One of the questions that Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm CEO and president, has been asked time and time again is when Star Wars will get a female director. It was brought up in 2014, again in 2015 and has just been addressed again recently.
In an interview with Variety, Kennedy said that the studio wanted to bring a female director on board, but that it would have to be at the right time. She did not, however, add when that time would be.
“We want to make sure that when we bring a female director in to do Star Wars they’re set up for success,” Kennedy told the magazine. “They’re gigantic films, and you can’t come into them with essentially no experience.
“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 lack of female directors helming major feature films for studios isn’t a new problem. Less than 12 percent of the big movies released last year were directed by women. It’s something that directors, like Lexi Alexander (Punisher: War Zone, Green Street Hooligans), have spoken out about before and something that studios have said they want to address.
Unfortunately, the actions of most studios don’t match their promises. Marvel Studios CEO Kevin Feige recently said that it was of the utmost importance to find a female director to helm the Captain Marvel movie — the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have her own standalone movie. That means there would have been more than a dozen films released over an 11-year span that featured male stars and male directors. Feige has been asked for years about whether or not Marvel would be giving Black Widow her own stand-alone film, something that fans have been asking for, and like Kennedy, his answer has been when the time is right.
Where Marvel has succeeded, however, is within its TV universe. Jessica Jones showrunner Melissa Rosenberg confirmed earlier this year that every episode in the show’s second season would be directed by a woman. Jessica Jones has been routinely praised by critics and fans for its empowerment of female characters.
Warner Bros., on the other hand, is one of the first studios to give a female director the chance to helm her own superhero movie. Wonder Woman, which stars Gal Gadot in the lead role, will be helmed by Patty Jenkins and marks the first time that a female director will be behind the camera for a film within the DC Cinematic Universe. The two previous movies — Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — were both directed by Zack Snyder.
In 2015, Girls creator, director, writer and star Lena Dunham told the New York Times that female directors were in “a dark loop” where no one would hire them without experience and they couldn’t get experience if no one would hire them. Women, like Ava DuVernay, Lexi Alexander and Kathryn Bigelow, have spent a large portion of their careers trying to get access to the same kind of blockbuster films that would normally go to their male counterparts.
Last year, Colin Trevorrow, best known for directing Jurassic World and the man who will helm Star Wars: Episode IX came under fire when he said that female directors weren’t picked for blockbusters because they didn’t want to direct those kinds of films.
“Many of the top female directors in our industry are not interested in doing a piece of studio business for its own sake,” Trevorrow said on Twitter. “These filmmakers have clear voices and stories to tell that don’t necessarily involve superheroes or spaceships or dinosaurs.”
The tweet gained attention when actress Jaime King called him out on the statement, to which he followed up by stressing that he hoped if there was a female director who wanted to helm a major blockbuster, studios would encourage that.
After the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, director J.J. Abrams said that the Star Wars franchise would have a female director. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is being directed by Gareth Edwards. Star Wars: Episode VIII will be directed by Rian Johnson. The Han Solo spinoff film will be helmed by Christopher Miller and Phil Lord. The earliest that the Star Wars could see a female director is 2020, four years from now.
The question that remains is when Lucasfilm and Disney will make a move on that promise.