"Star Wars" creator George Lucas apologised on Thursday for an interview in which he criticised the latest film and referred to Disney, which bought the rights to the blockbuster franchise, as "white slavers".
In the interview with journalist Charlie Rose, part of which aired in November but which was broadcast in full last week, Lucas appears upset at what Disney – which paid US$4 billion for Lucasfilm in 2012 – did with "The Force Awakens".
"They wanted to do a retro movie. I don't like that," Lucas said, likening the sale to a painful break-up and complaining that the franchise had become too commercial.
"These are my kids. All the 'Star Wars' films. I loved them, I created them, I'm very intimately involved in them," said the 71-year-old.
He added, trailing off: "I sold them to the white slavers that take these things and…"
The comments stirred controversy, and Lucas – a recipient of this year's Kennedy Center Honors, seen as the highest recognition of cultural achievement in the United States – issued an apology on Thursday.
"I want to clarify my interview on the Charlie Rose Show. It was for the Kennedy Center Honors and conducted prior to the premiere of the film. I misspoke and used a very inappropriate analogy and for that I apologise," he said.
"I have been working with Disney for 40 years and chose them as the custodians of 'Star Wars' because of my great respect for the company and Bob Iger's leadership. Disney is doing an incredible job of taking care of and expanding the franchise."
Lucas added that he was "blown away with the record-breaking blockbuster success of the new movie", heaping praise on director J.J. Abrams and current Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy.
"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" – the seventh film in the space soap opera – has shattered several box office records since it hit theatres worldwide in mid-December.
On Thursday, Disney announced that it had become the studio's highest grossing film of all time in terms of domestic box office at US$629 million, surpassing Marvel superhero flick "The Avengers" from 2012, which took in US$623.4 million.
Globally, "The Force Awakens" – the first "Star Wars" film in a decade – has so far earned US$1.29 billion, sending it past Disney's animated blockbuster "Frozen" for the number eight spot on the all-time box office list.
As for the all-time record, two films by James Cameron hold the top two spots – "Avatar" (US$2.79 billion) and "Titanic" (US$2.19 billion).