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Phil Lord and Chris Miller

DGA Rule 7-503 - The Reason Lord and Miller Were Fired

Briefly, the DGA is the union guild for directors working in Hollywood across film and TV, of which nearly every professional is a member - including Lord, Miller, and Howard. Practically it operates like any other union, but due to the way Hollywood is constructed this gives them a lot of power; they have deals with all the major studios that only members can direct motion pictures - so no random producer-plucked stooge - and have a defining say on credits. Most of the time, this (as well as their annual awards, which serve as an Oscar barometer) is where the public acknowledgment of the group ends.

Star Wars actually has a complicated history with the DGA due to Lucas' refusal to have opening credits on Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, which led to a hefty fine and him quitting the group; something that in turn made finding a filmmaker for Return of the Jedi especially complicated. The DGA seems to have had a major influence again on Han Solo, albeit for a different reason.

If you look in the DGA's current Creative Rights Handbook, which is readily available on the organization's website, you can see the full list of creative rights afforded to a director. Within this is Section 7-503, which discusses explicitly the limits on replacing a director mid-production and the rights afforded to them. Here are the relevant quotes:

"A Director who is replaced after directing ninety percent (90%) but less than one hundred percent (100%) of the scheduled principal photography of any motion picture shall be the Director of the film entitled to all the post-production creative rights set forth in this Article 7, unless (a) the Director was primarily responsible for causing the motion picture to be “over budget” or (b) the substituting Director was required to direct more than ten percent (10%) of all principal photography for the picture."

"The Employer may not schedule additional photography to avoid the express intent of this provision and has the burden of proving the necessity of such additional photography."

"A Director who has directed one hundred percent (100%) of the scheduled principal photography of a motion picture may not be replaced except for gross willful misconduct."

In short, you can't be replaced after completing 100% of scheduled principal photography, and if you complete between 90% and 100% of that, then you are the defined director and are entitled to all creative post-production rights.

Star Wars Han Solo Chris Miller and Phil Lord

The important phrase here is "90% of scheduled principal photography". Per Lucasfilm, Han Solo started production on February 20 and when Lord and Miller left they said there were three weeks left, putting an estimated planned completion date of July 10; that's around 20 weeks of scheduled principal photography. This means the duo were fired 85% of the way through - mere days before they reach the 90% statute. The exact finish date hasn't been disclosed, but even with maths erring on the side of caution, the directors were yet to hit that 90% mark. But boy were they close.

Lord and Miller were on the cusp of being entitled to all creative post-production rights, something that could only have been waived if Disney and Lucasfilm could prove that an extension to production with a replacement (what's currently happening with Howard) was necessary to the film. This would be harder than you'd think as by all accounts the project was on schedule and the footage delivered usable; the problems came not from the speed or quality of the filming but how the script was being handled, something the Guild would be unlikely to rule in favor of the studio over. Had Kennedy allowed the pair to work even just a few more days, they would have had complete control of the edit and any reshoots regardless of Howard's introduction - and with one of the most powerful groups in Hollywood backing them up.

To be clear, we're not saying this is the confirmed reason why Lord and Miller were fired when they were. However, the tightness of the timings and the bigger picture definitely make it seem likely. And it sheds an awful lot of light on what was really going on.

Key Release Dates
  • Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
  • Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
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