As the dust settles on Han Solo: A Star Wars Story after the surprise firing of its two directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, new details are coming to light as to what truly happened in the days leading up to their departure. And as expected, it wasn't pretty. In a very detailed report, The Hollywood Reporter paints a portrait of two directors out of their element. Partners that weren't willing to bend to the wishes of LucaFilm as the second Star Wars spin-off started to spiral out of control. Things were so bad at the end, apparently, that the cast and crew stood up and applauded when Ron Howard was announced as Lord and Miller's replacement, no one disappointed to see their former bosses hitting the road.
Things boiled over beyond any kind of repair when the directorial duo had spent one morning in mid-June, sitting in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, refusing to shoot anything until 1pm in the afternoon, when these types of productions usually get rolling much earlier. The two filmmakers had settled on just three set-ups for what they were about to shoot, a scene that was initially required to have between 12 and 15 set-ups. That's what Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy had been planning, anyway.
Not only did the directors get a late start, but the minimal set-up allowed for very few options in the editing room. But this wasn't the first time that Kennedy felt duress. Lawrence Kasdan, who had written the screenplay with his son, came into watch these dailies. And he was said to be 'displeased'.
But they weren't the only ones upset. While Kennedy and Kasdan were not getting the movie they'd hoped for, Miller and Lord were not working under the conditions that they were used to, or thought they'd been promised. They weren't happy on their end of this on-set battle. THR says there were "deep fundamental philosophical differences" in the way both parties wanted to shoot the movie. The directorial pair also believed they were being asked to perform under "extreme scheduling constraints" with "zero creative freedom." This was something they believed they were supposed to have from the get-go. But they never felt they had enough days to shoot what was required of them.
The announcement of their firing came after this latest shoot in the Millennium Falcon cockpit. The initial plan was to support and eventually supplant Miller and Lord in the same way Lucasfilm had done with Rogue One director Gareth Edwards, with Tony Gilroy slowly, quietly sneaking in to rewrite the script and complete reshoots, with Edwards collaborating as much as he could. But where Edwards agreed to these stipulations, Miller and Lord refused to go so quietly when screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan was brought in to watch over their every move.
It was overly apparent that Lord and Miller were a mismatch for Han Solo, and no one was getting along or achieving the results that were intended. Some insiders claim that while they have had big hits with 21 Jump Street and the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movies, as well as the blockbuster The LEGO Movie, nothing had prepared them for the big budget size and scope of a Star Wars movie. They were simply out of their element, and sinking fast. They were also heavily reliant on an improvisational style that did not go over well with the hundreds of crew members on set, waiting for direction. And it certainly didn't please Lawrence Kasdan, who wanted all of his dialogue read intact, left in the finished movie. One insider says this.
"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."
All of the production departments were complaining about Lord and Miller. While at first they seemed responsive to these accusations, they did little to change their behavior on set, or their style of shooting. On the directors' side, one source claims that the improvisations on set were not just meant to add comedy. They also allowed for a sense of artistic freedom, and allowed for the actors to find their best performances. But that wasn't flying with many on set, especially with Kasdan. The unnamed source goes onto say this.
"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."
Matters came to an explosive head when production switched from the sound stages of London to the location shoot happening on the Canary Islands. While the directors were still in their position, Lucasfilm had already made the decision to fire editor Chris Dickens, who previously worked on the Shakespeare adaptation Macbeth, and replace him with Alien: Covenant and The Martian editor Pietro Scalia, an Oscar winner who has a long standing relationship with director Ridley Scott.
Lucasfilm were also displeased with the performance that the directors were getting from Alden Ehrenreich as their leading man, Han Solo. So an acting coach was brought in to fix the problem. Writer-director Maggie Kiley, who had worked with Lord and Miller on 21 Jump Street, arrived to help get the proper performance out of Ehrenreich.
These measures failed at getting the movie back on track and where it needed to be. So she flew Lawrence Kasdan out to London. Kasdan was upset that there were so many limited shots to work with in editing the movie, and hated the fact that Lord and Miller would call out lines for the actors to say behind the camera, abandoning the script. It is noted that the two directors would have their cast do one shot the way it was written. But then they would play around and change it in the other shots being done.
Lord and Miller couldn't handle Kasdan shadowing the project at this point. So an impasse was reached, as THR puts it. Kennedy decided it was time to fire her directors. It was only one day later that Ron Howard was announced as the new director on set, even though that news wasn't confirmed in the press until a few days later. Apparently, the entire cast and crew broke out in thunderous applause when Ron Howard was officially given the reigns. And there weren't any complaints from anyone involved behind the scenes.
Ron Howard was reportedly concerned with the way Lord and Miller would handle the announcement, and emailed them numerous times. The pair were incredibly gracious towards their new replacement. They are said to have been 'very supportive' and 'very elegant' in their approach to allowing Howard to come in and take everything over.
Ron Howard arrives in London to start prep for Han Solo this week, with the new director helping to create new material for the movie, with reshoots now scheduled to last until the first week of September. The movie was supposed to be wrapped in July, as Lucasfilm geared up for D23 and Comic-Con, where they would have likely promoted the movie. It's unclear at this time if the spin-off will have a presence at either venue.
It is also unclear how the movie will be credited, a decision that will be left to the Directors Guild. It's possible that Ron Howard's name won't be included at all when it comes to the director credit. Lord and Miller are apparently still considering a return to DC Films and Warner Bros.' The Flash movie, which they abandoned in favor of doing Han Solo. Kathleen Kennedy is refusing to answer any questions from the press about all of this right now, but she'll perhaps open up when D23 kicks off the second weekend of July, an event that serves as a showcase for all things Disney related.
Lucasfilm hasn't had a great track record with its Star Wars spin-off directors. While they were searching for unique individuals to helm these standalone adventures, bringing something different to this galaxy far, far away, they've realized that doesn't really work for the brand. Not only was Gareth Edwards replaced by Tony Gilroy on Rogue One, Josh Trans was fired from the Boba Fett movie before it even began shooting, after the young auteur exhibited a bad work ethic on the set of 20th Century Fox's Fantastic Four movie. Boba Fett was indefinitely shelved, and it's not clear if it will be resurrected as the next spin-off.
In the future, it is likely that Lucasfilm and Disney will take a different approach to hiring directors. It is noted that Rian Johnson, also considered an auteur director with his own artistic style, had absolutely no problems with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and is wrapping post-production soon, ahead of schedule.
In the end, Disney and Kathleen Kennedy were ultimately looking for a meeting of the minds with Phil Lord and Chris Miller that would have saved their jobs. But the duo refused to let that pass. Now, it's all in Ron Howard's hands. How it ultimately turns out is something we'll have to wait and see when Han Solo: A Star Wars Story opens this May.