There's an unfortunate tendency in our neck of the woods to have movie news outlets become a tool in Hollywood negotiations. No one talks explicitly about it, but it happens all of the time. News hits that Celebrity X is "in talks" for Project Y, it spreads like wildfire, and, if all goes to plan, Celebrity X suddenly has a boatload of new press that they can point to in the negotiation process as a reason why their deal should be sweetened, if only just a little bit.
This publicly-in-talks process goes back and forth for a while. They're in, they're out, they're in again. Regardless of the end result, it all plays into the negotiation process. The bigger the film, the more often it happens, and George Lucas has just confirmed that it happened right before our very eyes on Star Wars: Episode VII.
Rumors have been swirling for months, some originating from Lucas himself, that Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill,and Carrie Fisher would all be returning for the new film. The most recent focus of these talks has been Fisher's return as Princess Leia, and once that news hit, everyone reported it and then Fisher came out and played off the news as a joke. However, George Lucas told Bloomberg Business Week, which put together an excellent profile of how Disney bought Lucasfilm, that it is no joke:
"We had already signed Mark and Carrie and Harrison—or we were pretty much in final stages of negotiation. So I called them to say, ‘Look, this is what’s going on.’ Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. I think they want to announce that with some big whoop-de-do, but we were negotiating with them. I won’t say whether the negotiations were successful or not."
And there you have it. You can see that Lucas realizes mid-answer that he's giving away the game, but the cat is already out of the bag. The original trilogy's trio weren't just informed of the new film before the sale of Lucasfilm, they've been in negotiations the entire time. And from our interpretation, their return was pretty much a done deal, but then news of their involvement leaked out, and here we are, still without a definitive answer.
We're not saying it's an evil process or anything. If Harrison Ford's camp wants to let it leak that Disney wants him to return as Han Solo so that it'll get everyone talking and maybe earn him a slightly bigger trailer in the process, so be it. He's a movie star worth talking about, so it only makes sense. Just keep in mind that it is indeed all business.
If you'd like to know more about how the entire Disney-Lucasfilm deal went down, do give Bloomberg's piece a read. It's worth it.
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