Nobody ever wants to be fired but it happens all the time. Actors, directors….crew members are literally replaced constantly in Hollywood. Of course, those exchanges tend to happen before a movie begins filming.
When a director — or in this case, directors — are fired with less than 3 weeks left in principle filming, you have to wonder what the hell happened.
Such is the case with Phil Lord and Chris Miller, chosen by Lucasfilm to helm the Han Solo movie in late 2015, and now fired by Lucasfilm as of yesterday (June 20, 2017.)
Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, released a statement Tuesday night that read, “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.”
Okay, fair enough. Here is what a statement from Lord and Miller said, “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.”
So, both parties are claiming “creative differences”, which makes you wonder who they got this far into production before they realized they wanted drastically different movies, especially considering this movie has been filming since February.
Then again, this isn’t the first sign of creative struggles during Disney’s brief ownership of the Star Wars franchise. Rogue One, released last December and garnered both fan and critical praise, and under the direction of Gareth Edwards, went through significant rewrites (Tony Gilroy was brought on to fix the script) and subsequent reshoots.
Before that, Josh Trank was fired from what would be the third standalone Star Wars Story — rumor says it may have been a Boba Fett movie — after the director had a Twitter melt down on the eve of the release of the Fantastic 4 reboot, which was deservedly trashed by critics and fans alike. Lucasfilm has yet to announce a direction for that third standalone flick.
Even the next installment of the third Star Wars trilogy, The Last Jedi, is dealing with a bit of creative conflict. Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley have both been very honest about their initial dislike of the Episode VIII script. Hamill has gone on record saying he went to Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, telling him, that he “…fundamentally disagreed with every decision (Johnson) had made for his character.” Hamill has since clarified that he merely meant he was surprised by how Johnson viewed the character of Luke Skywalker.
Of course, creative differences and directors extend beyond the Star Wars brand. Patty Jenkins of Wonder Woman fame was once attached to direct Thor: The Dark World, but left because of…creative differences — and we all now how that movie turned out. More recently, Edgar Wright was relieved of his Ant-Man directing duties because, as with Miller and Lord, their vision for the projects weren’t lining up.
Does this mean Disney has a control problem when it comes to their big tent-pole franchises? Maybe. It could also be a simple case of protecting their investments. On the subject of Han Solo, Lord and Miller have made their fame with comic driven flicks like The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street and felt they deserved autonomous creative freedom, something producer Kennedy was not willing to give.
According to sources who have spoken to Variety magazine, these clashes have been ongoing since day one, even including screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote The Empire Strikes Back. The opinion being that ultimately what Lord and Miller were trying to do may have been in conflict with the theme and tone Lucasfilm is trying to set, especially with a movie as big as Han Solo.
Han Solo is looking at extensive reshoots, much like Rogue One, and it was something Lord and Miller wanted no part of, leading Kennedy to dismiss them from the project. It’s unfortunate. It’s shocking. It’s unprecedented. But will it ultimately hurt the film?
There are going to be rumors flying until Han Solo hits theatres and its going to be difficult to believe anything as it is because we’re always going to get two sides of this story. Disney and Lucasfilm certainly have the right to protect their property and if they were unhappy with they way the filmmakers were running the set, interacting with actors, and ultimately creating a product they should have the freedom to suck out the poison.
The rumor mill is already churning with Ron Howard (Rush) and Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger) apparently emerging as the front-runners to step in and hopefully guide the ship into more stable waters. Both are veteran directors and have a proven track record. But will this ultimately hurt their chances of attracting young, talented filmmakers in the future?
It is a little concerning that Lucasfilm has shown signs of a creative struggle with three of the four movies they’ve put into production since they bought Star Wars from George Lucas. The only one that seemed to go smoothly was pretty much a direct remake of the original 1977 movie. No offense, J.J. Loved, The Force Awakens, but it was what it was.
Eventually, the Lucasfilm brass is going to have to set a better standard with how they hire their filmmaking talent and develop a plan. It’s hard to believe Kennedy and company failed to see Lego Movie or either of the Jump Street flicks, nor had any idea of what these dudes would be like on the set. If so, it means everyone needs to do their homework a bit better and vet their director candidates a bit better going forward. If they don’t they risk alienating thousands of young filmmakers they may want to employ down the road.
Or — and this is more likely — you just need to know what you’re getting into when you get into bed with Disney and Lucasfilm. Typically when a studio has hundreds of millions of dollars invested into a movie, they usually aren’t okay with anyone doing it their way. Unless “their way” just happens to be the Lucasfilm/Disney/Marvel way.
Han Solo is expected to hit theatres in May of 2018 and stars Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, with Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson in supporting roles.