Well, it seems that Lucasfilm has lost yet another Star Wars director. Yesterday, it was announced that Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) has vacated the director’s chair on Star Wars: Episode IX. Coming on the heels of Phil Lord & Chris Miller’s exit from the Han Solo film earlier this year, as well as the turmoil of Gareth Edwards’ tenure on Rogue One, this shade of strife doesn’t look good on Lucasfilm. That’s a discussion for another day, however.
The big question now is “Who will replace him?” After all, Lucasfilm scored Ron Howard (Willow, Apollo 13) as their replacement director on Han Solo, so it’s not like there’s a fame cap on directorial choices. There are numerous different people who could end up with the gig. Odds are that they already have offers out to a few directors and could have the position filled shortly, much as they did with Howard. Until then, it’s fun to speculate.
I’m seeing all kinds of names grace social media and comments sections. Some of them are unlikely due to the type of filmmaker they are or what their career goals seem to be. Some are unlikely simply because they are currently booked to shoot another film during the same timeframe. Before we get into some people that we here at Cinema Runner would like to see behind the camera, let’s go over a few popular choices are seem unlikely to take the bait.
Kathryn Bigelow is leading the pack, as always. Any time a big franchise film is seeking a director, fans rush to suggest her for the job. It’s not hard to see why either, when you look at her early work from Near Dark to Point Break to Strange Days. Bigelow had a wonderful run of genre films from the ’80s through the mid-’90s, but it’s a type of filmmaking that she has left behind in the past two decades. Her filmmaking focus now lies in other areas and she has avoided such films at every turn in recent years, making the chance of her accepting an offer to dive headfirst into a Star Wars movie unlikely.
Joss Whedon is another I’m seeing a lot of and while he’ll be free of Justice League by the time cameras roll on Episode IX, he seems to have set up shop over at Warner Bros. for the time being. Jon Favreau remains a Disney-loyal filmmaker, but is currently arms deep in making The Lion King. Andrew Stanton and Brad Bird are both still with Disney, but have returned to animation in the wake of their live action films not performing well. David Fincher will soon be directing World War Z 2.
Joseph Kosinski is shooting Top Gun: Maverick next year. Denis Villeneuve is prepping Dune, making him an unlikely candidate to do Star Wars in the interim. Guillermo Del Toro has The Fantastic Voyage on deck next over at Fox, with an eye to shoot next year. Speaking of Fox, Matthew Vaughn is supposed to do Flash Gordon for them at some point, so that will fulfill his space opera needs. Continuing on the Fox train, James Mangold is directing a small action thriller this fall and then following it up with The Force (the police kind) for Fox immediately after.
Disney/Lucasfilm alum Joe Johnston is prepping the next Narnia film and is thus unavailable. Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi doesn’t seem interested, based on his recent social media comments. Other Disney/Lucasfilm collaborators such as Tony Gilroy, Lawrence Kasdan, and Kenneth Branagh are always possible, of course, but none seem like the kind of name that Kathleen Kennedy will likely want to lock down for this gig.
So who could it be? What name would be either big, impressive, and/or comforting enough to fill this void and ease fan concerns? Let’s give this a shot…
1. RIAN JOHNSON (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
The obvious and perhaps easiest choice. Johnson is already fully immersed in this world, as he is currently putting the final touches on Star Wars: The Last Jedi (aka Episode VIII). Mind you he wouldn’t have the time to give it a full rewrite himself, but that’s an issue than any director is going to have when walking into this project. Would he be willing to return to this world so soon though?
2. J.J. ABRAMS (Star Trek, Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Another obvious choice. Abrams started this new trilogy with The Force Awakens and has publicly lamented on more than one occasion that he wishes he had accepted the offer to do The Last Jedi. Since his installment, Abrams has just been producing other films and has yet to officially line up another directing gig. With him seemingly free at the moment, there’s a good chance that he’s gotten a phone call about Episode IX in the past few days.
3. AVA DUVERNAY (Selma, A Wrinkle in Time)
DuVernay cut her teeth on smaller films like I Will Follow and Selma, but just finished adapting A Wrinkle in Time for Disney. It looks great, by the way! She has the style and the tenacity to jump into this situation with both feet. The question is whether or not she’d want to. After all, she’s already flirted with and walked away from other franchise jobs, in favor of being able to put her own stamp on less anchored material.
4. RYAN COOGLER (Creed, Black Panther)
Coogler made a critical mark with Fruitvale Station. He then made a critical and commercial one with Creed. Now he’s poised to do the same with Marvel’s Black Panther next year. He currently has a small drama in the works with Michael B. Jordan, but beyond that, his future slate is hazy. He could easily end up directing Creed 2 for MGM, which looks to shoot next year. Marvel could also lock him down ahead of time for a Black Panther 2. Could or would he make room for Star Wars? We have no idea, but he certainly has the chops for it.
5. MICHELLE MACLAREN (“Breaking Bad“, “Game of Thrones“)
This list wouldn’t be fun without a few wild cards and Michelle MacLaren is a great pick in that vein. While she has yet to get a feature under her belt, MacLaren is a veteran TV director and producer, having been a producer across multiple genres throughout the ’90s and transitioning to directing in the 2000s. She has the on set experience and a great eye, making her a perfect choice to tackle a Star Wars film. Would Lucasfilm be willing to hand over Episode IX to a first-time feature director? Probably not, but we like her for it anyway!
6. GEORGE MILLER (Babe: Pig in the City, Mad Max: Fury Road)
This man definitely has the talent and experience for the job. The only problem is that he continues to insist that he’d like his next film to be something small. Would he be willing to give that up and make a Star Wars movie before he finally tackles the next Mad Max film? Perhaps not, but it’s a fun possibility to consider regardless.
7. STEVEN SPIELBERG
The big kahuna himself has had an interesting relationship with this franchise over the years. At one point he was the favorite to direct Return of the Jedi, before British filmmaking regulations prevented it. Word is he also flirted with directing Revenge of the Sith. George Lucas ultimately decided to direct that film himself, but Spielberg helped his pal out quite a bit with a few of the set pieces. Steven is also the man who recommended J.J. Abrams for The Force Awakens and rumor has it he has been quietly consulting longtime friend Kathleen Kennedy on these films ever since she took over Lucasfilm. Furthermore, his schedule is fairly open. Ready Player One is almost finished with post-production and The Post soon will be as well. Since The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara seems to have fallen by the wayside and Indiana Jones 5 isn’t due until 2020, there’s potentially room on his schedule for Episode IX. It’s a long shot, but who knows, maybe we could finally see Spielberg behind the camera on a Star Wars film in an official capacity? Stranger things have happened.
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