It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours for Star Wars fans, as it was abruptly announced that the popular directing duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie) are no longer at the helm of the as-yet untitled Han Solo movie – which is supposedly set to be the second Star Wars Anthology film. While the studio is apparently still insistent that the release date of May 2018 has not changed, the logistics of the situation is certainly cause for concern.
As it stands, the production seems to have been filming for between four and five months, and is reportedly less than a month away from finishing principal photography. Time for reshoots has been scheduled for later in the summer – as is the case for most big budget movies – but the directors have just been “let go.” It’s the timing of this drastic change that rings the loudest alarm bells for those that have been patiently waiting for a look at the early years of the beloved rogue, simply because Lord and Miller have clearly already done the larger share of the work. If, as they said in their statement, their “vision and process weren’t aligned with [their] partners” on the film, what effect has that incompatibility had on the months of footage already in the can?
If the creative conflict is indeed evident in the footage it is, perhaps, a positive move to have the filmmakers exit, stage left. With a few weeks of principal photography left, the entire reshoot schedule, and all of the post-production phase to work on, the replacement director – whoever it’s eventually revealed to be – still has a fighting chance of delivering a decent movie. But who might that replacement be?
We’ve already heard reports that Ron Howard is on the shortlist, but The Hollywood Reporter is now suggesting that two more names have cropped up – both of whom have a prior association with Lucasfilm and the Star Wars brand. Firstly, there’s Lawrence Kasdan, who’s rumoured to be the person with whom Lord and Miller found most of their creative differences on the Han Solo movie set.
Kasdan has four Academy Award nominations to his name, thanks to his work as both writer, producer and director of an impressive list of movies. Most significantly, with regard to Star Wars, however, Kasdan co-wrote the scripts for The Empire Strikes Back, Return Of The Jedi and The Force Awakens – which means he’s been instrumental in crafting the character of Han Solo for decades. He also co-wrote the script for the Han Solo spinoff with his son, Jon. Kasdan is the obvious choice to take the reins, then – but the legality of such a move is in question, given that the Director’s Guild of America apparently has rules prohibiting a person already working on a film from stepping into the director’s seat.
Secondly, there’s Joe Johnston, who’s also an accomplished director in his own right. Apart from having helmed such effects-heavy fare as Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, The Rocketeer, Jumanji and Jurassic Park III, he also delivered Captain America: The First Avenger – arguably one of the best films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s also well-versed in the minutiae of Star Wars, having worked on A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return Of The Jedi, The Ewok Adevnture, Ewoks: The Battle For Endor, and Star Wars: Droids as – variously – visual effects operative, actor, production designer and writer.
If the goal is to bring in an experienced hand to steer the beleaguered Han Solo film over the finish line, while ensuring the movie remains true to the iconic character made famous by Harrison Ford, then Lucasfilm would do well to lock in Joe Johnston. At this point in the proceedings, however, the next developments are as unpredictable as the departure of Lord and Miller in the first place.