The cast and creatives of Solo: A Star Wars Story say original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired after what young Lando Calrissian actor Donald Glover dubbed “a miscommunication in the artistic vision.”
“I was just like, ‘I know this is not ideal, but now there’s a control in this experiment,’” Glover told Variety of the ousted filmmaking duo, who were replaced by veteran director Ron Howard. “It was weirdly beneficial, not to belittle the seriousness of the situation, and [Lord and Miller] were really good. But I think there was honestly a miscommunication in the artistic vision.”
The LEGO Movie and 22 Jump Street directors were reportedly fired for clashing with Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy, who released a statement after their dismissal citing “different creative visions” for the Star Wars standalone centered around a young Han Solo.
As revealed by Entertainment Weekly last summer, after the film’s turbulent shakeup, Kennedy had originally tapped Lord and Miller to add a comedic “touch” — but when the directors encouraged too much improvisation from the cast and their style and tone proved to be too comedic, it lead to conflict with Kennedy and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan.
“Tone is everything to me. That’s what movies are made of,” Kasdan told Variety. The screenwriter has a long history with Star Wars, first boarding the saga with 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back and penning both 1983’s Return of the Jedi and 2015’s The Force Awakens.
Kasdan said the issues on Solo made for “a very complicated situation.”
“When you go to work in the morning on a Star Wars movie, there are thousands of people waiting for you, and you have to be very decisive and very quick about it. When you are making those split-second decisions — and there are a million a day — then you are committing to a certain tone,” Kasdan said.
“If the [producers] think that isn’t the tone of the movie, you’re going to have trouble. It may not always end this way, but no one was happy about it. It was agony.”
Co-writer Jonathan Kasdan told Variety the issues were “much more in the bones and practical.”
“Chris and Phil did everything they could to make it work, as did we,” Kasdan said. “The questions only became about how to make the movie most efficiently in the time we had to do it.”
The shoot, originally slated for February to July 2017, fell behind schedule and was extended through August. Kennedy tapped veteran Ron Howard to steer the ship, with the Willow director’s work ultimately comprising 70% of the finished film headed to theaters tonight. The shoot finally wrapped on in mid-October.
A crew member who worked under both Lord and Miller and then Howard, speaking to Variety anonymously, said Lord and Miller’s penchant for “stretching days out with experimentation” proved problematic for Kennedy.
“I got a lot of overtime [under Lord and Miller], which ultimately was their downfall,” the crew member said. “The first assistant director brokers that with production. He ultimately went to the well one too many times, and Kathleen Kennedy blew up.”
According to the crew member, Howard had a firmer grip on what he wanted and how to shoot it. With Howard in the cockpit, one second unit sequence occupied just half the stage space at Pinewood Studios than it did under the duo, and in just a fraction of the time.
“Howard was inseparable from [director of photography] Bradford Young,” this crew member said. “You can totally see the love affair because Howard seemed super invested in how the film looked. Lord and Miller didn’t seem too fussed with that aspect, really.”
The directors declined an interview with Variety, but a source close to the production claimed Lord and Miller’s ideas were “constantly overruled.”
“In their minds, Phil and Chris were hired to make a movie that was unexpected and would take a risk, not something that would just service the fans,” the source explained.
“They wanted it to be fresh, new, emotional, surprising and unique. These guys looked at Han as a maverick, so they wanted to make a movie about a maverick. But at every turn, when they went to take a risk, it was met with a no.”
“I love their style of working, but they wanted to do it different than the way the powers that be were used to Star Wars being done,” said franchise newcomer Woody Harrelson, who plays Tobias Beckett, a crooked criminal and sort-of mentor to Alden Ehrenreich’s Han Solo.
Emilia Clarke, who boards the saga as Han’s childhood friend Qi’ra, said, “I think they were figuring it out.”
“We were all still very much in a collaborative place of ‘Where does this want to go?’ This is a movie that has an enormous amount of pressure on its shoulders, therefore everybody making it feels some of that pressure,” Clarke said. “So when Ron came on, for me it felt amazing to be able to have a second set of eyes come in at this point in making the movie. How often do you get that chance to go back and try different things?”
When first asked if he would consider taking over Solo, Howard said he told Kennedy, “‘It’s flattering, but those guys are great, and I just can’t imagine coming in and doing that,’” Howard said. “I wasn’t trying to be talked into it. I just really felt that way.”
Howard then slid into the production with just eight days of preparation on what would boast the biggest budget he’d ever steered.
The Apollo 13 and The Da Vinci Code director wondered if he were being turned to to serve as the facilitator of a plan already in place at the Disney-owned studio, but “I immediately realized that’s not the way Lucasfilm works,” Howard said.1comments
“Kathy is really a director’s producer and filmmaker-friendly in that way,” he added, “and they were looking to me to make choices and creative decisions.”
Solo: A Star Wars Story opens tonight.