David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, showrunners of Game of Thrones, have left their planned Star Wars trilogy because they are just too dang busy. Last night news broke that Benioff and Weiss have split with Lucasfilm, and statements came from both Benioff and Weiss, and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. Of the parting of ways, B&W said, “We love Star Wars. When George Lucas built it, he built us too. Getting to talk about Star Wars with him and the current Star Wars team was the thrill of a lifetime, and we will always be indebted to the saga that changed everything.” So, basically, they got to go to fantasy fan camp and then decided they don’t actually want to do the work.
Kathleen Kennedy’s statement is open-ended, not ruling out a B&W return down the line, but please do note the extreme bitchiness of her remarks (emphasis mine): “David Benioff and Dan Weiss are incredible storytellers. We hope to include them in the journey forward when they are able to step away from their busy schedule to focus on Star Wars.” This comment is pushing all the buttons developed by a passive-aggressive Southern grandmother. I am hearing, “I’m sure you’ll do it when you have time,” and, “If it’s important to you, then I suppose it’s important to me,” and, “I’m sure you meant to.” Kathleen Kennedy is basically out here saying when these two bozos sort their sh-t out they can come back to work for me.
This news is not entirely unexpected because of a thread that popped up over the weekend from the Austin Film Festival, where Benioff and Weiss appeared on a panel and threw all their f-cks to the wind and admitted they were in over their heads with Game of Thrones. Check it out:
Everyone is sh-tting on B&W for not knowing what they were doing, but their comments do not sound like that to me. Their remarks are unflattering and I do wonder if they realize how spoiled and privileged they sound, but what I get from this is not that B&W are clueless or bad at their jobs (they did, after all, still manage to shepherd one of the best dramas in history). To me, these are the comments of filmmakers who are not really writers. I know they have both written books, but writing prose and writing for the screen are VERY different skill sets, and just because you can do one, doesn’t mean you can do the other. They come across as directors who write not from a position of narrative-first storytelling, but as, essentially, building a shot list with their script. That is not actually unusual for directors who write, because they are envisioning the movie they will make, not the story they’re trying to tell. Had Benioff and Weiss not obviously burnt out and decided to short cut to the ending, we probably never would have noticed the difference. What leaps out as most damning about B&W from their comments is just that they did not realize the scope of their undertaking. They underestimated the work of producing a TV show, and they really did need to hire a proper writing staff and delegate more of that work. Game of Thrones was, in the end, too big for two people to manage like that.
I am not convinced that Benioff and Weiss were pulled off Star Wars because they made some assy comments over the weekend. For one thing, decisions this big don’t happen that fast. If anything, I wonder if B&W popped off because they already knew their Star Wars run was over and they perhaps felt like they had nothing to lose. For another, Benioff and Weiss signed a massive Netflix deal earlier in the summer. At the time, Lesley Goldberg called the five-year deal a “head scratcher” because of B&W’s existing commitment to Star Wars. That trilogy was slated to launch in 2022 and would, presumably, keep B&W busy for most of the 2020s. And yet here is Netflix forking over $250 million, as if they expect B&W to start showing returns immediately.
In hindsight, it’s clear that these two things are in conflict, and Benioff and Weiss would not be able to manage both commitments. Go back to their comments over the weekend—they admit they’re not good at managing their workload. And overseeing a Star Wars trilogy AND a five-year plan for Netflix is a massive amount of work. They’ve buckled once, who’s to say they wouldn’t do it again? It looks to me like B&W once again got in over their heads, and this time instead of running a beloved story into the ground, they elected to leave Star Wars and focus on their Netflix projects. (Probably Netflix entails more money and, I assume, at least partial ownership of whatever they produce. They would never own a piece of Star Wars, so Netflix has the greater incentive.)
So where does all this leave Star Wars? Well, as far as we know, they still intend to launch a post-Skywalker trilogy in 2022 (they’re supposed to alternate every other holiday season with the Avatar sequels). Lucasfilm still has Rian Johnson and Kevin Feige on standby developing projects, but I do kind of wonder if Disney ends up dropping something else into that holiday 2022 spot. Spacing out Star Wars is not the worst thing, we’ve already seen this is not Marvel and audiences don’t actually want a constant drip of Star Wars movies. Besides, they have TV projects for Disney+ coming to fill the galactic void in the meantime, with The Mandalorian launching in a couple weeks, and that Obi-Wan show sometime in the next couple years. I won’t be shocked if Kennedy & Co. elect to skip that 2022 date and wait until they have a solid story set up for the next generation of Star Wars storytelling.
As for Benioff and Weiss, they’ll be fine. They will have unlimited opportunities to botch the endings of their next projects, and their piles and piles of Netflix money and rack of GOT Emmys to keep them warm at night. The important thing is that they are not making that godawful sounding Confederate show for HBO. Make a Star War, don’t make a Star War, who cares as long as they never get around to making that Confederate show.