Industry vet John Landis feels the amount of directors being fired by Lucasfilm is a worrying trend. It came as something of a shock last week when it was announced Colin Trevorrow, the director of Episode IX, had been fired from the project, where he was swiftly replaced with The Force Awakens helmer J.J. Abrams.
It hasn’t escaped notice that firing directors is a surprisingly common thing for Lucasfilm. Back in June, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the acclaimed directing duo behind The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, were fired from the Han Solo movie. What made this decision doubly shocking was that the film had nearly completed shooting by the time they were let go.
John Landis addressed this in a wide ranging interview with Collider, discussing topics like Thriller 3D, advising his son Max not to write the American Werewolf In London remake and Lucasfilm’s bad habit of firing directors. When asked about future projects, his answer led back to studios not wanting to hire filmmakers who voice opinions:
“I have many things that I’m working on, whether or not they’ll ever become real, I don’t know. You know Joe Dante and myself and a few other guys I know are in the same position. They’re not hiring people who have opinions. They think, 'He knows what he’s doing, I’m not hiring him!' Look at Star Wars. They keep firing guys. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, those guys are really talented. They’re really funny and original guys. They shot 75% of the movie and I gotta tell you, it doesn’t speak well for the new Lucasfilm. How many directors have they fired? Four. How many writers? Twelve.”
He went on to address what a worrying trend it is and brought up George Lucas’ infamous comment about selling Star Wars.
"It’s very worrying. Remember when George Lucas said that he felt like he sold his kids into white slavery? Well…"
Having worked in the film business as a director for decades, Landis is in a prime position to comment on studios being gunshy of directors with strong opinions. Of course, Lucasfilm wants to hire directors with a creative vision, but they’ve shown with this wave of firings they won’t tolerate filmmakers who color too far outside the lines. Lord and Miller were said to have been dropped for relying too much on improv and not following the script. Likewise, Trevorrow is said to have been replaced when his vision didn’t quite line up with Lucasfilm.
Both J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard – the new director of Han Solo – feel like safe bets as replacements; they’ll produce slick, entertaining movies whilst being easy to work with. It makes sense for Lucasfilm to want to protect their brand, but for the sake of good PR, they’d need to curb their bad habit of letting filmmakers go. As John Landis says, it doesn’t speak well for the company or the future of the series if talented directors are afraid of signing on for fear of being fired.
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