Yesterday it was announced—surprising literally EVERYONE—that directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are leaving the young Han Solo movie. Yes, that young Han Solo movie, the one starring Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover. The one that is FIVE MONTHS into production. There’s less than a month left for principal photography! They’re ALMOST DONE and the directors leave? What the F*CK?
The official statement came from both sides. LucasFilm’s president, Kathleen Kennedy, said: “Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are talented filmmakers who have assembled an incredible cast and crew, but it’s become clear that we had different creative visions on this film, and we’ve decided to part ways.”
And Lord & Miller added: “Unfortunately, our vision and process weren’t aligned with our partners on this project. We normally aren’t fans of the phrase ‘creative differences’ but for once this cliché is true. We are really proud of the amazing and world-class work of our cast and crew.”
There wasn’t a whiff ANYWHERE that the Han Solo movie—officially untitled, but maybe called Solo—was having any problems at all, let alone anything big enough to result in the directors exiting the project with several weeks left in production. But a follow-up from Variety claims Lord & Miller were sh*tcanned after clashing with Kathleen Kennedy for months. (“She didn’t even like the way they folded their socks” is the money quote.)
We’ve seen some troubled productions recently, including Rogue One, which brought on Tony Gilroy to oversee reshoots and editing, and most recently Justice League. But Gareth Edwards, the director of record, stayed on Rogue One and seemed pleased with the final result, and while Justice League hired Joss Whedon to write the reshoots, Zack Snyder was still directing, and his decision to leave the film for once had nothing to do with creative differences. This is the most dramatic studio-creator falling out since Edgar Wright bailed on Ant-Man.
But it isn’t the first time Disney/LucasFilm has run into trouble—they’ve navigated choppy waters before. And they’ve also covered up problems before: We still don’t know, and probably won’t ever know, the full extent of what went on with The Force Awakens. But this time they couldn’t soldier on, and they can’t avoid the absolute PR nightmare that is replacing directors mid-stream. And thanks to that Variety report, which makes it sound like Kennedy is micro-managing to the Nth degree, it’s squarely Kennedy’s nightmare to deal with. If Solo, or whatever it’s called, isn’t well-received, there’s going to be a lot of second-guessing her leadership at LucasFilm. (Although this does cast her comments about female directors in a new light—apparently she doesn’t trust ANYONE to make a movie.)
Disney’s in-house fan convention, D23, is next month, and Comic-Con is just a week after that. They’re going to want this settled by then, so they can use their stage to press reset and build new hype for the movie, to drown out any lingering bad buzz that results from this. So I expect an announcement of a new director within the next few weeks. (No names yet, but Colin Trevorrow is drifting around the LucasFilm offices, just waiting to fail upward.)
As I’ve said before, you can tamper with a movie pretty extensively and still get a decent result (see also: Rogue One). But you’re never going to get a genuinely good movie out of such a turbulent creative process. You’ve knee-capped your movie, and young Han Solo is now limping to the finish. There’s little chance Kennedy—who, despite her own glass-ceiling breaking success, is disinclined to support anyone else—takes a risk with a movie that’s already troubled and makes an out-of-the-box hire for the replacement. But you would think, with all the problems she keeps having with her stable of Establishment directors, she’d try something different, just to see if it f*cking works. Because whatever she’s doing right now clearly isn’t.