Why Do 'Star Wars' Films Keep Losing Directors?

Colin Trevorrow-World Premiere of ?Star Wars-Getty-H 2016
Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney
What happens after 'Jurassic World' helmer Colin Trevorrow leaves a galaxy far, far away?

With the announcement Tuesday that Lucasfilm and Colin Trevorrow have parted ways, the Star Wars franchise continues its streak as the most troubled blockbuster series around when it comes to keeping directors. Trevorrow is the fourth ousted helmer from the franchise in the past two years.

Is the Resistance in trouble, or is everything still on target? The Hollywood Reporter's Graeme McMillan, Ryan Parker and Aaron Couch discuss what Trevorrow's exit means for Star Wars: Episode IX, Lucasfilm's hiring practices and more.

McMillan: So Colin Trevorrow is out as director of Star Wars: Episode IX. The Lucasfilm statement on the "mutually chosen" parting of the ways is so vague as to be almost worthless, but it's fair to say that a lot of people — my cynical self included — have been wondering if this was in the cards since The Book of Henry was slaughtered by critics earlier this summer, despite Trevorrow's subsequent attempts to calm the waters. Is this a surprise?

Couch: It's not super surprising after Han Solo directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired, or after The Book of Henry's panning, which — fairly or not — put the question in people's minds whether Trevorrow was as up to the task as they may have thought after the hit that was Jurassic World.

Parker: Good lord, people are excited about this news, judging by social media reaction. Part of me is fine with it. The reaction to The Book of Henry made many nervous and the director shuffling has created the perception that Disney is slapping these films together.

Couch: Almost like directors are interchangeable? If you can fire one and just bring in another, what does it really mean to be a director?

Parker: Just look at the Han Solo situation.

McMillan: I wonder if the fates that have befallen the initial wave of new Star Wars directors — Trevorrow and Josh Trank both gone before their movies started shooting, Chris Miller and Phil Lord ousted from the Han Solo movie during production, Gareth Edwards sidelined during Rogue One reshoots and editing — will signal a change in the way Lucasfilm picks filmmakers for future projects, even if it's something as simple as "Maybe not announce them four years out from production after they've had one big hit movie."

Couch: Studios across the board have gotten more wary about making these super-early announcements. Just look at Warner Bros. announcing its huge DC slate in 2014 — with movies set all the way through 2020. Almost none of those dates actually will work out the way they were announced. Warners likely learned its lesson, which is why it wisely showed off logos for its DC movies at Comic-Con, but did not have dates attached to them. With Star Wars, we've seen this, too. We still don't know who will direct any of the post-IX movies or what they really are, save for the early development of an Obi-Wan movie.

Parker: Having one director after another shown the door is not a good way to build confidence. Still, I suppose one could argue in another fashion that it shows Lucasfilm is trying to protect the brand. But, if that is the case, why the hell did they hire these people to begin with? What is the vetting process?!

McMillan: The vetting process might just be, "Oh, they seem popular. I wonder if they like Star Wars." Which, you know … who doesn't like Star Wars?

Couch: So far, only J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson have beaten the Star Wars curse and seen their projects through (there are no signs Johnson will be sidelined between now and Last Jedi's December release). What do these directors have in common? Abrams is one of the most powerful TV producers and filmmakers in the business, but on the big screen, he has worked almost exclusively within other people's franchises. He knows how to play well with others while also doing what's necessary to make a crowd-pleasing movie. On the surface, Johnson is pretty different from Abrams — he's a filmmaker who has, until now, exclusively worked on his own projects when it comes to the big screen. Yet, like Abrams, he knows how to play in other people's sandboxes. (Look no further than Breaking Bad's Vince Gilligan entrusting Johnson to direct the show's third-to-last — and best — episode.) Compare that to the directors who were sidelined or fired: Trevorrow and Edwards had acclaimed low-budget films followed by one blockbuster before getting the job. Trank, too, had one low-budget movie (Chronicle) and was fired from Star Wars because his would-be "blockbuster" Fantastic Four didn't turn out so well. If anything, I think Lucasfilm must know that low-budget plus one blockbuster does not equal a Star Wars movie, necessarily.

McMillan: The loss of Trevorrow comes just a month after Episode IX got a new writer. We've known that the movie is getting reworked for awhile, if nothing else because Kathleen Kennedy has been very open in talking about the impact Carrie Fisher's death had — but is Trevorrow's departure related to this rethink, or has it been coming for a while?

Parker: I am also curious what the issues were with the script. I think that could be really telling. Christopher Miller and Phil Lord were canned for apparently letting the Han Solo picture get too silly (too much improv, which in turn got away from Lawrence Kasdan's scripted characters). I wonder if Trevorrow was letting IX get too dark …

Couch: So what's next? People have been lobbying for a woman to helm a Star Wars movie, and I'm seeing people on social media calling for Wonder Woman's Patty Jenkins to step in, and Ava DuVernay as well. Jenkins is still unsigned on Wonder Woman 2, but that's surely just a matter of time. From everything we've seen from DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time, it seems like that would be a great option. If the next Episode IX director is a guy, there's only one I really want to see: Rian Johnson. How cool would it be to see one voice take us from Last Jedi to IX? That could help with the feeling that these Star Wars movies are beginning to be made by committee.