Star Wars fans live in perennial fear. With every new entry in the beloved saga comes the potential to recreate the objectively garbage prequels in which George Lucas painted three braindead scripts with lots of pretty computerized effects. Though fans initially questioned the pick for Episode VII director, J.J. Abrams did a serviceable (though not particularly groundbreaking) job with The Force Awakens. He didn’t ruin it! And that’s good.
But troubling details emerged early about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first stand-alone film of the franchise. The film was in such disarray that director Gareth Edwards was sidelined for screenwriter Tony Gilroy to overhaul the film with expensive reshoots. Some lame storytelling aside, Rogue One ended up being mostly fine. But again, there has been some initial bad news coming from the next stand-alone film about young Han Solo. Last week, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were unceremoniously canned in the middle of production and Ron Howard was brought in to finish the movie.
This sounds bad! According to reports, Lord and Miller had “creative differences” with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. But a new article from The Hollywood Reporter outlines the complete chaos that was filming young Han Solo, which began in February.
As soon as shooting got underway, insiders say, it started to become clear that Kennedy’s stated intention of hiring directors who would put their own spin on Star Wars movies had led to a mismatch. Some insiders say that while the talent of Lord and Miller is undeniable, nothing in their background prepared them for a movie of this size and scope. These sources say they relied too heavily on the improvisational style that served them so well in live-action comedy and animation but does not work on a set with hundreds of crewmembers waiting for direction.
Along with that, the article notes that the directors weren’t getting a quality performance out of the film’s star Alden Ehrenreich, who is playing Han Solo. “Not entirely satisfied with the performance that the directors were eliciting from Rules Don’t Apply star Alden Ehrenreich, Lucasfilm decided to bring in an acting coach,” according to THR. And when Kennedy did fire Miller and Lorde, THR notes that “when the crew was told that Ron Howard would take over as director, sources say they broke into applause.”
But the most concerning detail of this report is about the future of Star Wars as a whole:
There are some in the industry who see an emerging pattern suggesting that Kennedy’s appetite for creative license and risk-taking will have to be curbed. Josh Trank was dismissed from the second Star Wars stand-alone film before he even started based on problems with Fantastic Four; Edwards, who conceived of Rogue One as a dark war film, was shunted aside; and now this. For all the talk of hiring filmmakers with their own vision, observers say Kennedy and Disney may be learning that the franchise is defined by a particular set of parameters. “All of the films have been ‘troubled,'” says a top executive at a rival studio. “J.J. [Abrams] was powerful enough to push back on an unrealistic start date [for the first movie] but that was a tug of war. The last one was reshot by Tony [Gilroy] for months and now this? This is a systemic problem.”
And this is especially worrisome considering the director of the forthcoming Star Wars Episode IX just made the most hilariously bad movie of 2017.