Disputes between directors and studios are as old as filmmaking itself. However, what occurred over the past few days over at Lucasfilm and Disney deserves some time under the microscope, as the future of the Star Wars franchise is in the midst of it’s biggest challenge in recent history.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street franchise) were gifted the keys to the future, or more aptly, the past of Han Solo with the opportunity to direct his spin-off movie. The film is the second anthology movie in the Star Wars universe, following last winter’s mega-success, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Much like that film, it will go back in time to fill in the backstory of a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich), Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover).
A few days ago, a bombshell was dropped when it was revealed that Miller and Lord departed the project due to “creative differences.” However, less than 24 hours later it was revealed that Lucasfilm head, Kathleen Kennedy, had actually fired the directing duo and was looking for a replacement. Today, Kennedy made an official statement, while also announcing that Academy Award winning director, Ron Howard (In the Heart of the Sea) would be taking over the directing duties for the Han Solo spin-off movie:
“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. 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. Filming will resume the 10th of July.”
The film is currently on hiatus as Kennedy and her team look to re-imagine the movie. However, it’s clear that such a big move was not made in a vacuum. Today, thanks to EW, we have a clear idea of what may have happened behind the scenes that created tension and ultimately led to Howard taking over the project:
Apparently, the split was a subtle one that became magnified over time: Lucasfilm and producer Kennedy believed Lord and Miller were hired to add a comedic touch; Lord and Miller believed they were hired to make a comedy.
As usual with stories like this, not all sources agree. Another individual close to the movie says it wasn’t a question about how much comedy would be in the film. The consensus, however, is that the filmmakers were encouraging significant improvisation from the actors, which some at Lucasfilm believed was shifting the story off course…But others on the project say they pushed too far. It wasn’t just a question of tone. The variations added up to significantly change the story. They may have been brought aboard to give young Han Solo a wiseacre vibe and an irreverent style, but Lucasfilm still felt the directors had a responsibility to tell the story as written.
The reason for the tension seems like an issue that should have been cleared up during pre-production, or perhaps during the hiring process. Lucasfilm’s selection of Lord and Miller always seemed to signal that the film would have to bend towards their specific brand of humor. While it’s a bit odd this wasn’t resolved initially, it’s equally encouraging that Lucasfilm seems to be willing to do whatever it takes to ensure their vision makes it to the big screen.
Ron Howard isn’t the most imaginative of picks, but he’s an understandable selection. He has had a long relationship with George Lucas, that dates back to him acting in American Graffiti and Howard directing Lucas’ Willow in 1988. In fact, Howard was approached to direct The Phantom Menace, so he clearly has a handle on the universe. However, he has made a string of mediocre films in recent years, with perhaps the little-seen Rush serving as a high point. It will be interesting to see if Lawrence Kasdan’s script and their collaboration will continue the winning streak that the Star Wars movies have had over the past two years. This story is far from over…
The still untitled Han Solo Star Wars movie is still set for release on May 25th, 2018.