It’s a special edition of The Week in Star Wars following the shock news from the Han Solo spin-off movie, along with some bits from The Last Jedi, Episode IX and more…
Before we kick things off, The Week in Star Wars celebrated it’s second birthday this week.
Thanks to everyone who has read any edition over the last two years 🙂
So, let’s talk about Han Solo. Although the event took place as early as Monday, it was revealed on Tuesday that Phil Lord and Chris Miller had been fired from the Han Solo spin-off movie. The films had been in production since February, and all reports suggest that there are still four or so weeks left of shooting, with five weeks of planned re-shoots. “Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are talented filmmakers who have assembled an incredible cast and crew, but it’s become clear that we had different creative visions on this film, and we’ve decided to part ways,” said Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy. “A new director will be announced soon.” According to The Hollywood Reporter, the firing came from the pairs disagreements with screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who didn’t like the direction the duo were going. One source said there had been tensions between Lord, Miller, Kennedy and Kasdan as soon as production started, and when the Lucasfilm stalwarts saw cut-together footage they were less than enthused with its comedic tone. Another source said, “People need to understand that Han Solo is not a comedic personality. He’s sarcastic and selfish.”
Directors leave projects all the time, but very rarely is it during production (although here are 12 other examples). This is an almost unprecedented situation, and its easy to see both sides of the argument. One the one hand, you could argue that this is Disney and Lucasfilm strong-holding young and enthusiastic talent to make the film the producers want, rather than expressing their own vision. Kathleen Kennedy must have known what Lord and Miller were going to bring to the table, considering their back catalgoue includes 21 Jump Street, The LEGO Movie and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, so quite why she and Kasdan found their take on the character surprising is anyone’s guess. One story from The Hollywood Reporter stated that Lord and Miller are fans of improvisation on set, while Kasdan wanted them to stick to the script he wrote (the irony there is that the iconic “I know” line from The Empire Strikes Back was improvised). When the duo kept to their ways, they were booted off the project.
The other side of the coin is that Star Wars is a big investment for Disney, who won’t want a product that taints its reputation. This new iteration of the galaxy far, far away is still in its infancy, and will only three films deep by the time the Han Solo movie rolls around. They will have made upwards of $5 billion by the point from box office receipts alone, but they’re not in a position to take risks. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had to be heavily edited and re-shot to fit the “safe and marketable” mould, forcing Gareth Edwards from his director’s chair so someone else could “safely” see the project to completion. As a filmmaker it must be frustrating, but as a businessman it makes sense. It took the Marvel Cinematic Universe nearly ten movies before they took a risk with Guardians of the Galaxy, but once that was a hit they felt comfortable to greenlight other “risky” titles like Black Panther and Captain Marvel, and allow directors like James Gunn, Ryan Coogler and Taika Waititi to put their own stamps on their titles. In the minds of Disney and Lucasfilm, it was too early to take a risk and release a Han Solo movie that was a tonal departure from The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi and Rogue One.
Shortly after the duo were announced as off the project, it was revealed that Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind), Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger) and Kasdan himself were the frontrunners to finish production. Howard was confirmed as the new Han Solo director just over 24-hours later. “At Lucasfilm, we believe the highest goal of each film is to delight, carrying forward the spirit of the saga that George Lucas began forty years ago,” said Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm. “With that in mind, we’re thrilled to announce that Ron Howard will step in to direct the untitled Han Solo film. We have a wonderful script, an incredible cast and crew, and the absolute commitment to make a great movie.” Howard has a lot of connections to George Lucas – and therefore Lucasfilm – appearing in the director’s American Graffiti and he was even approached with the chance to direct Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. “I hope to honor the great work already done and help deliver on the promise of a Han Solo film,” the director said on Twitter. “I’m beyond grateful to add my voice to the Star Wars Univers after being a fan since 5/25/77.”
Howard might not be an inspired choice, but he is a safe one. He is someone who has a long relationship with Lucasfilm already, and will be happy to take notes from the studio. Reports of his hiring said that he would meeting the cast and crew while the project is shut down, before picking things back up on July 10th. The Hollywood Reporter noted the set was “rattled” by the news.
The cast themselves is another interesting facet to this discussion. In the examples I linked to earlier of directors being fired or walking away during production, sometimes actors followed suit. Gene Hackman didn’t want to work with Richard Lester on Superman II, so his scenes were re-shot with a body double. Fairuza Balk was so upset at the firing of Richard Stanley on The Island of Dr. Moreau that she tried to flee the island they were shooting on. Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson and Phoebe Waller-Bridge signed on for Lord and Miller’s vision; how will they react to Howard’s new direction? During the production of the live-action Super Mario Bros., the script was re-written the weekend before shooting began and it created a huge sense of distrust between the actors and filmmakers. They had signed on for one version, but something different was being made now.
“They’re friends of mine – I would never do that,” Edgar Wright said when asked if he would take over the Han Solo movie. “Also, having been in that situation myself [on Marvel’s Ant-Man], the idea of finishing someone else’s movie is not something I would do on an ethical level.”
Where this leaves Han Solo: A Star Wars Story is up in the air. What is distressing for the film though – and something Disney will struggle to overcome – is that all the press and reviews of the movie will focus on this story. Like with Wright and Ant-Man, every other review wondered what the movie would have been like if the Hot Fuzz helmer had directed. Howard will never escape the Lord and Miller shadow. It will also be interesting to see who is given directors credit at the end of production. The Directors Guild of America (DGA) state that the credited director must shoot over 51% of what’s on screen. With only four weeks left, that would suggest Lord and Miller have filmed more than half. If Howard does get solo credit (no pun intended) that means a lot of the movie will have been re-shot…
…We’ve had a few op-eds written about this sitauation as you can imagine. Here’s Anghus Houvouras’s The fallout of Lord & Miller’s exit from the Galaxy Far, Far Away, and Lord & Miller vs. Kasdan & Kennedy: A Fight for the future of our franchise films, and here’s Samuel Brace’s Lucasfilm were right to hire a new Han Solo director, but it’s their fault, not Lord and Miller’s…
…Lets look ahead now to this December’s hotly-anticipated Star Wars: The Last Jedi now, and a new trailer has been classified by the BBFC – so we can expect to see that soon…
…Star Wars: Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow revealed this week that he had one request for Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson to lead into his film. “It wasn’t an adjustment, it was just ‘Could you shoot this one extra thing while you’re in this place on this day?’ And he did, which was great,” he told Happy Sad Confused podcast. “But, y’know, it’s part of the collaborative process that exists – everyone is in communication. 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.” Read more here…
…And finally, here are your comic book previews for the week. First up is Star Wars: Droids Unplugged #1: Collecting three stories featuring everyone’s favorite droids! What adventures did the probe droids in The Phantom Menace get into when Darth Maul wasn’t looking? Luke’s got a mission for R2-D2! But can the astromech complete it in time? And all BB-8 wants is to help…two Resistance soldiers fall in love! Next up is Star Wars: Poe Dameron #16: Who is Malarus and what does she want? Meanwhile, the Resistance is running dangerously low on supplies. Poe and Black Squadron are on the case! And lastly we have Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #8: ‘THE SCREAMING CITADEL’ – PART 5 Jedi! Symbiotes! Rebels! Murderbots! Smugglers! Archaeologists! This one has it all! But can any survive the horrors of the Screaming Citadel?
That’s all for this week – may the Force be with you.
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth, the co-host of The Flickering Myth Podcast and the author of Lights, Camera, GAME OVER!: How Video Game Movies Get Made (which you can pre-order from Amazon UK and Amazon US). You can follow him on Twitter @ThisisLukeOwen.