“I’ve spent my life building Lucasfilm and as I shift my focus into other directions I wanted to make sure it was in the hands of someone equipped to carry my vision into the future.” – George Lucas
While there has been no thick plume of black smoke flying over Marin County while “The Imperial March” booms forth from loudspeakers strategically placed all over the town, today indeed marks the beginning of the end of an era. With no more Star Wars movies left to be made, George Lucas has been busy planning his retirement from overseeing the many film and television projects in development at Lucasfilm Ltd, including the long-gestating Star Wars: Underworld TV series. All that was left to do for Lucas was to name his successor.
Kathleen Kennedy, a seven-time Oscar-nominated film producer and longtime collaborator of Lucas and other notable directors including Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, has been named the new Co-Chair of Lucasfilm, it was announced today. Lucas will remain with the company as Co-Chairman of the Board and continue in his duties as CEO with Micheline Chau remaining as President and COO focusing on the day-to-day operations of the business.
Lucas said of this decision:
“It was important that my successor not only be someone with great creative passion and proven leadership abilities, but also someone who loves movies. I care deeply about my employees””it is their creativity and hard work that has made this company what it is today. As the company grows and expands I wanted to be sure the employees of Lucasfilm have a strong captain for the ship. I also care deeply about our fans and it was important to have someone who would carry on the passion and care that I’ve given the films over the years. So for me Kathy was the obvious choice, she is a trusted friend and one of the most respected producers and executives in the industry.”
Kennedy is probably best known for her creative partnership with Spielberg, a relationship that began in 1979 during the production of 1941. In 1981 she co-founded Amblin Entertainment with the legendary filmmaker and her producing partner and husband Frank Marshall. Over the years Kennedy has produced some of the biggest blockbusters of the past three decades including the Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, and Jurassic Park series as well as Poltergeist, The Goonies, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and War of the Worlds. She has also produced M. Night Shyamalan’s two biggest hit films, The Sixth Sense and Signs, and Best Picture Oscar nominees The Color Purple, Schindler’s List (which won the coveted award in 1994), Munich, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and last year’s War Horse.
Kennedy offered the following statement in response to the news:
“George is a true visionary. I’ve seen him build Lucasfilm from a small rebel unit in Northern California to an international fully integrated entertainment company. I’m excited to have the chance to work with such an extraordinary group of talented people. George and I have talked about the enormous opportunities that lie ahead for the company, and as George moves towards retirement I am honored that he trusts me with taking care of the beloved film franchises. I feel fortunate to have George working with me for the next year or two as I take on this role””it is nice to have Yoda by your side.”
Now that she’s the Co-Chair of Lucasfilm, Kennedy will step down from her role running the Kennedy/Marshall Company with her husband, who will assume her responsibilities. The production company is currently in post-production on the upcoming summer action-thriller The Bourne Legacy and Spielberg’s historical epic Lincoln.
Given her unbeatable track record in the industry, Lucas’ decision to turn his office over to Kennedy is a wise and pragmatic move on the controversial filmmaker’s part. I’m surprised he didn’t promote from within and give the job to his producing partner Rick McCallum. With the prolific Kennedy at the helm maybe the creative output at Lucasfilm will increase dramatically and we’ll get some quality movies in the years to come.
To close this article I’ll let the Beard himself have the final word:
“George’s prescience is once again proven by his choice of my long time producing partner, Kathy Kennedy to co-chair Lucasfilm. Kathy has been a member of both of our families going into a fourth decade so it does not feel like she is going to another galaxy far far away. She will get just as much support from me with Lucasfilm as George has given both of us all these years.”