Last week, Lucasfilm chief and “Star Wars” producer Kathleen Kennedy drew some hefty criticism — including from this writer and this publication — for comments she made in a recent Variety interview regarding bringing female directors into the massive franchise fold.
At the time, Kennedy told the trade that although finding a female director for one of their features was a priority, the studio “want[s] to make sure that when we bring a female director in to do ‘Star Wars,’ they’re set up for success…They’re gigantic films, and you can’t come into them with essentially no experience.” She also added that, because of the perceived lack of female filmmakers with blockbuster experience believed to be essential to making a “Star Wars” film, they were actively looking for appropriate talent. Kennedy said, “We want to really start to focus in on people we would love to work with and see what kinds of things they’re doing to progress up that ladder now, and then pull them in when the time is right.”
The takeaway was twofold: 1) Only an experienced director could handle a “Star Wars” film, though the studio has frequently hired white male directors who only have one blockbuster under their belt and 2) The studio had so far been unable to identity female filmmakers with, again, what seems to be the main requirement to make a “Star Wars” film, which is making other blockbusters.
Kennedy’s choice of words throughout the interview was perhaps not the best — her indication that they were going “to really start” to look for appropriate female filmmakers was particularly grating, especially considering that finding female filmmakers eager to jump into the franchise fold is not only not very hard at all and there are plenty of names who do have the seemingly necessary blockbuster experience, including Kathryn Bigelow, Ava Duvernay, Patty Jenkins or Jennifer Yuh Nelson — and now the Lucasfilm head honcho has attempted to further clarify her comments.
Over the weekend, ScreenCrush editor Erin Whitney asked Kennedy about her comments at a press conference for their upcoming standalone film, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” and while Kennedy seemed quick to correct her initial statement, the results weren’t exactly helpful. (Of note: Because Kennedy noted that her initial comments had been taken out of context, we’re including the full transcript from Whitney’s query below, in hopes of adding further clarity.)
Whitney: The “Star Wars” films have done a lot for female characters and female heroes, but the movies have yet to have a female director. You recently said that a woman who has no experience with blockbusters wasn’t suitable to direct a star wars movie, however multiple male directors have had that opportunity. So why is it different for women and —
Kennedy: That’s not true. This gentleman [points to Gareth Edwards] did “Godzilla” before we hired him to direct the movie. And that quote was taken out of context. And I, as you can imagine, have every intention of giving somebody an opportunity. So, if somebody actually moves through the process of making movies and wants to make a “Star Wars” movie, and shows that they have actually stepped into the role on that level, of course we’re going to consider a woman. That goes without saying.
Despite her attempts at resetting her initial quote, Kennedy’s comments still hold that a director must make a big film before they are even able to be considered for a “Star Wars” film — so much for that oft-repeated criticism that it should be “the best person for the job,” because it still seems like resumes rule all when it comes to getting a “Star Wars” gig.
Kennedy did, however, manage to clear up at least part of her earlier statements, as when Whitney asked her to name female directors that have the potential to direct a “Star Wars” film, Kennedy said, “There are many. And I’ve talked to most of them. There are many out there.”
That’s certainly a far better answer than her original quote to Variety, which made it seem like Kennedy was only starting her search, though it also scans as a bit of a non-answer. Surely a powerful woman in Hollywood like Kathleen Kennedy could rattle of a few names of talented female directors who are at least on the right track to directing a “Star Wars” film? It’s not hard! It’s really, really not.