Star Wars Underworld: George Lucas had “a whole new thing he wanted to accomplish”

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Star Wars Underworld has almost passed into legend, a series that was on the cusp of production and then pulled away, and referenced in this weeks Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian when Kathleen Kennedy mentioned The Volume “down the hill at Skywalker Ranch”, a reference to the Grady Ranch which would have been the filming home of Underworld. One of the writers – which reportedly included Terry Cafolla, Chris Chibnall, Louise Fox, Tony McNamara, Fiona Seres, Matthew Graham and Stephen Scaia – was Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica writer Ronald D. Moore, and he recently spoke to Collider about the project.

Moore told Collider that a team of writers, including some outside the US, met up at Skywalker Ranch every six to eight weeks with Lucas to break story ideas. Lucas would then offer feedback on the scripts before writers went off for another draft. “It didn’t happen ultimately, we wrote I’d say somewhere in the 40-something, 48 scripts, something like that… the theory was George wanted to write all the scripts and get ‘em all done and then he was gonna go off and figure out how to produce them, because he wanted to do a lot of cutting edge technological stuff with CG and virtual sets and so on. And so he had a whole new thing he wanted to accomplish.”

Lucas ultimately ended up selling Lucasfilm “a year or something after” the writing was complete, according to Moore.

“It was an extraordinary undertaking for someone to do. I don’t know anyone else that would really take that on… At the time, George just said ‘write them as big as you want, and we’ll figure it out later.’ So we really had no [budget] constraints. We were all experienced television and feature writers, so we all kind of new what was theoretically possible on a production budget.”

George Lucas spoke about the show with Total Film back in 2008, describing it as “a completely different kind of idea, which is risky. But that’s the only reason I’m doing it. Some people will inevitably say, ‘It’s not what I think of as Star Wars.’ So who knows, it may work or it may not.”

Test footage surfaced earlier this year, giving an insight into how the VFX of the show may have been produced.

Three years later after construction plans for the Grady Ranch were turned down he would chat with Movieweb:“It sits on the shelf. We have 50 hours. We are trying to figure out a different way of making movies. 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 it’s 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. Obviously, when we do figure this problem out, it will dramatically affect features, because feature films are costing between $250 to $350 million. When we figure this out, they will be able to make a feature film for $50 million.” Prophetic words.

Our recent Making Tracks guest Steve Sansweet referred to it as revealing the “greasy, seamy underbelly of Star Wars.” and in 2010 Lucas spoke on the series.

Rick McCallum, who we spoke to way back in 2008, also broached the topic in 2012.

With the advent of Disney Plus and StageCraft technology, and knowing an experienced group of seasoned writers wrote almost 50 scripts for the show, perhaps – as with the seventh season of The Clone Wars – those scripts could be tweaked, repurposed and brought to life.

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