I’ve got a bad feeling about this…
LucasFilm has fired the co-directors of their latest Star Wars film, a prequel about the early adventures of Han Solo, in the middle of the production. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the celebrated directors of The LEGO Movie and the 21 Jump Street films, have cited “creative differences” with the studio, according to Hollywood Reporter.
“Unfortunately, our vision and process weren’t aligned with our partners on this project,“ Lord and Miller explain in their statement. “We normally aren’t fans of the phrase ‘creative differences’ but for once this cliché is true. We are really proud of the amazing and world-class work of our cast and crew.”
That gels with the statement of Kathleen Kennedy, the president of LucasFilm, who says “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. A new director will be announced soon.”
According to various sources, several directors are already being considered to finish the Han Solo prequel. Deadline claims that Ron Howard (Apollo 13) is the frontrunner, but that Lawrence Kasdan – the co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens and the Han Solo movie – could also take over, which makes sense given his familiarity with the material. Hollywood Reporter adds Joe Johnston, the director of Captain America: The First Avenger, to the list of potential directors as well.
Fans of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and in particular fans of Star Wars, shouldn’t panic. But they should also be aware that this is not business as usual. Filmmakers leave their projects during pre-production all the time. It is also not uncommon for directors to leave during the post-production process. But for the filmmakers to be fired in the middle of the shooting the movie, with quite a lot of footage left to be shot, is a sign of very little confidence on the part of LucasFilm.
Rumors about what, exactly, went wrong are flying. The whisper heard most often, from sites like Hollywood Reporter and Slash, is that the movie Phil Lord and Chris Miller were making was more comedic than LucasFilm intended, and that Lord and Miller’s improvisational filmmaking style clashed with the studio, which wanted them to adhere to the script. If the rumors are to be believed, Lord and Miller stuck to their guns, kept making the movie their own way, and were surprised to discover that they had been fired this week.
Either way, this is only the latest setback in director/producer relations for LucasFilm, which has encountered several similar issues since they jumpstarted the Star Wars franchise. The studio took Rogue One director Gareth Edwards out of the equation during post-production, enlisting Michael Clayton filmmaker Tony Gilroy to perform last minute rewrites and reshoots. LucasFilm also fired Josh Trank (Fantastic Four) from another upcoming Star Wars spinoff, and has yet to replace him, or even officially announce what his project even was.
Of course, LucasFilm has every right to manage their franchise the way they see fit. It’s even possible that Lord and Miller were genuinely taking the film in a misguided direction. But it’s also hard not to sympathize with the directors, given their impeccable track record. LucasFilm knew who they hired, they knew the kind of movies Lord and Miller directed, and they waited until the movie was at least half made before they pulled the trigger. It’s discouraging, to say the least.
But Star Wars fans, take heart. Some of the most celebrated movies ever made had very troubled productions. Here is a short list of movies that switched out directors in the middle of shooting: The Wizard of Oz, Superman II, Spartacus and The Outlaw Josey Wales. Those films turned out okay.
Then again, the same thing happened to The Island of Dr. Moreau, so it’s not like switching directors is some kind of weird recipe for success.
We’ll keep you posted as this strange saga unfolds.
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Top Photo: LucasFilm
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.