Yes, that leaked Star Wars footage that surfaced last week was real. No, it’s not what you think it was.
Last week, footage found its way online that was assumed to be from a long-lost, unproduced live-action Star Wars TV show. The show, which never had an official title, was often referred to by its working title: Star Wars Underworld. It was a project George Lucas and others worked on between roughly 2005 and 2012 with, reportedly, about 50 scripts written by the likes of Ronald D. Moore and others. Over the years, the internet has reported on this show often but, until last week, we’d never seen anything. Then this clip was discovered.
The 10-minute clip, shot in 2010, is split into two halves. The first five minutes show a spy trying to hatch a plan against the Empire with rather impressive visual effects and production value. That’s followed by five minutes of behind-the-scenes footage of the clip being filmed.
And while the below YouTube embed is new, the footage—credited to California-based visual effects company Stargate Studios—had been on the company’s Vimeo for nine years, though it was deleted in the past few days. So, what’s the story?
A source close to the project told io9 that the footage is real but not necessarily what the final series would have looked like—it was proof of concept. Because the show was going to be so expensive to make, producer Rick McCallum hired Stargate to shoot some test footage (not at all unusual in Hollywood) that Lucasfilm could then bring to TV networks. Lucasfilm did not have a comment on this footage or story and we had not heard back from McCallum or his production company at time of publication.
The hope was the footage would get one of the networks interested and it would agree to co-finance the project. So what you’re seeing here is the footage Stargate made after being hired by Lucasfilm. It’s real, but not a final representation of the show, merely a test. Where specifically the story in the footage came from, our source didn’t say. It’s possible McCallum gave Stargate a rough idea or the studio just did something on its own.
The point of the footage wasn’t the story, though; it was to convey tone, technology, and setting. It would have made clear the series was set on the streets of Coruscant (much like we saw in Attack of the Clones) and heavily influenced by a Blade Runner aesthetic. It was meant to follow the crime family that ruled lower Coruscant, sort of like The Godfather or The Sopranos, and Lucasfilm wanted the footage to show the advances in virtual sets that had been happening thanks to the prequels.
Apparently, networks reacted positively to the footage but, for reasons unknown, eventually passed on it. An educated guess would probably be money (Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead were in their infancy at this time, so spending millions of dollars per episode for a genre show simply wasn’t common yet), but since this was years before the Disney-led Star Wars resurgence, a perceived lack of interest could’ve been a factor too.
All we know for sure is that Lucasfilm hired Stargate to make something networks would get interested in, they didn’t, so the show died on the vine. But this was indeed footage Lucasfilm used to try and get it on the air. Little did McCallum, Lucas, and others know that about a decade later, everything they wanted to do would come true without their involvement. A live-action Star Wars TV show about seedy underworld characters, with a huge budget and large virtual sets? It’s called The Mandalorian.
The YouTube embed of this footage also links to a Google Doc filled with rumors and possible info about the series. It’s a fun read if you’re so inclined.
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