With Rogue One: A Star Wars Story set to kick off the franchise’s series of anthology movies, the Star Wars universe is about to experience its first significant silver screen detour away from the main series – a move that will allow the iconic franchise to explore new tones, themes and stories. And, as proved by the huge critical and commercial success of last year’s The Force Awakens, tales of a galaxy far, far away are more popular and culturally relevant than ever.
However, Episode VII wasn’t just praised for reviving a movie series that had taken a bit of a beating from fans after three derided prequels, it also attracted acclaim for its diverse casting – most notably British duo Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn. A science-fiction blockbuster the size of Star Wars casting a woman as lead protagonist and a black man as the primary male protagonist was undoubtedly a significant step forward in increasing diversity, at a time where Hollywood is accused of under-representing both groups.
In keeping with that decision, it now appears that Lucasfilm are ready to take their efforts towards equality in the movie industry further by employing a female director for future Star Wars movies. Speaking with Variety as part of the Rogue One promotional campaign, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy stated that she was committed to increasing diversity on both sides of the camera and that hiring a female director was the top priority in this regard. Kennedy claims:
“We want to make sure that when we bring a female director in to do Star Wars, they’re set up for success. They’re gigantic films, and you can’t come into them with essentially no experience…We want to really start to focus in on people we would love to work with and see what kinds of things they’re doing to progress up that ladder now, and then pull them in when the time is right.”
Kathleen Kennedy’s admission that experience is needed to helm a Star Wars movie, combined with the fact that research shows only 9% of directors of the top 250 grossing films of 2015 in the U.S. are female, suggests that when a woman finally does direct a Star Wars project, it could well be a fresh face at an early stage of their career that Lucasfilm has scouted out and believe has the potential for great things.
Of course, some movie fans could present the argument that a director – or indeed any member of a film crew – should be hired solely based on whether they are right for the job and studios should focus solely on skills and experience. As such, some Star Wars fans may claim that they’d rather gender not be a factor in Lucasfilm’s discussions as to who should sit behind the camera on the franchise’s forthcoming projects.
However, the statistics undeniably demonstrate a disproportionate amount of female directors working on major Hollywood movies, despite the rich talent of names such as Ava DuVernay (who is helming Disney’s $100 million adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time) and Susanne Bier. In order to break the pattern, it’s likely some kind of positive action from a major force in the industry is required and Lucasfilm’s desire to bring about such a change should be commended. After all, giving talented female directors bigger platforms to share their filmmaking prowess can only be a good thing.