The Empire Strikes Back - Han Solo

Even though Ron Howard has been officially announced as the replacement director for Lucasfilm’s forthcoming Han Solo spin-off, many are still curious about what happened behind the scenes on the next installment in the A Star Wars Story series of films that began with Rogue One.

The official story was that the directing style of Phil Lord & Chris Miller clashed with what Kathleen Kennedy and Lawrence Kasdan had expected them to do, and their disagreement over the direction of the movie finally came to a head that resulted in their termination with three weeks left in production. But since then, some more details have come to the surface that shed some more light on the situation.

When it comes to stories that dig into the reasoning that saw the original Han Solo directors fired, it all still boils down to creative differences between Lord & Miller and Lucasfilm, but it’s the specifics that are rather interesting, though admittedly also a little gossipy. It includes talk of an acting coach, a reference to Ace Ventura and more.

Find out the latest on this situation that saw the original Han Solo directors fired.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller - Han Solo Directors Fired

Were Phil Lord & Chris Miller Making a Comedy?

Late last week, Entertainment Weekly followed up with a bit of extra information that mostly reinforced what we had already heard about earlier that week. Phil Lord & Chris Miller weren’t making the movie that Kathleen Kennedy hoped they would make. But they also got some more specific details about what exactly that meant.

Reportedly Lord & Miller, known for their work on 21 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie, not to mention executive producing shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Last Man on Earth, were turning the Han Solo movie into more of a comedy than Lucasfilm was comfortable with. The story says, “Kennedy believed Lord and Miller were hired to add a comedic touch; Lord and Miller believed they were hired to make a comedy.”

Funnily enough, that’s the opposite of what the supposed reasoning for why reshoots on Rogue One were needed. At the time, it was said Lucasfilm wanted the movie to be lighter, and while there was some damage control done on that front (including a big piece from Entertainment Weekly), there did seem to be some truth to some of the rumors, as evidenced by the clear changes that were made to the story though not necessarily with the intention of lightening the tone.

But EW’s own story even has some conflicting information as another one of their sources says that it wasn’t about the level of comedy in the movie, but moreso how they were making it. Apparently Lord & Miller were doing a lot of improvised takes, and that started to steer the story off-course, something that’s a concern with a story that has a place in a much larger universe that has to be overseen by the Lucasfilm story group to make sure all the details work with the rest of the universe.

Furthermore, it was the extensive improvisation that led to the movie becoming quite a departure from the script, and once a rough cut of the movie was assembled with the footage that had already been shot, Lucasfilm saw that they were not getting the movie that Lord & Miller had been hired to shoot. And the filmmakers were not willing to compromise what they were in the process of making by being micromanaged with a series of reshoots.

Han Solo

A Lack of Creative Freedom

Further backing up the chatter about Lord & Miller’s improvisational style, The Hollywood Reporter has some new details from their own sources, and these seem to come more from the perspective of Lord & Miller’s side of the story rather than Lucasfilm.

While Kennedy and Kasdan were said to be unhappy with how the movie was progressing, Lord & Miller weren’t very pleased with the situation either. The duo felt they were being given “zero creative freedom” which led to some “deep fundamental philosophical differences” in filmmaking style preference, which included “extreme scheduling constraints” and not having enough time to shoot each scene.

Someone from Lord & Miller’s camp says that the issues was that their improvisational style was being hampered rather than bolstered, and that was supremely frustrating for them. The directors like to collaborate with the actors and give them some freedom with the script, helping to bring out the best performances, but Kasdan supposedly wasn’t having it, “Lawrence Kasdan would not allow this and demanded that every line was said word for word. To appease him and the studio, Lord and Miller would do several takes exactly as written and then shoot additional takes.” Again, this seems to be where the problems emerged, since whatever improvisations were being made started to create a script that diverged from what Lucasfilm wanted.

On the other side of the equation, one source told the trade that the duo was having trouble because this kind of production didn’t exactly work well with their filmmaking style becuase of the size and scope of the project. The source was quotes as saying, “You have to make decisions much earlier than what they’re used to. I don’t know if it’s because there were two of them but they were not decisive.” Reportedly, some production department heads were having trouble working under the more fast and loose style these two had always used, and though they would listen to issues on set, they didn’t seem to change their ways.

Another big issue on Lucasfilm’s side of the argument was a lack of options when it came to having a variety of options in the editing room. On one particular day, while Kennedy was expecting to see 12 to 15 options when it came to camera placement for a given scene, Lord & Miller had only shot three.

Alden Ehrenreich - Hail Caesar

Why Was An Acting Coach Hired?

Lucasfilm editor Chris Dickens (Macbeth) was replaced in May as production moved from London to the Canary Islands, and Pietro Scalia (Alien: Covenant, The Martian) stepped up to piece footage together. Once Lucasfilm got a better look at what was going on, they were not satisfied with the performance Lord & Miller were getting from Alden Ehrenreich, so they brought in an acting coach to help out. The trade notes that this practice is not out of the ordinary, but getting one on board at this point in the production was a cause for concern. So what happened here?

Well, according to StarWarsNewsNet, Lucasfilm’s decision to start assembling footage came after Alden Ehrenreich himself voiced concerns that Lord & Miller’s comedy angle was starting to interfere with what he felt Han Solo needed to represent in order to fit in with the character we meet in the cantina in Star Wars: A New Hope. Reportedly, someone described Ehrenreich’s performance as being “oddly comparable to Jim Carrey’s performance in Ace Ventura at times.”

That sounds more than worrisome, and it seems like maybe Lucasfilm tried to fix the situation by first hiring an acting coach to help Ehrenreich work with Lord & Miller a little better. But then they realized further into the edit that when scenes that seemed to work on their own were pieced together, they didn’t work in the film as a whole, it was the movie as a whole. Ehrenreich’s performance wasn’t really an issue, but it appeared unfavorable because of how Lord & Miller were directing this movie rather than simply being a real life version of this scene from Hail Caesar!:

The fact that Ehrenreich was the one to voice these concerns shows how much he cares about Han Solo as a character, and it indicates that perhaps Kathleen Kennedy was right to make a change on set. That’s not necessarily because Lord & Miller were in the wrong, but merely because there was a fundamental misunderstanding between both parties regarding what each expected from the collaborative process, and it was starting to hurt the movie.

In the end, we’re a little bummed that we don’t get to see what Lord & Miller were cooking. But we can’t disregard Kathleen Kennedy’s role in all this as if she doesn’t have decades of experience working on these types of movies. It was her decisions that helped deliver the success that was Rogue One, and if we’re lucky, maybe this movie will turn out all right in the end. If it turns out to just be average, we’ll always wonder how Phil Lord & Chris Miller might have shaken up Star Wars.

For now, production is set to resume on July 10, and Lawrence Kasdan has already been spotted on set, likely ready to work closely with director Ron Howard to get this ship where Lucasfilm thinks it needs to be headed. Supposedly the crew was so happy with Howard’s hiring to fix the movie that they applauded when that was announced. That sounds a little hyperbolic, and I’m sure that’s more of a morale boost for Howard than anything, but still, it’s clear that some kind of change needed to be made for Lucasfilm to feel comfortable about the direction of this movie. We don’t know if this change in course will result in the movie being delayed from its May 2018 release date, but we’ll be sure to keep you updated.

UPDATE: THR has since updated their story to clarify what the applause in question was at the end of the entire meeting where the changing of the guard was announced. Reportedly the mood at the meeting was somber but ended up hopeful applause in support of the movie. So the applause was not simply celebrating the removing of Lord & Miller in favor of Ron Howard as it was originally framed.

How are you feeling about this whole situation?

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