Only Siths deal in absolutes ... about the creative process
A lot of people just learned how the “creative process” works in Hollywood; no, not just at Lucasfilm, and certainly not just at Disney. Chris Miller and Phil Lord just got pink slips with about a month of filming remaining in “Untitled Han Solo Standalone Film.” That doesn’t include scheduled reshoots in the clunkily named standalone film. Yes, reshoots every single major blockbuster builds into its schedule.
Creative differences between screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan and the directing duo most famous for “21 Jump Street” and “Lego Batman” sounds like the most plausible reason for the split. We only know the first two words in the sentence to be true, so I’ve got my speculative journalism cap on.
And the murmurs begin. The same murmurs we heard when Disney first purchased Lucasfilm outright; as if the stories could possibly go much downhill from when George Lucas fed dialogue to Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman. But this is the Internet, and we know how things work around here. The production of Rogue One drummed up salacious headlines, all of which turned out to be for not.
Firing a pair of directors before filming is complete? That warrants headlines, baby. Not just because of the timing; though the timing alone would get the job done. It seemed Miller and Lord were so clearly the right guys for the job. They’ve nailed their previous projects with great humor, something a Han Solo film should show in spades… right?
Maybe not. Kasdan shepherded Solo through “Empire Strikes Back,” when the scoundrel is at his darkest. We don’t really know what version of the character we’re supposed to see on screen in this prequel. Is it a Han Solo that’s hopeful and bright? Or guarded and sleazy? That could go a long way towards explaining the rift between Kasdan and the directing duo — if one exists at all, of course.
Then there are the more salacious, and unsourced, rumors that Kathleen Kennedy didn’t care for the way the pair handled the cast and crew on set. That’s the kind of rumor I have a very hard time believing. This isn’t Miller and Lord’s first rodeo and they wouldn’t have gotten this gig if they didn’t know how to handle a set with some professionalism.
Of course, that brings us to the big question: how in the world did this go south so suddenly? Not all interviews are the same, and I didn’t sit in on Miller and Lord’s interview for this film (no shit), but a pretty comprehensive blueprint is mapped out long before principal photography begins. You’ve probably noticed some projects go through a handful of directors before filming starts — that’s why. So this kind of public relations nightmare never happens.
Well … Lucasfilm doesn’t have that luxury anymore. Now Kennedy and company get to go up on stage at D23, the big Disney convention, in a few weeks with a caretaker director in tow. And that’s the best-case scenario. The names floated around at the moment include Ron Howard and Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park 3, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Wolfman); neither of those inspire confidence. If we’re being honest, Kasdan will direct this sucker from behind his clipboard, even if he’s not permitted to step into the directing chair.
None of this is good, obviously, but it also doesn’t spell certain doom for this film. Nor does it mean there’s a fatal flaw in the process of how Lucasfilm does its business. Here’s what it does mean: while “The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson continues to hammer home how much creative freedom he had on the film, it’s important to remember where the goalposts are.
No, Disney is not sending out requests for a certain number of blue aliens and “cute characters” in each of its films (and frankly it’s amazing people think that sort of thing happens), but while working in the studio system there’s no such thing as 100 percent creative control. Johnson made a very personal film that also happened to fit into the vision of Kennedy and the rest of the higher ups at Lucasfilm. Had he strayed too far outside their guidelines… well, now we know what would have happened. The Star Wars brand is sacred, and they’ll protect it jealously.