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George Lucas was planning to release Star Wars Episode 7 and then sell Lucasfilm

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George Lucas washed his hands of Star Wars when Disney bought Lucasfilm, but prior to the acquisition, he had been developing his own version of what might have been Episodes 7 through 9, he said in an interview with USA Today.

Lucas sold the the company he founded in 1971 to Disney for $4.05 billion in October 2012. At the time, he had already begun developing the third Star Wars trilogy, but knew it would require at least a 10-year commitment. In Lucas' initial plans, he would release Star Wars Episode 7 in May 2015, and then sell Lucasfilm.

Instead, Disney stepped in. Lucas felt like it was the right time; he told USA Today that his daughter Everest, now 17 months old, is one of the reasons he sold. Letting go of Lucasfilm allowed him to focus on family: He married Mellody Hobson in June 2013, and Everest was born via surrogate two months afterward. Lucas says he's now "happily retired," although he produced the new film Strange Magic, an animated musical. Lucas also wrote the story for Strange Magic, which debuts Jan. 23; he's been working on the project on the side for 15 years.

But what would Lucas' version of Episodes 7, 8 and 9 looked like? It's unclear. Lucas told Total Film magazine back in 2008 (via CinemaBlend) that he had "left pretty explicit instructions" for Lucasfilm not to make any more Star Wars films.

"There will definitely be no Episodes VII-IX. That's because there isn't any story," said Lucas at the time. "The Star Wars story is really the tragedy of Darth Vader. That is the story. Once Vader dies, he doesn't come back to life, the Emperor doesn't get cloned and Luke doesn't get married."

Yet Lucas indeed changed his mind after that point. Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, told Entertainment Weekly shortly after Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm that Lucas had told him "last summer" of his plans to make the third trilogy. Hamill, along with Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa) and Harrison Ford (Han Solo), are all reprising their roles in J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

For his part, Lucas is happy to have someone else handle the new Star Wars trilogy.

"It's better for me to get out at the beginning of a new thing and I can just remove myself," he told USA Today. "The time is more important to me than the money."

Since Lucas isn't involved in the production of The Force Awakens, which premieres Dec. 18, he can also come to Star Wars as a fan for the first time.

"The only thing I really regret about Star Wars is the fact I never got to see it — I never got to be blown out of my seat when the ship came over the screen," he said. "The next one, I'll be able to enjoy it like anybody else."