Last July, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller took the stage at London’s Star Wars Celebration to provide the first official update on their still-untitled Han Solo standalone feature. It was a giddy event, with the filmmaking pair talking animatedly about their affection for the character — one that Miller billed as “one of the most iconic characters of all time” — and introducing the newly cast Alden Ehrenreich to a packed house filled with cheering fans.
Now, nearly one year later, the pair have unexpectedly departed the project, leaving the fate of the feature — one that has been in production for months, and reportedly has “several weeks” left, along with a planned series of reshoots for the summer — without a director and Lord and Miller without their latest passion project.
Announced via an official Lucasfilm statement on Tuesday afternoon, the departure shook up Hollywood and left plenty of lingering questions. We may have a few answers, thanks to a slew of reports hitting the wire as the industry scrambles to make sense of one of the few times in recent memory when Hollywood news was actually shocking.
Blame Creative Differences (No, Really)
If nothing else, it does seem that the old Hollywood chestnut of “creative differences” is to blame in this case. In yesterday’s official statement on the duo’s exit from the project, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said, “Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are talented filmmakers who have assembled an incredible cast and crew, but it’s become clear that we had different creative visions on this film, and we’ve decided to part ways.”
The filmmakers added in their own portion of the statement, “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.”
But those differences might have stemmed from a number of places, including clashes with high-powered producers and collaborators who ultimately decided the fate of Lord and Miller’s project.
They Clashed With Kathleen Kennedy and Lawrence Kasdan
Over at Variety, an exclusive report holds that the pair left the project “after months of conflict with producer Kathleen Kennedy, others from her LucasFilm team, and co-writer and executive producer Lawrence Kasdan.”
The report adds that “while Kennedy wants to make a splash by hiring young indie directors such as Gareth Edwards (‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’) and Rian Johnson (‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’), she’s ultimately unwilling to empower them to make their own creative decisions.”
Lord and Miller, however, have long worked within the studio system on such wide-ranging films as “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” and “21 Jump Street” — both successes that smack of their special brand of humor — and likely did not expect to be so closely monitored while executing their vision. The outlet’s examination of the surprising departure holds that the directors “were stunned to find that they were not being granted freedom to run the production in the manner that they were accustomed to. They balked at Kennedy’s tight control on the set.”
The producer reportedly wasn’t a fan of their “shooting style and process of interacting with actors and crew,” which tends to be free-wheeling, collaborative, and open to improvisation. In what will likely be the defining color quote from the entire incident, a source told Variety,” It was a culture clash from day one. She didn’t even like the way they folded their socks.”
The Hollywood Reporter bolsters that report with their own, adding that “the friction was felt almost immediately when the movie began shooting in February, sources say, but the directors always thought it could be worked through…the duo also didn’t feel they had the support of producer Allison Shearmur, who was acting as Lucasfilm’s representative on the London set.”
Both Variety and THR report that Miller and Lord’s culture clash also extended to “Star Wars” mainstay and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, with Variety adding that, “Like Kennedy, he questioned many of the pair’s directing choices.”
THR’s own report holds that “the style and vision of Lord and Miller clashed with that of Lawrence Kasdan, the legendary screenwriter behind the classics ‘Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ who also wrote, with his son, Jon Kasdan, the script for the Han Solo stand-alone.”
And that free-wheeling style? It could be to blame, with THR weighing in that “Lord and Miller have a comedic sensibility and improvisational style while Kasdan favors a strict adherence to the written word — what is on the page is what must be shot.”
Lord and Miller’s Exit Was Sudden
THR reports that the pair “were said to have been blindsided by the firing, which they learned about Monday, according to one source, although another disputed that account.” The duo had both moved to London months ago for pre-production and production.
As of now, the film has “gone on a short hiatus to review what had been shot and to clear the air.”
The Pair May Already Be Lining Up Their Next Feature
Lord and Miller previously wrote a treatment for DC’s “The Flash” back in 2015, and a new report holds that they may be on deck to direct the film, which has already cycled through directors Seth Grahame-Smith and Rick Famuyiwa on its way to the big screen.
The Wrap reports that the pair met with DC during a planned production hiatus from the film. The outlet holds that “the duo met about the possibility of directing ‘The Flash’ after Rick Famuyiwa left the project over creative differences last year, according to multiple individuals familiar with the project, adding that “it was unclear whether they were already considering an exit from the ‘Han Solo’ project” at the time of the meeting.
Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images for Walt Disney Studios
The Flash will next appear in “Justice League,” played by Ezra Miller, who first appeared in last year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” While the standalone feature has struggled to find a director, there have long been rumors that Robert Zemeckis would step in — but could Lord and Miller best him for the gig?
The Project May Be Close to Locking a New Director
Inevitably, Lord and Miller’s exits opens the door for another director’s splashy entrance. At Deadline, a new report holds that Ron Howard is the current front-runner to take over the film. Other names like Kasdan and Joe Johnston have been floated already, but Deadline seems set on Howard stepping into the role.
The outlet reports, “In Howard, Disney’s getting a pro who can step right in and keep the picture on track for a May 2018 release. He has been busy as ever and recently agreed to direct a feature docu on Luciano Pavarotti while developing numerous features that include an adaptation of the publishing phenomenon of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’…he might well step right in here and keep the Solo film on track.”
THR holds that “Lucasfilm and owner Disney have already targeted their replacement, although the companies are keeping mum.”
In its official statement, Lucasfilm promised that a new director will be announced soon, and that this decision would not immediately affect the film’s release date, which is still tentatively set for May 25, 2018.