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Why George Lucas refused to cameo in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

George Lucas didn't cameo in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, even though the crew wanted him to appear, but he had one specific reason for declining

Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

We’ve had a lot of Star Wars movies by this point, and only one of them contains a George Lucas cameo. That’s a lot of restraint from someone who was the mastermind behind six of the science fiction movies. He hasn’t even shown up in the Star Wars series either! Turns out, there’s a good reason for that.

In an interview for The Phantom Menace, special effects supervisor John Knoll told Entertainment Weekly he did make a case for Lucas to become a Star Wars character, but they had different ideals. “I tried to get George to do his own cameo,” Knolls states. “He said, ‘Nah. Too cheesy.'”

It might seem odd that cheesiness was some sort of line for a franchise involving laser swords, spaceships, and that John Williams score, but a creator cameo can be a different level of gauche. Lucas did eventually step in front of the camera, in Revenge of the Sith. He and his daughter KAtie Lucas play blue aliens chatting away near the opera house. It’s blinka-and-you’ll-miss-it, to avoid being too distracting as one of those things people point out every viewing, since Star Wars has enough of those already, like how Han and Luke reference 1138 in A New Hope, a reference to the title of Lucas’s first feature.

Nowadays, it’d be a different scenario if he decided to cameo again. Lucas hasn’t been involved in the decision-making around Star Wars since Lucasfilm was sold to Disney. A small appearance in one of the sci-fi series or action movies would just be a cheeky nod now, rather than a director, writer or producer putting themselves in the production.

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Knoll points out that several effects people are in shots of The Phantom Menace, as part of the background CGI aliens. That’s where the idea for Lucas to slip in stemmed from, because they’re all under the shroud of green screen. That’s definitely a crafty way to do it, and something Lucas was clearly mindful of since he’s covered in blue makeup.

You can find all the Star Wars movies and series so far on streaming service Disney Plus. Plenty to look at while we wait for the Ahsoka release date, and whatever Easter eggs and references we get.