Movies

A Brief History Of Behind-The-Scenes Drama On Disney’s ‘Star Wars’ Films

Earlier this week, it was revealed that Game of Thrones duo David Benioff and D.B. Weiss “walked away” from a deal to make a new Star Wars trilogy, one that wasn’t part of the Skywalker Saga. “Benioff and Weiss were supposed to usher in the post-Skywalker era of the Star Wars brand with a 2022 new-start story that would stake out a new frontier for the era-defining cinema brand created by George Lucas,” Deadline reported, but “the Emmy-winning pair cited their historic [contract] with Netflix.” It’s a big blow for Disney, inasmuch as anything can hurt a company that has released five billion-dollar-grossing movies (and counting!) this year alone, but it’s not unexpected: every post-Lucas Star Wars installment has been plagued with issues, although, ironically, the one with the least amount of behind-the-scenes drama is also the most controversial.

That would be The Last Jedi, my personal favorite of the Disney Star Wars movie (and third favorite Star Wars movie overall), although I realize that’s a hot-as-Mustafar take. But the reason writer and director Rian Johnson was offered a brand-new trilogy, one with “new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored,” is because of how easy the shoot went. As Johnson explained it:

“It came about because we were getting to the end of making [The Last Jedi] and again, I knew I wasn’t doing the next one. And I had a really good time [making] this movie… I said, the most interesting thing to me would be a new trilogy, one story told over three movies. Go new places, meet new folks, come up with a new story to tell in the Star Wars universe. The sky’s the limit. That sounds thrilling. And they really responded to that. So we’re off, yeah.” (Via)

As for the other four films:

The Force Awakens: Michael Arndt was originally hired to write the screenplay, but when he requested “18 more months” to finish it, he was replaced by Lawrence Kasdan. Also, this sentence: “Harrison Ford could have been killed when he was crushed by a hydraulic door on the set of the Millennium Falcon spaceship while filming the most recent Star Wars film, a court has heard.” He escaped with “only” a broken left leg; director J.J. Abrams also fractured a vertebrae while trying to LIFT THE MILLENNIUM FALCON DOOR OFF HARRISON FORD, and “spent months concealing his own injury.”

Rogue One: There were lengthy and expensive reshoots (every big-budget movie has reshoots, but usually not to this degree); and although Gareth Edwards is the sole credited director, he’s been called “the film’s ghost director.” That’s because Tony Gilroy took a “[lead] role in postproduction and oversaw reshoots to fix a few issues, including the film’s ending.” Here’s what Gilroy said about Rogue One when he stepped in: “I’ve never been interested in Star Wars, ever. So I had no reverence for it whatsoever. I was unafraid about that. And they were in such a swamp… they were in so much terrible, terrible trouble that all you could do was improve their position.” It was, simply, a “mess.”

Solo: Speaking of messes, we covered this extensively.

The Rise of Skywalker: Following the box office success of Jurassic World, Colin Trevorrow agreed to direct and co-write the then-untitled Episode IX. It was a short honeymoon: he was reportedly “dismissed after [Kathleen] Kennedy grew unhappy with his work on the script.” Out went Trevorrow, in came Abrams, who faced a tough dilemma: how to include Leia in Rise while also tastefully honoring Carrie Fisher, who died in December 2016? (She filmed all her Last Jedi scenes before she passed away.) The solution, with daughter Billie Lourd’s blessing, was to use unused footage from The Force Awakens that will be “woven into the storyline.” Still not an easy decision.

There’s also the whole Josh Trank thing.

Meanwhile, The Last Jedi didn’t lose a director or a writer, and it’s one of only four Star Wars movies, after A New Hope, The Phantom Menace, and Revenge of the Sith, to have sole writing and directing credit for one person. Rian Johnson dealt — and continues to deal — with people (or Russian bots) who didn’t enjoy his trope subversions and vision for Luke Skywalker, but compared to the other Disney movies, it was smooth sailing. Put another way: we’re not getting a Rogue One documentary soon. Or ever.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens on December 20.

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