A lot has gone wrong behind-the-scenes on Disney's new Star Wars movies. In some respects, the franchise's renaissance has been a boon for the studio, as the four films released to date have collectively grossed more than $4 billion at the worldwide box office and all earned positive reviews from critics (some were more acclaimed than others, to be sure). This year's The Rise of Skywalker looks to be another winner for the Mouse House, as it's breaking advanced ticket sales records and is poised to be the biggest blockbuster hit of the holiday season. Despite those successful results, it hasn't been smooth sailing for Lucasfilm.
Making a Star Wars film is an incredibly tough task, but Lucasfilm hasn't made it easy on themselves over the past handful of years. The multitude of creative issues the studio's encountered during this era has been well-covered, and the list keeps on growing. Recently, it was announced the trilogy being developed by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss was cancelled due to scheduling conflicts. Anyone who's been following Star Wars closely since 2012 knows this isn't anything particularly new. There have been a ton of problems on these movies. Here, we run through them all.
Michael Arndt's Force Awakens Script Was Scrapped
Compared to some of the other entries in this space, any turmoil on The Force Awakens seems tame, but it still happened. It's easy to forget that when the film first entered development, Oscar-winner Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) was hired to write the screenplay. He worked on the script for several months, but he felt he needed more time to complete the gargantuan task of bringing back the Star Wars saga. Unfortunately for him, The Force Awakens was on a tight schedule and Arndt couldn't be afforded the time he requested. He left the film in October 2013.
J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan replaced Arndt, writing a new version of the script that went on to become the final film. It's unknown how much retooling they did, but it's worth noting Arndt maintained a writing credit, so in all likelihood, enough of his concepts were used by Abrams and Kasdan. Arguably, Arndt dropping out wasn't even the biggest bit of adversity The Force Awakens encountered; Harrison Ford fractured his leg during production.
Gareth Edwards Was Replaced for Rogue One Reshoots
Ultimately, Rogue One was a tremendous accomplishment. It earned positive reviews, was the highest-grossing film of 2016 domestically (beating Captain America: Civil War), and made $1 billion worldwide. However, it was absolute hell to complete. Word of extensive reshoots first broke that summer, implying the film was on shaky ground as Lucasfilm scrambled to fix the third act. The studio tried to pass it off as normal business (and to be fair, additional photography is standard on tentpoles), but it became clearer and clearer what happened on Rogue One was a bit beyond standard reshoots.
Namely, Lucasfilm brought in Tony Gilroy to oversee the reshoots and write "additional material" to help fine-tune the narrative. Gilroy made a cool $5 million for his work, and he likely helped save Rogue One. Gilroy himself said the film was in "terrible trouble" before he came aboard, so things must have been far worse than Lucasfilm wanted to admit. Funnily enough, Gilroy was brought back to the Star Wars universe in October 2019 to rescue the Cassian Andor prequel show from cancellation. Maybe next time the studio wants to make something Rogue One related, they should just call Gilroy first.
Josh Trank Was Fired From His Anthology Movie
When Disney first unveiled the slate of new Star Wars movies, the plan was to alternate between the three installments of the sequel trilogy and three standalone anthology movies. Trank, fresh off the success of Chronicle, was hired to call the shots on one of these spinoffs (believed to be about Boba Fett). He was so far along in development, he was scheduled to attend Star Wars Celebration 2015 alongside Edwards. But shortly before the event, Trank's appearance was cancelled. Not so coincidentally, he then vacated the director's chair.
All of this went down at the height of the Fantastic Four debacle, when Trank made unfavorable headlines for his alleged behavior on the set. The rumor went Lucasfilm knew Fantastic Four was bound to be a disaster and made the swift decision to move on from Trank before the situation worsened. In the end, this spinoff movie (which was tentatively slated for a 2020 premiere) was scrapped, and Disney+ show The Mandalorian was created to capitalize on Boba Fett hype. In the meantime, Trank is attempting to revive his career with Fonzo, an Al Capone biopic starring Tom Hardy.
Lord & Miller Were Fired From Solo - After Shooting Most of the Movie
Creative differences happen all the time in Hollywood. There are multiple examples, especially in the big franchises, of directors signing on for a project and then leaving at a later date. However, more often than not, the parties involved will recognize their creative differences before the film begins shooting. That didn't happen on Solo: A Star Wars Story. As most people know by now, Phil Lord & Chris Miller were nearly done with principal photography by the time they were fired from the job. Apparently, their improvisational style of filmmaking clashed with Kathleen Kennedy and Kasdan, and Kennedy pulled the plug. Some wondered why Lord & Miller were hired in the first place, since they made a name for themselves by crafting witty meta comedies heavy on improv.
Solo became a giant mess behind-the-scenes, as Ron Howard was swooped in to essentially remake the entire movie and keep it on track for its May 2018 release date (which Disney stubbornly stuck to). The spinoff's budget escalated beyond the $250 million mark, turning a film that should have been cheaper than Ant-Man into Lucasfilm's most expensive production ever (yes, even more than The Force Awakens). It's a miracle Solo wasn't an absolute train wreck (there were no calls for the Lord & Miller cut), but it was still the first box office bomb in Star Wars history. One has to think if things went smoother, Solo would have turned out alright.
The Obi-Wan Movie Became A TV Show
Solo's collateral damage led to Lucasfilm either tabling or scrapping any other individual character spinoffs they had planned. For years, a project revolving around fan-favorite Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi was rumored, at one point believed to be directed by Stephen Daldry. Nothing was officially confirmed by Disney until this August, when it was announced Ewan McGregor was reprising his role for a Disney+ miniseries. But, as the actor recently revealed, small screen adventures aren't what Lucasfilm initially had in mind.
When McGregor was first approached for an Obi-Wan return (which was years before anything was confirmed), the idea was to do a standalone movie set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. It's unknown when the concept changed, but it wouldn't be surprising if the catalyst for this was Solo's commercial disappointment. If Howard's spinoff had been a box office hit, then Lucasfilm likely moves forward with other anthology films (including Solo sequels), but they learned the hard way not every Star Wars story is meant for the big screen. The Obi-Wan show could potentially be a small-scale character drama, which sounds like a better fit for Disney+ than the blockbuster holiday season. Hopefully, all turns out well here.
Mos Eisley & Boba Fett Spinoffs Were Cancelled
Obi-Wan wasn't the only Star Wars spinoff impacted by Solo disappointing. Around the time Solo hit theaters, word got out James Mangold was developing a Boba Fett anthology, and shortly after that, rumors circulated about a Mos Eisley spinoff. Since all's been quiet on those fronts in the year since, it's largely assumed both of these projects have been cancelled and won't be revived any time soon.
Boba Fett and Mos Eilsey movies were probably rendered moot by The Mandalorian, which follows bounty hunters operating in a lawless corner of the galaxy. Since Lucasfilm did retool Obi-Wan from film to TV show, it isn't out of the question they'd do the same for other spinoffs they were contemplating at points in time. If that's the case, the decision seems to have paid off. The Mandalorian already has a second season in the works, implying the higher-ups are more than pleased with how it turned out.
Colin Trevorrow Was Removed From Star Wars 9
Fresh of the record-breaking hit of Jurassic World, Colin Trevorrow was pegged to helm Star Wars 9 back in 2015. But nearly two years later (and just months following the Lord & Miller debacle), Trevorrow was fired from the project due to those pesky creative differences. Multiple attempts were made at the Star Wars 9 script before Kennedy decided to pull the plug and start new. Trevorrow isn't exactly a critical darling, but to be fair to him, he was in a difficult position. General Leia was supposed to be at the forefront of Star Wars 9, but Carrie Fisher tragically passed away in December 2016. That obviously forced the creative team to come up with a new plan for the character, and that's a tough nut for anyone to crack.
With options limited and a 2019 release date to meet, Kennedy called upon Abrams to finish what he started. Fortunately, things got back on track with Abrams at the helm, and the film that became The Rise of Skywalker is all set for its December premiere. Still, Abrams was under the gun a bit. He was hired for the job in September 2017, pitched a story in December 2017, and began production last summer. Skywalker only wrapped in February 2019, and was being edited during principal photography. Nobody's saying Abrams rushed things, but he was definitely crunched for time due to the shakeup behind-the-scenes.
Benioff & Weiss' Star Wars Trilogy Is Cancelled
In early 2018, Lucasfilm announced Game of Thrones showrunners Benioff & Weiss would oversee a new Star Wars film series. It was the second such project they confirmed in a span of a few months, joining Rian Johnson's new trilogy. Back in April, Kennedy talked about how the three creatives were going to meet together and plot out the next decade of Star Wars content. There will be more Star Wars movies in the 2020s (at least three so far), but they won't involve Benioff & Weiss. The two left their film trilogy due to what was called a scheduling conflict. Benioff & Weiss struck a deal with Netflix after their Star Wars series was announced.
This development is a little concerning, since Bob Iger stated the first Benioff & Weiss film was going to take the scheduled December 2022 slot Disney set aside for an untitled Star Wars movie. Once again, the studio needs to alter their plans, and it'll be interesting to see how it all plays out. Johnson's trilogy remains on the table (though he sounds less sure of that now than he once did), and Kevin Feige is producing a new Star Wars movie. One of those will likely take the 2022 window now.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019