As Han Solo himself would say, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” In a bombshell statement late Tuesday, Lucasfilm announced that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller would no longer helm the Han Solo standalone film — a project they have been developing since 2015, and a shoot that was only weeks away from wrapping.
“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. A new director will be announced soon,” Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, our vision and process weren’t aligned with our partners on this project. We normally aren’t fans of the phrase ‘creative differences’ but for once this cliché is true. We are really proud of the amazing and world-class work of our cast and crew,” Lord and Miller said in their matching statement.
The movie — which stars Alden Ehrenreich (Han Solo), Donald Glover (Lando Calrissian), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge — traces the nascent adventures of the young pilot as he learns his roguish ways from his mentor (Harrelson), encounters Chewie, wins the Millennium Falcon from Lando, and irks the Empire, presumably cracking wise along the way.
The filmmakers, known for comedic romps like The Lego Movie and the 21 Jump Street films, seemed to have the perfect off-kilter, authority-pushing sensibility for a film about Star Wars‘ favorite scoundrel. The duo began shooting in January, cheekily confirming the start date with a tweet that dropped both a Greedo joke and a Solo Cup pun.
In April, at Star Wars Celebration, Kennedy told Yahoo Movies that the still-untitled Han Solo film would “shoot until August” and that she was about to jet to London to monitor the production. According to Variety, Lord and Miller chafed at Kennedy’s tight reins, and the relationship between directors and their boss eventually became untenable, leading to their forced ouster.
No word on whether the production is on hiatus or if someone has been brought in to finish the principal photography before the inevitable reshoots. (Deadline has an unconfirmed report that Ron Howard is Kennedy’s top choice.) In any case, Lucasfilm’s statement on Tuesday indicated that the film was still on track to be released May 25, 2018.
Star Wars aficionados were expecting the Han Solo crew to make an appearance — either live or via video — at next month’s D23 Expo, Disney fan-centric convention that is being positioned as a rival to San Diego Comic-Con. With this behind-the-scenes turmoil, Disney’s publicity team is no doubt scrambling to figure out how to adjust the presentation.
Lucasfilm has had a bumpy time with its standalone “Star Wars Stories.” The Han Solo project is the second to go into production, following last year’s blockbuster Rogue One. That film was plagued by rumors of behind-the-scenes troubles, and the Disney-run Lucasfilm brought in Tony Gilroy to help director Gareth Edwards reshape the film, with several scenes being cut and added at the last minute. (Among the notable cuts was Jyn’s “this is a rebellion, I rebel” line so prominently featured in the initial teasers; 11th-hour additions included Darth Vader’s climactic attack scene.)
Previously, Lucasfilm pulled the plug on a different standalone film — reportedly following Boba Fett’s early bounty hunting escapades — to be helmed by Josh Trank, following the filmmaker’s disastrous Fantastic Four reboot. Trank’s project, which was originally supposed to follow Rogue One, was shuttered in 2015, shortly before Han Solo with Miller and Lord was announced.
While the standalone films have struggled to find their mojo (or, should we say, Force?), the so-called Skywalker Saga films continuing the main Star Wars storyline have proceeded relatively smoothly, with this December’s The Last Jedi, directed by Rian Johnson, looking to generate the same kind of positive reviews and massive box office as its predecessor, J.J. Abrams’s The Force Awakens. However, the fate of Episode IX is unsettled. The death of Carrie Fisher necessitated a major overhaul of the story and a new script by writer-director Colin Trevorrow, and Trevorrow himself has come under suspicion from certain quarters following the dismal reception of his latest film, The Book of Henry, leading several pundits to wonder if he’ll be replaced.
But Episode IX doesn’t start shooting until January 2018 — Lucasfilm has the more pressing concern of getting Han Solo back on track first… and make our bad feeling go away.
(Editor’s note: This story was update at 7:05 p.m. PT with links to the Variety and Deadline reports.)