The real question to fans is now, “How are you?”
Shortly after the and directing pair of Chris Miller and Phil Lord were fired from the upcoming “Han Solo” standalone film, Miller tweeted:
— Chris Miller (@chrizmillr) June 27, 2017
Presumably, Miller was quoting Han Solo from A New Hope and couldn’t have described the situation better.
Hitting the Panic Button on Han Solo
Post-firing, Star Wars fans were immediately filling social media with criticisms and worry over the dismissal of the heretofore beloved, innovative directing duo responsible for The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
Mainstream critics themselves also suggested “Something is up at Lucasfilm…” And much of that “something” was attributed to Lucasfilm boss, Kathleen Kennedy.
Around that time, I tweeted:
Why is everyone bemoaning Kathy Kennedy’s creative control? KK is a pioneer; is asserting HER authority in the same way studios have forever
— John Bishop (@jmbishopjr) June 21, 2017
Immediately, I regretted it, thinking I would come off like a “homer,” rooting for Star Wars beyond what my own reporting was telling me. So, I jumped onto IMDB, to try and come up with a factual basis with my relative comfort with the change of helm on the next Star Wars standalone film.
What I got when I typed in “Kathleen Kennedy” made me “LOL,” literally, as films like Back to the Future, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Schindler’s List came up as the films the Lucasfilm president is “Known For…”
The Most Powerful Woman in Hollywood
Nominated for eight Oscars, she has 29 other nominations (and 21 wins). Meanwhile, Kennedy’s ever-growing filmography begins with Steven Spielberg’s 1941 (billed as an associate to Mr. Spielberg) and is topped by two films that, combined made over $3 billion (TFA and Rogue One).
So that made me feel better. However, I then started to canvas some industry contacts.
“I’m certainly bummed to see Lord and Miller go but, if Kennedy thinks they had to, I trust her,” said io9’s Germain Lussier, just before D23 Expo 2017. “If Kennedy’s judgment is good enough for Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, it’s good enough for me.”
Looking ahead, Lussier brought up Colin Trevorrow, who–previous to the Lord and Miller dustup–seemed on the hotseat after lukewarm reviews for his latest film, The Book of Henry.
“If Trevorrow stays or goes I think, no matter who is in there, Kennedy has put together such a huge, talented team, that’s it’s very difficult to fail,” added Lussier. “Trevorrow takes direction well for a director, and I think that’s key.
“So we’ll see. Is he an inspired choice?” asked Lussier, rhetorically. “No, of course not, but no one complains that Empire or Jedi weren’t directed by A-list names.
“They were directors who got the job done.”
The Heir Apparent?
Jason Surrell, a former Disney Imagineer, and Show Writer turned Creative Director at NBCUniversal, Inc., used to work with the folks at Lucasfilm, and routinely works with Mr. Spielberg in his current capacity.
A major Star Wars fan, who has also gotten to work on the IP alongside George Lucas, he also thinks that Han Solo and Lucasfilm are in good hands.
“It amused the hell out of me when I started reading the online criticism of Kathy Kennedy,” said Surrell. “I have had the opportunity to meet her a couple of times, and I’ve seen her in presentations and talks–and that doesn’t begin to take into account my lifelong love of her work.
“So, I could not have more faith and trust in Kathleen Kennedy.”
Like Lussier, Surrell pointed at Kennedy’s track record as the current proof in the pudding.
“When people start criticizing her about her replacing the guys with Ron Howard,” he said, chuckling, before adding, “if I were her, anytime someone questioned me, I think I would just whip my resume out of my pants and and slap it on the table.”
“She is sharp,” he continued. “She knows what she’s doing. And, as far as I am concerned, she should be the heir apparent to Bob Iger [Disney’s CEO].
“So I think everything is going to be just fine,” he said.
A 35,000 foot view
— Star Wars (@starwars) June 22, 2017
Iger also came up when I spoke with a longtime reporter on everything Disney, Jim Hill.
“I know a lot of people who are outside looking in at the ‘Han Solo’ production situation are now questioning, ‘Is Kathleen really in control?'” he said. “I will tell you that Disney has such confidence in Kennedy, she is actually on the short list of people that Disney are looking at to replace Iger.
“So with all of this talk by Star Wars fans about Kathleen Kennedy… you’ve got to take the 35,000 foot view.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” he continued. “I feel bad for the two directors, Phil and Chris.
“But this is the thing; Kathleen was trying to do something different and it just wasn’t a meeting of the minds about what this movie should be about.
“Thes are two improvisational guys, and here you are, you’re working with Lawrence Kasdan. He’s this great screenwriter, and he’s… funny this way, [saying], ‘I’d like to see the actors say the dialogue that I wrote.’
“Bringing in Ron Howard, who has such a long history with Disney; in fact, he’s responsible for the first modern-era hit for Disney, Splash.
“More to the point, this is a guy who has done a Lucasfilm film, Willow; this is a guy who has done big effects pictures like Apollo 13... he’s a director who has acted, so he’s going to be better with communicating to actors about what he needs.”
It’s a movie…
Perhaps what Disney/Lucasfilm needs most are a few PR wins.
Many of the stories out of D23 and SDCC might assuage some of fans’ worries. But that doesn’t account for all of the dirty laundry that found its way onto the net.
“Yeah, it was embarrassing for all parties, that this got out there,” said Hill, calling on his years of research and long memory. “But, look, how many different directors worked on The Wizard of Oz, you know?
“If you look at that, no less than four guys worked on that film, and that’s now considered one of the greatest films ever made.”
Right now, there’s a waiting game to be played in terms of what kind of film this will look like next May.
However, Hill is unconcerned.
“It’s a movie,” said Hill, emphasizing that the firing was not a national tragedy. “You don’t want to pay too much attention to how movies are made.”
“Remember last year, when everyone was suddenly like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re doing re-shoots on Rogue One. This means that this move will be terrible.
“All that talk stopped the second all of us got in the theaters and saw the movie. Then it was like, ‘Holy crap. Look at this movie, isn’t this amazing.’
“The film is the finished product,” he concluded.
We’re all fine here, now, thank you. How are you? JB