There’s a cautious trembling of joy circulating Twitter right now as comedy nerds and Star Wars fans whisper about the possibility of Taika Waititi directing a Star Wars movie.
Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy told Newshub she would love for Waititi, who rose to mainstream acclaim this year for directing Thor: Ragnarok, to direct a Star Wars installment, adding that “he has exactly the right sensibility.”
“It was very exciting to see him step into the Marvel universe and do such an amazing job with Thor,” Kennedy said.
The idea that Waititi, who delivered upon his promise of making the weirdest Marvel Cinematic Universe movie with Ragnarok, would get complete creative control over a Star Wars property is exciting. I would give all the money in the world (or however much my bank would allow) to see a Waititi Star Wars movie. Unlike the Thor universe, which was stale and on the brink of death before Waititi came in and livened up the place, Star Wars is far from boring or stale. Having that extra little oomph we refer to as the “Waititi flair” would just make it that much more.
We’re never going to get that movie, though.
Even if Waititi were to sign on for a movie and even if he managed to get his script or ideas approved by Lucasfilm and even if he actually began to direct the movie, Waititi would likely face the same issues another pair of directors did earlier this year: Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
Lord and Miller’s unfortunate Star Wars saga is well known by now, and it stands as a cautionary tale for other directors who want to bring their own personal style to big budget franchises. On June 20, when Lucasfilm announced that Lord and Miller would no longer be working on the stand-alone young Han Solo movie, it signified a particular stance the studio was taking: You can make a Star Wars movie, but you’re going to make our Star Wars movie.
We should have seen it coming, too. Prior to the firing, Lord and Miller gave a number of interviews where they spoke about the difficult of trying to make a more comedic version of a Star Wars movie while working within the tight constraints they were given by Lucasfilm and Disney.
“Sometimes comedy feels like the kid brother of drama, trying to get attention by being the class jokester,” Miller told the Telegraph last year. “But it’s actually really hard to tell a story while also making people laugh. It’s like trying to do two jobs at once.”
A report from Entertainment Weekly following their firing seemed to add gasoline to the fire, with one source telling the magazine, “Lucasfilm and producer Kennedy believed Lord and Miller were hired to add a comedic touch; Lord and Miller believed they were hired to make a comedy.”
No one was happy. Kennedy wasn’t going to get the Star Wars movie she wanted, and the duo weren’t allowed to work on their original vision. They tried for months to figure out how to get the script and the tone of the movie to work, Miller told the Guardian.
“We’ve been trying to get the script to a stage where it reflects the tone and vision that the four of us have for the movie, and it’s really been the four of us figuring out what that voice is together,” Miller said.
I want to make something very clear; Lord and Miller are unique filmmakers, but as far as their vision goes, it’s probably more in line with what Lucasfilm wants out of a Star Wars movie than what Waititi would provide. Waititi is an eccentric character, and his movies benefit from that. He likes absurdist comedy and toying with the concept of what a genre film needs to be.
Before Waititi decided to do Ragnarok, there were concerns over whether Marvel would stifle his creative vision. The director told Indiewire that he “had also just heard stories of people who didn’t enjoy the process or didn’t end up making films with good studios.” Waititi said while he liked the challenge of working on a blockbuster movie like Thor: Ragnarok, there was obvious concern the movie he wanted to make wasn’t the movie Marvel wanted.
It was only because of that freedom Marvel Studios co-president, Kevin Feige, promised that Waititi ended up working on the movie.
“What’s good about Marvel is there aren’t many people who give notes,” Waititi told Indiewire. “I was really lucky because I had a lot of creative freedom on the shoot.”
The type of freedom that Kennedy can afford Waititi won’t be anywhere close to what Feige could. That’s why J.J. Abrams, who directed Star Wars: The Force Awakens was brought on to replace Colin Trevorrow on Star Wars: Episode IX. Kennedy can trust Abrams to turn in a movie people will probably enjoy and, more importantly, a Star Wars film that Lucasfilm wants. I haven’t seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but I imagine Rian Johnson’s vision, like Abrams’, lined up with what Kennedy wanted — proving Johnson can be trusted to work on a “brand-new Star Wars trilogy.”
When Waititi was presented with the possibility of directing a Star Wars movie, he laughed, joking that he likes to finish his movies, admitting he didn’t think his vision for the franchise matched up with Lucasfilm’s.
He’s not wrong. Before the release of Lucasfilm’s first stand-alone anthology movie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Kennedy said she wanted to bring on new, younger directors who have voices Lucasfilm wants to highlight, like Rogue One director Gareth Edwards. We know, however, that Rogue One underwent major reshoots and outside help was brought in to fix mistakes Edwards made that Lucasfilm didn’t like, based on multiple reports. These reshoot reports alongside the firing of Lord, Miller and even Trevorrow prove Kennedy doesn’t believe in what she says.
Kennedy may want Waititi to step in and direct a Star Wars movie, but the CEO doesn’t want a Waititi Star Wars movie.