The plot, as they say, thickens.
Following hot on the heels of a Lucasfilm announcement, telling the world that Colin Trevorrow would no longer be directing Star Wars: Episode IX, The Hollywood Reporter is highlighting ‘script issues’ as the cause of the shake-up, saying that the relationship between the director and studio became “unmanageable.” What’s interesting about that is that it stands in direct contradiction with Trevorrow’s own description of his experience of working on the franchise, just two months ago.
The rebooted Star Wars film series, as overseen by Lucasfilm President, Kathleen Kennedy, is no stranger to talent re-shuffles. Director Josh Trank was ejected from an unnamed Star Wars anthology project before he even really began – presumably as a result of the disastrous Fantastic Four in 2015, while Tony Gilroy was said to have significantly re-shaped Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in 2016, with extensive reshoots. Most recently, Phil Lord and Chris Miller were ousted from the helm of the Han Solo anthology film, just weeks from the end of principal photography – and were replaced by Ron Howard. That spectacular move was reportedly the result of a difference of opinion about the “direction” the film should take.
But, in the face of all this evidence of a creatively controlling approach from the leadership of Lucasfilm, Colin Trevorrow himself has been heard – as recently as July 2017 – to vigorously defend the management methods of those behind the franchise, and the way in which filmmakers are afforded the opportunity to craft stories and deploy their specific project vision.
“There’s such a genuine want to get this right from everybody, and I think that one of the misconceptions is that there’s some kind of great corporate overlord that is dictating this story to everybody, and that’s what it’s going to be because that’s going to sell the most toys.”
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Now, in a giant plot twist, Lucasfilm has contradicted that sentiment in a single line within their statement about Episode IX’s staffing change.
“Colin has been a wonderful collaborator throughout the process, but we have all come to the conclusion that our visions for the project differ.”
The script for Star Wars: Episode IX was initially delivered by Trevorrow and his frequent co-writer, Derek Connolly. The first real indication of a disturbance in this project’s Force came with the arrival of screenwriter Jack Thorne, who was brought in by Lucasfilm to rework the script. As director, however, Colin Trevorrow has also been deeply immersed in the overall development of the movie – apparently even requesting a very small addition to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, to tie the narrative more closely to his franchise instalment.
There is, of course, the possibility that the unexpected loss of Carrie Fisher has greatly impacted the scripting process of Star Wars: Episode IX. It had been rumoured that General Leia Organa would play a pivotal role in Colin Trevorrow’s movie, and that her sudden death at the end of 2016 therefore necessitated fundamental re-drafts of the script. In that respect, this sad loss may well have been a contributing factor in the departure of Colin Trevorrow.
It’s important to remember the wider context, though. In the final analysis, Star Wars is one of the most recognizable and legendary brands in history – and each new film release carries the burden of that status. The franchise has been a highly lucrative property for four decades, and so it’s actually realistic to expect the managing corporate entity to have the final word on its narrative direction. While audiences may rankle at the idea of ‘corporate meddling’ in other popular movie franchises – such as Marvel and DC – Star Wars is a different beast entirely, by virtue of its history in both a business and creative sense.
The issue causing such frenzied speculation, surely, is one of contradicting corporate messages – claiming to want filmmakers with a particular voice and vision, then ejecting them when that vision differs from that of Lucasfilm; claiming to be desperately seeking women to write and direct Star Wars movies, but repeatedly hiring white men, instead. While public relations is certainly a vital part of running one of the biggest, most beloved brands in the world, it’s this apparently contradictory approach on the part of Lucasfilm that provides grist for the very rumour mill that loudly accompanies these productions.
And so, attention turns to the question of Colin Trevorrow’s replacement. While the matter is somewhat less urgent than the replacement of Phil Lord and Chris Miller – who were in the midst of principal photography when they were ejected from Han Solo – Star Wars: Episode IX is still due for release on June 21st 2019. These projects being such giant endeavours, we can probably expect to hear a name announced soon.