Why Star Wars Movies Keep Losing Directors (According To Kathleen Kennedy)

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy explains why so many directors have recently signed on for Star Wars movies only to later step down.

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has weighed in on why Star Wars movies keep losing their directors. The highly venerated sci-fi franchise has come a long way since its early days under creator George Lucas, and its success does not come easily.

During the days in which Lucas was the main creative engine of the Star Wars franchise, four of the six original films were under his direction. The only films to have been taken on by other directors were The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, with the former often being described by some fans as the greatest Star Wars film of all time. Regardless of anyone’s take on the official merits of the Star Wars films, one thing is for certain - after Lucas passed on the Lucasfilm torch to Kennedy, there have been periods in which finding the right director for the job hasn’t exactly been an open and shut affair. Gareth Edwards faced considerable obstacles on the road to getting Rogue One off the ground, yet managed to stay the course once veteran director Tony Gilroy came in late during production, to serve as the film’s second unit director. In 2016, during the production of Solo, Ron Howard replaced directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. More recently, J.J. Abrams filled Colin Trevorrow’s spot on The Rise of Skywalker, and David Benioff and D.B. Weiss stepped away from their planned trilogy.

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So what exactly is it about Star Wars films that makes them so resistant to directors? Well, according to a new Rolling Stone interview with Kennedy, every single Star Wars film is a very “hard nut to crack.” The Lucasfilm gatekeeper spoke at length about what it takes to get films of this magnitude off the ground, pointing out that there are very few filmmakers who can aptly take on the inherent challenges and responsibilities within this sort of filmmaking. Said Kennedy:

“Every one of these movies is a particularly hard nut to crack. There’s no source material. We don’t have comic books. We don’t have 800-page novels. We don’t have anything other than passionate storytellers who get together and talk about what the next iteration might be. We go through a really normal development process that everybody else does. You start by talking to filmmakers who you think exhibit the sensibilities that you’re looking for. And I would argue that the list is very small — people who really do have the sensibilities about these kind of movies, and then the experience and the ability to handle how enormous a job these movies are. So we try to be as thoughtful as we possibly can about making those choices. I would also argue that sometimes people get involved in the normal development process, and then they realize, “Oh, my God, this is so much more than I ever imagined.” So it’s pretty common that when you’re working on movies, you’re not making choices and decisions that necessarily work out exactly the way you want from the get-go.”

Rian Johnson and Carrie Fisher as General Leia on the set of Star Wars The Last Jedi

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Star Wars films are particularly laborious endeavours. This being said, with the amount of hype surrounding each new release, as well as the excitement of its gigantic fanbase, it’s often all too easy to forget exactly how much work does indeed go into the process. A big part of the reason why fans love Star Wars so much has a lot to do with exactly how immersive the stories and the worlds it inhabits are. Getting this just right, with pressure from a major Hollywood studio, as well as producers such as Kennedy, and an at times unforgiving fanbase, is enough to create sleepless nights for any filmmaker.

As audiences and fans of particular franchises, we are in the easiest position of all. Our job requires only that we pay to see the films that are made for us. Whether or not we enjoy it is a completely different matter altogether. However, it’s worth remembering that those who make the films are doing everything they can to try and ensure that we’ll love what they do. That’s a tremendous amount of pressure for one person and particularly with the case of Star Wars, there is a definite right way and a wrong way to go about doing it. Sometimes the wrong filmmakers take on the task, and when they do, the franchise has a way of quickly weeding them out.

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Source: Rolling Stone

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