NOW THAT directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have been fired in dramatic fashion from the young Han Solo spinoff film, the state of the Star Wars movie will be reflected in the answer to one question: “Who shot second?”
Whomever Lucasfilm selects as the replacement director will be charged with bringing into port a movie that began shooting way back in late January — and which is still slated to be released next May.
At this late date in production, though, does the second “Star Wars” spinoff movie essentially require a second surgeon to mostly close up the patient — or will this be an overhaul operation?
If you’re just catching up to the news, Lucasfilm announced a stunner Tuesday: Lord and Miller have been canned over major “creative differences.” The statements from the directors and Lucasfilm sounded very tightly coordinated — perhaps the only area where both sides were on the same page.
“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,” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said in her statement.
“Unfortunately, our vision and process weren’t aligned with our partners on this project,” said the statement from Lord and Miller. “We normally aren’t fans of the phrase ‘creative differences’ but for once this cliche is true. We are really proud of the amazing and world-class work of our cast and crew.”
Beneath that manicured language are reports that Lord and Miller (“The Lego Movie,” the “Jump Street” films), so known for their irreverent humor, worked in a style on set — and pursued an approach to story — that top people with the studio could no longer abide. Lord and Miller seemed to buck against the tight creative harness that comes with helping to steer a massive “Star Wars” production.
Beyond that, perhaps the most telling line from Kennedy’s statement might well be: “A new director will be announced soon.”
That suggests that Lucasfilm execs have a shortlist in hand, if not already a single replacement in mind. But whom do they choose with the principal shoot, as it was scheduled, just about to wrap?
Big films change jockeys in midrace all the time in Hollywood, of course, as far back notably as 1939’s “Gone With the Wind.” And such rounds of musical director chairs happen often today with tentpole films on which so much is riding, involving such characters as Deadpool, Thor, Ant-Man and the Flash.
But what are Lucasfilm’s best options here, given how late in the game this major firing occurred?
If Kennedy and her team decide to choose an “in-house” director, that ensures that a filmmaker with a style they’re comfortable with can predictably follow the blueprint to completion.
Gareth Edwards succeeded within the system for last year’s “Rogue One,” but remember that extensive reshoots under Tony Gilroy were reportedly ordered. As a proven fixer, Gilroy could surely follow mission commands from Lucasfilm’s Kennedy Center to steer the Han Solo spinoff to or near its planned release date.
If Kennedy wants someone who seems completely simpatico, she might even ask spinoff co-writer/executive producer Lawrence Kasdan — the veteran Jedi of this universe dating back four decades — to step into the chair.
But if Lucasfilm decides to look outside its known universe for a director, that could mean a far bumpier path ahead. (Late Tuesday, such names as Ron Howard and Joe Johnston were being floated as contenders, according to the Hollywood Reporter.)
And if “soon” turns into months — and weeks of production turn into months of major reshoots — then seeing this movie completed before next May will be a very tall order.
The untitled Han Solo Anthology film — starring Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, Woody Harrelson and Donald Glover — is due out May 25.
This post has been updated.