How the hell can something so successful be so unstable? For the second time this year, a Star Wars film has changed directors, with The Hollywood Reporter reporting that Colin Trevorrow is leaving Episode IX.
"Lucasfilm and Colin Trevorrow have mutually chosen to part ways on Star Wars: Episode IX,” read a statement from Lucasfilm and Disney. “Colin has been a wonderful collaborator throughout the development process but we have all come to the conclusion that our visions for the project differ. We wish Colin the best and will be sharing more information about the film soon."
This reads an awful lot like the statement the same parties released in June to announce the departure of Phil Lord and Chris Miller as directors of the then-filming Han Solo movie. The duo were promptly replaced by Ron Howard, who has since commenced reshoots on the highly anticipated stand-alone feature.
This is the new normal. It’s not even that new. Ever since J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy restarted George Lucas’s era-defining franchise with 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, these productions have been marred by turmoil. The first film went through extensive rewrites (not that surprising, considering how important it was to get it right, or, at the very least, not screw it up). Josh Trank was hired and then fired from a stand-alone film that never got off the ground (the movie was rumored to be about Boba Fett). And Tony Gilroy was brought in to rewrite and reportedly shoot additional footage on Gareth Edwards’s Rogue One.
The Trevorrow news comes as less of a surprise. When it was announced in August 2015 that he would helm Episode IX, some viewed it as a bit of heat check, even though he had just competently steered Jurassic World to huge box office success. His next film, The Book of Henry, put the “rotten” in Rotten Tomatoes, and was seen by approximately no one outside of the immediate families of the people who made it and critics who were professionally obligated to view it (hi, Kam!). The Book of Henry made less than $5 million at the box office, Lord and Miller left the Han Solo movie, and the rumor mill went to work: Would Trevorrow even make it out of preproduction?
The answer is no. These departures follow a pattern: a hot, inexperienced director is entrusted with a very valuable property that is very important to a very big company. Behind-the-scenes shenanigans ensue, and a steady hand is brought in to finish the job. Howard has been directing blockbusters since the 1980s; Gilroy is a script whisperer who knows how to please critics and shareholders alike. There is obviously a desire to bring a fresh perspective to these films, and there have clearly been multiple cases of buyer’s remorse. Why not just hire the veteran filmmaker from the jump? That’s a question only Kennedy can answer.
So now the speculation begins: Who will take over Episode IX? The one Star Wars film that seems to have avoided any controversy is the one coming out in a few months: Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. If you had a spare $20, you could do a lot worse things than putting it on Johnson to oversee the next film. Johnson had been rumored to have been working on the writing of Episode IX, though he later dispelled that notion. Still, if he is willing to dedicate the better part of a decade to making two Star Wars films, he would be the safest available pair of hands.
Other names to watch out for: the Russo brothers, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Guillermo del Toro, Denis Villeneuve, Alex Garland, Matthew Vaughn, Joel Edgerton, and Danny Boyle. Let the games begin and may the force be with them.