It’s Rogue One all over again.
The still-untitled Han Solo prequel film, which will star a younger version of the character played by Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!), has been in production in London since February. Despite all the work that’s already been completed, though, the film just lost its directing team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller (21 Jump Street, The LEGO Movie).
The shocking move was announced Tuesday evening, with both Lord and Miller and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy releasing diplomatic statements citing creative differences as the reason for the split.
“Unfortunately, our vision and process weren’t aligned with our partners on this project. We normally aren’t fans of the phrase ‘creative differences’ but for once this cliché is true. We are really proud of the amazing and world-class work of our cast and crew,” Lord and Miller said in a statement posted to the official Star Wars website.
Though both parties took a very amicable tone when announcing the departure, this could not have come lightly. Lucasfilm’s lost directors before, specifically Chronicle’s Josh Trank during the development of a still-unannounced spinoff film, but Trank hadn’t started production, let alone filmed for four months. A somewhat similar situation took place on Rogue One, as Tony Gilroy was brought in to supervise reshoots after director Gareth Edwards finished principle photography. After a reported hiatus to review the footage Miller and Lord already produced, though, Lucasfilm opted for a change in leadership. Despite this, the studio says the film will still make its May 2018 release date, which leaves little time to find a replacement filmmaker and finish the film in a way with which Kennedy and company will be satisfied.
While we may never know the full story of how and why this happened, the unconfirmed reports are already flying. Variety reports that Lord and Miller – proven hitmakers thanks to The LEGO Movie and the Jump Street franchise – were expecting a fair amount of creative control over the film, control Kennedy was apparently unwilling to give. Sources say she grew concerned with their filmmaking style, while they were unhappy with the level of control she asserted over the production as Star Wars’ reigning mastermind. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the pair also clashed with Lawrence Kasdan – the writer of The Empire Strikes Back who came in to rewrite The Force Awakens and co-wrote the Solo film with his son Jon – over the tone of the Han Solo character. Kasdan, who’s had Han in his head for nearly 40 years, favored a more sarcastic Solo while Lord and Miller reportedly aimed for more outright comedy. Kasdan was unhappy with their approach. Kennedy took his side.
“Kathy, her team and Larry Kasdan have been doing it their way for a very long time. They know how the cheese is made and that’s how they want it made,” a source told Variety. “It became a very polarizing set.”
Swapping directors at the 11th hour like this is bad news for any film but, if these reports are true, the Solo movie at least has a guiding force in the form of Kennedy and Kasdan. It’s unclear at this point how much of Lord and Miller’s footage they’ll use or how they might retool the film but they do certainly seem to have an approach in mind going forward. As far as who’ll take the director’s chair now, Kasdan himself (who’s directed films like The Big Chill and Silverado in addition to his writing) is apparently in the running, which might make for the smoothest transition. Another name floating around: Oscar-winner Ron Howard, whose reputation and track record would certainly calm a few nerves as fans and executives alike are biting their nails hoping this film isn’t a mess.
Whatever happens in the future, this is a rough piece of news for Lucasfilm. The Force Awakens went through rewrites, Rogue One went through extensive reshoots and Episode IX will be reenvisioned to work around the loss of the great Carrie Fisher but those issues don’t feel as hard to work out as this. Half the fandom is wondering what took the studio so long to figure out they couldn’t work with Lord and Miller while the other half is worried that individual filmmaking voices will get drowned out to the point that Star Wars is just a big homogeneous merch-selling scheme. Damage control is already underway. Let’s see what Lucasfilm comes up with.
The untitled Han Solo film is, for now, still hitting theaters May 25, 2018.