It’s obvious what kinds of stories will get standalone Star Wars movies in the foreseeable future. They’re all about fan service at this point, since a non-episodic movies are a tad risky. Of course Rogue One, the first standalone movie, will harken back to the original. And of course the next one will bring the origin story of everybody’s favorite smuggler with a heart of gold, Han Solo, to the big-screen. Since we’re going to get a whole lot of Star Wars movies and there’s nothing we can do about it (things could be worse), chances are, things will escalate to a point where the executives at Lucasfilm and Disney will begin to explore the nooks and crannies of the Star Wars universe instead of the big budget heavy hitters.
In a recent interview in The Hollywood Reporter, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said the main thing she looks for when recruiting filmmakers to make Star Wars movie is to primarily look for “somebody who can creatively have an impact.” Soon enough, some serious auteurs are going to get a crack at the galaxy far, far away.
While we’d love a teens-on-Tatooine movie from Richard Linklater, a batshit crazy Sith-gone-wild movie by Harmony Korine, or a psychosexual Coruscant thriller by Gaspar Noe, here are some more sensible choices for when Star Wars starts to think small.
5. Jeremy Saulnier - Jabba’s Palace
The places in the Star Wars universe that have the most potential are the ones that are recognizable, but ones that we don’t necessarily know a lot about. Everybody who’s seen Return of the Jedi knows Jabba’s palace is a dark and dangerous place, and it’s a testament to the filmmaking of Episode VI that it comes across that way. Maybe it was all that Rancor business.
But a filmmaker who could really make a significant standalone out of Jabba’s palace is director Jeremy Saulnier. Known for seedy, minimalist thrillers like this year’s Green Room and the revenge thriller Blue Ruin, Saulnier’s eye for the savagery behind what’s plainly in sight could make for a great multi-genre thriller. Who knows what kind of backstabbing anti-heroes were lurking through the tunnels of Jabba’s palace?
He was recently seen on the Star Wars Show to promote Green Room, and though we believe in the power of cross marketing, we hope he was actually there to take some meetings with head honcho Kennedy to talk about what he could contribute to the ever-expanding Star Wars standalone series.
4. Michelle MacLaren - Barriss Offee
Perhaps the best filmmaker you’ve never heard of, MacLaren is responsible for being behind some of the best episodes of television ever made. Her contributions to The Walking Dead and seriously solid Games of Thrones episodes, like the Brienne and Jaime-centric “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”, are more than enough to prove she has what it takes to make the jump to the big-screen. On top of those, her true talent is fully on display in her episodes of Breaking Bad. From the Gus Fring mob carnage of “Salud” to the masterful chaos of “To’hajiilee” (aka the one where Hank finally finds out that Walter White is Heisenberg, MacLaren is majorly responsible for making television more cinematic.
While she was nearly wooed to feature films with the director’s gig on Wonder Woman, a role she vacated due to creative differences, she’s the perfect visionary to step into the more inclusive saga that Kennedy wants to assemble. Any strong female lead for her to run wild with would do, but a seriously kick ass female Jedi drama, maybe featuring Attack of the Clones background character Barriss Offee (who also had a big role in The Clone Wars animated series), could be a great start.
3. Studio Ghibli - Droids
The best part about the idea of standalone Star Wars movies is that Lucasfilm and Disney have enough money to get really experimental. While the saga already has celebrated animated storylines like Clone Wars and Rebels, an animated feature would really test their willingness to try new things. On top of that, an animated Star Wars movie from the Japanese masters at Studio Ghibli would just be next-level amazing. Sadly, legendary filmmaker and Ghibli mastermind Hayao Miyazaki, the man behind unbelievably gorgeous classics like Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Princess Mononoke, retired in 2013. But maybe a little chat with the Star Wars brain trust could sway him back?
Regardless, it’d be great to envision a nuanced and heartfelt Studio Ghibli film about the droids, who are characters that have been marginalized as mere comic relief or story devices throughout the saga so far. It wouldn’t even have to specifically be about Artoo or Threepio, who already had their own goofy animated series in the late 1980s. Seriously, anything Studio Ghibli could produce would be gold, and since Disney already distributes their films worldwide, it brings the idea even just a tad closer to plausibility.
2. Sofia Coppola - Young Leia
Coppola’s 2006 film Marie Antoinette is probably her most underappreciated and misunderstood. What viewers didn’t realize at the time was that she took a well known and unreachable historical figure and made her a real person, via an ingeniously stylized and anachronistic examination of who she was and what she stood for. It’s sort of like what Lin-Manuel Miranda did with Hamilton.
Coppola has continued to do her teenage-female-angst-soundtracked-to-1980s-New-Wave thing since then, so it’d be fascinating to see if she could bring that same sensibility to Leia growing up and becoming a powerful female politician on Alderaan. Plus it’d just be amazing to hear tracks from The Strokes or New Order in a Star Wars movie.
1. Ryan Coogler - Lando
Director Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is going to be amazing. There is no way it won’t be. From Fruitvale Station to Creed, he’s has quickly emerged as one of the best young American filmmakers working today. His jump into the Marvel machine is further proof that he’ll continue to define his voice on his terms, even when his movies become increasingly and outrageously expensive.
Once Coogler has the blockbuster bug in him, he’ll have the artistic power to do whatever he wants. Hopefully Star Wars means as much to him as the Rocky franchise did before Creed. If he showed any interest, Disney would have to respectfully decline filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie’s Twitter request to make actor Michael B. Jordan into a young Lando Calrissian (McQuarrie can still help write the screenplay, though), and give the reins of a Lando standalone movie to Coogler, who’s already close collaborators with Jordan.Photos via Getty Images / Vittorio Zunino Celotto