In the summer of 2016, the Star Wars spinoff Rogue One was undergoing technical difficulties. Word was the bosses at Lucasfilm were unhappy with the footage they were seeing and concerned with the direction that director Gareth Edwards was taking the movie. As Vulture’s Kevin Lincoln wrote at the time, “No one should be surprised that Rogue One is having problems.”
As Lincoln explained, Edwards was a relatively untested director with some bold ideas: he said he was going to make Rogue One into a “war movie.” And then reshoots were called to combat that exact thing that Edwards said he was going to do. Via THR: “execs screened the film and felt it was tonally off with what a ‘classic’ Star Wars movie should feel like … one source describes the cut as having the feel of a war movie.”
Eventually, the veteran director Tony Gilroy was brought in — at a cool $5 million a week — to oversee those reshoots and to deliver a product that’d get the execs smiling. After its release in December Rogue One went on to crack a billion dollars internationally, leave critics mostly pleased, and SPOILER ALERT kill off every last one of its main characters. Happy ending, pretty much!
Hilariously enough, though: fast forward a year, and a new Star Wars spinoff is in a nearly identical situation. The movie, yet untitled, is basically “The Adventures Of Young Han Solo.” It stars relative newcomer Alden Ehrenreich as the elite smuggler Han and the Swiss Army Knife Donald Glover as his pal Lando Calrissian. The directors were Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street’s Phil Lord and Chris Miller — that is, until this week, when they were mercilessly fired over, oh yes, creative differences.
Here’s THR, back on the Star Wars dysfunction beat:
“Sources [say] that the style and vision of Lord and Miller clashed with that of Lawrence Kasdan, the legendary screenwriter behind the classics Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark, who also wrote, with his son, Jon Kasdan, the script for the Han Solo stand-alone set (for now) to be released in 2018. The friction was felt almost immediately when the movie began shooting in February ... but the directors always thought it could be worked through ... The creative clash, according to one insider, also came down to differences in understanding the character of Han Solo. ‘People need to understand that Han Solo is not a comedic personality. He’s sarcastic and selfish.’”
So Lucasfilm hired comedy guys to direct their movie and then were annoyed when they tried to make it funny. That is goddamn beautiful.
The Han Solo movie will be fine: Ron Howard has already been hired to drive it home. (If Gilroy was getting $5 million a week, you know Lucasfilm is cutting the damn check for the far-more famous Howard). The throughline here: just as with Rogue One, innovative directors were hired, then demoted when their innovative visions didn’t fit perfectly into the "classic" Star Wars mold.
By the way: the next Star Wars spinoff (allegedly about that dude Boba Fett) is slated for release in 2020. Which means we're a ways off, I know. But I, for one, cannot wait to see what brilliant young visionary director gets hired and then fired on that one.