The Star Wars franchise lost another director this week — its third in the last four months — with the abrupt announcement that Lucasfilm had fired Colin Trevorrow, who was announced back in 2015 as the director of Episode IX and has been working on a script treatment since. With yesterday’s tersely worded announcement on StarWars.com, Trevorrow takes a seat on the bench next to Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who were themselves canned as directors of the as-yet-untitled Han Solo movie a full four months into production and replaced by your reliable movie-making dad Ron Howard, who’s been recording over their footage since.
In golf terms, this is like shooting par for 16 holes, then walking onto the tee at 17, lighting your clubs on fire, selecting a new caddy, driving to an entirely different golf club and beginning to play soccer. It’s weird, it guarantees most of the Han Solo movie is hot wacky garbage and it makes those of us on planet nerd scream IT’S A STAR WARS MOVIE, HOW HARD IS THIS, and by “scream” I mean “cleverly tweet” because that’s the only way we can work out emotions.
In short, Star Wars directors have about as much job security as Daily News reporters. In fact, since Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 and relaunched the franchise, the only directors to successfully walk the Star Wars gauntlet are J.J. Abrams, who directed the fantastic The Force Awakens and who half of Twitter wants on Episode IX right now, and Rian Johnson, who’s putting the finishing touches on December’s Episode VIII and who the other half of Twitter wants on Episode IX right now. (For the record — and with the still-hurts exception of the sudden death of Carrie Fisher — Johnson’s production has been reasonably smooth and the studio is reportedly thrilled with his results. And even Abrams had to deal with the Millennium Falcon trying to maim Harrison Ford.)
A list of directors who’ve come and gone through the Star Wars universe, all signed because they were reasonably young and hip, most with blockbusters under their belt, and all canned when their new-era vibe crashed into Lucasfilm’s (let’s be honest, well-established and reasonably successful) plans.
Josh Trank: Shortly after the Disney/Lucasfilm merger, Trank signed on for one of the franchise’s stand-alone films and reportedly spent a year working on a film about bounty hunter Boba Fett, a secondary character from the original trilogy who became one of the franchise’s most notorious badasses, despite dying in a Three Stooges outtake scene while comically wailing like one of the Penguins of Madagascar. Then came Trank’s Fantastic Four, a spectacular floppy runny omelette of a superhero movie that’s become known as one of the six or seven worst movies ever made, one that ended with Trank blaming the studio for poor reviews and then thoughtfully trashing his own movie. Lucasfilm took a hard pass.
Gareth Edwards: Edwards is credited as the sole director of the fine Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but the film was famously rewritten, reshot and reshuffled by Tony Gilroy, a gifted Hollywood script whisperer who basically invented a new third act, which likely explains the 75% of trailer footage that never shows up in the real movie. (Gilroy added the Vader-loses-his-s**t scene that made your nerd friends stand up and cheer in the theater, so good for him, but you still feel bad for Edwards. If someone came to me and said Neil Gaiman was writing the rest of this story, it would end way, way better, but I’d still be like, wow, damn guys.)
Phil Lord and Chris Miller: Hired because of their fresh, zippy work on 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie, a calculated and gratuitous merchandise tie-in that makes me cry upon EVERY REPEATED VIEWING SOMEHOW, Lord and Miller were hired to bring youth and fire to the still-untitled Han Solo movie (which they teased as “Red Cup,” for the 9 Star Wars fans who know Toby Keith). Aaaaand four months later, with just weeks left to shoot, they were fired outright, owing to what’s been said is an overreliance on improv, slapstick and all the stuff they did before the Han Solo movie. (One article compared their Han Solo to Ace Ventura, which frankly makes me want to fire them twice.) Ron Howard was about the third-safest choice on Earth to bring this in for a landing, but reports surfaced this week that he’s still adding and subtracting cast members, so basically a movie that comes out in eight months and features one of American cinema’s greatest-ever protagonists is still being written kinda.
Colin Trevorrow: Trevorrow directed the well-received Safety Not Guaranteed, an indie you only saw if you know who Aubrey Plaza is. He also directed the basically-just-received Jurassic World, which featured fine dinosaur action and the alpha male/repressed lady dynamic prominent in all of Jeff Sessions’s favorite books. Most damningly, he made 2016’s The Book of Henry, which was apparently worse than Fantastic Four and made 98% of Star Wars Twitter think THIS IS THE GUY WHO’S HANDLING THE DEATH OF PRINCESS LEIA? He’s been working on an Episode IX script for more than a year, so the official reasoning for his canning is “creative differences,” which we’ll just assume is Lucasfilm code for hot garbage.
In any event, under normal circumstances Episode IX would be shooting any old day now, so the question is who takes over now? Johnson of Episode XIII is a logical choice who’s already said he’d be in, and Abrams is still knocking around. If Spielberg signed on, it could theoretically push Indiana Jones 5 back far enough for everyone to realize what a hot mess that is. Or they could go with a novel choice, someone who’s directed a handful of Star Wars films already, someone who knows the material well, someone who’s schedule is certainly available. Where you at, Lucas.