George Lucas Star Wars Force Awakens premiere
Star Wars creator George Lucas has apologised for comparing Disney to 'white slavers' Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Star Wars creator George Lucas has been forced to issue a grovelling apology after saying in a TV interview that film studios Disney were "white slavers" when they bought the franchise from him for $4bn (£2.7bn, €3.68bn). Lucas was speaking about the latest movie in the series, The Force Awakens, which was made by Disney and broke box-office records when it was released in December 2015.

In the interview with US TV talk show host Charlie Rose, Lucas had been explaining how he and Disney had seen the future of the Star Wars series very differently. "They weren't that keen to have me involved anyway," he told Rose, "but if I get in there, I'm just going to cause trouble, because they're not going to do what I want them to do. And I don't have the control to do that anymore, and all I would do is muck everything up. And so I said, 'OK, I will go my way, and I'll let them go their way'."

Lucas said the Star Wars movies were his "kids" adding: "I created them, I'm very intimately involved in them, and I sold them to the white slavers that take these things and…" before tailing off, as if aware he had gone too far. The issue of slavery remains one of the most fiercely-debated in America, as seen recently in suggestions black people should receive reparations for the trade.

Now Lucas has released a statement through Disney apologising for the comments. "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. I rarely go out with statements to clarify my feelings but I feel it is important to make it clear that I am thrilled that Disney has the franchise and is moving it in such exciting directions in film, television and the parks."

Having appeared to be expressing doubts about what had happened to Star Wars since he sold the rights, Lucas went on to clarify his thoughts about the way the Star Wars series had been developed by new director JJ Abrams and executive Kathleen Kennedy. "I'm blown away with the record breaking blockbuster success of the new movie and am very proud of JJ and Kathy."