Taika Waititi and the Odds of Finishing Your 'Star Wars' Movie

The franchise has a habit of dropping filmmakers with original visions, but perhaps Waititi will be entrusted to bring some fresh ideas to the table.

Taika Waititi Ragnarok
Marvel Studios

Taika Waititi is the latest filmmaker to be linked with the Star Wars franchise. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Jojo Rabbit director has been approached by Lucasfilm to helm his own movie set in a galaxy far, far away. At the time of this writing, information about the project is being kept close to the vest. However, Waititi making a Star Wars movie is an interesting idea in theory, even if there is reason to be skeptical of the film ever coming to fruition.

Of course, as unexpected as this news might seem, Waititi is no stranger to the franchise. He voiced IG-11 in three episodes of The Mandalorian and directed the Season 1’s finale. The praise for his contributions to the hit show, coupled with his positive relationship with Disney, probably makes him a good fit for a Star Wars project. At the same time, there is also the possibility that he’ll join an interesting list of casualties who couldn’t see one of these movies to the finish line.

Ever since Disney took ownership of the franchise, several exciting prospects have signed on to make a Star Wars movie. In the end, though, most of them have parted ways with the film for whatever reason. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the filmmakers who have been given their marching orders, as well as those who managed to survive, and determine whether or not Waititi will go the distance.

The Casualties

Porg

Josh Trank — Allegedly Fired from Planned Anthology Movie

The Chronicle and Fantastic Four director signed on to oversee a Star Wars Anthology film (rumored to be a Boba Fett standalone story) in 2014. However, he parted ways with Lucasfilm and Disney the following year, citing his desire to make a smaller scale movie as his reason for doing so. That’s a plausible story, right? Well, there’s more to it.

According to rumors, the director’s “erratic behavior” on the set of Fantastic Four soiled his reputation in the eyes of Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy and co. Reports emerged stating that Trank was isolated from the cast and crew during the shoot and that he supposedly didn’t see eye to eye with writer Simon Kinberg.

Kinberg denied that he and Trank had a bust-up, so it’s worth taking these rumors with a pinch of salt. That said, when Fantastic Four bombed, Trank’s stock dropped significantly, which could have resulted in him genuinely being fired from Star Wars. I’m inclined to believe Trank in this case, however, as Fantastic Four is a film that was clearly hampered by studio interference. It’s understandable why he had no interest in jumping into another major franchise after that.


Phil Lord and Chris Miller – Fired from Solo: A Star Wars Story

The Lego Movie masterminds reportedly clashed with Kennedy and were subsequently dismissed from the project. Lucasfilm and the filmmakers cited creative differences as the reason for the unfortunate split, which is a notable trend when it comes to this franchise.

As documented by Entertainment Weekly, Lord and Miller’s improvisational style didn’t correspond with Kennedy and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan’s more structured approach. Furthermore, the filmmaker’s comedic vision didn’t align with the franchise’s overlords, though their fingerprints are apparently all over the movie.


Colin Trevorrow: Fired from Episode IX

The Jurassic World director was originally supposed to helm the movie that became The Rise of Skywalker. Unfortunately, he ended up exiting the project after “mutually” agreeing to part ways with Kennedy and Lucasfilm over creative disputes. However, other reports have claimed that he was straight-up fired because Kennedy wasn’t a fan of his vision for the story.

On top of that, Trevorrow was also reportedly egotistical and difficult to work with. In an interview with Vulture, a source revealed that Kennedy doesn’t tolerate filmmakers who believe that they’re bigger than the franchise. All in all, this sounds like a case of strong personalities being unable to find some middle ground.


David Benioff and D.B. Weiss – Left to Focus on Other Projects

The Game of Thrones showrunners signed up to create a trilogy of Star Wars films, the first of which was scheduled to be released in 2022. Last year, however, the duo told Deadline that there aren’t enough hours in the day to focus their energies on both Star Wars and their upcoming Netflix projects, so they chose the latter.

Following the pair’s departure, a host of rumors began circulating that suggest other factors led to the split. Apparently, both Netflix and Lucasfilm wanted the duo’s complete undivided attention, which they weren’t able to provide to each party. Given that the streamer paid them $200 million to create original content, though, it’s unsurprising that they turned down Star Wars.

Still, if other rumors are to be believed, Benioff and Weiss just didn’t want to suffer the inevitable headache that comes with Star Wars’ rabid fan base. The negative reaction to the final season of Game of Thrones exposed the creators to the toxic contingent of the show’s viewership. Dealing with that type of drama all over again probably wasn’t an appealing notion.


The Success Stories

Jj Abrams

J.J. Abrams – Directed The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker 

With all due respect to Abrams, he’s emblematic of this franchise’s tendency to play it safe under the Disney umbrella. The Force Awakens is more or less a retread of A New Hope, and he was only hired to helm The Rise of Skywalker because the studio needed a filmmaker who understood its process and vision following the Trevorrow fiasco.

Judging by Abrams’ comments in interviews while promoting The Rise of Skywalker, he wasn’t a fan of The Last Jedi either. It’s clear that he has his own set of beliefs for what a Star Wars movie should be, and that encompasses servicing fans and retreading familiar ground. The director’s contributions deserve some praise for taking a few risks (like killing off Han Solo), but his films are hardly the product of a unique vision. At the end of the day, Abrams was the sequel trilogy’s right-hand man.


Gareth Edwards – Directed Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 

Edwards is credited as the director of the first standalone movie of the franchise’s Disney era, but his experience wasn’t exactly drama-free. The production process experienced some behind the scenes dilemmas, which led to Tony Gilroy being drafted in to rewrite and reshoot a chunk of the movie.

Edwards stuck with the shoot until the end, but there’s an argument to be made that he was a victim of the corporate hierarchy that dictates the galaxy far, far away. As The Hollywood Reporter revealed, the studio was unhappy with Edwards’ finished film and paid Gilroy “millions” to salvage it during the post-production process.


Rian Johnson – Directed The Last Jedi

For a franchise that’s synonymous with chopping filmmakers over creative differences, it’s amazing that The Last Jedi even exists at all. Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying that the film is the most subversive entry in the Skywalker saga. This movie is the black sheep of the latest trilogy, a rare example of Lucasfilm and Disney supporting a bold vision.

Of course, The Rise of Skywalker opting for fan service and turning Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) into an afterthought proved that the studio wasn’t willing to see some of Johnson’s ideas through in the end. Talk of the director’s planned trilogy of films also appears to have cooled down in recent years, and it remains to be seen if it will go ahead at all.


Ron Howard – Directed Solo: A Star Wars Story

Let’s face it: Howard was only brought in to the fold to do the studio’s bidding after Lord and Miller were fired from Solo. He’s a reliable hand who helped make the movie entertaining, but the reality is that he was a last-minute replacement who obeyed orders, collected his check, and went home. Any ideas he brought to the table clearly complied with Lucasfilms’ vision. However, given that the film underperformed, perhaps the studio should have trusted Lord and Miller to make the movie they wanted to make.


What Are Waititi’s Chances of Succeeding?

I’d bet money on them being very high.

Waititi is a filmmaker that brings his own comedic stamp to every movie he oversees. Even Thor: Ragnarok, his one and only foray into directing franchise fare thus far, feels like a typical Waititi movie in many ways. The humor is offbeat and weird, and it’s one of the oddest movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Star Wars’ recent history of dropping directors suggests that Waititi isn’t a sure-fire bet to survive this project, should he accept the gig. Assuming that he wants to give Star Wars a Ragnarok-esque makeover, will Lucasfilm let him bring his own distinct stamp to the galaxy far, far away? I’m going to say yes.

It’s worth bearing in mind that Kevin Feige is developing his own Star Wars movie, and chances are that’s the film Waititi has been approached to make. If that’s the case, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that Feige will trust Waititi to inject his own sensibilities into the movie. It’s been commercially successful for Disney in the past after all.

At the same time, the middling response to the past few Star Wars movies won’t be overlooked by the studio. The Skywalker saga is over. People are fatigued. It’s time to do something fresh and different with Star Wars. The acclaim of The Mandalorian has shown that people are interested in seeing more self-contained stories in this universe. Letting Waititi make a one and done movie is the way to go.

Of course, perhaps Waititi will be a willing participant in the studio’s vision for the franchise. The Mandalorian also showed that he’s more than capable of working within the framework of other people’s overarching vision. Therefore, it’s also possible that his movie won’t set out to shake things up too much.

In the end, though, Waititi is an ideal candidate to bring some fresh ideas to the table without going too off the rails. Sure his movies have some odd flavorings, but they’re hardly subversive. Even with some creative leeway, he’ll still make a movie that feels like Star Wars. It will just have a wackier personality than the others at times.

Kieran is a Daily Curator for the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.