There was a disturbance in the Force recently…as if the collected voices of Gareth Edwards, Josh Trank, Phil Lord & Chris Miller were all screaming. Director Colin Trevorrow was suddenly canned from Star Wars: Episode IX.
My first reaction was WTF??? It wasn’t too long ago since Han Solo directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were unceremoniously jettisoned from their project in mid-shoot—replaced by Ron Howard. Did Lucasfilm even know what they wanted? What was going on, here?
But then I asked myself, “Wait, isn’t Trevorrow the guy who directed The Book Of Henry?”
And then it all started to make sense. Here’s why I think this latest move on the part of the Star Wars gatekeepers went down.
Last week, it was reported that Hollywood has had one of its worst summer box-office in over a decade—though I think analysts were noticing the downward trend way before that. And I think this bad news has had a number studios freaking the fuck out that their franchise strategies don’t seem to be working quite like they wanted to. And so you see these announcements out of nowhere from Warner Bros. indicating that they seem to be losing faith in the DC Extended Universe…and you see Lucasfilm axe Treverrow from Episode IX.
And I think most definitely the fact that Treverrow’s ambitious The Book Of Henry was such a spectacular critical and box-office failure had everything to do with his removal from Episode IX. Because Lucasfilm, spooked by the soft Hollywood summer take, took a good hard look at their franchise and couldn’t justify having Treverrow stay on.
But also, as in the case of Miller & Lord’s removal from Han Solo, there were probably creative differences as well. Lucasfilm has a pattern of this with the “auteur” directors they have chosen to helm their spinoffs—Josh Trank was let go from an unnamed Star Wars spinoff before he even started shooting due to rumors of him being “difficult” on the set of Fantastic Four, and Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One had to have extensive reshoots.
Maybe, in the end, it all boils down to what directors can “play nice” with Lucasfilm’s overall vision for their expanded cinematic universe, and which ones can’t. The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams has had franchise experience with the Star Trek movies, and Ron Howard has had tons of experience in the industry.
The Last Jedi’s Rian Johnson (Looper) might seem, at first blush, an auteur director of the Treverrow mold, but the studio seems happy with his work on the upcoming film. As of this writing, Johnson is rumored to be the frontrunner to replace Treverrow on Episode IX.
If there is room for criticism of Lucasfilm here, it might be for their willingness to expand the Star Wars cinematic universe a little too quickly with multiple spinoffs, and put the creation of the core films on perhaps too ambitious a schedule. But in a Hollywood of dwindling box-office returns, maybe such a frenzy to get as much as one can, as fast as one can is just natural.