Today, Entertainment Weekly’s Anthony Breznican offered a unique look into Ron Howard’s unconventional journey in directing Solo: A Star Wars Story. By now, the challenges that Lucasfilm faced in developing Solo are well chronicled. Publicly, the break up between Lucasfilm and Solo’s original directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, was handled as well as as could be expected by all parties involved. Now, as the ramp up towards Solo’s premiere begins, it is interesting to get the perspective from both Howard and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy on the journey to get to this point.
In recounting the breakdown of the working relationship with Lord and Miller, Kennedy is very complimentary of the directors, but it’s clear that their approach to making a film just didn’t work with the existing structure of Lucasfilm:
Asked directly about it now, Kennedy answers: “I think these guys are hilarious, but they come from a background of animation and sketch comedy and when you are making these movies you can do that and there’s plenty of room for improvisation, we do that all the time, but it has to be inside of a highly structured process or you can’t get the work done and you can’t move the armies of people to anticipate and have things ready. So, it literally came down to process. Just getting it done.”
This is nobody’s favorite topic to discuss. “There comes a point where there’s only so much you can do and then you have to take a different course and that’s where we ended up,” Kennedy says. “So, it’s not like there’s anything I can really add to it because the last thing I want to do is…”
The critical quote in my mind is the idea that improvisation is allowed, but that “it has to be inside of a highly structured process….” This should come as no surprise to Star Wars fans at this stage, but it’s still enlightening to hear Kennedy address the issue.
What seems fairly clear is that once the decision was made to move in a different direction, Howard became a natural target due to his existing relationship with Kennedy, Lucasfilm, and George Lucas himself. As many are aware, Howard’s relationship with Lucas goes back to the filming of one of Lucas’ early films, American Graffiti. Howard himself seems to have been deeply motivated to accept the position out of a desire to help:
“I know Chris and Phil. They’re incredibly talented guys, and all anyone at Imagine Entertainment wants to do is find a way to work with Chris and Phil, and that’s every bit as much the case today as ever,” he says. “But when I learned that this change was happening, it just came in a moment where I was working on lots of new projects for Imagine, and I had not planned to direct anything last year. So then this came my way, and I was talking to Kathy, and the now tragically late Alli Shearmur, an old friend. I was reluctant, but I also began to feel that I could help.”
Once Howard was in the director’s chair, he received possibly the most important blessing of all, an on-set visit from Lucas that resulted in a chance to get possibly the last bit of directing by Lucas in a Star Wars film:
“He had intended to just kind of stop by and say hi, and he stayed five hours,” Kennedy says. “There’s even one little moment in a scene that — I can’t tell you what, sorry — but in the scene on the Millennium Falcon where George said, ‘Why doesn’t Han just do this.’”
As Star Wars fans, it should provide a bit of comfort to hear that a production that suffered from unexpected turnover and uncertainty seems to have had a bit of a fairy tale ending.
There’s much more in Breznican’s fantastic piece, so be sure to read the full article over at Entertainment Weekly.