A few days ago the news broke that Lord & Miller, up until then the directors for the as-of-yet unnamed Han Solo spin-off, had been fired by Lucasfilm with a few weeks of production still left. At the time we decided to wait before writing about it, wanting to let the dust settle and sort out our own thoughts about it. So, let’s start with a little timeline.
Lucasfilm released a statement about the state of affairs, featuring comments from both Kennedy and Lord & Miller:
The untitled Han Solo film will move forward with a directorial change.
“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,” said Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm.
“Unfortunately, our vision and process weren’t aligned with our partners on this project. 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,” stated Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
The untitled Han Solo film remains scheduled for a May 2018 release. – Star Wars.com
I find it fascinating that this was headed ‘A Message from Lucasfilm Regarding the Untitled Han Solo Film’. It is clear they didn’t want to sensationalise this news and make it seem as if this decision had been reached by a consensus. Unfortunately, I don’t think that entirely worked.
And then yesterday they announced that Ron Howard has taken over directorial duties:
Lucasfilm is pleased to announce that Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard has been named director of the untitled Han Solo film.
“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. Filming will resume the 10th of July.” – Star Wars.com
Now, for my thoughts. I have to be honest, I was never a big fan of the Han Solo spin-off to begin with. Although I love Han Solo, I always felt there are more interesting stories in the Star Wars universe that can and should be told. Rogue One, in my mind, was a great example of a story that was hinted at but had much more to offer than was expected. Does Han Solo’s backstory have something like that? Can it pull off the same emotional gut punch? I doubted it, but Lucasfilm hiring Lord & Miller as directors intrigued me again. Known for their hilariously outrageous films like The LEGO Movie and 21 Jump Street, Lord & Miller can bring the funny and the ridiculous. In the way Rogue One was different from the Saga, so the Han Solo spin-off would have been different as well. It would have shown the variety of genres that Star Wars can encompass.
However, with that in mind, I am not really surprised that there would be ‘creative differences’ between Lucasfilm and Lord & Miller. The latter are big on improv, on zany humour and pushing the envelope. Although Lucasfilm itself has consistently pushed the envelope when it comes to CGI and cinematography, they are also very serious about Star Wars and its future. Once George Lucas took a step back and chose Kennedy as his successor, Lucasfilm worked very hard to streamline the Universe, to create a consistent story that allows for new and exciting stories while also remaining true to its history and art. Within this framework, there is freedom but there are also rules. There were grumblings during the production of Rogue One that Kennedy was backseat driving the film, limiting Gareth Edwards’ vision, but in the end we had a stunning film that the director, the cast, and Lucasfilm were very proud of. For something like this to happen, everyone has to realise that they are part of a team, that there has to be a give and take and that there is a lot at stake. The most recent Fantastic Four instalment is an example of what happens when a director clashes with a studio and no shared vision is found. It’s not great. Although a part of me would have probably enjoyed seeing Lord & Miller’s take on Han Solo and Star Wars, the integrity of Star Wars matters more to me.
StarWarsNews.net has a brilliant article about the intel they have gathered from their sources re: the firing. Please do read their post and keep in mind that some of this intel might not be 100% guaranteed, but here are a few highlights that stuck out to me:
- Apparently Alden Ehrenreich was the first to voice his concerns about the direction the film was taking.
- Lawrence Kasdan was a major advocate of Lord & Miller getting hired, and is subsequently also majorly grumpy that they deviated as much as they did from his script.
- While isolated scenes were apparently great, an early edit of the film didn’t work and was “frenzied”.
These show that there was probably some tension on set for a while, especially the first two points. That nothing of this has leaked earlier is quite surprising, but Lucasfilm does tend to run a tight ship. I do hope that this doesn’t negatively affect Lord & Miller’s careers, although it probably, and sadly, will. There are so many big studios out there banking on big blockbusters now, that their independent style will perhaps count against them now. Similarly, the Han Solo spin-off will now be followed by this drama. When it comes out, everyone will be dissecting it, trying to find the flaws, the wins and attributing blame. It’s a shame, really, since a lot of hard work goes into these types of films and that will now be overshadowed.
And finally, I simply have to say something about and for Kathleen Kennedy. No matter how despised George Lucas partially was by some Star Wars fans for the Prequel Trilogy, they also always had a certain respect for him since he was the Creator. Kennedy doesn’t receive a similar kind of respect, despite her hard work and her obvious success in leading Lucasfilm. She was chosen by Lucas himself, the Apprentice to his Master basically, and is clearly very capable at her job. She inherited an immense responsibility from him, bringing Star Wars back to the big screen, having it compete against major blockbusters like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and updating it to fit the current climate. She weathered a number of storms, such as fanboy backlash against recent female main characters and Rogue One reshoots, and did so with grace. Now she is receiving an enormous amount of hate which I honestly feel is disproportionate. As StarWarsNews.net also points out, Marvel’s Kevin Feige has had similar storms hit his ship in regards to Thor: The Dark World and Antman and yet hasn’t been questioned to the same extent as Kennedy. Although they don’t want to get into it too much, I very much do.
Kathleen Kennedy is the head of one of the biggest production companies in the world and has been incredibly successful in that time. Although I have a few gripes with her, especially her vagueness about why no female directors have been hired for Star Wars films yet, overall she is an inspiration. And many of the attacks directed at her that I’m seeing now have a distinct misogynistic tinge to them. Now, I know Kennedy is an adult and doesn’t need me to defend her and that she is probable well aware that as the face of Lucasfilm she will get all the flack when something goes wrong and none of the praise when something goes right, but still, I find this intensely insulting. Suddenly now she is micro-managing, she is drunk on power, she is unable to cooperate, she is desperate for control. I’m surprised no one has called her a shrill, nasty woman yet. Although I’m sure someone on Twitter probably did. These are all criticisms that women in high offices often get thrown at them to undermine their position and power. It’s rude and disrespectful, and it needs to stop. Kennedy isn’t solely to blame for Lord & Miller not working out, so please don’t use her as your scapegoat just because of her gender.
I know this post has been slightly disjointed and rambling, but this is as clearly as I can put my thoughts into writing. The fate of the Han Solo spin-off now rests in the very capable hands of Ron Howard and they seem very determined to stay on schedule with the film, so all the best to him, the cast and the crew. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over D23 and ComicCon this summer. There will be questions and I hope that we will get answers to those.