Samuel Brace on Lucasfilm’s director shake-up on the Han Solo Star Wars movie…
Let’s start off by saying that no one likes to see people lose their jobs, and I’m sure that Phil Lord and Chris Miller did a very good job directing the movie they wanted to make. However, by looking at the evidence available, Lucasfilm were totally right to let them go and bring in a new Han Solo director. With that being said, this is their fault, not that of Lord and Miller’s; this bed they have made for themselves.
So, why was it the right decision to pursue a new director, resulting in the hiring of Ron Howard?
1) Han Solo isn’t a comedic character
When the story first broke, we heard that creative differences were why Lucasfilm decided to part ways with Lord and Miller, and as more details came out, we learned that it was the direction they were taking the movie, with its improvisational approach, and overall comedic take on Han that was at odds with Lucasfilm’s vision for the movie, character, and the Star Wars brand.
This is completely understandable. On the surface of things, a wacky, screwball comedy starring Han and Lando – in the vein of Lord and Miller’s 21 Jump Street – sounds like a blast, and one that would be immensely enjoyable. The truth however, is that this is the totally wrong take on the character of Han Solo.
This is reportedly exactly what caused the breakup, with THR’s report saying that Lord and Miller were sacked because of “their comedic sensibility and improvisational style”, with the THR source adding, “People need to understand that Han Solo is not a comedic personality. He’s sarcastic and selfish.”
This is exactly right, Solo is not a comedic character, he is in fact a pretty grumpy guy during the Original Trilogy, while delivering sarcastic remarks, and making people smile because of Harrison Ford’s natural charm, even while being an ass. Any other appearance of the character has to be congruent with this fact.
Now, this anthology movie is of course an earlier incarnation of Han, he’s a slightly younger man than he was in A New Hope, likely around his early 20’s. So there is some room to manoeuvre there, a more energetic and even more reckless Han is to be expected. However, it’s asinine to suggest that he’s a wacky, zany individual, as other reports are describing Lord and Miller’s interpretation of the character (more on that later).
So, if this is indeed the situation, and putting aside if this parallel dimension version of the character would be fun to witness, this is indeed at odds with the character we know and love, and would be particularly incongruent with the canon that Lucasfilm are trying to maintain with their Star Wars universe. I am sure we are all for these new one off Star Wars films having a slightly different feel to them, much like Rogue One, but at their very essence, at a systemic level, they must be Star Wars movies, and that fact should be obvious to anyone tuning in. And if this wasn’t the case with regards to Solo, the decision to jump ship so late into production would have certainly been the right one.
2) The star wasn’t on board with the direction
The second reason why the decisions made here appear to be the correct ones, stems from the apparent stance of the film’s lead actor.
This might be a film that appears to have a strong ensemble core like all Star Wars films, but at the end of the day it’s a Han Solo movie, and he is the reason why people are turning up. So if the actor playing the character – in this case Alden Ehrenreich – isn’t happy with how things are turning out, how the character is being portrayed, you are going to have a problem on your hands.
And reportedly, this is exactly the case, with Star Wars News Net claiming that Ehrenreich is the main reason Lord and Miller were ousted.
Their report says: “Ehrenreich had concerns with the production as filming progressed. He started to worry that Lord & Miller’s screwball comedy angle was starting to interfere with what the character of Han Solo is really about –- even if this was a younger, more reckless take on the character than the one we met in that cantina on Tatooine. One source described it as being oddly comparable to Jim Carrey’s performance in Ace Ventura at times. Ehrenreich let his concerns be known to one of the producers, who then told Kennedy about it, which led to her decision to look over the existing footage.”
This isn’t good, gang. If this report is true, not only were Lord and Miller completely off the reservation, the chances of a movie turning out well when your lead actor isn’t fully behind the direction the movie is taking, and the scenes his character is inhabiting, is very unlikely indeed.
All of this certainly lines up with the decision to replace the directors with Ron Howard – not a man whose movies you would call zany.
So, why is this Lucasfilm’s fault?
They should have foreseen this issue
With all the above being said, two directors have in fact lost their jobs because Lucasfilm were apparently not clear with the direction they wanted the movie to take.
Think of all the production meetings and discussions that would have taken place in the prep for this movie, not only over the film’s style, but the interpretation of the title character. And somehow it was apparently still unclear – or at least open to interpretation – what the movie was supposed to be. It seems highly unlikely that Lord and Miller, in the biggest gig of their careers, a dream job, would decide to just say, “Screw it, let’s ignore what they want and make this wacky comedy”.
I don’t buy it, they’d have known they would never get away with such a heist, and would have ultimately shown their untrustworthiness before an entire industry. Therefore this is surely a result of the powers at be either not sufficiently articulating their wants and desires for the film, or realising that they made a mistake half way through the shoot in giving these two directors the licence to do as they please. Either way, this is Lucasfilm’s doing, they should have had this locked down, and can only blame themselves for the mess created.
And now they have a film that is way into production, with a surely uneasy cast and crew, and a new director trying to steady the ship with the whole world watching.
What a palaver, and one that was truly avoidable.
Let us wish Mr. Howard the very best.