Obi-Wan Kenobi Loses Star Wars in Divorce!
OK, that was a sensationalist title for a unique story, and only accurate in the metaphoric sense. I don’t think this ever made official Star Wars canon, but Obi-Wan Kenobi was married for 22 years. Or at least the actor who starred as Obi-Wan was married – not Alec Guinness from the original trilogy, but Ewan McGregor, star of the less-well-received prequels.
After splitting up three years ago, in January 2018 McGregor filed for divorce from wife Eva Mavrakis, and they only now have finalized their settlement. And they were married in July 1995, which, as any Star Wars fan would know, was 4 years before McGregor first starred as the then-young Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, released in 1999.
Following The Phantom Menace, McGregor proceeded to reprise his role as Kenobi in the other prequel trilogy movies, Attack of the Clones in 2002, and Revenge of the Sith in 2005. And he is credited with being Obi-Wan’s voice in 2017’s The Force Awakens.
Star Wars at the Box Office
Star Wars is one of those very rare multi-generational phenomena. I well remember seeing the original movie (now Episode IV) at the cinema back in 1977, and the movie still remains one of the best space adventures ever made. And more than 40 years later, my now-12 y.o. son has been obsessed with Star Wars for several years, and knows the movies even better than I did at his age.
Something this popular, for so many decades, is bound to be money-making. While the prequels were widely panned as inferior to the original trilogy, the Star Wars franchise are undeniably blockbusters. Those three prequels starring McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi were a major box office force (sorry, pun completely intended!), combined earning almost $2 billion. And that’s just what they earned in theaters – they continue to earn money even now, between home video, television, streaming, and whatever else Hollywood executives can think of to earn money from the movies.
While the business side of Hollywood is way, way outside my area of the law, let’s just say that Obi-Wan actor McGregor, et al, will be receiving checks for their work on Star Wars for years to come.
And it is these Star Wars royalties that were divided in McGregor’s divorce – even though future checks will actually arrive after the dissolution of marriage, the work which earned the right to the money was entirely during the marriage. So kind of like stock options or, as we recently blogged about, division of a personal injury award at divorce, when determining the marital estate for divorce purposes what matters is when the asset was earned, not when the money is actually paid out.
Royalties are Both Income & Asset
Note that per C.R.S. 14-10-115(5)(I)(I), royalties count as income for purposes of child support (and the maintenance statute has a similar provision). But this flow of income from royalties is based upon a property interest, so like another type of income flow which is also property (defined benefit pension plans), royalties and residuals are also property
Put another way, while Ewan McGregor’s royalties (or, more accurately, residuals) from Star Wars count as income to McGregor, the right to receive funds when the movies are streamed, released on Blu-Ray or UHD, broadcast on TV, etc, is an enforceable property right, which is also a divisible asset at divorce.
So ultimately, while perhaps shocking to fans, the fact that Obi-Wan Kenobi had to share part of his Star Wars legacy with a non-Jedi is not a surprise to family law attorneys. The same principle applies to authors, inventors, or anyone else who creates intellectual property during a marriage which generates income post-divorce.