Following the firing of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller and their subsequent replacement by Ron Howard, things are looking somewhat stable on the Han Solo standalone movie. Production has resumed under the new, social media savvy director and while there was no presence from the film at D23 or SDCC, the studio line is that things are continuing fine, thank you very much. That hasn’t stopped repeated questions about Kathleen Kennedy’s decision to fire The LEGO Movie filmmakers though, specifically about why she decided to do something so seismic right in the middle of principal production.
Well, we may have the reason, which lies in rules laid down by the Director’s Guild of America. The DGA has been brought into the discussion several times in reference to Lord and Miller’s firing, initially to debunk suggestions Lawrence Kasdan – a writer and producer on the film – could step into direct and, once Howard was locked, in reference to whether the original duo will get a credit on the film or if they have rights to a director’s cut. All of these, of course, are forward thinking and mainly related to the movie’s release. However, looking back over the fracas, the same Guild statutes appear to also contain the reason why Lord and Miller’s firing was so odd in the first place.
Why Did It Take So Long For The Han Solo Problems To Be Addressed?
A month out from the major shakeup, a clear picture of what went wrong has now emerged. In fact, given the level of secrecy that’s surrounded every production under the Disney Star Wars banner, we actually know more intricate details about Solo than any other film.
There were a lot of factors at play, but the rift that led to Lord and Miller’s firing came from a fundamental difference in opinion over the project’s macro direction: both in how they viewed the young Han Solo character (the studio wanted something in-line with Harrison Ford’s portrayal, the directors something more comedic) and the general filmmaking approach (while Lord and Miller would get the required dialogue, they spent equal-if-not-more time having the actors improvising and overall freewheeling the shoot). This self-deprecating, randomized approached worked fine for them on 21 Jump Street but clashed with the Lucasfilm ideal.
The cracks appear to have blown open when Alden Ehrenreich was assigned an acting coach mid-production as a result of a performance likened to Ace Ventura, leading to him raising serious concerns about the direction he’d been given. Things swiftly fell apart when Kennedy reviewed the assembled footage and, having already reportedly disagreed with the directors, tried to bring her foot down; the film’s editor was changed and Kasdan was introduced as an overseer. This was near identical to what happened on Rogue One, with Tony Gilroy taking over (albeit uncredited) for the reshoots and edit; the only difference on this Story was that it happened earlier on in the process. When Lord and Miller made clear they refused to play ball they were ousted, replaced swiftly by Howard.
Why this major creative difference wasn’t highlighted in the years leading up to principal photography – the directors had been attached since 2015 – is still a major question regarding the project; how can you go through one of the biggest casting calls of all time yet have not decided on what exactly you want the character to be? However, that query is generally superseded by the fact things then got this far before anything was done. It appears by most accounts the established directors were gifted some degree of creative freedom with the understanding they’d play within franchise confines like Rian Johnson on The Last Jedi; something they didn’t follow.
But while that may explain it taking months for problems to be discovered, it still doesn’t get us to the why of the rash move to simply get rid of Lord and Miller with three weeks to go. From the outside, surely the logical decision for a producer would be to get principal photography in the can then reassess from what was there? That way the air is clear, all parties can finally be on something approaching the same page and a power shift a la Edwards/Gilroy can be better presented and discussed.
Well, actually, no. If Kathleen Kennedy had kept Lord and Miller on the project even a week longer then she could have found herself a lame-duck producer, with the filmmakers gifted full creative freedom and protection from the DGA. Yes, this is about to get complicated.
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