Colin Trevorow is the latest director to join the ranks of creatives who lost their position on a Star Wars project, but he’s in good company.
Lucasfilm confirmed yesterday that Trevorrow and the studio had agreed to part ways. Lucasfilm didn’t offer up any more information beyond acknowledging that Trevorrow had been a “wonderful collaborator throughout the development process but we have all come to the conclusion that our visions for the project differ.”
Star Wars: Episode IX wasn’t filming, which gives Lucasfilm a little more time to find a new director and figure out what happens next. Still, the cycle of enlisting a director or writer, working with them to build the foundation of the film and then taking the off the project isn’t new; it’s now almost expected.
Since The Force Awakens, there have been a number of people who have either been dismissed or otherwise parted ways with Lucasfilm because of a creative disagreement. From writer Michael Arndt on The Force Awakens to director Josh Trank on Lucasfilm’s second stand-alone anthology movie, here’s the complicated history of everyone who was awarded a part in crafting the next era of Star Wars and had it pulled out from underneath them.
Michael Arndt, writer on The Force Awakens
Michael Arndt was brought on to write The Force Awakens in November 2012, just weeks after Disney announced it had purchased Lucasfilm and three years before the movie would be released. Arndt was best known at the time for his work on Toy Story 3 and Little Miss Sunshine.
Prior to confirmation from Lucasfilm that Arndt had signed on to the project, the writer had reportedly written a 50-page first draft for what he wanted The Force Awakens to be. Everything seemed to be going as planned, but on Oct. 24, 2013, Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy published a statement on the Star Wars website confirming that Kasdan and director J.J. Abrams would be taking over writing duties. Prior to the announcement, Abrams was focusing on directing and Kasdan was working as a consultant on the film.
“There are very few people who fundamentally understand the way a Star Wars story works like Larry, and it is nothing short of incredible to have him even more deeply involved in its return to the big screen,” Kennedy said at the time. “J.J. of course is an incredible storyteller in his own right. Michael Arndt has done a terrific job bringing us to this point and we have an amazing filmmaking and design team in place already prepping for production.”
Arndt still received a writing credit for The Force Awakens. In a followup interview with Entertainment Weekly, Arndt said the issue was that Luke Skywalker upstaged every other character when he appeared in a scene alongside Rey or Finn.
“Early on I tried to write versions of the story where [Rey] is at home, her home is destroyed, and then she goes on the road and meets Luke. And then she goes and kicks the bad guy’s ass,” Arndt said. “It just felt like every time Luke came in and entered the movie, he just took it over. Suddenly you didn’t care about your main character anymore because, ‘Oh f–k, Luke Skywalker’s here. I want to see what he’s going to do.”
Since The Force Awakens, Arndt hasn’t received credit on any other project.
Gary Whitta, writer on Rogue One
Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli, After Earth) started working with director Gareth Edwards on the first Star Wars stand-alone movie, Rogue One, in May 2014. Whitta completed a first draft, but on Jan. 9, 2015, confirmed he was leaving the project to work on Starlight with Mark Millar.
Lucasfilm never commented on Whitta’s departure, but Edwards issued a statement to The Hollywood Reporter about the writer’s leaving.
“Gary has been a wonderful, inspired contributor and I enjoyed working with him tremendously,” Edwards said. “I’m so grateful for all of his contributions.”
My year of work in a galaxy far, far away is done! I’m onto my next project, adapting @mrmarkmillar’s STARLIGHT for 20th Century Fox!— Gary Whitta (@garywhitta) January 10, 2015
Whitta has talked regularly about Rogue One since, using Twitter as a way to answer questions from fans. Whitta also provided a statement to The Hollywood Reporter about his departure following the first announcement, adding to Edwards’ remarks.
“The year I spent working with Lucasfilm on this Star Wars film has been by far the most rewarding period of my entire career,” Whitta said. “As a lifelong Star Wars fan I’m deeply grateful to have had the rare opportunity to contribute to a new chapter in its ongoing cinematic legacy. The film is going to be amazing."
Josh Trank, director on untitled Han Solo movie
On June 4, 2014, Lucasfilm confirmed that Chronicle director Josh Trank would be the man to direct the second stand-alone anthology Star Wars film for the studio. Lucasfilm did not disclose at the time what the subject of that anthology film would be. The focus on a young Han Solo wasn’t confirmed until July 2015, when Chris Miller and Phil Lord joined the project. This was a year before Fantastic Four, widely regarded as one of the worst superhero movies of all time and Trank’s big budget baby, was released in theaters.
Less than a year later, in May 2015, Trank confirmed he was stepping down from the film, citing a desire to pursue “original creative opportunities.”
“After a year of having the incredible honor of developing with the wonderful and talented people at Lucasfilm, I'm making a personal decision to move forward on a different path,” Trank said in a statement. “I've put a tremendous amount of thought into this, and I know deep down in my heart that I want to pursue some original creative opportunities.”
Lucasfilm issued a similar statement, which can be read below.
“It was a privilege to collaborate with Josh,” Lucasfilm said in a statement, as reported by Variety. “We are grateful for the energy and love of ‘Star Wars’ that he brought to the process, and we wish him all the best.”
A few months later, Trank gave an interview to Variety clarifying his decision to leave. He admitted that after The Fantastic Four, which had yet to premiere, he wanted to take time to focus on a film that wasn’t attached to constant media attention. Trank said he thought the entire ordeal would blow over in a couple of weeks, and admitted he wasn’t prepared for the backlash that came with his decision.
“People get so excited to raise their pitchforks,” Trank said. “I knew that this was going to be questioned and it was going to come under skepticism as to why I left ‘Star Wars.’ And it was hard. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life.”
Trank hasn’t worked on a project since The Fantastic Four.
Alexandre Desplat, composer on Rogue One
With just a couple of months until Rogue One was scheduled to be released, composer Alexandre Desplat was replaced by longtime Star Wars fan, Michael Giacchino.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the decision to bring Giacchino on board was tied into the film’s major reshoots. The reshoots were directed by writer Tony Gilroy after tonal issues with director Gareth Edwards’ attempt were reported. Due to the timing of the reshoots and the extensive nature of the post-production schedule, Desplat was no longer available to rework his score, leading to Giacchino’s appointment.
Desplat first confirmed he would be working on the untitled anthology movie on March 15, 2015. In a radio interview, which was reported by France's Le Point, Desplat said he was eager to work alongside Edwards again after scoring the director’s acclaimed 2014 film, Godzilla.
“When I saw Gareth Edwards’ first film, which was called Monsters, I was really blown away by his talent and so I immediately agreed [to compose the score for Godzilla]," Desplat said. "And the good news is that we are going to do another movie together very soon, which is a spinoff of Star Wars. So that is very, very exciting.”
Since Rogue One, Desplat has worked on multiple projects, including Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
Chris Miller and Phil Lord, untitled Han Solo movie
One of the more recent Star Wars changeups hails from the untitled Han Solo movie. Chris Miller and Phil Lord, two of the most sought after directors working in the industry, joined the untitled Han Solo project in July 2015, two months after Trank announced his departure.
On the Star Wars website, Lord and Miller issued a joint statement about joining the film.
“This is the first film we’ve worked on that seems like a good idea to begin with,” they said. “We promise to take risks, to give the audience a fresh experience, and we pledge ourselves to be faithful stewards of these characters who mean so much to us. This is a dream come true for us. And not the kind of dream where you’re late for work and all your clothes are made of pudding, but the kind of dream where you get to make a film with some of the greatest characters ever, in a film franchise you’ve loved since before you can remember having dreams at all.”
Lord and Miller were already in production on the film when Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy announced on June 20, 2017 that the studio was parting ways with the directors.
“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,” Kennedy said in a statement on the official Star Wars site. “A new director will be announced soon.”
That new director would come two days later. Ron Howard, an icon in the industry and good friend of Star Wars creator George Lucas, was announced as the film’s director on the same site Kennedy used to announce Lord and Miller’s firing.
“At Lucasfilm, we believe the highest goal of each film is to delight, carrying forward the spirit of the saga that George Lucas began forty years ago,” Kennedy said. “With that in mind, we’re thrilled to announce that Ron Howard will step in to direct the untitled Han Solo film. We have a wonderful script, an incredible cast and crew, and the absolute commitment to make a great movie.”
Lord and Miller didn’t say much about the split beyond echoing Kennedy’s statements, but a report from The Hollywood Reporter suggested that their vision clashed with Kasdan and Kennedy’s, leading to frequent arguments over the direction of the film.
Colin Trevorrow, director on Star Wars: Episode IX
All of which brings us to Colin Trevorrow, the latest creative talent to get the boot. We still don’t know much about the situation unfortunately, but Trevorrow’s appointment has caused a stir since he was first announced as the director on Aug. 15, 2015. The decision to hire Trevorrow came following the release of his very successful Jurassic World and on the heels of his critical darling Safety Not Guaranteed.
That didn’t stop Star Wars fans from organizing online protests, demanding Lucasfilm find a new director. When Trevorrow was asked about the pitchfork-wielding critics who cried out against his involvement in the film, he compared himself to George Lucas and his situation.
“When George Lucas made Star Wars, a lot of people thought it was crazy," Trevorrow told Entertainment Tonight. "I just want to embrace that kind of invention and creativity that he brought to it."
Trevorrow seemed to have Lucasfilm’s success, but the decision to part ways with the director follows the failure of The Book of Henry, which the majority of critics hated and didn’t make a dent at the box office.
Star Wars: Episode IX is still expected to be released on May 24, 2019. The next installment in the Star Wars saga, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, will be released on Dec. 15.
Update: On Sept. 12, Lucasfilm confirmed that J.J. Abrams would return to write and direct Episode IX.