You’re a young, talented director with a great indie film under your belt. One day you get what has to be ‘the dream call.’ It’s Lucasfilm and they’re interested in what you might bring to Star Wars. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to work with an enormous budget on one of the most famous franchises in the history of cinema? And yet the reality of actually doing it seems to be somewhat difficult.
Since Disney’s acquisition of the franchise, many directors have foundered. The successes are J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson, but there are many that have fallen by the wayside. Colin Trevorrow was booted off The Rise of Skywalker very early into pre-production, Chris Miller and Phil Lord were sacked from Solo after producers didn’t like the direction they were going, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff’s new trilogy never made it out of the starting blocks and Gareth Edwards was kicked off Rogue One, with much of the film being ghost directed by Tony Gilroy. So, why on earth is Star Wars such a poisoned chalice?
Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy addressed the situation in a new interview with Rolling Stone, saying:
“You start by talking to filmmakers who you think exhibit the sensibilities that you’re looking for. And I would argue that the list is very small — people who really do have the sensibilities about these kind of movies, and then the experience and the ability to handle how enormous a job these movies are. So we try to be as thoughtful as we possibly can about making those choices. I would also argue that sometimes people get involved in the normal development process, and then they realize, “Oh, my God, this is so much more than I ever imagined.” So it’s pretty common that when you’re working on movies, you’re not making choices and decisions that necessarily work out exactly the way you want from the get-go.”
Yeah well, that’s the PR line at least. My bet is that it isn’t so much that the amount of work is more than they anticipate, but that every decision they make is scrutinized from on high and they’re essentially steered in a particular direction. Deviate too far from what Lucasfilm think a Star Wars movie should be – like Lord and Miller did – and nothing good will happen.
I guess you could defend the practice by saying that Disney and Lucasfilm don’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs, but too much producer interference resulted in Solo flopping, which should be basically impossible for a Star Wars movie. Plus, if they exercise such tight control over what the creatives they employ do, then they’re going to strangle any new ideas that could pay off going forward.
Either way, if I were a director that was offered a Star Wars movie I’d think long and hard if I was really willing to put up with the hassle from both the execs above and the fans below. And that’s a sad situation for the franchise to find itself in.