In the past few weeks, ABC has talked about bringing Star Wars to the small screen. The idea of a brand new live-action television show set in the Star Wars universe sounds like a pipe dream, one fans have had in our heads for at least over a decade. A series was even announced in 2005, when George Lucas still controlled every aspect of the franchise himself, but it never happened. In its place, fans have had an almost uninterrupted run of animated shows under the helm of Dave Filoni since The Clone Wars debuted in 2015.
Here’s what we know about the prospects of a live-action Star Wars TV show and what might have been.
1. There Are No Plans for a ‘Star Wars’ Show Right Now & One Won’t Happen for a Long Time
Talk of a Star Wars live action show resurfaced in January when TV Line asked then-ABC President Paul Lee about it. He told them that Lucasfilm is “focused on their movies… so we don’t have any plans at the moment.” A Lucasfilm rep also told the site that, “Our current focus for TV is on animation.”
That might have closed the book on it, but new ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey was asked about it during the summer TV Critics Association press tour in August.
“Oh, as a fan, I would absolutely love to say ‘Yes,’” she said, reports Entertainment Weekly. “The conversations with Lucas, we have had conversations with them and will continue to have conversations with them. I think it would be wonderful if we could find a way to extend that brand into our programming.”
Dungey said that there are ongoing talks about a project, but Lucasfilm is under a “big shroud of secrecy” that’s more intense than Marvel’s.
On September 14, The Hollywood Reporter published an interview with Disney-ABC TV Group President Ben Sherwood, who said that the decision to make a live-action Star Wars show isn’t his. It’s up to Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. Sherwood explained:
Somewhere we hope in a galaxy not too far away there will be a television show that will air on one of our networks. But I wouldn’t get anybody’s hopes up too high. They have a lot of movies to make between now and then. We are deep into a very productive relationship with Lucasfilm making [Disney XD’s] Star Wars Rebels. And we are in ongoing conversations with them on what is the next Star Wars animated show.
Lee also spoke about the series in a 2013 interview with Entertainment Weekly, only revealing that they’d like to air a Star Wars show.
2. Last Year, a Rumor Suggested That Netflix Was Going to be the Home of 3 ‘Star Wars’ Series
In July 2015, Cinelinx published a rumor that not only one Star Wars series was being planned for Netflix, but three. The site also claimed that Disney wanted to make the shows between movie production so they could use the same sets. A previous rumor from the same site claimed that Disney wants to use a character from the Star Wars books for the series.
It’s worth noting that Netflix and Disney already have a long relationship, with the Marvel shows and a new deal to make Netflix the streaming home of new Disney movies. Also, Netflix was the exclusive home for the final season of The Clone Wars.
3. There Were 50 Scripts Written for ‘Star Wars: Underworld’ & George Lucas Said Budgetary Concerns Caused the Delay
Whatever your opinion of George Lucas is, one has to admit that he is one ambitious filmmaker. A live action Star Wars TV series was announced in 2005 at Celebration III in Indianapolis, as a way to keep the series alive after Revenge of the Sith hit theaters. Despite never having a network attached, Lucas went ahead and assigned writers to the show, including Outlander‘s Ronald D. Moore. At least 50 scripts were completed.
But even before Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, it was clear that the show might never air. While promoting the 3D release of The Phantom Menace, Lucas told Movieweb that there were concerns about the budget.
We are looking for a different technology that we can use, that will make it economically feasible to shoot the show. Right now, it looks like the Star Wars features. But we have to figure out how to make it at about a tenth of the cost of the features, because its television. We are working toward that, and we continue to work towards that. We will get there at some point. It’s just a very difficult process.
Keep in mind that Lucas made these comments long before Netflix committed $100 million for the first two season of House of Cards. But even $100 million is nothing compared to the costs of Star Wars movies. The estimated production budget for The Force Awakens was $245 million. Revenge of the Sith cost an estimated $113 million to make.
4. Producer Rick McCallum Called the Series ‘Empire Strikes Back’ on Steroids & ‘Deadwood’ in Space
If you want to get Star Wars fans excited about a project, just insist that it will be as good as The Empire Strikes Back. In a 2012 interview with Collider, Rick McCallum, who was the producer on the prequels and Red Tails, called the series “Empire on steroids.” McCallum, appearing to hope that show might land on HBO, also called it Deadwood in space, just without the extreme language. (No, it wouldn’t have included Boba Fett calling people “c**ksucker.”)
“Seriously, there were no holds barred, the writers went for it, George [R.R. Martin] set a standard,” McCallum said. “The original thing was, we kind of described it as ‘Deadwood in space.’ That’s the kind of track we started heading for.”
Although no title for the show was ever announced, it had earned the title Star Wars: Underworld, since it was thought to be set in the Coruscant underworld.
“We’re at a complicated impasse right now,” McCallum said in a 2012 interview. “We have… 50 scripts [that are] unbelievable. The most provocative, the most bold and daring material that we’ve ever done.”
McCallum also insisted in his IGN interview that Lucas could have produced the episodes at $4 million to $5 million each.
5. The Series Would Have Been a Crossover With the Cancelled Game ‘Star Wars: 1313’
Like Underworld, Star Wars: 1313 is another famous project that never came to fruition. And also like the series, it was promised to be darker than anything ever seen from Star Wars before. It was even going to be rated “M” for “Mature.”
Sources told Kokatu back in 2013 that 1313 was planned as “tie-in” with the show and was even called Underworld at one point. Instead, the title was changed to refer to one of the most dangerous levels on Coruscant (and made an appearance in The Clone Wars series).
1313 was never released, and the TV series has still not happened. In December 2015, Slash Film spoke with Kennedy, who said that none of the work developed for Underworld or 1313 was thrown out. She said Lucasfilm “may very well develop those things further.” However, that’s the last time we’ve heard anything directly from anyone in Lucasfilm on the project.
It sounds impossible to believe that Lucasfilm and Disney wouldn’t be at least thinking about a Star Wars live-action series. However, Lucasfilm does still have movies scheduled through 2020 (including a stand-alone movie that’s rumored to be featuring Boba Fett), so don’t expect to see a live-action TV series in the immediate future.