As one might expect in the wake of a director (or directors) being fired from a Star Wars movie, there’s been something of a media storm raging since the announcement that Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B Weiss would no longer be directing a trilogy of movies in the Star Wars franchise. Speculation and accusation as to why has run somewhat rampant, with blame being lain on everything from the disappointing final season of Thrones to a somewhat troubling interview the two gave recently in which they basically admitted to not knowing what they were doing while making the show.
However, some are alleging that the blame lies with executive producer Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm. A recent Variety report on the matter claims that directors like Weiss and Benioff and other departed Star Wars captains like Colin Trevorrow and the Lord/Miller duo sign on being promised a good deal of creative control. But that’s not always the case:
However, multiple insiders said new ideas were commonly shot down as Kennedy and her team were only looking for people to stick to the company line. If disagreements about the direction of the film became too intense it usually led to the person leaving the project rather than an attempt to find common ground.
The report as a whole makes working with Lucasfilm on a Star Wars project sound relatively inhospitable to creators looking to blaze their own trail on a project in the franchise.
That said, it may be pertinent to look at a few common threads amongst the directors who have been let go from Star Wars projects, especially when compared to the directors who seem to have found relative success with the franchise like J.J Abrams, Rian Johnson, and Jon Favreau (showrunner for The Mandalorian/). In fact, this subject has been addressed in an old quote that surfaced around the time Trevorrow was let go from Episode IX. That quote seems especially relevant in the wake of Weiss and Benioff’s firing.
An anonymous veteran producer told Vulture at the time:
“There’s one gatekeeper when it comes to Star Wars and it’s Kathleen Kennedy,” says a veteran movie producer, who has worked with the studio chief. “If you rub Kathleen Kennedy the wrong way — in any way — you’re out. You’re done. A lot of these young, new directors want to come in and say, ‘I want to do this. I want to do that.’ A lot of these guys — Lord and Miller, Colin Trevorrow — got very rich, very fast and believed a lot of their own hype. And they don’t want to play by the rules. They want to do shit differently. And Kathleen Kennedy isn’t going to fuck around with that.”
It’s a particularly resonant quote, and one that doesn’t exactly contradict what’s been said in the recent Variety piece on Weiss and Benioff. It’s absolutely plausible that these directors have found working within the world of Star Wars to be a creatively restrictive environment. But it also stands to reason that what a hotshot director looking to make their name on a massive Star Wars film finds creatively restricting might not be the same thing a seasoned pro with very little to prove like Johnson or Abrams finds creatively restricting.
In fact, Johnson’s film The Last Jedi is about as iconoclastic a Star Wars film as you’re likely to ever find. Like the film or not, it’s hard to imagine it’s the product of an environment in which creativity is regularly stifled. Perhaps the case is simply that these younger directors aren’t used to hearing the word “no,” or that their particular brand of creativity isn’t actually as special as they may have been led to believe. After all, it’s hard to watch The Book of Henry or the series finale of Thrones and wish the men who made those were directing a Star Wars movie.