Though the Star Wars spinoffs are meant to expand on the universe, they aren’t without problems. Director Josh Trank was let go from the now in limbo Boba Fett film, and Gareth Edwards‘s Rogue One had to go through extensive reshoots with the help of Tony Gilroy. Now comes Phil Lord and Chris Miller being fired from their duty as directors of the still untitled Han Solo film over creative differences. The two were soon after replaced by Ron Howard. But it is why they were fired and the timing of it all that has many of us fascinated about what was going on behind the scenes. More on the story below.
Lord and Miller’s improvisational style reportedly clashed with writer Lawrence Kasdan‘s shoot what’s on the page filmmaking. And those problems seemed to have arose from the moment production started back in February. Now that even more details are being revealed, we are getting a look at just how troubling that production was. Or maybe it’s all being blown out of proportion. But when a couple of directors are let go with three weeks of production left on the schedule, one can’t really help but want to know more about what was going on. This includes hiring an acting coach for lead star Alden Ehrenreich — who plays Han Solo — firing an editor, and trying to figure out who to place the blame on.
Per The Hollywood Reporter, while the issues reportedly started in February, it didn’t reach its “boiling point” until June. Lord and Miller’s use of three cameras instead of the typical 12 to 15 that Lucasfilm is accustomed to was said to have slowed production and not give the crew many options in terms of angles and scenes. Sources say that this upset Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and Kasdan.
Going back to the different filmmaking styles, sources say there were “deep fundamental philosophical differences” in how the film was being shot “and the directors felt they were being given ‘zero creative freedom.'” Not only that but they were given extraordinarily difficult time restraints and “were never given enough days for each scene from the very beginning.”
While many were calling for Kennedy’s head after Lord and Miller were let go, a deeper look into this reveals that Kennedy had the full support of Disney chief Alan Horn. But even before that happened, Kennedy made an attempt to reach out to the two by giving Kasdan the same creatively supporting role that Gilroy was given on Rogue One. But Lord and Miller were less accommodating.
Their improvisational filmmaking style leads many to believe that the two were making a comedy as opposed to the Star Wars film were are used to seeing. According to Entertainment Weekly, Kennedy brought Lord and Miller in to give the flim a more comedic touch, while The LEGO Movie directors thought they were making a comedy. Ironically, this was the problem for Rogue One, which was said to be too grim in the original cut. Hence the extensive reshoots that happened last year.
But a conflicting source says it was how much comedy was going to be in the film that was feeding into the conflict. So while most would agree that creative differences led to the split, sources say that the film was shifting towards a pure comedy rather than a sci-fi fantasy. This improvisational style does not work particularly well on set where crew members were 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.” Still, when the issue was brought up, the two did not change their styles.
And in an attempt to appease Kasdan’s by the script style of filmmaking, Lord and Miller would reportedly do several takes that were shot exactly as written, then shoot additional takes. That kind of filmmaking obviously eats a lot of production time. The aforementioned time which they did not have. With so much of the film already in the can, Kennedy was not happy with what was shot and with the fact that the two were calling out lines behind the camera as opposed to sticking with the script.
Sources close to the production tell MakingStarWarsNet that while Ehrenreich’s performance is a new take that was interesting, it was the actor that voiced concerns on where Lord and Miller were taking the character. Rumors say Ehrenreich felt that Han Solo was being turned into a screwball and was not representative of the Han Solo we used to seeing in the original trilogy and The Force Awakens – even if the smuggler was being depicted as a much younger and more inexperienced person. The performance is even being compared to Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura.
So when Lucasfilm brought in an acting coach, Lord and Miller suggested someone they have been working with on the Jump Street films. But the problem is that they were bringing in an acting coach very late in the game. Eventually, editor Chris Dickens (Macbeth) was replaced with Oscar-winner Pietro Scalia (The Martian). But that didn’t help the situation.
When it comes down to it, it was Lord and Miller’s style that made this house of cards collapse. For one thing, they didn’t appreciate it when Kasdan acted as a shadow director. This was the straw the broke the camel’s back apparently, and Kennedy was forced to make the difficult decision to let them go. The next day, Ron Howard was named as director and rumor has it that the crew broke out into applause.
Now there are some gossipy news going on here as well. For one thing, sources tell THR that Howard “was concerned about how Lord and Miller would react and has been emailing with them.” Another source close to the project says that Lord and Miller are very supportive. It’s also not good when the crew applauds a replacement director. Again, all of these bits of juicy gossip news are unconfirmed, but it makes the behind the scenes troubles that much more fascinating.
While there are only a few more weeks left on principal photography, Howard is expected to bring a sense of calm onto the set. Also, the footage that Lord and Miller shot isn’t completely “unusable.” Which really begs the question, why couldn’t the two parties find some sort of common ground to see the project all the way through?
But it’s Kennedy’s decision making that allowed Rogue One to be a success. It was also her decision to forgo the Trank project, which if you look at it was the best possible decision she could have made given the production troubles on the set of his Fant4stic – and its very poor box office performance. So even though we love Lord and Miller’s work, maybe letting them go was the best for the Han Solo film. Also, Kennedy has more than enough experience working with Star Wars, she is the president of the company, after all.
We’ll keep you posted on any new developments should they come up.
The still untitled Han Solo Star Wars spinoff is scheduled to hit theaters on May 25, 2018.