Tomorrowland hits theaters in just a few short days, but if it hadn't been for a decision that Brad Bird made during pre-production, the movie may not even exist at all. The filmmaker was one of Disney's top choices to make Star Wars: The Force Awakens, before J.J. Abrams signed on, and he was actually offered the directing gig, while he was in pre-production on Tomorrowland. Ultimately, Brad Bird turned down Star Wars: The Force Awakens to make Tomorrowland, a decision that may perplex some fans, but one he explained in a new interview, revealing that if he would have left Tomorrowland, it may never have seen the light of day.
"It absolutely was [a tough decision]. But there was no way to do that film without junking [Tomorrowland], and we had already gotten George Clooney involved and I was excited about this film. I understand they had to get [The Force Awakens] made, and they would've had to push it in order for me to do it."
In a separate interview, Brad Bird said that Disney, which had committed to a 2015 release date when they bought LucasFilm in October 2012, was not willing to push Star Wars: The Force Awakens to make Tomorrowland, another Disney movie. He added that Tomorrowland already had so much momentum, with George Clooney signing on, and he knew Star Wars would do just fine without him.
"George Clooney had committed at that point. I love Star Wars, but Star Wars is going to be made whether I do it or not. They wouldn't delay Star Wars for me to do Tomorrowland. Momentum is fragile, and movies need momentum and we had a lot of momentum on Tomorrowland and I really loved what the movie was, and I thought there was a chance that Tomorrowland won't get made, simply because it loses its momentum. It's a weird thing, you have this wispy cloud you're trying to solidify. I thought it deserved to be made, and Star Wars is a very robust thing right now and it's going to be fine."
"What's really funny is that we [Damon Lindelof and I] were having conversations on the phone during this. And we were in Florida scouting [for Tomorrowland] and having to keep this a secret from everybody that we were scouting with. Because that's a buzz kill immediately. But there was this episode of South Park that appeared as this was going on and I was completely blown away. Because there was a shot from it - I even Tweeted [Damon] the shot - it was Cartman and behind him was a lightsaber and in front of him was Space Mountain from Tomorrowland. And God it was happening right in front of me! It was like a super, unbelievable scene from a movie. Like I don't accept that at all. But it was happening right in front of me."
Damon Lindelof also chimed in on Brad Bird deciding to stick with Tomorrowland, hinting that the appeal of doing something original, instead of an established franchise, may have been a factor in him staying.
"For Brad as a director or for me as a writer the things that you get offered, or the things that are out there, literally 19 out of 20 of them are all franchises based on existing properties - comic books, books. That sort of thing that wouldn't necessarily be considered originals. And then when you start working on an original and you get very pregnant with it, at any time you can get that call and it's like, 'But are you really going to say no to Boba Fett? Are you really going to say no to Spider-Man? Are you really going to say no to Star Wars?' And that's why I think that a lot of original films don't get made. Because it takes Christopher Nolan saying, 'No, actually I'm going to be working on Interstellar now. This one's for me.' And Brad's leaving out part of the story, and in the grand spirit of narcissism I have to put myself into the story. It was his choice and his choice to make alone. But when I called him up I said to him, 'Look, if it were me, I would go and do Star Wars! I mean, like, I don't know how you say no to that.' Now, what Brad didn't understand is that this is an old Jewish trick. It's like a, 'Look, you go with God.' I mean, it was what I was genuinely feeling and I brought myself to the point where the movie [Tomorrowland] was going to collapse. When he said that he was staying it was just this amazing experience and the movie only exists right now because of it. Obviously J.J. [Abrams] has directed Episode VII and everything that I'm seeing and hearing about it is fantastic, but I'm really glad that Brad stayed."