn’t impressed with iTunes

    @Blastr wrote:

    “They take place between Episode III and Episode IV, that 20-year period when Luke is growing up. It’s not about Luke, but it’s about that period when the Empire is trying to take things [over].”

    The characters are criminals and gangsters within a shady government. When the interviewer said the characters were akin to pyramid schemer Bernie Madoff, McCallum said, “Exactly.”

    It almost sounds intriguing except for the focus on Boba Fett, whose badass card was revoked he screamed like a startled cleaning lady when Lando launched him right into the Sarclacc. This is a real sticking point with me: I really have no interest in Boba Fett. Episode II showed us that he was already a little troublemaker clone of Jango, and that seeing his “father” killed probably sent him over the edge into being the armored menace we met in the original trilogy… and you know, I think we can fill in the blanks from there. There’s just not a lot of story to be had with Boba Fett because he was shown to be a little Jango clone (literally). Any books or comics that had previously showed the descent of a normal man into becoming a dangerously amoral bounty hunter had more meat to them than his story as finally disclosed in the movies. And when he does show up in Underworld, we already know the end of his story, so really, nothing can happen to him. There’s no suspense.

    Now… they could do a lot with this show. They could have the kind of platform for allegorical political storytelling that we really need on TV right now, on a level that would’ve had Gene Roddenberry frothing at the mouth in envy. A series set in the period when the Empire is consolidating its power and eliminating basic freedoms and human rights by the dozen could do so much topical stuff right now that it makes me tingly – I’d like to write scripts for that show. A show about bounty hunters and criminals? Notsomuch.

    But then again, I may be setting my sights too high, since Lucas seemed to dance around all of his opportunities to do that sort of thing with the prequels. Granted, hardly a day goes by without some political talk radio pundit playing Amidala’s line “this is how freedom ends, with thunderous applause” from Episode III in his or her show, but any relevance has been grafted onto it by the folks taking it out of its original context, and that line can be applied generically to almost any topic to the point that it parodies itself.

    If the numbers are down, they can always have Obi-Wan and Yoda come out of hiding on some Dirty Dozen-type mission that only the last two Jedi can pull off (perhaps to rescue a rumored third Jedi?), and boom, instant ratings boost right before they go back into self-enforced exile. But if that happens too many times, it too becomes a joke.

    There’s a lot of ways to do this right. I’m not sure I have faith in Lucas to land on even two of those ways.

    #3383
    Steve W
    Steve W
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    @earl wrote:

    [*]Lucasfilm is considering alternate delivery systems (i.e. not broadcast or cable) for distribution, but apparently isn’t impressed with iTunes

    I’m actually shocked by that. Maybe Lucas doesn’t want Apple to get too much of a lock on it or something. iTunes can be pretty useful for something like that. Look at Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and how well it did there. They sold the proverbial dungload of episodes through them. Maybe Lucas wants to set up his own streaming service, kind of like Hulu but with more toy commercials. There’s plenty of Star Wars related media to play there.

    @earl wrote:

    whose badass card was revoked he screamed like a startled cleaning lady when Lando launched him right into the Sarclacc.

    I had to go look it up on Youtube to hear that exact scream, because I was thinking it was a Wilhelm Scream. But it wasn’t, making Boba Fett a little more of a pussy in my book. I would totally have been fine if it were a Wilhelm Scream, at least I would know it was an extremely long-running gag by sound engineers throughout the decades.

    #3384
    ubikuberalles
    ubikuberalles
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    I know for certain that there is a Wilhelm scream during the whole pit sequence. I can’t recall who it was who made the scream since several of Jabba’s henchmen fell in. I need to watch those scenes again with both the original DVD and the Special Edition since it might have changed between the two versions.

    #3385

    Perhaps this isn’t so dead in the water as we thought, thanks to the Magic Empi…um, Kingdom. [LINK]

    The project was commissioned by longtime Lucasfilm producer Rick McCallum, who enlisted writers such as Battlestar Galactica‘s Ron Moore and swore them to NDA secrecy on the plot details (more on the show’s storyline below). Fifty scripts were written. McCallum once called the scripts the most “provocative, bold and daring material that we’ve ever done.”

    And then … nothing.

    The scripts gathered dust, the scope of the production and the extent of the show’s necessary visual effects deemed too expensive for a broadcast or cable network. The president of one premium cable outlet told me last summer the project just didn’t make any financial sense. The closest comparison was HBO’s lavish Game of Thrones. But that deal gave HBO control of a major chunk of the Thrones empire, including DVD and international distribution which significantly offset the show’s high production cost. The Star Wars show was budgeted at more than $5 million per episode and Lucasfilm wanted to retain ownership.

    But now Disney has purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion and Disney owns more than a couple TV networks. The financials for a big-budget TV show are more compelling if the license fee and other income sources stay in the family.

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard of Ronald D. Moore being connected to this project; we do already know that they’d tried to lure Russell T. Davies away from Doctor Who to work on it, but he turned them down.

    #3386
    Steve W
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    Disney’s involvement would do a lot for its distribution, with its own channels and internet presence. And they have to consider how the show will do from a marketing standpoint. Sure, the Clone Wars hasn’t exactly set the toy aisles on fire with their sales, but then that show’s focus is directly on children, whereas a new live action series would be aimed at adults (I would hope, anyway). The collector’s market is worth more than the kid’s market. And of course there’s foreign licensing and home video releases that have to be taken into account. In the long term, maybe $5 million each episode isn’t so bad when you consider the rewards if the show’s done really well. And it would go a long way in getting people to believe that, finally, Star Wars is in the hands of people who will treat it right.

    #3387

    Ronald D. Moore finally spills some beans straight into the mouth of the Sarlacc! [BURRRRRP!]

    I did, for a bit of time, work on what was going to be a Star Wars live-action series. We’d go gather at Skywalker Ranch periodically, every couple of months, and break stories and write scripts for this proposed series that George was interested in. And George was in the ring with us every day. And it was a fascinating, amazing experience. There was George Lucas and we’d be arguing stories and there was a point where I found myself in an intense argument with George about what Darth Vader would or would not do, and part of my brain kind of went, ‘What the hell are you doing? Are you really going to argue with George Lucas about what Darth Vader would do?’ George gets to win all of his arguments.

    Given how much top SF talent Lucas tried to throw at this thing (RDM, RTD, etc.) without it ever gaining escape velocity… man, I hope the NDA wears off and someone writes a tell-all book about this process. Because that story would probably be more fascinating than whatever stories they were trying to cook up for the series.

    #3388

    Two more names to add to this almost urban-legend-esque tale: Matthew Graham (Life On Mars, Ashes To Ashes, Doctor Who) and Chris Chibnall (Doctor Who, Torchwood, Broadchurch). And Graham had a lot to say about it. [LINK]

    What happened was, in about I guess 2007, George Lucas decided…he was already writing and developing his Clone Wars animated series, and was enjoying jumping back into the Star Wars universe. He had been running writers’ rooms for Clone Wars, and he was enjoying the process of sitting down and chinwagging with other writers. He said I think the time has come to talk about doing a live-action Star Wars show. It had been rumored for a long time.

    His producer Rick McCallum and associate producer Steve Irwin were basically given the task of traveling around and finding six or seven writers from around the world to bring in on the project.

    Rick has a particular love of British writers and Australian writers. Even though Rick wanted to bring in a couple of writers from Los Angeles, he wanted to staff the room up with people from outside too. As a result of throwing the net out, Rick and Steve watched Life on Mars and loved it. I had a meeting with Rick in London, and then they sent some tapes for George to look at. He watched a couple of episodes and really liked it. And then the next thing, I got one of those wonderfully surreal calls, are you available in two days’ time to go to London to meet with George Lucas?

    The other Brit that was hired was [incoming Doctor Who showrunner] Chris Chibnall.

    Chris and I then flew to Skywalker Ranch every two or three months or so, for two weeks at a time, for two years. We had Australian writers, a couple of American writers. Sometimes people came and went. A couple of the American guys didn’t work out so well, so they left. Then [Battlestar Galactica showrunner] Ronald D. Moore came in about six months into the process, and he did time with us.

    Towards the end we had a wonderful Irish writer called Terry Cafolla. He came in and joined us for the last three or four sessions that we did. We’d be with George from nine until five in the afternoon, and we’d break Star Wars stories.

    George wanted to create twenty-five scripts for a season, and then he was enjoying the process so much that he wanted to carry on and do two seasons’ worth of scripts. Which is very much his way of thinking. If he likes something, he takes it beyond what you think is possible to do.

    We worked on the show in 2008, 2009, maybe bled a little into 2010. I had phone catch-ups with the producers about when they were going to move the production to Australia. Then it all went quiet for six months or ten months or something, then suddenly I heard that Lucasfilm had been sold to Disney.

    Graham, Chibnall, Ron Moore, and they tried to get Russell T. Davies on board? You know, this might’ve turned into the best-written TV series ever. I wonder if they reached out to Vince “Breaking Bad” Gilligan at all. Terry Cafolla wrote for Law & Order UK and Camelot, and may have been recommended by Chibnall, who was the showrunner on L&O:UK.

    Go read the whole interview, it’s pretty fascinating, and a lot longer than what I’ve copied here. Lots of fascinating revelations about working with Lucas.

    #3389

    Will believe when seen, but… [LINK]

    Remember those pre-Disney-deal Star Wars news reports hinting that a live-action series was in the works with Lucasfilm? Well, fans dispirited by the eventual dissolution of that project (Star Wars: Underworld) after the 2012 $4 billion franchise buyout might just have their hopes revived after comments made by the big brass of the (Disney-owned) network ABC.

    At the Television Critics Association summer press tour, ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey dropped the kind of proverbial explosive projectile that would have you looking in the sky for TIE Bombers. When asked about the possibility of the already media-ubiquitous Star Wars property finally taking the plunge into the live-action television series arena, Dungey gave a surprising answer, revealing the existence of some fateful talks (via Variety):

    “As a fan I would absolutely love to say yes. We have had conversations with [Lucasfilm] and we will continue to have conversations with them. I think it would be wonderful if we could find a way to extend that brand onto our programming.”

    As has been pointed out in other interviews and articles quoted in this thread… it’s not as if the scripts don’t exist.

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