Last week, the stand-alone Han Solo prequel film imploded and exploded quite publicly. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller had been working on the film for more than a year, and they had been shooting the film for months (since February). And then Kathleen Kennedy – super-producer in general, and producer of the latest Star Wars films – fired Lord and Miller abruptly last week. That rarely happens, where a director is fired in the middle of filming, and it almost never happens in the middle of some huge production. Ron Howard was brought in as the new director within 24 hours, and I guess production will resume soon, if it hasn’t already. So, what really went wrong? The Hollywood Reporter has the scoop, and it’s not pretty. You can read the THR piece here. Some highlights:
Kennedy tried to support Lord and Miller by adding extra helpers. Anxious to avoid an outright rupture, Kennedy is said to have made attempts first to support and eventually to supplant Lord and Miller to some degree, as happened with Gareth Edwards on the troubled Rogue One. In that case, screenwriter Tony Gilroy took on significant duties with the cooperation of Edwards; in this case, sources say, Kennedy attempted to cast Lawrence Kasdan in that role. Unsurprisingly, Lord and Miller were less accommodating than Edwards, still a novice, had been.
Lord & Miller were always a “mismatch” for the Star Wars universe. Some insiders say that while the talent of Lord and Miller is undeniable, nothing in their background prepared them for a movie of this size and scope. These sources say they relied too heavily on the improvisational style that served them so well in live-action comedy and animation but does not work on a set with hundreds of crewmembers waiting for direction. “You have to make decisions much earlier than what they’re used to,” one of these sources say. “I don’t know if it’s because there were two of them but they were not decisive.” Production department heads began to complain. While the pair appeared to listen when told of festering problems, this person says their approach did not change.
Alden’s Han Solo isn’t good enough. Matters were coming to a head in May as the production moved from London to the Canary Islands. Lucasfilm replaced editor Chris Dickens (Macbeth) with Oscar-winner Pietro Scalia, a veteran of Ridley Scott films including Alien: Covenant and The Martian. And, not entirely satisfied with the performance that the directors were eliciting from Rules Don’t Apply star Alden Ehrenreich, Lucasfilm decided to bring in an acting coach. (Hiring a coach is not unusual; hiring one that late in production is.) Lord and Miller suggested writer-director Maggie Kiley, who worked with them on 21 Jump Street.
Ron Howard is trying to be a nice guy about it. Stepping in to replace directors who have been fired is not something that many filmmakers would want to do. Ron Howard is probably one of the few who could and would — at least, in this particular set of circumstances. Insiders say he was concerned about how Lord and Miller would react and has been emailing with them; another source says the two have been “very supportive, very elegant.” Howard arrives in London on June 26 and shooting, which began in February and was supposed to be completed in July, will continue into the first week of September as Howard captures new material. Still, an insider says much of what Lord and Miller shot will be “very usable.”
I think the most significant part of this – and perhaps the most concerning – is that the studio isn’t confident in Alden Ehrenreich. He’s the LEAD. He’s Han Solo. If Alden isn’t holding his own as Han, then the movie falls flat, acting coach or no acting coach. If Alden was amazing in the daily rushes, I have to wonder if the hammer would have come down so hard on Lord & Miller. As for the choice to hire them and fire them… like, why does Disney keep doing this with the Star Wars films? Rogue One was a notoriously messy production because they hired a relative novice to direct it (Gareth Edwards). And then they hired Lord & Miller – best known for mainstream comedies – for this. Part of this is on Disney’s bad management and decision-making skills too.
Photos courtesy of WENN.