Late Monday word spread that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, better known as the showrunners of HBO’s Games of Thrones, had jumped ship from the Star Wars trilogy to which they had previously been attached. In their brief public statement, the pair cited their already busy schedule, including a $250 million deal with Netflix. On Wednesday The Hollywood Reporter released some deep-dive reporting into why they hightailed it. And while they found a number of possible reasons, one source said it was because they wanted to avoid the franchise’s “toxic fandom.”
During their Game of Thrones tenure, Benioff and Weiss earned scores of accolades and applause, but they also weathered criticism and backlash, particularly during the show’s divisive final stretch. They famously said that, when the final episode aired over the summer, they had planned to be “very drunk and very far from the internet.” They even cancelled a farewell panel at San Diego Comic Con due to final episode’s reaction.
So you can imagine what the two must have felt like when they signed up for a franchise with fans who bully Asian-American cast members off of social media and say The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson ruined their childhood by turning Luke Skywalker into a bitter recluse. Another THR source commented on the idea of them jumping from one prickly fanbase to another: “Who wants to go through that again? Not them,” the source said of the two. “This was in the ‘Life’s Too Short’ category.”
THR’s story offers other possible explanations for their departure. One is that Benioff and Weiss’ lucrative Netflix deal wasn’t viewed upon well by Kathleen Kennedy, current Star Wars honcho:
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Benioff and Weiss’ exit has been brewing since August. Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy is said to have been unhappy with the Netflix deal, inked just as they were scheduled to begin work on Star Wars. (Benioff and Weiss had said multiple times that they would not turn their focus to Star Wars until production wrapped on the final season of Thrones, which ended in July 2018.)
There was also reportedly anxiety over the two having too much on their plate — from Kennedy and team, and, again, from Benioff and Weiss themselves. Though Benioff has a long and varied CV, including having written the novel and the screenplay for Spike Lee’s drama 25th Hour, as well as the epic Troy and the comic book film X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Weiss pretty much only has Game of Thrones. And when they made HBO’s fantasy powerhouse, they took a two-year hiatus before the abbreviated last season. All that reportedly raised concerns.
Kennedy was not convinced the pair — known for focusing on one project at a time — could develop a sci-fi trilogy while also overseeing film and TV projects at Netflix. Sources say that as the duo shopped for an overall deal over the summer, they told potential suitors that they planned to work on Star Wars concurrently with any projects under their new deal.
The report says Benioff and Weiss had been at work on a Star Wars treatment at the time of their departure, and that though they were commissioned to make three films — to be released in 2022, 2024, and 2026 — they were only committed to writing one.
Whatever the case, Benioff and Weiss’ departure was seen by some as a blow to the Kennedy-shepherded Star Wars era, which has seen no less than four filmmakers be fired from various projects: Chronicle’s Josh Trank from a stand-alone back in 2015; Lego Movie’s Chris Miller and Phil Lord mid-production on Star Wars: A Solo Story; and Colin Trevorrow from what became The Rise of Skywalker.
Kennedy was reportedly worried that the perception would be that they’re burning through filmmakers, though they still have Johnson — working on his own trilogy — and they still have Kevin Feige, the MCU master who’s doing his own thing as well. Throw in the about-to-bow show The Mandalorian, and one might not have to worry about the idea that there will be Star Wars movies, or at least Star Wars content, until the end of recorded time.